Archive for the ‘David Tannenberg Sr.’ Tag

Feast of Peter Wolle, Theodore Wolle, and John Frederick Wolle (November 14)   6 comments

Wolle Family Connections

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor



U.S. Moravian Bishop, Organist, and Composer

father of


U.S. Moravian Organist and Composer

kinsman of 


U.S. Moravian Organist, Composer, and Choir Director


Families should nurture a healthy devotion to God, I am convinced.  Certainly the Wolle family of Bethlehem-Nazareth, Pennsylvania, did so.

The story, for the purpose of this post, began with John Frederick Wolle (1745-1813), a Moravian missionary to St. Thomas, in the Caribbean Sea.  He and his wife had two sons important to this post–John Frederick Wolle (1785-1860) and Peter Wolle (1792-1871).  Peter arrived in Pennsylvania at the tender age of three years.  In 1807 he became one of the first three students at Moravian Theological Seminary, all of whom went to on to become bishops in the Unitas Fratrum.  Peter taught in Moravian schools in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, states in which he also served congregations as a pastor.  From 1810 to 1814 he taught at the Collegium Musicum (from 1820 the Philharmonic Society of Bethlehem).

Peter served God and the Moravian Church with several talents.  In 1836 he published the first Moravian tune book in the United States, Hymn Tunes, Used in the Church of the United Brethren.  He altered Moravian hymn tunes to make them more similar to commonly sung hymn tunes in America.  This was necessary partially due to cultural pressures and ecclesiastical competition.  In the realm of music he also played the organ and composed anthems–nothing surprising, given the musical priorities of the Unitas Fratrum.  Peter, who became a bishop while pastor at Lititz, Pennsylvania, served as the interim minister at Dover, Ohio, from 1853 to 1855.  Then he served on the Provincial Board of the American Province until he retired in 1861.  He died at Bethlehem in 1871.

Two of Peter’s sons went into music also.  James Wolle built pianos–very well, apparently.  Theodore Francis Wolle (1832-1885) became an organist, like his father.  Peter taught young Theodore to play the instrument.  By the age of ten years the boy could play all tunes from his father’s Tune Book from memory.  Theodore started teaching music at Greensboro College, Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1853, played in a Confederate Army band during the Civil War, and returned to Bethlehem by 1865.


Above:  Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, February 1969

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS PA,48-BETH,2–4

Theodore worked as an organist and composer in Bethlehem.  At first he played the organ at the Moravian chapel there.  Then, in 1871, he became the organist and choirmaster at Central Moravian Church.  He held the post for fourteen years.  The congregation replaced its old organ, which dated to 1806, in 1873.  Theodore helped to design the new instrument, which had three manuals and forty stops–more than the old organ did.  He stood in the legacy of Johann Klemm, David Tannenberg, Sr., and other Moravian Church organ builders.

Theodore also broke with tradition in two ways.  He changed the role of the organist in Moravian worship.  That role had been to support the congregation in worship.  A Moravian Church organist was not traditionally a performer, but Theodore became the first Moravian Church organist to give recitals.  He also changed the design and sound of Moravian Church organs.  They were traditionally modest instruments which did not attract attention to themselves in terms of sound or appearance.  The 1873 organ at Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, however, sounded grand and looked decorative.

Theodore also composed at least one tune, “Asleep in Jesus” (1877), which I found in an old Moravian hymnal.

His successor at Central Moravian Church was a third John Frederick Wolle (1863-1933), grandnephew of Peter Wolle (1792-1871), grandson of John Frederick Wolle (1785-1860), great-grandson of John Frederick Wolle (1745-1813), and a relative of Theodore.  (Distinguishing among people is a simpler task when they have different names.)  John Frederick number three, or J. Fred, as he preferred that people call him, became one of the most influential and acclaimed Moravian Church musicians and music teachers in the United States.  He studied the organ with Theodore at Bethlehem and David Wood at Philadelphia.  In 1884-1885 he lived in Munich, Germany, where he was one of four students the great organist Josef Rheinberger accepted that year.  The master organist preferred a dry, straight-forward performance style of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, but J. Fred opted for an expressive interpretation.  The student also became familiar with the music of Richard Wagner while in Munich and began to make organ transcriptions of selections from Wagnerian operas.

J. Fred returned to Bethlehem in 1885 and stayed busy doing what he loved.  He succeeded Theodore as the organist and choirmaster at Central Moravian Church that year.  Two years later he added to those duties the positions of organist at Lehigh University and Packer Memorial Church (Episcopal), on the campus.  For eighteen years he played the organ at Lehigh.  He also composed works for the organ and for choirs and won national acclaim for his organ recital at the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893. As if that were not enough, J. Fred co-founded the American Guild of Organists in 1896 and founded the Bach Choir of Bethlehem two years later.  He served as the first Director of that ensemble, which gave the first complete performances of the Mass in B Minor and the Christmas Oratorio in the United States, in 1900 and 1901, respectively.  His Bach Festivals were major cultural events.  The Bach Choir was not originally a professional organization for, J. Fred said, Bach was for everybody.

J. Fred left for Berkeley, California, in 1905, to lead the Department of Music at the University of California.  During his six years he organized a Bach Choir in that city.  He returned to Bethlehem in 1911 and resumed his role with the original Bach Choir.  In 1915 he was organist at Salem Lutheran Church, Bethlehem.

J. Fred died in 1933.

These three saints glorified God with their talents, which they nurtured and honed.  Fortunately, they had support along the way.  May we, likewise, strive to be all we can be for the glory of God and the benefit of others, have the support we need, and, as able, enable others to achieve their potential.







Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:

You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servants

Peter Wolle, Theodore Wolle, and J. Fred Wolle.

Teach us to drive from the world all chaos and disorder,

that our eyes may behold your glory,

and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible

richness of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61


Feast of Johann Gottlob Klemm, Tobias Friedrich, David Tannenberg, Johann Philip Bachmann, and Joseph Ferdinand Bulitschek (November 15)   1 comment


Above:  A Chart Depicting Relationships Among People I Have Named in This Post

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor



Instrument Maker

mentor of 

DAVID TANNENBERG, SR. (MARCH 21, 1728-MAY 19, 1804)

German-American Moravian Organ Builder

mentor and father-in-law of


German-American Instrument Maker



Bohemian-American Organ Builder



German Moravian Composer and Musician



A process which began when I wrote a name–Johann Philip Bachmann–out of a book then assigned him a provisional date on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days led recently to taking notes on Herr Bachmann.  Then one person led to another and I had taken notes on five saints during several hours.  These life stories are like circles in a Venn Diagram, but I will do my best to minimize, if not prevent, confusion.

If I have prompted a desire for more details in you, O reader, some of the hyperlinks I have embedded in this post might interest you.  Others have devoted much time and effort into sharing such details online; I have endeavored to refer people to such websites in this post.

Johann Gottlob Klemm (I)

Our story begins with Johann Gottlob Klemm (1690-1762), born near Dresden.  Klemm’s father was an organist, organ builder, and schoolmaster.  The saint trained in the art of building organs near Dresden, starting circa 1710 after having studied theology at Freiberg and Leipzig.  Among his clients was Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), for whom he build a harpsichord.  The Zinzendorf connection brought Klemm into the Moravian Church in 1726, when the saint moved to Herrnhut, where he lived for seven years.  There he was present for the Moravian Pentecost (August 13, 1727), the birth of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum, and taught boys and led some services.

Tobias Friedrich

Klemm also built a clavichord for Tobias Friedrich (1706-1736).  This saint came from a farming family, but God put him on the Earth for music, not agriculture.  Friedrich trained to become the cantor in the nearby town of Castell when he was twelve years old.  At age fourteen (1720) he met Count Zinzendorf.  The die was cast.  Friedrich became one of the early settlers at Herrnhut, where he remained for the rest of his life, except for a few months in 1731, when the Church sent him on a missions trip to Denmark and Sweden.  He worked for Zinzendorf in a variety of capacities over time, ending as the Count’s secretary.  Friedrich served also as the first organist at Herrnhut, as a member of the Church’s Board of Direction (from 1731 to 1736), and as one of the founders of the collegium musicum (musical ensemble) at Herrnhut.

Friedrich’s lasting legacy to the Moravian Church was in the realm of hymnody.  He, a fine violinist and organist, understood well how to accompany a worshiping congregation.  He also grasped the importance of hymn tunes.  He laid the strong foundation of hymnody in the Renewed Unitas Fratrum.  More than 200 tunes in the Church’s first post-renewal hymnal, the Herrnhuter Gesangbuch (1735), flowed from his pen.  At least twenty of them reamined in Christian Gregor‘s standard-setting Choralbuch (1784).

Friedrich died on June 8, 1736, after a brief illness.  He was just twenty-nine years old.  What more might he have accomplished had he lived longer?

Johann Gottlob Klemm (II)

Klemm, once a devout Moravian, walked away from the Unitas Fratrum in 1733 and emigrated to Pennsylvania with a group of Schwenkfelders, who belonged to the sect which Kaspar von Schwenkfeld (1489-1561) had founded.  Schwenkfeld preferred a style of Protestantism more mystical than either the Lutheran or Reformed traditions, so he argued with both Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, who also argued with each other, especially regarding Eucharistic theology.  Schwenkfeld, who made good use of the printing presses to spread his ideas, had to contend with other Protestants banning his books.  He spent the last twenty-one years of his life as a fugitive due to his theology, for the religious freedom he championed did not exist for him.

Klemm, once he settled near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, chose to live without a formal religious affiliation for decades.  He also Anglicized his name as “John Clemm” and worked as the first professional organ and keyboard builder in the American colonies.  His market was ecumenical, including the following:

  1. Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1738);
  2. Trinity Church (then Anglican, now Episcopal) Church, Wall Street, New York, New York (1741);
  3. the Moravian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1742); and
  4. the Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1746).

Klemm returned to the Unitas Fratrum at the end of his life.  The Moravian community at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, accepted him.  There he mentored David Tannenberg, Sr. (1728-1804), in the art of building organs.  They built five organs for the Moravians.  One of those instruments went to the church at Bethabara, North Carolina.  Klemm died at Bethlehem on May 4, 1762.

David Tannenberg, Sr.

Tannenberg, born into a Moravian Church family, became the major organ builder in America during the 1700s.  He grew up at Herrnhut, except for a period of schooling elsewhere from his tenth to fourteenth years of life.  In 1748 he lived at Zeist, The Netherlands.  The following year he emigrated to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Shortly after Tannenberg arrived he married Anna Rosina Kern.  For eight years he worked as a joiner and a business manager at Bethlehem then at Nazareth.  This experience helped him succeed as a master organ builder.

As I wrote, Johann Gottlob Klemm (1690-1762) settled at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1757.  Then Tannenberg became his apprentice.  Tannenberg persisted in the art and trade of building organs despite the request of Moravian Elders that he make cabinets instead.  Building organs was, they said, “tied up with much disorder.”

Tannenberg’s skill extended beyond the bounds of organ building.  He and his family relocated to Lititz, Pennsylvania, in 1765.  There he not only established his workshop but performed as a vocalist and a violinist in the community.  Tannenberg, who built an average of one organ annually, constructed fifty during his lifetime.  Nine of them survive in 2014.  He installed organs in Pennyslvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, for Roman Catholic, Moravian, Reformed, and Lutheran churches plus private homes.  Tannenberg’s output increased in 1793, when, at his request, Johann Philip Bachmann (1762-1837) arrived from Herrnhut.  They built fourteen organs in either seven or ten years.  I am unsure of the length of their professional relationship, for my source tells me that they parted ways in 1800 on one page then in 1803 on another.  (One of those dates might be a typographical error.)  That source does agree with itself, however, on the existence of tension between the men, hence their professional parting.

Tannenberg built and installed organs to the end.  His final professional act was to install an organ at Christ Lutheran Church, York, Pennyslvania.  He was ill, but he completed the job before suffering a stroke then dying.  The organ’s premiere was his funeral.

Tannenberg also built stringed instruments.  He made at least one harpsichord, which, to the best of current knowledge, no longer exists.  There is hope, however, for his oldest stringed instrument, a clavichord dating to 1761, resurfaced in 2004.

Johann Philip Bachmann

Johann Philip Bachmann (1762-1837), whose name launched me on the process of researching and writing this post, was German.  The native of Thuringia learned carpentry from his father, who might been a piano maker.  Young Bachmann left home at age sixteen to apprentice to a master carpenter.  This saint went from there to the Herrnhut, having joined the Unitas Fratrum.  At Herrnhut the carpenter learned how to make musical instruments.  In April 1793, after he arrived in Pennyslvania, he married Anna Maria Tannenberg, the youngest daughter of David Tannenberg, Sr.  Bachmann apprentice under Tannenberg until 1800 or 1803, traveling sometimes to install organs.  The two men collaborated until Tannenberg’s death (1804), despite their differences.  Bachmann turned from building organs to making pianos and cabinets by 1819, by which time he had begun to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which afflicted him for the last two decades of his life.  He, an invalid for the final months, died on November 15, 1837.

Joseph Ferdinand Bulitschek

A previous apprentice to Tannenberg was Joseph Ferdinand Bulitschek (1729-1801), a native of Bohemia.  He, an organ builder, millwright, and cabinet maker, apprentice under Tannenberg sometime before 1771, when he left Pennsylvania for North Carolina.  He built at least two organs there–one for the Moravian congregation at Bethabara, the other for the Moravian church at Bathania.  The Bethania organ was unusual, for the organist’s console was behind the case, requiring a window cut through the center of the case so the organist could see the congregation.

David Tannenberg, Jr.

Tannenberg had a son, David Tannenberg, Jr. (1760-circa 1802), who also learned the art and trade of building organs.  The younger Tannenberg, unlike his father, was often at odds with the Moravian community.  The son did, however, work in the field of organ construction, infusing the Pennsylvania German school of organ building with elements of the Moravian school thereof.  One example of the fusion of these two schools was the organ for Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Bally, Pennsylvania.


The worship of God is a serious matter, as the saints of whom I have written in this post knew well.  They employed their skills with great care for the glory of God.  Some of their products survive–often in museums, sometimes in churches.  The old instruments remain functional if people have maintained them.  And at least one cabinet Bulitschek made survives.  It is, according to what I have read, beautiful and well-crafted.

May we do everything excellently, so that even our must mundane and seemingly meaningless tasks may glorify God.  One can glorify God by washing the dishes if one completes the chore properly, after all.






Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses:

Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of your servants

Johann Gottlob Klemm;

David Tannenberg, Sr.;

Johann Philip Bachmann;

Joseph Ferdinand Bulitschek; and

Tobias Friedrich,

may persevere in running the race that is set before us,

until at last we may with them attain to your eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 15

Hebrews 12:1-2

Matthew 25:31-40

–Common of a Saint I, Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 724