Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lutherans Rule Christmas!

One of my favorite things about Christmas day is the afternoon entertainment on public television, a procession of musical programs by Lutheran Colleges - St. Olaf's, Luther, and Concordia - although it wouldn't be fair not to mention the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's awesome program during the same time slot.

I love to sing, and I sing bass in our church choir. The Eastman School of Music is in Rochester, so I have year-long opportunities to indulge in hearing excellent choral, orchestral, and instrumental music. That's why I'm so impressed by these three Lutheran colleges; their music "competes" at an extremely high level, and they're just "kids". Musically, they are pro's.

I hear voices in these choirs that could audition successfully at Eastman (or Julliard). But they are not at Eastman or Julliard, they are at St. Olaf's, Luther, or Concordia. Student of practical economics that I am, I conclude there is something about these places that many high quality musicians value over the prestige and excellence of a top-rung school like Eastman.

That high value "something" may be not having to practice roughly seven hours every day, as Eastman kids do. But it's more likely that the nurturing cultural and spiritual element, and the tradition of these colleges is what draws them. I don't know for sure, but I'd also be willing to bet that many of these students have had generations of their family graduating from these institutions. A tradition of excellence breeds excellence.

So thank you, Lutherans, for being so serious about making beautiful music. I suppose it may emanate from the German origin of Lutheranism - the Germans love music and have always put great emphasis on precision and clarity. It's too bad these colleges don't have programs for all the other holidays - I'd watch and listen.

At this time of year I'm reminded that Martin Luther wrote the famous carol, "Away in a Manger", setting the tone for his followers. Martin, you are probably looking down on this Christmas with satisfaction, hearing the angel choirs of the Lutheran colleges you inspired!

(Postscript 12/27/08 - A loyal reader has pointed out that the attribution of "Away in a Manger" to Martin Luther is incorrect. The song was attributed to him 400 years after his birth as a way of according him some additional glory. However, Luther did write a number of carols - just not this one. Truth must prevail!)

1 comment:

Ron Davison said...

I never stopped to think about those Norwegian bachelor farmers producing music that gives you goose bumps. Perhaps they plow all their emotion into music. Repression could hardly take a more beautiful form.