“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” is a well-known hymn today, but perhaps not so well known is the name of the man who wrote it in Germany in the 1520s.
Called “The Battle Hymn of the Reformation,” the words and music were written by Martin Luther and sung by what would become Protestant reformers in their break with the Roman Catholic Church in Rome.
Frederick Presbyterian Church is celebrating both Catholic and Protestant music traditions with a Heritage of Song hymn festival on Sunday, Feb. 22.
The free event is sponsored by the Central Maryland chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the Frederick Ministerium.
Choir members from downtown Frederick churches will sing, along with the audience members, who will be provided with the words to the hymns.
“It’s meant to be interactive,” said organizer Wayne Wold, who lives in Frederick and heads the music department at Hood College.
Wold, who also teaches the harpsichord, organ and music composition at Hood, earned a master’s degree in sacred music from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.
He has led similar hymn festivals in California, Washington, Texas and Minnesota. As part of a spring semester sabbatical, Wold organized a hymn festival in Hagerstown in January and also will present one in Atlanta in May.
“This is the first time I’ve done this in Frederick,” he said.
Included in the Frederick Presbyterian program are Catholic Gregorian chants from the middle ages along with early Protestant music.
“We’re getting to the roots at the beginning of each denomination’s hymn tradition,” Wold said.
Among them is “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” a hymn based on Joachim Neander’s German chorale from the 1600s.
Also included is “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” written by English Methodist Charles Wesley in the 1700s, and “Shall We Gather at the River” by American poet and Baptist minister Robert Lowry in 1864.
There are hymns from the United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist and Brethren traditions, along with African-American spirituals and a song from the Spanish-language tradition, Wold said.
“It’s a big program, with all the words and music and with some harmony and unison singing,” he said. “It brings the hymns alive.”