Music Faith & Politics Regina's Luther Bach Choir

Article excerpt

ON SEPTEMBER 8, 2007, the Luther Bach Choir celebrated its 25th anniversary with a reunion of former members. Successive formations of the LBC can take a bow for 25 years of musical performances of a truly impressive calibre, and for the tremendous spiritual, cultural and political importance of the choir's contribution to Regina. The LBC is an initiative of Luther College, which has been part of Saskatchewan's fabric since 1913. Dimension's Joyce Green interviewed conductor Carl Cherland and choir member Meredith Cherland to explore how LBC musical production is infused with a politics of citizenship in community, a politics originating in a radical faith tradition.

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THE MUSIC

The LBC focuses on Baroque music, a form of European music that was dominant from about 1600 to 1750. Martin Luther lived, composed, and struggled in that era. The Baroque period was the culmination of a long tradition, which began with monophonic music like Gregorian chant, but which eventually became polyphonic, involving multiple, simultaneous lines of music that were independent of but compatible with one another, with no single musical line dominating.

From the solos to the beautifully synthesized voices of the full choir, the LBC shows the power and beauty of human voices raised in disciplined fashion in song. Baroque music demands both technical and artistic proficiency, discernable layers of music and the interpretive ornamentation given to each line. It is perhaps the genre best suited for choir and for praise. LBC also plays music from other periods, but it always comes home to the Baroque.

THE POLITICS

Martin Luther (1483-1546) used music as a means of wresting the scriptures from the Roman Catholic clergy and making it available to the people, who were all to have a responsibility to the faith. Luther was a translator, an educator and apolitical revolutionary in relationship to the Catholic ecclesiastical and political hierarchy, which assumed that the people needed the elites for spiritual, ethical and political governance and that one's relationship with God was mediated by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and ultimately by the Pope. While it is true that Luther attacked the common people when they rose up in revolt against the nobility in the "Peasants War" (1524-25), his contribution to breaking the tyranny of the Roman church was nonetheless an inestimable contribution to human liberation.

Luther viewed music as a tool for communication, as an outlet for expression and as a means of learning and expressing faith. He thought religious texts, including music, should be accessible in form but also in language: he translated text from Greek and Latin into German as part of his project of wresting control from the elites and providing it to ordinary people. Luther wanted music in the home--he was himself a composer--and he saw it as a form of "rooted-ness." Lutheranism flourished and spread. By the mid-1900s, even in North America colleges, universities, philanthropic societies and preachers were bringing Lutheranism and its choral music to non-elite sectors of society.

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THE LBC IN REGINA

LBC Conductor Carl Cherland (D.M.A., the Pfeifer Memorial Director of Music at Luther College) and the choir continue that tradition today. "We're not about art for art's sake," said Cherland. "It's music for community, and Luther viewed community as organic. Luther argued that community is the priesthood of all believers, and Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone the glory). The LBC is one manifestation of Luther's exhortation to live out your faith. We're to be whole human beings, hence education must include music, art, community, the environment."

Since its inception--he founded it in 1982-Dr. Cherland has conducted the choir. But he credits the vision of Dr. Morris Anderson, a past president of Luther College, for supporting the choir's creation. …