Saxony, also known as the Motherland of the Reformation, will celebrate the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther and the time when he published his famous 95 Theses denouncing certain practices of the Catholic Church and that initiated the wellspring of Protestantism. Saxony has been preparing for this momentous year with many important exhibitions, including the national exhibition: Luther and the Princes, that portrayed Luther’s pivotal relationship with the Electors of Saxony.
In 2016, Saxony will celebrate 800 Years of Dresden’s Holy Cross Boys’ Choir (Kreuzchor) not only for its own sake but also because music was so vital in spreading Luther’s message of Reformation. As the city’s oldest and critically acclaimed cultural institution, the Dresden Kreuzchor has marked Dresden’s musical life in a very special way and today spreads the city’s reputation as one of the travel industry’s top-ranked cultural metropolises.
When Martin Luther was born in 1483, Saxony was at the height of its power. The state was considered the Motherland of the Reformation because it was able to protect Martin Luther and his ideas. No matter how compelling Luther’s arguments were, no one man could have withstood the political powerhouse of the Catholic Church and lived to tell the tale without influential supporters. Luther’s formidable allies were the Electors of Saxony, Frederick the Wise and later John the Constant and John Frederick the Magnanimous, who not only protected him but also later promoted his ideas. Luther spent a majority of his life in Saxony, especially in Torgau, with the Electors of Saxony and visited Leipzig at least seven times in his lifetime.
Music had an important role in spreading the spiritual message of the Reformation. Martin Luther himself was nicknamed the “Wittenberg Nightingale,” as he himself wrote many hymns. Luther believed that music was a gift and reward of God. Luther may not have visited the Dresdener Kreuzchor during his lifetime, since it was officially a Catholic Church at that time (and had already existed for approximately 300 years) but they were multipliers of his influence then and now. Two main composers also furthered Luther’s Liturgical music in Saxony. One is Heinrich Schütz, often referred to as the father of German music, who directed the Court Chapel Choir and the Saxon Electoral Court Orchestra. He worked for almost forty years in Dresden and was highly regarded during his lifetime. Also, Johann Sebastian Bach directed the St Thomas Boys Choir in Leipzig and revitalized Schütz’s music. Bach wrote many of his most famous works in Leipzig, filled with the spirit of Luther’s Reformation.
The Dresden Kreuzchor, Holy Cross Boys’ Choir, is world renowned for their special clarity and purity of voices. It is one of the oldest and most famous boys’ choirs, first mentioned by the Boys’ Choirs Association in the year 1300. The most important duty of the choir, even today 800 years later, is the musical accompaniment of the vespers and services at Dresden’s Kreuzkirche (Holy Cross Church). Today, the choir performs some of Luther’s hymns during services and during special concerts. Not only on religious holidays but also throughout the entire year, except for certain festivals, the boys’ choir accompanies half of the liturgical services in the famous church.
The Holy Cross Church, at the Altmarkt Square in Dresden, frequently has lines waiting outside of the church when the boys’ choir performs. The choir often focuses on Lutheran church music, such as works by Johan Sebastian Bach but also sing works by Heinrich Schütz. The boys’ choir singers, called “Kruzianer” still attend the Kreuzschule, Holy Cross School, and half of them live in the adjacent boarding school. In addition to their normal classes, the 150 singers, aged 9 – 18, have weekly singing and instrumental lessons as well as daily rehearsals.
During 2016, the 800th anniversary celebrations will go on year round; there will be four main events and performances. Firstly, on March 4, there is the ceremonial performance at the Semper Opera. During the week of April 15- 24 Dresden will be celebrating the anniversary with a full festival week with musical performances all week. Following the festival in Dresden, on June 19-24, the Festival of Liturgical music in the beautiful city of Torgau will take place. Finally on August 19, there is “The sound of Dresden” an open-air concert where Dresden Holy Cross Boys’ Choir will perform as well as the Dresdner Philharmonic – this is not something you want to miss! Visitors who cannot make these special events can always see the famous Holy Cross Boys’ Choir every Saturday at 5pm during services at the Holy Cross Church.
Courtesy Saxony Tourism/VKLarsonCommunications.com
Images courtesy Dresdner Kreuzchor.