Following the teaching of Jan Hus (Czech Priest), the Moravians relished the idea of singing praises in their own language (disallowed by the Catholic Church of the time) and later, in 4-part harmony, symbolizing the equality of all in the eyes of God and the unity of all as sisters and brothers in Christ. Church leader, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf said that one can better judge the health of a congregation by the power of its singing than by the power of its preaching.
Many Moravian congregations have an instrumental ensemble of some kind, a brass ensemble or a mixed wind band, or a band that meets only once a year to play for the Easter sunrise service. The backbone of traditional Moravian instrumental music is a huge body of four-part chorales: many of them shared with other, younger Protestant denominations (especially the Lutherans and Methodists), but a large number of the traditional chorales are uniquely Moravian in origin and usage.
The Moravian Music Foundation publishes and distributes “band books” on this site for use by instrumental winds. Shop Now
The green book and blue book each have distinct collections of chorales. As long as you have at least one on each part: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass (SATB); you will have a complete ensemble, no matter which instruments they are. The “bass tuba” book is a lower octave of the bass part – it is ideal to have both octaves represented in the band. For balance, it is good (but not required) to have equal numbers of brass and/or woodwinds on each part. There is also a descant book available for select chorales. There are conductor scores for both books.
Moravian congregations have also adopted other instruments into worship in various parts of the country and the world, including:
- guitars and other strings
- steel drums
The following is shared with permission of Mike Allsen:
How is the Green Book organized?
There are several sequences of tunes included in the Green Book:
1) The first two thirds of the book (pp. 7-44) is a sequence of over 70 chorales organized by “Gregor numbers” (see below)–if a tune has a Gregor number, this is where it will appear, from 3C “Almsgiving” to 602A “Requiem” though not all Gregor hymns that appear in the Moravian Book of Worship appear in the Green Book. Most of the distinctly “Moravian” hymns in the Green Book appear in this sequence.
(a reprint of Christian Gregor’s original 1784 Choralbuch is available from MMF; wherein the numbering system was established)
2) The next sequence (pp.45-57) is organized alphabetically by tune name, and includes tunes that were not in the Gregor Choralebuch–mostly standard Protestant hymn tunes that can be found in many hymnals.
3) On pp. 57-65, there is a collection of standard hymns/carols for Advent and Chrismas, organized alphabetically by their text, “Angels We Have Heard on High,” etc.
4) On pp. 65-67, there are five standard patriotic tunes, including “The Old North State,” state song of North Carolina!
5) There are six alternate settings for Gregor tunes included on pp.67-69–151A 151G, 167A, 195A, and 230A–including the J. S. Bach settings of “St. Mark” (151G) and “Sleepers Wake” (230A).
6) The final sequence is brief miscellany: arrangements of Haydn’s “The Spacious Firmament on High” (from “The Creation”), Beethoven’s “The Heavens are Telling,” and the funeral chorale “O Come and Mourn.”
What do those numbers in the Green Book mean?
While most newly-composed Christian hymn tunes are given tune names by their composers, many Moravian hymns also circulate with numbers. These relate to the ordering of tunes in Christian Gregor’s Choralebuch (1784, with many later editions). The Choralebuch, which was the standard service book for Moravian communities, was organized metrically, with each number relating to a specific poetic form. Thus, for example, any hymn with four 13-syllable (7+6) lines could be sung to any tune designated “151.” Where there was more than one tune for a given meter, the Choralebuch simply added letters. For example, there are about twenty “151” tunes that have been used in Moravian tradition, and several of these are included in the Green Book, from 151A “Passion Chorale” through 151T “Webb,” and also a couple of post-Gregor tunes, 151 “Eastham” and 151 “Leinbach.” Experienced Moravian band members often know these tunes almost exclusively by their “Gregor numbers.” As odd as this arrangement sounds, it can be handy for using the Green Book in services. If your group is called upon to accompany a hymn, it often offers you several options.
Why are some Moravian tunes associated with certain social groups or “choirs” (single sisters, married brothers, etc.)?
This relates to the Posaunenchor’s role in traditional Moravian funeral practice. When there was a death in a Moravian community, the Posaunenchor would first play the tune 151A “Passion Chorale” (i.e., O Sacred Head, Now Wounded), which would announce that a death had occurred. The next tune would tell all who were listening what segment of the community the dead person had come from:
– 39A “Confession” = little boys
– 82D “Hayn” = little girls
– 23A “Upsala” = older boys
– 14A “Esslingen” = older girls
– 185A “Covenant” = single men
– 37A “Gregor” = single women
– 83D “Confidence” = married men
– 79A “Innsbruck” = married women
– 132A “Decius” = widowers
– 149A “Nassau” = widows
LINKS of INTEREST
Moravian Brass Festival in Neuwied, Germany (June 2019)
Band Book Lists
Full lists of the tunes in both the GREEN and BLUE band books: by Tune Name and by Hymn Name . These lists also include which key the tune is in, and what page the tune appears in the blue 1995 Moravian Book of Worship, as well as the older Red and Black editions of the Moravian hymnal. Many thanks to Jill Bruckart for these lists!
Band Books for sale from MMF WEBSITE