History of Music and Moravians

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The Moravians have a rich and deep history with music, and certainly continued that tradition in Salem.  Some Moravians came from Herrnhut, Germany, which was very close to Dresden, and so they were leaving an area that was steeped in music by masters like J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel.  As they left Europe, the Moravians brought their culture and traditions with them.

Music has always been considered a ministry of the church, and seen as one of life’s simple pleasures, which may explain the simplicity of many Moravian compositions.  Although many Moravian musicians were technically very well trained – they were transcribing scores by famous composers, and are the first documented chamber music composers in America – the music tends to be easily adapted for different instruments, or voices, with brass instruments playing an important role.  Music remains central to the Moravian church, and a brass band still performs in Salem throughout the year on special occasions. 

The Moravian musical heritage forms a vital link in the history of American music and culture. The Moravian Music Foundation (MMF) is custodian of some 10,000 manuscripts and early imprints, which comprise music by both Moravian and non-Moravian composers; sacred and secular; American and European; vocal and instrumental. Approximately one-third of this collection is housed at the Archie K Davis Center, 457 S. Church St., Winston-Salem, NC; the remainder resides in the Moravian Archives, Northern Province in Bethlehem, PA. MMF has an extensive music reference library and sells modern editions of, recordings of, and books about Moravian music.

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