Coming up in Philly music: The harmonies of discord in the Reformation

Members of Minnesota's Rose Ensemble will join Piffaro this month. (Photo by Dave Kapell.)

The Protestant Reformation was one of the most musical upheavals in history, inspiring great music on both sides of the religious divide. Two of Philadelphia’s early-music organizations are devoting their entire season to the 500th anniversary of the year Martin Luther posted his theological tweets on a cathedral door.

Philadelphia’s Renaissance wind band, Piffaro, is opening its commemoration with an all-out program in collaboration with an acclaimed early-music chorus, Minnesota’s Rose Ensemble. The Philadelphia performances of the program are the opening events in a three-week, multistate tour. Piffaro’s codirector, Robert Wiemken, says the first half of the concert will “call the audience to attention with hammer blows” and cover the first century of Luther’s influence on the hymns and chorales of the new Protestant liturgy.

“In the second half,” Wiemken says, Piffaro will reconstruct “a celebratory mass in grand style,” modeled on a princely baptism that was “a joyous, elaborate, and well-documented occasion.” Piffaro’s reconstructions of weddings, dances, and other public occasions have produced some of its best programs. This one sounds like it should be just as memorable.

The Bach Festival’s knowledgeable conductor, Matthew Glandorf, will deliver a pre-concert lecture before Piffaro’s Philadelphia concerts. Glandorf’s own monthly Bach@7 series will devote its Wednesday-night soirées to music that celebrates the whole five-century span of the Reformation’s musical influence, from its beginnings to the present day. The older pieces on the first program will be a Bach motet for double chorus and the first Requiem with a German text, composed by Bach’s great predecessor, Heinrich Schutz. The modern entry will be a complex piece for multiple choruses by a modern Norwegian composer, Knut Nystedt. The entire concert will be compressed into one hour, as usual, and the post-concert reception will once again offer Bachians some particularly classy wines.

Piffaro will present Welcome the People: The Musical Legacy of the Reformation in Philly on October 20 at 7:30pm at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral (23 S. 38th Street); October 21 at 7:30pm at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill (8855 Germantown Ave); and October 23 at 3pm at Christ Church Christiana in Wilmington. Tickets ($29-$49; youth and full-time students free) are available by calling 215-235-8469, online, and at the door.

Bach@7 will present the first concert of its The Reformation: Influence and Inspiration series on October 18 at 7pm at St. Clement’s Church, 2013 Appletree Street, Philadelphia. Admission is pay-what-you-wish ($25 suggested). For more information, visit online or call 267-240-2586.