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Reformation500 events this October

Monday, 9 October 2017

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The Crypt of St Peter-in-the-East (now the College Library) at St Edmund Hall
The Crypt of St Peter-in-the-East (now converted into the College Library) at St Edmund Hall

As the exact date for the quincentenary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (published on 31 October 1517) is approaching, there are a number of Reformation events organised. These combine the three strands which have been explored throughout the year (cf. the events during Bonn Week): Translating – Printing – Singing.

St Edmund Hall is participating with a Lutheran Compline sung in the Crypt of St Peter-in-the-East on the Friday before the anniversary, 27 October, at 9pm (after Formal Hall). This will follow the Lutheran Order of Service with Coverdale’s translation of Luther’s hymnic version of the ‘Nunc dimittis’.

There are also several further events which may appeal to anyone interested in the literature, history and music of Protestant Germany and England in the 16th century and its legacy. All welcome! For more information, go to the Reformation 2017 blog of the Taylorian.

On Wednesday, 25 October at 5pm, Henrike Lähnemann (Fellow of St Edmund Hall and Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics) will give a lecture at the Shulman Auditorium in The Queen’s College, on Miles Coverdale’s hymnbook, the first printed English hymnal (1535), in which he translated all popular Wittenberg hymns of the time, among them the first translation of ‘Ein feste Burg’. The hymnbook was banned by Henry VIII and survives in only one complete copy – which is kept in The Queen’s College! The lecture will be followed by Evensong where some of Coverdale’s translation will be sung in the contemporary Wittenberg settings.

On Sunday, 29 October, 2:30-5pm, there will be an afternoon of tea and talks on the Reformation in Oxford and J S Bach’s Reformation cantatas in the new Cohen Quad of Exeter College on Walton Street, where there also will be an exhibition of Reformation pamphlets from the College Library. At 6pm, the Evensong at Exeter College Chapel will feature the Bach cantata ‘Nun danket alle Gott’, written for Reformation day, performed by the College Choir with the orchestra of the Oxford Bach Soloists.

Finally on the day itself, Tuesday, 31 October, at 6:15pm, there will be a service of Lutheran Vespers in New College Chapel with a performance of the last in the Bach cycle of Reformation cantatas which started this year in May at St Columba’s URC and continued with a service at St Michael’s Northgate. Before the service, there will be a talk at 5pm by Lyndal Roper, and during the service Henrike Lähnemann will preach on Psalm 46 which is the basis for Luther’s best-known hymn ‘Ein feste Burg’. New College Choir is singing the cantata BWV 80 with full orchestra on period instruments which should be a very festive occasion.

A full recording of all the four cantatas of the cycle is planned for Sunday Laetare in February 2018. These events have been made possible by generous funding from the different colleges involved, with additional funding from TORCH and the German Embassy.