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Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Ferdinand Pauwels, 1872. Wikimedia Commons.

Ancient Voices celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on Sunday, October 29 at 10:00 a.m., with new releases of music from Luther's time plus 17th century sacred music inspired by Luther's hymns!

Chorus Austin also commemorates this event with "Art of the Prophets" on November 4 and 5. They'll present music by Bach, Schütz, Brahms, and Mendelssohn. 

Sometimes the tap of a hammer can be heard around the world, even after 500 years. 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the launch of the Protestant Reformation. Tradition says that Martin Luther set this revolution in motion by nailing ninety-five theses protesting the sale of indulgences to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.

Luther loved music. He had highly developed musical tastes, and made a point of collecting hymns for the congregations of his new church to sing together, some of which he wrote himself. His concept of teaching music and theology in Lutheran schools had a profound impact on generations of composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach.

KMFA host Sara Schneider imagines an interview with Martin Luther about music. All of Luther's responses in this exchange come from his writings. Caution—may contain strong language, of which Luther was fond! 

Dr. Luther, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on music, even in this busy anniversary year. How has music made an impact in your life?

Music drives away the spirit of sadness. For a person beset by grief music is the most effective balm, for through it the heart is made content, is inspired and refreshed. The devil flees from the voice of music.

Who are your favorite composers?

Josquin, all of whose works are cheerful, gentle, mild, and lovely, like the song of the finch. He is the master of the notes, which must express what he desires. On the other hand, other composers must do what the notes dictate.

Also Ludwig Senfl. I would not be able to compose such motets as his even if I were to tear myself to pieces.

Do you consider music vital for children and young people?

Youth must skip about and leap, or at least do something that affords pleasure, and since it would certainly not do to forbid this entirely, ought we not to furnish schools in which we could teach youth such art? We should always make it a point to habituate youth to enjoy the art of music, for it produces fine and skilful people.

I've always been interested that you retained some music from the Catholic church for use in your new evangelical church, like the Advent hymn 'Savior of the Nations Come', which comes from Gregorian chant.

We have made some selections from the beautiful music and hymns used in the papacy. The music is precious; it would be a pity indeed should it perish. We try all things, and what is good we shall retain.

Do you have a favorite song?

One ultimately tires of all songs, but Christ ist erstanden must be sung every year. Whoever wrote this hymn had the right conception of Easter.

Do you think the government has a role in supporting music?

Kings, princes, and lords must support music; it is indeed fitting and proper that potentates and regents regulate the use and propagation of the fine arts.

You're known for not mincing words on subjects you feel strongly about. What do you think of people who don't recognize music for the gift that it is?

Such a person must be a clodhopper indeed, and should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.