October 31, 1517 is the purported date on which Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in Germany, beginning a movement that profoundly changed Europe (which was not his original intent!). The date is recognized as Reformation Day. Last year, on the 500th anniversary of this event, celebrations took place around the world. This year Reformation Sunday (the Sunday before the 31st) is October 28.
Most churches do not plan anything special on Reformation Sunday, although it might be mentioned in the bulletin or the congregation might sing “A Mighty Fortress.” The most famous tune to come out of the Reformation, of course, is the one I just mentioned, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, or, in German, “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.” The hymn was composed by Martin Luther (who, by the way, was extremely interested in music, wrote many hymns, and, by all accounts, loved to sing). Many organists try to include some acknowledgement of the day by including a piece that alludes to the Reformation, and “Ein feste Burg” is certainly one of the go-to tunes. Many, many composers – J.S. Bach among them – have arranged the melody for various instrumentations, including the organ. I will be playing Toccata on “Ein feste Burg” by Craig A. Penfield for the postlude on October 28. The word “toccata” comes from the Italian toccare, which means “to touch,” and toccatas are certainly among the flashy pieces of the organ repertory!
Carolyn Johnson, Director of Music; firstname.lastname@example.org