SHREWSBURY, Mass. — The Senior Choir of the First Congregational Church in Shrewsbury, accompanied by a professional orchestra, will perform J. S. Bach's "Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild" ("God Is a Light and a Shield") one of two cantatas Bach composed for the Reformation Festival, an important event in the Lutheran calendar. The performance will be held Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
The festival commemorates the start of the Protestant Reformation, when, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the palace chapel at Wittenberg, Germany.
To mark the event in Leipzig, Germany, the stronghold of Lutheran orthodoxy, Bach, as the cantor of the St. Thomas Church, was expected to provide a particularly lavish setting for divine services on such occasions.
With his cantata #79, composed in 1725, Bach satisfied these requirements, with a majestic scoring for two horns, timpani, two oboes, strings, and continuo in addition to the normal four-part chorus and vocal soloists.
Sunday's performance will also feature the church's English box organ as well as the church harpsichord, played by the well-known pianist and teacher Inge Lindblad. The text is anonymous, but may be the work of Erdmann Neumeister, an important figure in the development of the Lutheran cantata.
Although the cantata was written to honor the Protestant Reformation, the cantata also connects very well to the national holiday of Thanksgiving, because of the traditional association of the famous hymn tune "Nun Danket Alle Gott" ("Now Thank We All Our God"), sung at almost every Thanksgiving service across the country. This famous chorale is the tune used for the third movement of the cantata.