‘Reformation/Revolution’ concert Nov. 19

Washington University Choirs explore music and protest from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther (left) in a painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the fall of 1517, German theologian Martin Luther mailed his “Ninty-Five Theses” to the Archbishop of Mainz — and, legend has it, nailed a copy to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. Thus began the Protestant Reformation, a century-long religious and political whirlwind that reshaped European culture and society.

At 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, the Washington University Choirs will mark the 500th anniversary of Luther’s protest with “Reformation/Revolution,” a free concert exploring the Reformation era and its lasting influence on debates about power and exploitation.

The program will open with “Nun danket alle Gott” (1730), a short cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, a devout Lutheran who spent much of his professional life writing music for St. Thomas’ church in Leipzig, Germany. The program will continue with works drawn from the Catholic, Anglican and Calvinist traditions, followed by 20th-century songs representing the fights for women’s suffrage and African-American civil rights.

Kevin McBeth, associate conductor for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and director of music at Manchester United Methodist Church.

The evening’s centerpiece will be Alice Parker’s “A Sermon from the Mountain: Martin Luther King” (1969). Commissioned shortly after King’s assassination, the 45-minute cantata combines excerpts from his writings and speeches with Biblical passages and choral settings of traditional spirituals.

“Reformation/Revolution” is sponsored by the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences. Nicole Aldrich, director of choral activities, conducts. Sandra Geary is pianist. Kevin McBeth serves as narrator for “A Sermon from the Mountain,” and Robert McNichols, Jr. will intone the words from Scripture. Other soloists include soprano Jennifer Kelley, alto Kwamina Walker-Williams and tenor Duane Martin Foster.

The performance will take place in the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall, located in the 560 Music Center, at 560 Trinity Ave. in University City, Mo. For more information, call 314-935-5566 or email daniels@wustl.edu.

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