Music in religions and churches
A formative component of our cultural life - far beyond religious ministry.
In its overall responsibility for musical life in Germany, one focus of the German Music Council’s work is strengthening and further developing music in religions and churches. In times when society is threatening to drift apart, culture and education play a more essential role than ever before for a free and democratic society. Music in religions and churches is of fundamental importance in this context. Not only has music always been an expression and mediator of faith, but its power is open to all.
In the fruitful tension between internal church function and artistic autonomy, music fulfills essen-tial social tasks. Church music is also of immense importance in the field of amateur music: more than 800,000 people are involved in church ensembles and choirs. Here, a sense of community is created, togetherness is strengthened, and self-reliance and awareness are promoted, all of which are essential for today's society.
In cooperation with the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), in 2022 the German Music Council organized the congress "Church Music as an Opportunity for Society, Culture, and the Church", where topics and questions such as "Does society need church music?", "Church music as an op-portunity for social cohesion", and "Church music in the digital age" were discussed. 150 musicians and musicologists as well as representative of other disciplines, the media, churches, and federal politics discussed these issues intensively in lectures, working groups, and discussions.
At the central panel discussion, Bishop Dr. Heiner Koch (Archbishop of Berlin), Dr. Annette Kurschus (Chairwoman of the Council of the EKD), Christa Kirschbaum (Protestant Church Music Director for the States of Hesse and Nassau), Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert (Secretary General of the Cultural Foun-dation of the Federal States), and Prof. Eberhard Metternich (Director of Music at Cologne Cathe-dral) spoke about the current situation of church music and its role in a changing world. The results of the congress flowed into the resolution "Church Music as an Opportunity for Society, Culture, and the Church" during the concluding plenary discussion - as a basis for continuing music policy and socio-political efforts by the German Music Council and the churches to ensure the continued existence of a vibrant musical life in Germany. The congress was streamed live. The video recording is available below.
Building on the results of the Church Music Congress, the 2022 General Assembly explicitly deter-mined to broaden its focus beyond the church music of the Protestant and Catholic churches. In accordance with the social importance of this topic, music as an expression of other faiths and religious institutions will be included in the work of the new Federal Expert Committee "Music in Religions and Churches", which replaces the previous Church Music Working Group of the German Music Council. The members of the committee you find here.
The German Music Council, together with the German Bishops' Conference and the Protestant Church in Germany, carried out the project "Organ Music in the Age of Covid." The project was a contribution to the "Year of the Organ," which the state music councils announced for 2021. The project produced 17 compositions for organ that artistically reflect the Covid-19 pandemic period.
From September 2021 to November 2022, several of these organ works were heard nationwide as part of devotions, church services, concerts, and other public occasions. In this way, musical life was actively promoted and listeners were encouraged to engage with the pandemic experience. The different styles of the newly composed music for organ enabled encounters between experi-mental and traditional church music. The project was supported by the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media.
On September 18, 2022, all 17 new compositions were performed at a two-part gala concert in Augs-burg. Music videos were also produced for all the pieces and published on the German Music Council’s YouTube channel along with an introductory feature.