In 2017, 500 years had passed since the beginning of the Reformation. The German priest and theologian Martin Luther published his 95 theses in Wittenberg in 1517. The theses led to disruption within the Catholic Church and to the forming of the Protestant church. This process has influenced world history and has also been important for the development of church music.
Musicians of the King’s Road was the first cultural actor in Finland that signed the Luther 2017 license agreement and was approved an official Luther Decade partner.
Three St Matthew Passions
Since 2013, Musicians of the King’s Road has performed six times the St Matthew Passion written by the German composer Melchior Vulpius. According to historical sources, the work had been the very first polyphonic passion composition ever performed in Finland. The Passion performances have been given within a liturgical context and they have all received remarkably large attendance.
In 2017, the year of the Reformation anniversary, Musicians of the King’s Road performed three St Matthew Passions that had been written before the one by Vulpius (by Antoine de Longueval, Jakob Meiland and Johann Walter). These can be said to be the “earliest Passion stories in the world”. The performances were given in cooperation with Turku and Kaarina Parish Union and they were a part of the Reformation anniversary celebration programme. All performances were conducted by Jonas Rannila.
The Passions were performed in Turku Cathedral on 11 March, 8 April and 20 May.
Each performance was preceded by an open lecture on themes related to the Reformation.
Two more Passions to celebrate the Reformation anniversary
In July 2017, Musicians of the King’s Road performed an early St John Passion written by Christoph Demantius, and in the beginning of 2018, a historical St Matthew Passion by Bartholomäus Gesius. For the Gesius Passion, that was earlier thought to be partly lost, this was the first performance in Finland.
Agricola medal awarded to Musicians of the King’s Road
On 20 May 2017, Musicians of the King’s Road was awarded the Mikael Agricola 2007 Jubilee medal by the Mikael Agricola Society. The award was handed over by Mr Ossi Tuusvuori, secretary general of the Agricola Jubilee Year and permanent adviser of the Mikael Agricola Society.
In 2013, Musicians of the King’s Road initiated a cycle of historical Passion settings by performing the St Matthew Passion written by Melchior Vulpius, the first ever St Matthew Passion known to have been performed in Finland (in Turku Cathedral at the end of the 17th century). The passion was sung in old Finnish. The cycle continued in 2017, the year of the Reformation anniversary, when Musicians of the King’s Road performed “the three earliest St Matthew Passions of the world”. The last one to be performed was the earliest version of the Lutheran passion story, written by Johann Walter, a follower and close collaborator of the reformer Martin Luther. Present at this performance was also Mr Christian Priesmeier, a descendant of Martin Luther.
The Agricola Jubilee Year was celebrated in 2007, when 450 years had passed since the death of Mikael Agricola, often called the “father of literary Finnish”.