Bethlehem Area Public Library

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St. Luke's Evangelical Church, South Bethlehem

Rev. F.M. Gingrich, Pastor


First Baptist Church, South Bethlehem

Rev. J.L. Kreamer, Pastor


St. Mark's Evangelical Church, South Bethlehem

Rev. I.F. Heisler, Pastor


St. John's A.M.E. Zion Church, South Bethlehem

Rev. M.D. Brown, Pastor





In the Bethlehem Steel Company, Lehigh University and the Bach Choir, this community possesses a threefold source of world-wide fame. Local citizens pretty generally appreciate the advertising value of the steel plant and the University, but it is questionable whether they know how important a factor the annual Bach Festivals are in bringing the Bethlehems into the limelight.

Money could not buy the columns of space devoted last Spring by important newspapers and magazines of the country to this great musical event. From papers ranging geographically from the New York “Sun”, which designated the community “famous for its interpretations of the greater works of Sebastian Bach”, to the Portland “Oregonian” which said, “artistic traditions cluster around the town, its importance must go on increasing”, there has been a chorus of approval. The journals of every city of consequence in the United States, a number in Canada, and a few in England, Germany and France have touched upon the work of the Bach Choir here in what has been termed the Bayreuth of America.

In the July issue of the “Alumni Bulletin” of Lehigh University extracts were reprinted from long articles by leading music critics of the country, describing the 1915 Bach Festival, held at Lehigh University on May 28th and 29th, to which were drawn hundreds of music lovers from a score of states. Comments were quoted from Dr. Lyman Abbott, Editor of “The Outlook”; Henry T. Finck, the noted critic and Music Editor of the New York “Evening Post” and of the “Nation”; W.J. Henderson, author and Music Critic of the New York “Sun”; Richard Aldrich, Music Editor of the New York “Times”; Fullerton L. Waldo, Associate Editor of the Philadelphia “Public Ledger”; Clarence Lucas of the “Musical Courier” staff; M.A. DeWolfe Howe, of Boston, Editor of the Harvard “Alumni Bulletin”, and author of “A History of the Boston Symphony Orchestra”; Julius Hartt, Music Critic of the Hartford, Conn., “Daily Times”; and E.V. Chamberlain, Managing Editor of the Philadelphia “Press”.

The object of the Bach Choir is “the study and performance of the choral and other music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the most profound and original musical thinker the world has ever seen — the master of masters”.

The 1916 Festival, to be given at Lehigh next May, will be the eleventh.

Festivals were held in the Moravian Church, Bethlehem, in 1900 (one day), in 1901 (three days), in 1903 (six days), in December, 1904 (Christmas Festival of three days), in April, 1905 (Lenten Festival of three days), in June, 1905 (Easter and Ascension Festival of three days).

The Festivals were resumed in South Bethlehem in 1912 when Lehigh University extended hospitality to the Choir, the Moravian Seminary and College for Women cooperating. Two-day renditions were given in the Packer Memorial Church, on the University campus, in May of 1912, 1913, 1914 and 1915.

The renditions have been termed “the most important sequence of choral performances in America”.

“The membership of the Choir is drawn from all walks of life, under the common fealty of the incomparable music of the Patriarch, * * * * * The best singers of the churches of the Bethlehems are proud and glad to make sacrifices for the all-the-year-around practicing. None can read the very soul of this chorus who does not realize that it exists for the personal exploitation of no one — and its leader, in the shadow of Bach’s effulgent name, is the most modest of men and the least anxious to ascribe to himself the glory.” — Philadelphia “Public Ledger”.

Dr. J. Fred. Wolle, founder and conductor of the Bach Festivals, is a native of Bethlehem, a son of Francis Wolle, a botanist of note.

Dr. Wolle was formerly organist of the Moravian Church in Bethlehem and of Lehigh University, and is now organist of Salem Lutheran Church.

From 1905 to 1911, Dr. Wolle was head of the Department of Music in the University of California, and he organized at Berkeley a Bach Choir that gave several renditions in the Greek Theater.

The 1916 Festival will be the fifth held in Packer Memorial Church on the Lehigh Campus.

Dr. Henry Sturgis Drinker, President of the University, is President of the Bach Choir.

Charles M. Schwab, A.N. Cleaver and W.A. Wilbur, of the University Board of Trustees, are members of the Bach Executive Committee.

Dr. J. Fred. Wolle, founder of the Festivals, was for eighteen years organist of Lehigh University.

T. Edgar Shields, organist of the Choir, is the present University organist.

It is in the Chapel of the Moravian Seminary and College for Women in Bethlehem that the Bach Choir holds its regular rehearsals. Dr. J.H. Clewell, President of the Seminary and College, is a member of the Bach Executive Committee. The teaching force and students are largely represented among the singers of the Choir.


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