Sunday, November 06, 2016

"O Jesus Christ, all praise to Thee" (Lovet være du Jesu Christ / Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ), a Christmas chorale by Martin Luther and Johann Walther in Norwegian sifferskrift

An early Reformation hymn for Dec. 14 when I demonstrate the psalmodikon at an Advent soup supper at Springfield's Peace Lutheran Church. I'm especially tickled to be able to use it since Johann Walther, who co-authored it with Luther, was my great-great-great- [maybe nine "greats" in all] great-grandfather, according to my paternal grandmother [farmor]. We've traced it back to a Caspar Walther, who emigrated from Germany to Norway about 1763. A family story traces his ancestry back to Luther's co-author. -- pe

Source: Jacob Andreas Lindeman. Choral-Melodier for Psalmodicon : til de i Kingos, Guldbergs og den evangelisk christelige Psalmebog forekommende Psalmer. Christiania [Oslo]: Hoppes Forlag, 1841.

Scanned by Nasjonalbiblioteket (the Norwegian national library), Henrik Ibsens gate 110, Oslo, and posted to their website. Wikipedia ( has this: "Lindeman tok avgangseksamen ved Trondhjem skole i 1827 og teologisk eksamen i 1832. Fra 1826 til 1840 var han organist ved Vår Frelsers kirke i Christiania, og fra 1832 til 1836 underviste han i musikk og var samtidig lærer i religion og musikk ved Eugeniastiftelsen. Fra 1836 til 1839 var han lærer ved Asker seminar. I 1839 ble han utnevnt til residerende kapellan i Leikanger og ble ordinert 5. juli 1840. Han ble da etterfulgt som organist av broren Ludvig M. I 1845 ble han sogneprest i Davik, hvor han døde brått året etter."

Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ

One of the first Christmas hymns that Luther and Johann Walther composed by reworking vernacular German materials. I haven't been able to find it in the Augustana Synod's 1901 hymnal, but it is included in the Norwegian-American Lutheran Hymnary of 1913 as well as Norwegian psalmbooks of the 1800s. According to Wikipedia (,_Jesu_Christ):

"Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" ("Praise be to You, Jesus Christ") is a Lutheran chorale of 1524, with words written by Martin Luther. It was first published in 1524 in the Eyn geystlich Gesangk Buchleyn. For centuries the chorale has been the prominent hymn (Hauptlied) for Christmas Day in German speaking Lutheranism, but has also been used in different translations internationally. It has appeared in hymnals of various denominations including the Catholic Church.


Luther expanded a pre-Reformation stanza which is attested in Northern Germany in the 15th century, mainly in prayerbooks from the convent of Medingen, based on Grates nunc omnes, the Latin Sequence of the midnight mass for Christmas, by six stanzas.[1][2] Each stanza ends on the acclamation Kyrieleis. The hymn was published in Eyn Enchiridion in Erfurt in 1524.[1]


The tune was first printed in Eyn geystlich Gesangk Buchleyn, a booklet of spiritual song, collected by Johann Walter but is attested also in the prayerbooks from the convent of Medingen and even appears on an antependium made by the nuns in the late 15th century.[3] It seems likely that both Luther and Walter collaborated to modify an older melody.[4] In the first verse, the highest notes accentuate important words such as Jesu, Mensch (man), Jungfrau (virgin), Engel (angels).

Johann Walther was a kantor, or court musician, in the court of chapel of Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony. "Johann Walter [Walther] was a German composer, one of the earliest of the composers in the Lutheran Church," says Aryeh Oron in his biography on the Bach-Cantatas website ( "As Martin Luther's friend and his musical adviser, Walter helped Luther to construct a new liturgy and composed tunes for many Lutheran hymns." (Brackets in the original. "Walther" is the spelling that was handed down in my family.)

At left: The Lutheran Hymnary. Published by Authority of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Hauge's Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the United Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1913.

Some YouTube clips:

No comments: