The music history of the Moravian Church is one of the most fascinating chapters in early American music history. The Brethren, which arose in Moravia and Bohemia in the 15th century, was forced underground during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) and later reborn in the 1720s on the estate of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf in Saxony.
The German-speaking Moravians of the 18th century founded a peaceful, communal society in 1741 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the city where I took music lessons as a teenager. American Moravian cultural achievements included some of the first dictionaries and grammars of several Native American languages, as well as some of the first chamber music composed by an American. They performed music by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven at a time when most other European settlers lacked the skills and resources to do so, and their musical life remains exceptional to this day.