The Intersection of Politics & Modern Organ Music in mid-century Germany

Sarah Wannamaker

Tuesday, June 21, 10:30 AM

Mid-century Germany witnessed an extreme collision of cultural suppression, political upheaval, and changing church ideology. The organ and organ culture was at the intersection of these forces, and this era is one in which outside influences greatly shaped the organ and church music scene on the international stage.

This session considers the political interaction with cultural development, and how the organ and organ literature was affected. The German culture enthusiastically identified with the organ history and the heritage of Bach as a quintessential German musician. The pride in this heritage led to the use of the instrument as a core element of the Freiburg Organ Festival and NSDAP Rallies. Other instigating elements include the Entartete Kunst / Musik (Degenerate Art / Music) exhibitions and guidelines, with an emphasis on classical order and forms.

Organ repertoire from this period shows these disparate influences, in both conforming and reactionary ways. Repertoire from Adolf Eckardt, Johann Nepomuk David, Paul Kickstat, and Hugo Distler will be presented through this cultural lens. Also noted are the experiences of émigrés, particularly Arnold Schoenberg and Paul Hindemith, and their influence on the American scene with their university teaching posts. Musical examples will offer repertoire of interest as well as introductions to works that would be useful additions to an organist’s library.

Music is never produced in a vacuum; this presentation is to enhance appreciation fo the context in which compositions are produced and to acknowledge the complex interactions of politics, culture, and art in the past century.

Sarah Wannamaker, FAGO, is Organist / Choirmaster at Northmont Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA and Artistic Director of the Pittsburgh Boy Choir. Previously, she was Organist at First Methodist in Palo Alto, CA, assistant at the Ragazzi Boys Chorus in Redwood City, CA, and Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She has performed in the States, England and South Korea. She has a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Organ Performance, and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. Sarah attended Stanford University as an NEH Scholar. She maintains the website