Fifth Grade - Music - Lesson 7 - Reformation Music - Lutheran Chorale

Note to the Teacher

This music lesson is designed to follow World History Lessons 16 and 17 and to serve as a reinforcement and enrichment for what the students have learned about the Reformation in Germany, adding the concept of Luther as composer of hymns.The hymn the students will learn today is perhaps the most well-known Lutheran chorale tune, and has been so ever since the time of its composition in 1527 or 28. Its text is Luther's paraphrase of the Old Testament Psalm 46; it does not name Christ or the Trinity, but it is definitely a hymn of thanksgiving to God, and the students should be clear that this is not being taught to them as anything other then a piece of great musical and historical importance.

For today, the students will learn the chorale hymn by echoing you (some will already know the tune from outside of school), line by line. Next month they will look more carefully at the piece as a way of reviewing note values, sharps, and the names of the lines and spaces of the musical staff, all part of both the Third and Fourth Grade music curriculums. Save the copy of the hymn given below, so additional copies can be made for the students. Think about having the the students begin making songbooks for themselves. For the time being, they could put their personal keyboards in a folder that is decorated on the outside by the student. In the course of the year they will have copies of other songs that you teach them. These can be kept in the same folder and eventually made into a small book.


Recall the role of Martin Luther in the Reformation.

Sing a hymn whose text and music were written by Martin Luther.

Recall the reasons for the importance of Gutenberg's movable type.

Identify the original language of Luther's hymn as German.


A copy of Luther's hymn, Ein Feste Burg with piano accompaniment, attached for transparency from van Loon, Hendrik Willem. Folk Songs of Many Lands. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1938.) Piano, if available (optional)


Start by reviewing material from World History Lesson 16 about the Renaissance of learning and the Reformation of the Church. Ask the students: What happened around 1450 that was so important to these historical movements? (Gutenberg's movable type, printing in quantity) What was the first book to be copied using Gutenberg's printing press? (Bible)

Tell the students: You learned two meanings for the word reform: to correct something that is wrong is one and to create something new is the other. Who is the person you learned about who intended to reform the Catholic Church according to the first meaning of reform that you learned and ended up a leader of the second kind? (Martin Luther)

Tell the students: Once the Protestant Reformation was under way, and the followers of Martin Luther began to call themselves Lutherans, it was important that they have churches and church services where everyone felt they belonged together. Luther knew that one of the most powerful ways to bring people together is through music. If you think of all the spirituals that African Americans sang during times of slavery, and all the sung music that united the people who were marching or rallying during the civil rights movement, you will understand why Luther wrote hymns for his followers to sing. Not only did he write hymns, but he also had them printed with the new methods Gutenberg had invented, so it could be done at not too much expense and many people could afford them. In what language do you think Luther's hymn books were written? (German) Why do you think that was important? (Accept any thoughtful answer.)

Tell the students that in the Catholic Church at the time, hymns and all music for the Mass were written in Latin, even though there were Catholic churches located in every country and city-state of Europe. People learned some of the Latin hymns by heart, but not many people other than monks and nuns and priests could actually read Latin unless they were unusually well educated. Once hymn books could be printed inexpensively, people were eager to read the texts for themselves and sing them in the language they used when speaking with each other.

Show the students the copy of "Ein feste Burg" in the transparency. Have someone identify the German text with a pointer and read the name of the composer in the upper right-hand corner. Ask the students what they think the date is for? (date when Luther first published the song in a hymn book) Tell them that this particular hymn of Luther's became so popular with all Protestant religions that it has been translated into more than 200 languages, and that at least 100 different translations into English have been made. Tell them that the tune is what they see written above the words at the top of each 3-line music staff. Ask them: Does anyone know what the other lines of music are for, the ones that are bracketed (show the { brackets at the left) as the second and third staves underneath the words? (piano accompaniment) Ask them: What other keyboard instrument do you think might have been used in Luther's day to play the accompaniment? (organ) Could we hear it that way today? (yes)

Have several students read through the English translation of the text, each taking a line, and discuss any unfamiliar vocabulary: bulwark, mortal, prevailing, ancient foe (evil, or evil personified as the devil), woe. Ask a few different people to read the last 3 lines:

His craft and pow'r are great,

And, armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

Ask the students whether they think that is a strange way to end a hymn in praise of God and what they think Luther meant by those words. (Accept any thoughtful answer.) Tell them that the words of songs often tell us a lot about the people who wrote them and the times they lived in. Ask them whether they think Luther's hymn describes a peaceful, easy life or a hard life full of battles and difficulties.

Sing the song through for the students. (Notice that the second line of music is an exact repeat of the first, and that the final phrase is an exact repeat of the second half of the first and second lines.) If you have the use of a piano and can play it, by all means use it to accompany yourself as you sing, so that the students can hear the richness of the full music. Then teach the students one line at a time. Begin by singing each line for them and having them repeat it with you immediately after; then sing each line for them and have them echo you. Encourage them to sing the hymn with strength, and tell them they will have a closer look at the music itself in another lesson.

Fifth Grade - Music - Lesson 8 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Note for the Teacher

This lesson should build on the ideas and feelings the students have as a result of reading and discussing Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.


Listen carefully to the "Scherzo" and "Wedding March" from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Mendelssohn. (They each take about 5 minutes playing time.)

Explore the connection between the spirit of the play and that of the music.

Locate Felix Mendelssohn on the timeline.

Sketch a scene suggested by the "Scherzo" to A Midsummer Night's Dream


Recording of Felix Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream, see Suggested Recording below

Rough gray drawing paper, colored pencils or watercolors for each student

Suggested Recording

For the "Wedding March," Majestic Marches, Naxos CD 8.550370

Also: Great Orchestral Classics Vol. 6, Naxos CD 8.551146

For both the "Scherzo" and the "Wedding March," Vox Box CDX 5 165

Background for the Teacher

Juvenile biographies of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847) have yet to be written. The following information may be helpful. Felix was the grandson of the noted Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn. Felix was born in Hamburg, brought up in the more sophisticated culture of Berlin, and was a piano prodigy in his youth. Both he and his talented sister, Fannny, composed pieces from an early age. Fanny was discouraged by her father and her brother because she was a woman (the last 20 years have produced the first recordings ever of most of Fanny's compositions); Felix was encouraged, and produced sonatas, songs, cantatas, organ works, and even a symphony by the time he was 16 years old.

In 1826, when Felix was 17, he and Fanny read Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream together, and he was so enchanted with the work that he wrote a long piece about it; this became the "Overture" to the incidental music for the play, written 17 years later in 1843. Felix first wrote the "Overture" for 2 pianos, for Fanny and himself to play, and it is considered his first real masterpiece. In 1843, when Mendelssohn wrote the rest of the incidental music to be played along with the performance of Shakespeare's play, he orchestrated the "Overture" along with the other pieces.

Mendelssohn married the daughter of a Huguenot pastor and--although he never renounced his Judaism--he added the hyphenated Bartholdy to their names to indicate their conversion to Protestantism, differentiating their names from the rest of Felix's family. The conversion explains why Mendelssohn eventually wrote a famous symphony (No. 5) that is called "The Reformation" and includes as the main theme in the 3rd movement the famous chorale "Ein feste Burg" that the students learned to sing in the last lesson.


Play the "Wedding March" from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream for the class and ask whether they have ever heard it before and, if so, where. (In all probability some of the students will have heard it at a wedding.) When they have identified it as a wedding march, ask them to listen again so they can tell you what family of instruments begins this wedding march (trumpets, horns). Ask them: What do we call it when the horns make an announcement like that? (fanfare) What do you think they are announcing in this case? (Let someone who has heard the piece used as a wedding march describe to the class how the bride and the person giving her in marriage wait at the back of the church, synagogue, or hall where the people are gathered, and--at the sound of the fanfare--they begin to march down the aisle.)

Tell the students that this wedding march was written in 1826 (estimate where on the timeline this would fall) by a German composer named Felix Mendelssohn when he was only 17 years old. Tell them a little bit about Mendelssohn's life and then say: Felix and his sister Fanny, who was also an excellent musician, were reading Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Felix was so enchanted by it that he decided to write an "Overture" (write the term on the board and review it with them) to the play, which he wrote for 2 pianos so that he and Fanny could perform it for people. It became very well known, and 17 years later Felix wrote some more pieces for the performance of the play. This time he wrote parts for a whole orchestra.

Tell the class that you are going to play another of the pieces Mendelssohn wrote to be performed for the Shakespeare drama, which they know because they have just finished reading it. Say: I am not going to tell you anything about this piece, except to say that it was written to be performed before one of the 3 acts of the play. It is very short, and it is called a "Scherzo" (SCARE tso), which is a name composers at that time sometimes gave to short, playful pieces written for instruments without voices. I want you to listen carefully and tell me which act of the play you think this music preceded at the performance, and be ready to support your guess.

Play the piece and let them guess, and use this time as a way of reviewing their thoughts and feelings about the play. The answer is that the "Scherzo" is intended to by played as a kind of prelude to Act II of the play, which prepares the audience for the world of the fairies. When this has been established, ask the students: How does Mendelssohn make us feel as though we can see and hear the world of the fairies through his music? (Accept any thoughtful answer.) Remind them to listen for the kinds of instruments they mainly hear in the piece (woodwinds--oboe, flute, clarinet--they are all pipes in a sense, which was Pan's instrument, light and airy). Have them listen once more, and tell them there is one animal sound that comes from the play that they might recognize (the "Hee-haw" of the donkey). Also say to them: I want you to tell me how you can tell the piece is over? What happens at the end? (They may notice that the piece "disappears into thin air" at the end, just the way fairies might, and there are just a few members of the string family plucking their strings very softly as the sound dies away.)

Pass out paper and colored pencils or watercolors (give them a choice if possible), and continue to play the piece as they draw what it evokes for them from their feelings and memories about the play.