European Reformation Song Contest

120 entries

“Outstanding in terms of quantity and quality” is how General Secretary of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe Bishop Dr. Michael Bünker describes the results of the Reformation Song Contest launched by the CPCE at the start of the year to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.


In the first round of the competition, which ran until summer 2015, lyrics were submitted from seven countries, either as new words for well-known church hymn music or as a stand-alone text. An international panel of judges selected five of the latter to be set to original music – and one German, one Norwegian, one Danish and two Hungarian texts made it through to this second round. Each was translated into English to open up the competition to international contenders. Entries were invited for two categories of tune – “traditional” and “contemporary”.


“We were keen for the song to be readily sung by congregations,” says Jochen Arnold, Director of the St. Michael’s Cloister in Hildesheim and the CPCE’s Liturgy Officer, to help explain what the judges were looking for. “The melody needs to be catchy and not too intricate. Apart from that, there should be good scope for organ or keyboard accompaniment, or perhaps a guitar, too.” He says some entries were more suited to soloists or a band of musicians. “The high quality of these submissions too, however, led the judges to also recommend their wider use.”


The selection panel, which consisted of Prof. Arnold, Dr. Britta Martini (Berlin) and Peter Steinvig (United Methodist Church, Denmark), chose the following winners:


The prize for the best traditional-style melody goes to Åshild Watne from Oslo, Norway, for the music she composed for the lyrics “Når du vil / When you will” by Holger Lissner from Denmark.


The winning contemporary song is “Limesen égő / Burning on Limes” with lyrics by the Hungarian poet Zsolt Miklya set to music composed by the group Hangraforgó (László Faggyas and Bea F. Sipos).


The judges awarded special prizes to three further pieces (two original melodies and one text with music). The winning entries will be published in 2016.


“We are delighted that the winners have been decided in time for Christmas,” says CPCE General Secretary Bünker. “And of course it is our immense pleasure to invite them to the grand première of their works in Wittenberg in March 2017.”


He says the Reformation Song Contest has shown that church music is still flourishing in Europe today. “A total of 100 musicians, lyricists and song writers submitted around 120 entries,” Arnold reveals. The CPCE’s aim has been to make the cause of the Reformation and Protestantism more accessible to the broader church membership and general public. Music is a particularly good medium “and a really key factor in reaching especially young people, too. Music touches our hearts today, just as it did 500 years ago.” (Luther: Music as the ruler of human hearts.)

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