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Luther Statue

02 February 2006
  Listening to Luther

Originally posted on Necessary Roughness on February 1, 2006.

My girls turned three last month and consistently amaze. My older one by 40 minutes, the talker, is grasping the concept that letters mean sounds and is beginning to identify which letters mean which sounds. My younger one echoes simple melodies on pitch; "Ode to Joy" is her newest one.

These kinds of activities remind me of Deaconess Carder's remark that kids start catechizing in her school beginning at age four, during a question and answer session if I remember correctly.

Throughout the Small Catechism we see the phrase before five of the six chief parts, "As the head of the family should teach it1 in a simple way to his household." Given that the girls are quite amenable to parental authority at this point in time and also given these talents of the kids, I was looking for hymns that taught. Of course, one of the major blogging Lutheran pastors recommended the CD Listening to Luther.

Catechism CDListening to Luther is cased in a slimline cardboard jewel case. The inside left has a pocket for the lyrics of the hymns, the right side a plastic media tray to hold the CD by the center hole.

There are 17 tracks on the CD. All spoken tracks are narrated by the same baritone with the typical Missouri non-accent. The first track is a spoken Introduction. The next 12 are the six chief parts, alternating between the recitation of each part and the hymn for the corresponding part. The hymns have been listened previously here with samples. Tracks 14-16 are the reading of the Daily Prayers, Table of Duties, and Christian Questions with Their Answers. The CD concludes with "Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word," (MP3 sample).

All the hymns are taken from Martin Luther: Hymns, Ballads, Chants, Truth from CPH. They are sung in four-part harmony by a small group. I can't pick out individual voices among the parts, and the singers are very precise. They vary from verse to verse within hymns: SATB, SA, TB, men/women, and soloist. They are backed by varying combinations of instruments: pipe organ, calliope, harpsichord, classical guitar, clarinet, cello, and others. They are a good sample of whether one will enjoy the larger collection.

The CD is not one that someone sits back and "enjoys" like a normal music CD. If one enjoys sermons or talk radio they may enjoy the readings from the Small Catechism. I liked the music but found myself longing for large choir or congregational fullness—spoiled by Roskilde's Congregational Choir in the Christmas Mass, I suppose.

Suitable for catechizing three-year-olds? While I wasn't expecting KIDZBOP, some longer musical phrases (the "all" in We All Believe In One True God) might be tough. One song has twelve verses; another, nine; still another, seven. The concepts might require some more vocabulary, like "From depths of woe I cry to Thee, in trial and tribulation." :) The repetition of verses and good singing would likely spark the younger one's musical aptitude. I found "O Lord We Praise Thee" most catchy as a youngster.

Suitable for older kids and adults? It's good diversion from reading the text. Some people learn more when text is given from a different perspective. Since the hymns don't follow the recitations exactly, the hymns shouldn't be used to memorize the catechism. One can run afoul of Luther's admonition that:
...with the young people stick to one fixed, permanent form and manner, and teach them, first of all, these parts, namely, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, etc., according to the text, word for word, so that they, too, can repeat it in the same manner after you and commit it to memory. —Preface to the Small Catechism
I enjoyed the CD and ripped it to my T|X. :)

1For the Ten Commandments, "them" instead of "it," obviously.

Recommended for those who want a good sample of the larger collection of hymns composed by Luther, for those who primarily memorize by listening, and for music history buffs who like to see hymns with the original text they reference.

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