A Look Back in History: Pa Dutch youth celebrate Palm Sunday

A former resident of the Lehigh Valley, where the 1741 Moravian Church at Bethlehem celebrated their church services with brass musical instruments, I was delighted when Salem United Church of Christ in Oley Township invited the Mount Laurel Brass Quintet to participate in Sunday’s Palm Sunday Worship Service. It also featured several youth from our PA Dutch congregation, who under the direction of Mrs. Leon Rhoads, entered the historic church edifice waving very colorful streamers as Reverend Robert A. Witmyer presented a traditional Palm Sunday program as the choir sang “Shout Hosanna to the King” by Pethel.

Accompanied by the Mt. Laurel Quintet of which our church choir director, Kathy Snyder, played her French horn, it was an exuberant church service in which members of the congregation waved palms as though they were in attendance of that historic Palm Sunday occurrence entered Jerusalem. Although Rev. Bob’s daughter, Krystyn, frequently accompanies our church hymns playing her trumpet, PA German church services were unique for their musical hymns in which brass instruments were utilized among the services, perhaps a throw back to Colonial times when the Moravians of the Oley Valley and Bethlehem incorporated brass instruments in their worship of Jesus Christ.

Even Benjamin Franklin traveled all the way from Philadelphia to Bethlehem to experience the gifted Moravian musical compositions with their brass instruments, of which the Mount Laurel Quintet is exceptionally gifted. As Chris Angstadt, a fellow Christian, read Psalm 118 from the Salem Church altar on the 1822 carved wooden spread Eagle stand. It was evident that our acoustical sound waves of Salem’s vast arched ceiling was ideal for hearing the Mount Laurel Brass Quintet musical presentation. A more than ideal Palm Sunday historic service now had majestic feeling as fellowship gleamed with true grit adherents of Christianity

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Richard H. Shaner is director of the American Folklife Institute in Kutztown.