“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
Months ahead of this year’s Brass Band Festival, the invitation sent out by the congregations of Uelzen, Vryheid and Newcastle, already hinted at what was to come, showing an image of the famous “Isenheimer Altar” by the artist Matthias Grünewald.
At the centre, larger than life and unmissable, Christ the crucified. To His left, John the Baptist, pointing with an oversized index finger to Christ. Next to him the Latin inscription, “Illum oportet crescere – me autem minui” – from John 3, “He must become greater; I must become less.”
That is exactly what Pastor Marlon Hiestermann did in his sermon: As John the Baptist had done 2 000 years before him, he pointed with a large finger to Christ! The 24th of June happened to be the Day of John the Baptist, and so the entire festival was placed under this motto: John as the forerunner of Christ, speaking the words, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
Of course, there was much music-making. And how wonderful too! Under the capable direction of Heinz Niebuhr and Roland Meyer, a healthy mix of well-known and new pieces by amongst others Vivaldi, Bach, Händel, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, and Fünfgeld were performed. A personal highlight for me was the motet “Tröstet, tröstet mein Volk” (“Comfort, comfort ye my people”) by Chr. Palmer. Never before had I heard this piece performed so intimately! And that by almost 300 brass players! Once and for all we proved to ourselves that we actually can play softly (if we really have to)!
It was indeed a blessed day, which will remain in the memory for a long time to come. Our thanks go out not only to the musicians, but also to the congregations of Uelzen, Vryheid, and Newcastle for the excellent organisation and catering.
In a time where it seems to have become fashionable to criticise the church and find all kinds of faults, I asked myself during the Brass Band Festival what I actually appreciated about my church? What am I thankful for in my church? Was it the well-organised festivities? The lovely music? The fact that the church music seems to be in good hands? That so many young people are actively involved? Yes, yes, yes, and yes! But above all: I am thankful, that in my church, as in the famous painting by Matthias Grünewald, Christ is at the centre, larger than life and unmissable. Those who were in Uelzen on 24th June 2018 will be able to testify to that.
Pastor Roland Johannes, Wartburg