“The Psalm of Joy” cantata is a work of the first organized Independence Day celebration in Salem, North Carolina, first performed on July 4, 1783. On June 25, 4 pm, at the Ephraim Moravian Church, it will be presented by the combined choirs of Ephraim, Sister Bay and Sturgeon Bay Moravian churches, along with a brass choir and noted mezzo-soprano Cynthia Stiehl.
Moravians in early Salem were pacifists and did not bear arms on either side in the Revolutionary War. They paid dearly for their convictions, ravaged by streams of troops. When the war was over and the Governor of the state issued a proclamation declaring July 4, 1783 a “Day of Solemn Thanksgiving,” the Moravians organized an observance. Johann Friedrich Peter, probably the finest composer of the day, lived in Salem. He assembled the text and music for the celebration, which began with trombone choirs, joyful singing and a sermon. Later in the day, they held a Love Feast and the first performance of this “Psalm of Joy,” a cantata-like work with chorus, soloists, and congregation.
The works were largely forgotten until 1913, when an archivist came across the texts and they were translated. In 1966, the Moravian Music Foundation searched out the music, and it has been performed each year in Old Salem on July 4th since 1966.
There will be a free-will offering to benefit the Moravian Music Foundation production of original compositions. Ephraim Moravian Church is located at 9970 Moravia Street, Ephraim. For further information call 920.854.2804.