Lancaster County’s newest, yet oldest, symphony orchestra, the Lititz Moravian Collegium Musicum, is a professional ensemble of select instrumentalists from central Pennsylvania and surrounding states that provides a rare glimpse into a unique facet of musical life and culture in early Lititz. The Collegium specializes in live performances of repertoire from the church’s significant early music manuscript collection, freshly edited by the Collegium’s music director and conductor, Dr. Jeffrey S. Gemmell, Director of Music Ministries at the Lititz Moravian Congregation.
The early American Moravians who settled in Lititz in the mid-eighteenth century are recognized today for the strong musical tradition they brought with them from Europe. Founded in late 1760s, when the congregation established a fund for music and supplies, the Lititz Moravian Collegium Musicum consisted of the instrumentalists who gathered regularly to enhance worship with music. The original Collegium provided an opportunity for these accomplished musicians to rehearse and perform for practice, entertainment, and enlightenment. Inspired by traditions begun in the German-speaking regions of Europe, these colonial-period amateur musicians strengthened their skills in order to perform the sophisticated repertoire regularly used in worship services. This also satisfied the community’s continual desire for leisurely music making. The Collegium was the core of what would become the Lititz Philharmonic Society and the Lititz Band in the nineteenth century. The Collegium played from scores gathered from various sources and often copied by hand; music published in Europe was also purchased to perform. These works were collected and stored separately from music intended for worship.