Trombone choir announces Easter morning on sleepy Lititz streets
Strains of the Easter chorale “Sleepers Wake” may be heard on the streets of Lititz at 4 a.m. on Easter morning as the Moravian brass ensemble, still called a Trombone Choir from its formation in the 18th century, plays on street corners and under lampposts to announce the Christian Day of Resurrection.
The 21st-century musicians gather between 2 and 3 a.m. at Church Square in Lititz to keep a tradition that is as old as the town itself. After sharing breakfast at the Church, they divide into three groups, moving to various sections of the town. It is one of those traditions that give character to the community formed by the Moravians in 1756,
About 5:30 a.m. the musicians return to the Church for an interval of rest before the 6 a.m. Sunrise Service. This service begins with a brief liturgy in the Church, but soon the doors from the sanctuary are opened, and the congregants stream outside where they hear the Trombone Choir playing the joyful “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”
The Trombone Choir then separates into two parts with half leading the way to “God’s Acre,” and the other half at the end of the procession. The two groups play antiphonally the chorale “Lord of Life” as the worshipers walk to the cemetery.
Gathering around the graves of Moravian brothers and sisters as the sun rises, the liturgy continues with the reading of the names of recently deceased members who have joined the “Church Triumphant.” The worshipers rejoice that Christ lives and that death has no power. The service concludes with the stirring Moravian hymn, “Sing Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.”
Moravian sunrise services were initiated in 1732 when the young men of Herrnhut, Germany gathered in the cemetery on the hill overlooking their community. The next year the service was held for the entire congregation.
After the Sunrise Service in Lititz, the youth of the congregation serve breakfast in the social hall. All are welcome to attend.
Lititz Moravian is located at 8 Church Square, along the 200 block of E. Main Street. Off-street parking is available behind the church and at the Pierson playground off of South Cedar Street. The sanctuary and adjoining facilities are handicap-accessible. Visit lititzmoravian.org.