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Lutheran Chorales are a type of religious hymn which were popular during the Baroque era. Before chorales were invented, religious music had always been sung in Latin in churches across Europe. Then in 16th century Germany, Martin Luther began to write out hymns in the German Language, so that the congregation could more easily understand what they were singing about. These new hymns were called chorales.

Chorales became increasingly popular, and by the early 18th century the genre was widespread across Protestant Europe. JS Bach was particularly fond of chorales, and harmonised hundreds of them in 4-part (SATB) harmony. Bach’s chorales are fine examples of four-part harmony and are still used for teaching and learning harmony today.

Although chorales are often written on a treble and bass grand staff, similar to piano music, it’s useful to remember that they are in fundamentally a vocal style, and that each individual part would actually be sung.

This is the opening of Bach’s SATB setting of the chorale Nun danket alle Gott (Chorale 32). The pause marks at the end of each phrase match up with the end of each line in the sung text.

Chorale 32 Nun Danket Bach

Watch the moving score of Bach’s Chorale no.36 below.