Luther College Chips

Emeriti lecture highlights little-known musician

Natalie Nelson, Staff Writer

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James Griesheimer gave the annual emeriti lecture in Shirley Baker Commons on Thursday, May 10 at 3 p.m. titled “Edward Finch (Polymath of England, 18th century).”

Each topic for the emeriti lecture is chosen by the professor giving the lecture and varies year to year. Griesheimer, who taught as a professor of music at Luther from 1991 to 2015, spoke about Edward Finch, a priest and composer in England in the early 18th century. Griesheimer said one of the goals of his lecture was to show the reach of Finch’s interests.

“He was a great collector of everything,” Griesheimer said. “He was interested in everything. So we find compositions that he copied out by hand. We have about 250 compositions copied out by him.”

Griesheimer said that what originally interested him in Finch was the tablature system he invented for recorder. Griesheimer also discussed the intrigue of discovering new information about important figures in music history that have gone undiscovered for many years.

“It’s hard to imagine how many masters there were,” Griesheimer said. “At the time of Bach’s death, people didn’t know who Bach was until we found the cantatas. A large part of musicology is finding a gem that’s buried and sometimes we find an unknown genre within a composer.”

Associate Professor of Education and Assessment Coordinator  Jeannette Pillsbury appreciated Greishemier’s depth of knowledge.

“We like to joke that he is a reverend doctor because he’s an Episcopal priest and has a doctorate,” Pillsbury said. “What he is speaking on is right up his alley, so it’s exciting that he can talk about it because he’s a priest himself. He is very active in the church and he loves to talk to anybody about anything to do with music. For anyone who has never been in a lecture from Dr. Griesheimer, he gets very excited about what he’s sharing and that excitement is felt by those who are listening.”

Pillsbury added that talking about a composer like Finch is important because it highlights a lesser known composer of the time.

“It shows other musicians from the time period so we’re not just hung up on Handel and Bach,” Pillsbury said. “He’s one of the people who influenced church music, so we should look at that as a college of the church. The primary audience would be people who know a lot of the history of the church, the Reformation and forward, because this would be post-Reformation. People who know the history of the church and people who know church music would be interested.”

Amanda Brobst (‘19) enjoyed the focus on Finch’s life in the lecture.

“I thought it was pretty interesting,” Brobst said. “It was kind of nice to have backstory on the person being presented, Edward Finch, because a lot of the time in lectures, the information is purely academic, but we got some fun facts about him to like how he had a knot collection, and I thought that was pretty cool.”

Brobst said that she enjoyed the opportunity to hear about a composer she was unfamiliar with.

“My biggest takeaway is that there are a lot of composers that are not necessarily recognized as well as they should be from early baroque to renaissance period,” Brobst said. “There’s a lot that we should know, but we don’t.”

Griesheimer said he hopes the biggest takeaway from his lecture is that a wealthy member of the English nobility who might have lived a life of luxury and ease instead engaged his considerable intelligence and energy in ways useful to his society.

“He rose to high positions in the church and moved at the highest circles of power and influence,” Griesheimer said. “His restless curiosity moved him to amass notebooks brimming with delectable curiosities from across many disciplines, not least over two hundred compositions by himself and others. His revision of Jeffrey Keller’s Treatise on Thorough-bass, more than doubling the length of the original text, constitutes an important contribution to music theory.”

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