The Hertzers

Sarah and Thomas Herzer
organists and cantors of the

and the

Wittenberg (Lutherstadt), Germany


Jeannine:  Please describe your position(s) and the duties involved at the Schlosskirche and Seminary


Sarah and Thomas:  Our position (150%) includes the musical education of the
seminarians, directing three choirs and playing the organ in the Schlosskirche (Castle Church). Besides that there is a whole amount of management that goes into the music program at the Castle Church.

In the seminary we serve as musical mentors for the seminarians. The most emphasis is put on the vocal education.


In the Castle Church, besides playing the worship services, we play for weekly half hour recitals on the historic Ladegast organ in the tourist season. We also offer organ tours and private recitals for tourist groups.


The three choirs are the Castle Church Choir, a congregational quoir, the „Schola Cantorum Adam Rener“, a chamber choir, and the Gospel Choir, which is very common in Germany. The Gospel Choir sings mostly Spirituals (in English!) and presents a unique opportunity to reach out to non members.

All three choirs perform in worship services, cantata services, Hymn Fest on Reformation Day and Advent concerts.


J:  you work with a different pastor nearly weekly - what are the challenges and joys of such. 

  S&T:  The Castle Church is essentially the chapel of the seminary in Wittenberg. The congregation serves a representative function and is very small (130 members). The seminary pastors also serve as worship leaders in the Castle Church along with the seminarians and guest preachers. Thus we as musicians become one of the only continuous factors in worship leading in the Castle Church. A challenge for us is the lack of continuity, at the same time this keeps our work and worship planning lively. We enjoy sharing responsibility for worship with the many different pastors.


J:   How does working in such an historic church and seminary effect your work?  I found it interesting that you mentioned several times how amazing it is to make the same walk between the seminary and the church on a daily basis that Luther made.  Then, of course, you are raising your family in this place filled with history.  What is that like?


S&T:  Living here, it is easy to forget the historic importance of this place, yet the many visitors and their fervor for the history often reminds us what a unique situation we work and live in. However in many ways we are constantly dealing with reformation topics, especially now working our way towards the 500th. anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.


Our children grow up right next to the house where Luther lived, but they do not know anything else.


J:  Please describe the wonderful Ladegast organ and its history


S&T:  The organ was built in 1863 by the well known German romantic organ builder Friedrich Ladegast. It is a completely mechanical action instrument with 4 manuals and pedal and 57 stops. It was restored in 1994 by the German organ builder Herrmann Eule. German romantic composers like Liszt, Rheinberger and Mendelssohn sound especially good on this organ.  The lack of presets, the large draw-knobs and the mechanical couplers could be a challenge to American organists.


J: Please tell us about the certification process for church musicians in Germany and Sarah, your personal challenges as an American in meeting the requirments.


Sarah:  The German church music degree is an artistic degree with three major areas of study: organ, conducting and liturgy. Three different degrees can be aquired: C diploma (pre college certification for part time musicians), B diploma (equivalent to Bachelors), A diploma (equivalent to Masters). My (Sarah) degrees (Bachelors and Masters) were in organ performance, meaning that the conducting and the liturgical part were missing. Besides that there were areas of study that have a higher concentration in the German course work, such as figured bass, counter point and organ improvisation.


J:  Thank you Sarah and Thomas for sharing a snapshot of your lives and work in Wittenberg.

(Photos in this section--Schlosskirche Ladegast organ, view of the tower, stained glass windows