Sunday, April 20, 2014



Austin Burke conducts the Moravian Band in 1970

I began playing in the Moravian Easter Sunrise service in 1970...and for 45 consecutive years...rain or shine...cold or warm...enduring lightening and snow...I have proclaimed the Resurrection of Christ Jesus in God's Acre in Old Salem, N.C.  

The Lord is risen indeed!   

While 45 years may sound like a long time, you have to place this length of service in perspective....Burton Snyder has played in the service for 79 years!  Even that impressive length of service needs some perspective as well.  You see the service began 242 years ago!  

Why has it lasted so long?

The best answer is that until the Lord returns, Moravians will proclaim the Resurrection with horn and song.  After all we remember that  as Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem in that first holy week, religiously offended folks implored him:  "Teacher, rebuke your disciples."  He answered: "I tell you if these were silent, the very stones would cry out"  (Luke 19:39-40)  I suppose that if some Easter morn, the Moravian faithful did not gather in God's Acre, that the recumbent white stones adorning those grounds might very well cry out in triumphant song.
Band Four playing antiphonally 

 "Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him"
The real reason Moravians do this every year may lie deep within the traditions of the denomination...if you do something keep on doing it....even if you don't remember why!?....which brings me to a thing we call "morning rounds".

Easter Moon at Home Moravian Church
When the service first started, most Moravians lived within the earshot of Salem town square.  The brethren being practical folks, surmised that if someone did not wake them up on Easter morn, many may very well sleep in and miss the service all together. The solution was simple...just send the brass band out in the streets in the early dawn and they would surely make enough noise to wake everyone up for the service!   

As the community grew, more Moravian congregations opened their doors to the faithful and now there is a Moravian Church in nearly every neighborhood in the this is where the "if you do it twice" thing comes into play....

Waking up Ardmore Easter morn 2014
We arrive at our local church about a nice breakfast...and then go out on buses in our neighborhoods, playing triumphant brass band chorales...
Ardmore Moravian Band on morning rounds at Forsyth Medical Center

loud enough to wake the faithful....anger the unwary....and set dogs to howling...

The AMC Breakfast Gang
My home congregation is Ardmore Moravian Church on Academy Street.  And we arrive around midnight to the smells of a country ham egg breakfast cooked to order by some of the most dedicated cooks who see this simple task as an important way to celebrate Easter each year.  

Re-joining us this year WSPD officer,Eddie Haire...a member of Ardmore Baptist and of course our logistical lady, Terri Kessler...this show does not happen without them! Dewey Chappel is our longest serving bandsman, playing this year for his 67th time.  Caroline Peoples is our newest member, playing this year for the first time. 

We even have our version of "Ben and Jerry". Ben debuted his plastic no less...go figure!

Completing our rounds about 3:30 am, we join with 290 bandsmen for a second ham and egg breakfast.  During this breakfast, bandsmen who have reached 50 years of service are honored my count the are over 40 people having played over 50 years...and a large number of whom have over 70 years of service!

Before breakfast I got to walk around Old Salem in the early dawn and can share the simple elegance of the Easter Morn.

The Easter Moon provided many interesting adornments to the photographs


I can't explain the many lights that appear in the heavens. The moon is to the left of the steeple.  We are no doubt surrounded by a host of "martyrs and saints".

Having played so long in this service, many of my colleagues have ventured into the more immediate presence of our I look to a familiar door I was reminded of one such missing bandsman, Senator Hamilton Horton, who would greet me there with a tuba draped across his diminutive frame....thoughts of others....EC and Erna Denny, Leon Johnston, Charlie Noell, Richard Disher....and my father, Harry Lee Collins, Jr... I miss those folks every Easter.

The service is a simple profession of faith that begins in the Town Square....and then proceeds to God's Acre.  While moving from one location to another, worshipers walk with bands positioned playing chorales antiphonally. Our band is combined with Christ Moravian church, the church my great grandmother was a life long member...many distant cousins renew our bonds as we await our turn to echo the melody of a distant band.  

Note the man seated. His name is Dick Saunders, who for over 50 years directed our antiphonal band. He has been playing for 75 years.  Weakened by a heart condition, he is on oxygen...note he is not looking at the music...he doesn't have to....he knows every tune by heart!

When the worshipers are assembled on God's Acre, the bands assemble in mass...some 300 bandsmen...making up the largest band in the country.  We are directed by Jeff Whitsett (RJR '75) and Nola Reed Knouse.  Bishop Lane Sapp, pastor of Calvary Moravian Church presided over the service.

The crowd sometimes is as large as 10,000. This year I would guess there are over 5,000 in attendance.
The band is comprised of folks of all ages and walks of life...these little girls playing for the first time were sporting some pretty nice Easter bonnets....ya think?

I believe my Redeemer lives!  (Job 19:25)

For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and the tender branch thereof will not cease.  (Job 14:7)

And he that sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' And he said unto me, 'Write. For these words are true and faithful.' (Rev. 21:5);_ylt=A2KLqID.QFRTCWAA0Lj7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTByYXI3cnIwBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDBGdwb3MDNA--?p=moravian+easter+music&vid=96a32db90bee4bc25ddd9d28079fa4e7&l=10%3A45&

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