University of Delaware
David Herman at the Jefferson Pipe Organ in Bayard Sharp Hall.

A new song

Recording features UD musicians, pays tribute to early 20th century composers


8:42 a.m., May 30, 2013--On Oct. 20, 1944, nearly one year before the end of World War II, German composer and organist Jan Bender was captured by American soldiers and placed in a prisoner of war camp in Attichy, France. 

Four days later, halfway across the world in Williamsport, Pa., David Herman was born. 

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It would be years before the two would meet and nearly 70 more before Herman would release a CD honoring his mentor, friend and composition teacher. 

Released last fall, Ein neues Lied: A New Song is a collection of choral and organ music by Bender and Bender’s teacher, Hugo Distler.

Distler, who suffered from anxiety and depression and faced constant fear of conscription into the German army, took his life in 1942 at the age of 34. Bender would be his only student. 

“This is the first CD of music by Bender,” says Herman, an organist and University of Delaware professor emeritus of music who studied under Bender as an undergraduate at Wittenberg University in Ohio in the mid 1960s. 

Herman would become Bender’s biographer and later, “his friend for life.” 

Bender died in his home in Germany in 1994. Twelve years later, Herman recorded the 32 tracks that would eventually comprise Ein neues Lied.

Playing the Jefferson Pipe Organ in Bayard Sharp Hall, he recorded the music over a rainy August night in 2006, frequently stopping for the siren of passing trains or the hiss of heavy tires. 

The CD also features performances by the University Chorale, directed by Paul Head, and by oboe professor Lloyd Shorter. 

With the assistance of an Established Artist Fellowship from the Delaware Division of Arts, and other funding, Herman produced 1,000 CDs in 2012, with hopes that “young organists will discover this German tradition of music.” 

He has since mailed multiple copies to every Lutheran school and seminary in the United States, and the CD continues to garner favorable reviews in music journals and magazines. 

The repertoire has been called “an attractive glimpse at a very distinctive genre,” by Organists’ Review. Other critics have praised the musical selections as “immediately likeable” and “well crafted.” 

For Herman, the purpose of creating Ein neues Lied is simple. 

In addition to honoring his mentor and exposing young musicians to Bender, Distler and their works, “I made the CD for the same reason any CD is made,” Herman says. “It’s good music.”

To hear a selection from the CD featuring the work of Jan Bender, click here.

To hear a selection from the CD featuring the work of Hugo Distler, click here.

Article by Artika Casini

Photos by Ambre Alexander and courtesy of David Herman

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