‘The Past Meets the Present: Strengthening Community through the “Visitatio sepulchri” Liturgical Drama’

October 9, 2017

Examining a liturgical drama known as the Visitatio sepulchri or “Visit of the sepulcher” that was performed on Easter Sunday in churches and monasteries during the Middle Ages, Melanie Batoff, Luther College assistant professor of music, will deliver a lecture titled “The Past Meets the Present: Strengthening Community through the ‘Visitatio sepulchri’ Liturgical Drama” at 4 pm Sunday, Oct. 22, in the Choir Room of the Jenson-Noble Hall of Music on Luther’s campus.

In the Visitatio sepulchri, members of the clergy assumed the roles of the three Marys who traveled to Christ’s tomb, and the angels, who proclaimed the Resurrection. In the lecture, Batoff focuses on a version of the Easter reenactment performed at Salzburg Cathedral in the 12th century that combined centuries old Gregorian chant with newer chants. It even included a hymn in Old High German, which Martin Luther and his contemporaries later introduced into the Lutheran liturgy.

Batoff argues that this juxtaposition of old and new musical and textual elements helped strengthen the sense of community among the clergy and the laity, while the staging reinforced rigid social hierarchies.

At Luther, Batoff teaches music history classes and coordinates senior projects. She is a medieval musicologist, with secondary teaching and research interests in Renaissance music and ethnomusicology. Prior to her appointment at Luther, Batoff taught at Baldwin Wallace University.

Her research focuses on medieval plainchant, liturgical drama and theology. She has an article forthcoming in “Cantus Planus Proceedings” and has published a book review in “Plainsong and Medieval Music.”

Her work has been presented nationally and internationally at the American Musicological Society National and Midwest Conferences, the International Congress on Medieval Studies, The “Cantus Planus” Study Group of the International Musicological Society, and the Canadian University Music Society.

A doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada supported the research and writing of her dissertation, “Re-envisioning the ‘Visitatio sepulchri’ in Medieval Germany.”

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: http://www.luther.edu.