A Mighty Fortress

SATB, organ, one or three trumpets

A festive setting of the familiar tune combining the original rhythmic structure with a modern translation of the text.

Reginald Unterseher · A Mighty Fortress, Reginald Unterseher
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Familiar, yet surprising, this arrangement uses Martin Luther’s original version of the tune, “Ein feste Burg.” It has a Renaissance rhythmic structure that is quite different from the “squared up” version we are used to, though the melody is the same. I also use a modern translation of the text by Madeleine F. Marshall that uses current language to more accurately convey the original text. Another twist is in the third verse, which I set using some of the rhythmic and melodic aspects of the tune, but not the usual technique of putting new accompaniment to the same tune. In addition, listen to the trumpet part in that verse for an allusion to another familiar tune.


Once you get a feel for the dance structure created by the interplay of quarter note beats and dotted quarter beats, it begins to move easily. If the conductor identifies the number of beats in each bar and the length of the individual beats, the various forces will coordinate more easily.


A mighty fortress is our God,
our strong and sure protection.
Our God, who loves us, has resolved
to free us from subjection.
With bold, Satanic pride
and hatred well supplied
the deadly force of sin
has sworn to do us in.
Mere human strength will perish.

These human hands, for all their skill
cannot shape our protection.
We need a champion, one who will
achieve our liberation.
Who is there, good and brave,
with strength and will to save
our weak and fearful race?
Who will our cause embrace?
God’s only Child, Christ Jesus.

When evil powers rage and swear
and threaten mass destruction,
when we are tempted to despair,
to yield to their seduction,
Then may we stand assured
by God’s most holy word.
The evil one shall fail,
God’s righteousness prevail.
Then why should we be fearful?

God’s everlasting Word abides,
our strong and sure salvation.
The Spirit here and how provides
rich gifts and consolation.
Let wealth and family go
This body be brought low.
Whatever loss we bear,
God will at last repair.
God’s realm is ours forever.