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The Power of Song

Neil MacGregor focuses on the role of distinctive dress and communal singing when groups gather together.

Neil MacGregor continues his series on the expression of shared beliefs in communities around the world and across time.

He focuses on a Kirchenpelz or 'church fur' - a sheepskin coat made in the late 19th century in Transylvania, now part of Romania, for the German-speaking Saxon community there. This was not just 'Sunday Best': to wear this coat was to proclaim in public your allegiance to the Lutheran Church, and your identity as a Transylvanian Saxon.

He also reflects on the importance and power of communal singing within the Lutheran Church and elsewhere: the German theologian and priest Martin Luther did not invent hymns or congregational singing, but he did transform them, making them central to worship as never before.

Producer Paul Kobrak

Produced in partnership with the British Museum
Photograph (c) The Trustees of the British Museum.

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15 minutes


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Neil MacGregor tells the stories of some of the key objects in the series.