Dencke, Jeremiah , American Moravian minister, organist, and composer; b. Langenbilau, Silesia, Oct. 2, 1725; d. Bethlehem, Pa., May 28, 1795. In 1748 he became organist at Herrnhut, the center of the European Moravians. He went to the U.S. in 1761 and served the Moravian settlements in Pa. in various capacities. During the Revolutionary War he was warden of the Bethlehem congregation. Dencke was apparently the first individual to compose vocal concerted church music in the Moravian settlements in Pa., and possibly the first to write such music in colonial America. He was an able composer. The earliest work he is known to have composed in America is a simple anthem for chorus, strings, and figured bass, written for a Liebesmahl (“love feast/7 a service of spiritual devotion and earthly fraternalism, composed of hymn singing and a light meal of a roll and beverage) on Aug. 29, 1765. His finest WORKS are 3 sets of sacred songs for soprano, strings, and organ, composed in 1767–68. The first, written for the annual festival of the “choir” of small girls, is included in the first vol. of the series Music of the Moravians in America, issued by the N.Y. Public Library in 1938. The other sets of solos were written for Christmas services. Dencke’s compositions are listed in A.G. Rau and H.T. David, A Catalogue of Music by American Moravians, 1742–1842, from the Archives of the Moravian Church at Bethlehem, Pa. (Bethlehem, Pa., 1938).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire