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St. Petri is the oldest of the five main churches of Hamburg. This venerable building, situated in the centre of the city next to the market and the town hall, was first officially mentioned in records in 1195. Sacred music has been a distinguished tradition in this fine building, with its four naves, going back for many centuries. Indeed, a cantor of St. Petri was officially documented as early as 1517. During its long history many famous organ builders and church musicians have worked here including Telemann and C.P.E. Bach.


Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew and St. John Passions, Christmas Oratorio, motets, masses and cantatas, are central to the work of the Hamburger Bachchor St. Petri. The Choir also performs many other well known works such as Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” and “St. Paul”, Brahms’s and Mozart’s Requiems, and some rarely heard compositions such as the oratorios of Herzogenberg and “L’Enfance du Christ” of Berlioz. A cappella repertoire is also important to the Hamburger Bachchor, covering a wide range from the late renaissance, through the most important German motets of the romantic era, including those of Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wolf, Bruckner and Reger, to the 20th century composers like Britten, Duruflé and Martin. Unusual for Germany is the Choir’s interest in English choral music.

The Hamburger Bachchor is well known for the quality and variety of its singing in church services. The procession of the robed choir at the beginning and the end of the Sunday services, the singing of Gregorian Introits, and of varied motets and cantatas, make the services in St. Petri particularly uplifting experiences. There are also many highlights during the year, including the Easter Eve Celebration, the Christmas Midnight Candlelight Service, and the St. Ansgar Vespers, which has been presented for more than forty years by choirs representing three different denominations. The Choir regularly makes concert visits abroad and has performed in England, France, North and South America, Japan and Egypt. New members are always welcome. Anyone interested should be able to read music and have choral experience. A successful audition is a prerequisite for membership.


The Freundeskreis des Hamburger Bachchores St. Petri helps underwrite the expensive performances of major works, and is always grateful for new members. (Contact: Matthias Feldhoff,


The Collegium vocale St. Petri was founded in 2001 by retired members of the Hamburger Bachchor. Led by Lukas Henke the choir performs a wide range of demanding works in its concerts (contact: Elke Wulf, Tel. 04103 82107).


The Collegium musicum St. Petri is the string orchestra of the parish. This ensemble consists of professional and qualified amateur musicians, and accompanies most of the oratorio concerts and cantata services of the Hamburger Bachchor. The orchestra also gives its own instrumental concerts.


The Hamburger Kinder- und Jugendkantorei St. Petri/St. Katharinen gives children from the age of four the opportunity to sing in one of five age-appropriate groups. The choir was founded and led by Sabine Paap, who left St Petri in fall 2017. At present the choir is under intermediate leadership by Birgitte Jessen-Klingenberg (contact: 040 303747-32).


St. Petri has three organs from the workshop of Rudolf von Beckerath. The present main organ has four manuals, 66 stops and 4,724 pipes. It is one of the largest and most beautiful sounding organs in Hamburg. It can be heard during services, the weekly “Hour of Church Music” and the summer series of international organ concerts. The restoration and extension of the present organ was completed in 2006 by Alexander Schuke Orgelbau, Potsdam. The two smaller organs were also recently renovated by Hans-Ulrich Erbslöh.


KMD Thomas Dahl was appointed Director of Music of Hauptkirche St. Petri in 1996. Works of Bach and Reger, the french symphonic repertory and improvisation are at the core of Thomas Dahl’s organ recital programmes.

Since the age of eighteen, his concert career has taken him all over Europe, to the United States, Japan and Egypt. He has performed in such venues as Notre-Dame de Paris, Thomaskirche Leipzig, the St Petersburg Philharmonic Hall and Westminster Abbey. He also has participated in the international music festivals of Paris, Moscow, Rome and Richmond, Virginia. Mr Dahl has taught courses and seminars at conservatoires around Europe and in the United States. To date he has directed five Hamburg Master Courses in organ at St. Peter’s. 2012/2013 he held a teaching position for organ improvisation at the Cologne School of Music.

Thomas Dahl was born in Tönning in northern Germany. After completing his secondary education, he went on to study church music, composition, music pedagogy, musicology and organ performance in Hamburg, Stuttgart, Paris and Chicago. His most significant organ teachers were Heinz Wunderlich, Jon Laukvik, Willibald Bezler and Daniel Roth. He also received private instruction from Wolfgang Rübsam and Jean Guillou. In seven international organ-playing and improvisation competitions he has been a prize winner or finalist; in 2016 he won the first prize and the audience prize at the National Competition of Organ Improvisation of the American Guild of Organists in Houston.

Thomas Dahl’s most important duties at St. Petri are the direction of the Hamburg Bach Choir and the Collegium musicum, as well as planning and execution of musical programmes for weekday, Sunday and festival services and for concerts. The complete renovation of the church’s three Beckerath organs was completed under his direction. The grand organ, with 66 stops on four manuals and pedal, is the focal point of the weekly Church Music Hour and St Peter’s Summer Organ Festival, which annually brings renowned German and international artists to perform. In 2007 was Thomas Dahl honored by the regional bishop with the title of Kirchenmusikdirektor.


For information about musical events please take a look at the annual music schedule, the regular parish letter “Mittendrin”, or at our Konzertkalender and Further information about the music schedule, or about participating in the music programme at St. Petri, is available from the church office (tel. 040 325740-0, email:



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