Friday, February 19, 2010

In Memoriam: Richard Hillert (1923-2010) and Richard Proulx (1937-2010)

It is sad when your favorite teachers die. It is sadder yet when there have been so few of them that have influenced you so much as a composer.  I was informed today that my former composition teacher and advisor at Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois (now Concordia University, Chicago), Richard Hillert, passed away yesterday, February 18, 2010 at the age of 86 years (b. March 14, 1923).

Dr. Hillert was not only my composition professor for a number of summers in the late 80's and early 90's, but he also modeled for me how to allow the student composer to be themselves, not merely to imitate his own compositional style. I wrote an organ partita on Triumphant from the Grave under his direction and also took Ensemble Writing and Arranging from him. It was in that class that I wrote my first of many hymn concertatos,  Love in Christ is Strong and Living, which became my first published work.  A list of my other compositions can be found here.

When my college Music Theory and Composition professor, James Engel, died during my senior year at Dr. Martin Luther College, New Ulm, MN (now Martin Luther College) I looked around and wondered who was going to carry on the WELS composer torch. Now we have lost another gift of God to His Church.  Many of us have sung his hymn, This is the Feast of Victory (aka "Festival Canticle: Worthy is Christ"), but Dr. Hillert has so many more church music compositions and publications to his name.  He is published by GIA, Morning Star, Concordia, and Augsburg Fortress, just to name a few major church music publishers.  A Wikipedia article about Richard Hillert's life has been recently written which highlights his music career and compositions.  CPH memoriam PDF.  Read the Chicago Tribune article about Richard Hillert.

Richard Hillert's funeral service will be March 1, 2010 at Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, IL at 7 PM.

I was also informed today that Richard Proulx also died yesterday. (Wow, the music in heaven is going to be good tonight!)  Proulx (pronouced "Proo") is best known in WELS circles for his choral setting for brass, organ, and SATB choir, O God, Beyond All Praising, which frequently is also sung to the Jerusalem the Golden text at the end of most every National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts. GIA has tribute page for Richard Proulx.  Proulx's website seems to not have been updated since May 18, 2008, but lists his compositions, publishers, discography, and much more related information.

Would that God would give us all time to compose for his Church on earth, to practice the songs that we will sing round His throne in heaven in eternity.

Too many major church musicians are being called home to heaven in recent years:  Jaroslav Vajda (lyricist), Paul Manz (organist), Richard Hillert (composer), Richard Proulx (composer, director).  I could go back farther and mention Paul Bunjes (organ design, composer) and other professors I have studied with.

Last year I presented a hymn festival on the texts of Jaroslav Vajda.  This March 21, 2010, I will be presenting a Paul Manz hymn festival with choirs of Winnebago Lutheran Academy.  Now it looks like I could be set on hymn festival themes for the next two years. Shoot.

1 comment:

  1. It's been a year or two of big losses for church musicians. Thank you for your post.