2013-12-15 Notes from the Bench

“E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” by Paul Manz

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate

Paul Manz (1919-2009), was a popular American composer who is remembered for his sacred music contributions, numerous neo-baroque chorale settings, and choral music. Throughout his professional life, Manz was active as a church musician, organ recitalist, composer, and teacher.

The Advent motet “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come,” sung by our choir today, is Manz’s best-known choral work. This piece is frequently sung by church choirs throughout this country and internationally known, most significantly having been performed during the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge.

Manz was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship which enabled him to study with Flor Peeters in Belgium and Helmut Walcha in Germany; composers who certainly influenced Manz’s compositional style. As a recitalist, Manz performed throughout North America and abroad in many churches and cathedrals, as well as in prestigious concert venues such as the Lincoln Center in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. From 1957-1976, Manz served as a professor and chair of the Division of Fine Arts at Concordia College in St. Paul, Minnesota while also serving the congregation Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. He was the National Councilor of the American Guild of Organists, and the director of the Paul Manz Institute of Church Music. He was in high demand throughout this country for liturgical music seminars as a recitalist, lecturer, and clinician.

Throughout his life, Manz was highly regarded by his peers and recognized for his contributions to sacred music. He received honorary doctoral degrees from Valparaiso University and St. Olaf College as well as many other honorary awards. Manz was named one of the “Ten Most Influential Lutherans,” and was listed among the “101 Most Notable Organists of the 20th Century.” He was named Cantor Emeritus at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saint Luke, Chicago, Illinois and Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota as well as Professor Emeritus of Church Music at Christ Seminary Seminex at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. During the “Paul Manz Celebration: Honoring the Life of a Church Musician” held in Minneapolis, substantial gifts were made to the Paul and Ruth Manz Scholarship for Church Musicians.

Manz’s great legacy as a performer were his “hymn festivals.” Rather than playing traditional organ recitals, Manz would lead the congregations’s singing of various hymns with scripture readings interspersed; the various selections were based on a particular theme. He would introduce each hymn with a creative improvisation, lead the congregation with his own accompaniment arrangements, and often played an improvisation between sung stanzas. Many of his improvisations were notated and are among the chorale-based organ compositions available to us today.

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