Saturday, April 6, 2013

Calvin W. Laufer

Today we celebrate the birthday of Presbyterian minister and hymnologist Calvin Weiss Laufer (April 6, 1874 -September 21, 1938).  I have been reading his book Hymn Lore (1932) which tells the stories of fifty different hymns which he considered significant at that time.  

The introduction of the book, by the Reverend Park Hays Miller, tells a bit more about Laufer's biography than I had encountered previously.

The author of this book has been peculiarly fitted for his take.  At the age of nine he learned to play the reed organ in his home.By the time he was eleven he was organist in his Sunday School.  At twelve he took lessons on the piano, and later on the pipe organ.  During his student days he paid his way by teaching music.  He presided at the organ in the college chapel and was also a church organist.  Later, as a pastor he  gave special attention to the development of music and worship in his church.

Miller goes on to cover the facts of Laufer's career which we have already covered here, including his writing of hymns and composition of hymn tunes, and of course his editorial work for the Presbyterian Board of Christian Education.

Today's tune by Laufer was published in 1918.  It is perhaps a bit too much of its time to be used again in a modern setting, but it's not wholly without merit either.

Eternal One, thou living God,
Whom changing years unchanged reveal,
With thee their way our forebears trod;
The hand they held, in ours we feel.

The same our trust, the same our need,
In sorrow’s stress, in duty’s hour;
We keep their faith, by thee decreed,
That faith the fount of all our power.

We bless thee for the growing light;
Th’advancing thought, the wid’ning view,
The larger freedom, clearer sight,
Which from the old unfolds the new.

With wider view, come loftier goal;
With fuller light, more good to see;
With freedom, truer self control,
With knowledge, deeper reverence be.

Anew we pledge ourselves to thee,
To follow where thy truth shall lead;
Afloat upon its boundless sea,
Who sails with God is safe indeed!

Samuel Longfellow, 1876; alt.
Calvin W. Laufer, 1918

Unfortunately, Laufer's work overall has not survived well.  The new Presbyterian hymnal, Glory to God, which will be published later this year, apparently only contains one of his tunes (HALL) and none of his texts.  It was disappointing to hear, a few years back, that the committee producing the new hymnal  had only looked back as far as The Hymnbook, published in the 1950s, for their material.

Three Years Ago: Calvin W. Laufer

Five Years Ago: Calvin W. Laufer

No comments: