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In memoriam: Dr. Carl Schalk

This past Sunday, January 24, 2021, the Lutheran sacred music world lost one of its greats–musician, composer, author, lecturer, and friend Carl F. Schalk. Dr. Schalk graduated from and later returned to teach at Concordia University Chicago. As a faculty member, he worked to establish the masters program in Church Music and the annual Lectures in Church Music conference. He was also instrumental in starting Lutheran Summer Music, and helped develop Worship Supplement (1969) and, as a member of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, Lutheran Book of Worship (1978). An index of his writings spans forty pages.

Though you may not recognize his name, you will certainly recognize some of his compositions, such as the music for Now the Silence; Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle; Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise; Before the Marvel of This Night …in addition to many choral and/or brass arrangements performed at Faith through the decades.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Schalk, Concordia Publishing House recently featured him as “Composer of the Month,” and provided a short reflection on his approach to music and worship. There is also a 40 minute interview with him from last year about his new book, Singing the Faith: A Short Introduction to Christian Hymnody. And of course, we thank God for the compositions he has bequeathed the Church. Click to listen:

With Dr. Schalk’s own musical arrangement, we pray, “Rest eternal grant them, Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.

Further tributes:

From his pastor, Rev. Dave Lyle, read here.

And from the Cantor of Grace Lutheran Church (River Forest, IL), Michael D. Costello:

Following this morning’s service word began to spread of Carl Schalk’s death. I first remembered being acquainted with Carl at Lutheran Summer Music in the 1990s…Once I moved to River Forest, Illinois to serve Grace Lutheran Church and School in 2008, I naturally got to know Carl quite more. He was on the call committee and, even from that point, offered a perspective of genuine concern for the worship life of the Church, all the while flavoring conversations with a wit that was with him to the end (asking me things like, “Can you play ‘O Holy Night’ in the dark?”).

One of the most significant things I learned from Carl was not from reading his books, our many conversations, or playing and conducting his music (although the latter will never grow old). Rather, it was visiting with Carl during more difficult times that I saw the real stuff of why he spent his life, first and foremost, as a church musician. When I had the privilege of sharing the sacrament of Holy Communion with him only nine days ago, he recited chorales and prayers that were memorized over a lifetime of formation in the Christian faith, some of which I would not have known if he had not set those words to music himself. It was in watching and listening to Carl practice what he preached that I realize again, in large part, why we sing—sometimes with Carl’s own tunes accompanying us—to be ready to face even that day when we close our weary eyes and rest in Christ alone. Carl faced his last days with grace and in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. His witness is one that will live with us forever.