Organist Manz was the 'dean of church music'

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 30, 2009 - 11:11 AM

Longtime Mount Olive organist and choral music composer was admired for his improvisation.

Paul Manz

Paul Manz was a church organist who took the liberty of being creative at the keyboard. He liked to introduce hymns that the congregation at Minneapolis' Mount Olive Lutheran Church would sing with improvisations. Church members loved them, and word about his compositions eventually led to Manz playing at hymn festivals nationwide.

"These pieces were so delightful and well-crafted that he was encouraged to write them down," said John Ferguson, professor of organ and church music at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. "He re-stimulated creative hymn-playing. He was playing around, but these pieces affirmed the extraordinary musical sophistication he had. He left a legacy in the pieces that are being used regularly."

For 37 years, he led music at Mount Olive at 3045 Chicago Av. S., where his music will be played and prayer services will be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to mourn and honor him. He died Wednesday in St. Paul following a long illness. He was 90.

Manz's following was so broad that even nonorganists knew his name, said Mount Olive organist David Cherwin. "Among Lutherans, he was the dean of church music," Cherwin said.

Over the course of a career filled with awards and accolades, Manz played with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Chicago Symphony at Symphony Center and the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.

He was named one of the 101 Most Notable Organists of the 20th Century by the American Guild of Organists in a survey of its members published in 2000 and was honored by that organization when it held its national convention in Minneapolis last year. He also received awards from the Lutheran Institute of Washington and the Chicago Bible Society and once was on a list of the "10 Most Influential Lutherans."

Among his best-known works are the Advent motet "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come," a choral work that has sold more than 1 million copies, and an organ piece that provides the melody for the popular Lutheran hymn "God of Grace and God of Glory." He is also well-known for his arrangement of the tune of St. Anne, often sung to Isaac Watts' text "Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past."

Manz played his first notes on the piano at age 5 in Cleveland. By the time he entered high school in River Forest, Ill., he was taking private lessons with some of America's premier organists, including Edwin Eigenschenk, Albert Riemenschneider and Edwin Arthur Kraft. He earned his master's degree in organ performance from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and taught at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and Macalester College in St. Paul. He also was chairman of the music department for 19 years at Concordia University in St. Paul.

He earned a Fulbright Scholarship to study for a year in Europe in 1956. Not wanting to lose their gifted organist, congregants at Mount Olive refused to let him resign and gave him the year off with pay so he could study abroad, Cherwin said. Manz returned and played at the church until he retired in 1983.

He is survived by three sons: Peter of Portland, Ore.; John of St. Paul and John Mueller of Spokane, Wash.; three daughters,: Mary Mueller Bode of St. Paul, Anne Mueller Klinge of St. Louis and Sarah Mueller Forsberg of Minneapolis; 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 8 at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 700 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul.

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