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Concordia Seminary Honors Jaroslav Vajda During Epiphany Celebration

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, presented Rev. Jaroslav J. Vajda an honorary doctor of letters degree during the Seminary’s annual Epiphany Celebration on Sunday, Jan. 14. The degree was presented in recognition of Vajda’s many years of exceptional service to the church, particularly in the area of hymnody. With more than 200 hymn texts to his credit, Vajda is considered one of the world’s most prominent hymn writers.

“Few hymn writers are able to draw into a few stanzas such a rich constellation of biblical words and concepts as Dr. Vajda,” commented Dr. James Brauer, dean of the chapel at Concordia Seminary. “Yet, his seemingly ordinary words touch and move the singer toward trusting in Jesus and serving God. His texts are a great gift to the church.”

The hymns and choral music during the Seminary’s Epiphany Celebration were almost exclusively texts written by Vajda. They included the debut of a new setting of a Vajda text, “While Shepherds Lately Knelt,” commissioned by the Concordia Seminary Chorus and written by Dr. Paul Bouman of Oak Park, Ill. The setting masterfully combined male voices, strings and organ. Bouman is the former church musician at Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, Ill and is renowned for his work with children’s choirs and his many compositions for choirs. Bouman was present at the service and was recognized by Seminary President, Dr. Dale A. Meyer.

A revised version of Rev. Henry Gerike’s setting of “Shepherds of Bethlehem” also made its debut at the Jan. 14 service. Vajda wrote the translation of this historic Slavic carol. Gerike serves as director of choirs and coordinator of musical and cultural activities at the Seminary.

The choir of Peace Lutheran Church, Lemay, Mo., under the direction of Sherry Bierwagen, joined the Seminary choirs and instrumentalists to offer music that demonstrated Vajda’s significant contribution to the hymnody of the church.

The celebration is the first of several Seminary events in early 2007 that will highlight sacred music. They include a Jan. 20 Choir Member Workshop featuring Dr. Timothy Peter of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa; a Jan. 21 Bach at the Sem concert featuring guest organist Dr. Lynn Trapp of St. Olaf Parish and Seminary, Minneapolis, Minn.; a Feb. 11 Bach at the Sem concert featuring Bach’s Cantata 80, Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Might Fortress Is Our God); and a March 18 celebration of the life and music of Paul Gerhardt, including an address by renowned composer Dr. Carl Schalk.

For more information, contact Seminary Relations, Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105; (314) 505-7370; semrelations@csl.edu.