To most who meet him now, Davis Conrad is a typical 95-year-old man living at Bethany Lutheran Village in Dayton. For hundreds of people who worshiped with him, attended a concert at his church, or sang under his direction, he is a master of his trade; a member of an almost-lost generation of musicians who produced legendary music programs during a golden era of corporate worship. At Hope Lutheran Church, his retirement after decades of faithful service - coupled with changes to the surrounding neighborhood - led to the end of a once-storied music tradition.
It has been more than twenty years since he left. Through some Dayton friends I discovered that Hope was ready to part with its music library – hundreds of pieces of music that were sung joyfully on Sundays, Christmas, Easter, feast days, clergy installations, and bishop celebrations, including several that were commissioned especially for their esteemed choir. A gift to Lord of Life, if we would take it.
As I shared the news with some of our own choir members, I discovered connections to Hope Church that I never would have expected – Pastor Ed Williams spent a great deal of time at Hope when he was on the Synod staff; Pastor Bill Funk, who has been singing with us for two years, was an associate pastor at Hope for three years.
When I arrived to pick up the music, the secretary looked at my car and said, “you might have to make a few trips in that.” She wasn’t kidding. Seven filing cabinets, each with four drawers, full from front to back and a desk filled with music. What an amazing gift. Mr. Conrad’s notes on his copy of each piece – a lifetime of study, planning, practice, and teaching; a legacy from which to build.
I managed to empty six of the filing cabinets and the desk in one trip. I was so excited to bring it all home; I filled every nook and cranny. As I’ve gone through it all, I’m humbled to piece together the rich history contained among the pages. I’m sad there are so few people at Hope to share in that history, but it will live on through our own worship and offerings.
It will take me many weeks to sort through all of our new music. Once I have, I’ll invite anyone who would like to join us for a “sing through” – I’ll pick out some of my favorites and we’ll sing through them just to hear them for ourselves. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, April 10 at 7 pm!