Carl Flentge Schalk



The Cowper - Schalk Hymn

Pastor Marshall commissioned Carl F. Schalk to compose a hymn for the celebration of his 25th Anniversary of ordination, September 26, 2004.

The hymn is based on a poem by William Cowper (1731-1800) entitled, "Thankless for Favours from on High." It is a sober text about death, judgment and redemption. Cowper composed some 68 hymn texts many of which were published with John Newton in their famous collection, Olney Hymns (1779). "Thankless for Favours from on High" was composed in 1792 and appears never to have been made into a hymn before. He has one hymn in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" (No. 483).

Schalk has named his tune kierkegaard because it aspires to what Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) called the true tone of a hymn, namely, "that deeper, inward pain which in quiet sadness is reconciled with God." He goes on to say that he could no more get tired of hearing such tunes than he could grow tired of "looking at the sky in autumn's weather when the soft, gentle colors shift and change in the finest design" [Søren Kierkegaard's Journals & Papers, trans. Howard V. and Edna H. Hong, 7 vols (Indiana University Press, 1967-1978) 5:6097].

Dr. Carl F. Schalk (b. 1929) is Distinguished Professor of Music Emeritus at Concordia University, River Forest, IL.  He has composed over 80 hymn tunes.  “Now the Silence” (1968) and “God of the Sparrow” (1983) are two of his best known.  In fourteen denominational hymnals currently in use in the United States and Canada, twelve of his tunes are used thirty-five times.  Of his many fine choral works, “Before the Marvel of This Night” (1982) and "I Saw a New Heaven and a New Earth" (1997) are truly noteworthy.  Some of his choral music is recorded on Christ Be Our Seed [CPH (2000) 99-1676]. If you want to know more about Dr. Schalk's work, read his festschrift, Thine the Amen: Essays on Lutheran Church Music in Honor of Carl Schalk, ed. Carlos R. Messerli (Mpls., MN: Lutheran University Press, 2005). Note especially the accolade that Dr. Schalk is a "sign of God's ability to compose new tunes among us, hope out of despair, wonder out of fear, and life out of death" (p. 284). No wonder, then, that it is said of him that "in the annals of modern-day church music, he stands alone" [Nancy M. Raabe, Carl F. Schalk: A Life in Song (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2013) p. 1].

Pastor Marshall commissioned Dr. Schalk to compose a choral setting of “Thankless for Favours from on High” for the celebration of the Kierkegaard Sesquicentennial (1855-2005) at First Lutheran Church of West Seattle, November 13, 2005.  This recording of it – which is six minutes in length – is by the Seattle ensemble, The Renaissance Singers  – Markdavin Obenza, Artistic Director, with organist Andrew J. King, Cantor of First Lutheran Church of West Seattle, playing the Fritz Noack Gallery Organ, Op. 83.  This recording was made on February 7, 2006, and produced by Orrin Doyle.