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A Day for Dancing

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After earning his theology degree from Union Seminary in New York, Lloyd Pfautsch (1921Ð2003) found his true calling in church music. He was invited to Southern Methodist University in 1958 to start their graduate program in sacred music and remained there for 34 years. Outside the university, he formed the Dallas Civic Chorus and led it for 25 years. He was nationally known for his conducting and the quality of the musicians he produced as well as for his compositions, many of which are illustrated here with his handwritten notations. This is the first biography of this important figure, and it is told from the viewpoint of a longtime colleague and friend. Aligned with the biography, Hart analyzes some of Pfautsch's hundreds of compositions. This is the definitive work on one of the most influential American choral musicians of the twentieth century. "The combination of biographical facts, history, and anecdotal accounts makes this work unique. Pfautsch was a powerful choral figure, and many conductors mentored under his guidance."--Tim Sharp, Executive Director, American Choral Directors Association

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The Call to Dance (A Prologue)

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It was 27 June 1965 and the venue was the 13,000-seat SanFrancisco Cow Palace, a gargantuan site, home to national rodeos, Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey circuses, and numerous major sporting events. The six-acre building had been the embarkation site for thousands of troops involved in World War II (1941–46). But ironically today’s festival was being held for virtually the opposite purpose: the Convocation of Religion for World Peace, a part of the observance of the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations. At one end was seated a massed choir from area churches, temples, synagogues, and other houses of worship numbering 2,000 musicians. They were accompanied by the esteemed Sixth Army Brass Band. Surrounding them in the nearly full house were many of the world leaders who were delegates to the United Nations, including Secretary General U Tant. The rest of the “congregation” was comprised of worshippers from the widest range of faiths: Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Hindus,

 

Chapter 1. The Dance of Prophecy (Missouri and Illinois)

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The Dance of Prophecy(Missouri and Illinois)On October 2, 1827, Joseph Pfautsch, a successful, thirty-twoyear-old master barrel-maker from Austria, was betrothed toMargaretha Hoermann, a twenty-seven-year-old farmer’s daughter from Altmuenster, Bavaria.

1. They were married at the Catholic church in the tiny town of Maineck (population 200) in the upperFranconia district. The Pfautsches were married for eleven years before Margaretha gave birth to a son, Johann, in 1838.

2. Soon after, they decided to move to Missouri, along with Joseph’s brother and his family. Like many Germans the couples had been charmed by the writings of Gottfried Duden, a German who lived in that part of theNew World in the late 1820s and wrote to his friends and relatives back in Europe about the beauty of the Missouri Valley.

3. Its similarities to the Rhineland and its opportunities for prosperity made it attractive to many German immigrants. The Pfautsches settled in the largely German community of Hermann, about sixty miles west  

Chapter 2. The Dance of Promise (New York)

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their way to New York City’s Naval Recruitment Center, near Times

Square. Even though Lloyd was young, highly intelligent and athletic, he was rejected from service due to blue-green colorblindness.

His friend was also rejected, because he was one-half inch too short!

So on that day the pursuit of any active duty in the armed forces came to an abrupt halt. The two shared a soda and some ice cream at

Bernie’s Drug Store (Broadway and 120th) and went back across the street to their studies at Union Theological Seminary.

In 1945 Lloyd Pfautsch’s professional singing career reached new heights of success. He studied voice throughout his Union years, first with Maude Neidlinger and then with the English opera star, Clytie

Hine Mundy. Still a paid soloist at the Brick Presbyterian Church, he decided to audition for Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Chorus. His audition with chorus master Peter J. Wilhousky was memorable for two reasons. It was his first professional audition and he was the very first person to be auditioned. After singing only ten measures or so he was invited to the callbacks and dismissed. The other significant event was that at this audition he first caught sight of alto Edith

 

Chapter 3. The Dance of Announcement (Illinois)

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as possible so that he could begin teaching that first summer. While

Edie (and baby Deborah) took this chance to visit Edie’s parents in

Minnesota, Lloyd went on to Bloomington by himself. He stayed in a room provided by the university that was near the campus. It must have been lonely those first few weeks, although there was plenty to be done. Unlike Manhassatt, all did not seem utopian when he arrived. “There were times as we struggled financially those first couple of years,” he admits, “when I wondered if we had made a mistake not staying at Manhassatt” (for nearly twice the salary). He was shocked that the university’s choral library was so small that it would fit into one part of the small closet in his studio. A further surprise was that it had never been catalogued. Since he was alone, with nights to himself, he set about cataloguing the choral collection almost as soon as he arrived. It was filled with Fred Waring arrangements, not what he had in mind for the collegiate choir at a quality university. But at least he got it all organized, which satisfied his Germanic need for order.

 

Chapter 4. The Dance of Fulfillment (Texas)

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eration that he would at last hold a faculty position in a seminary and could, therefore, qualify for ordination according to the rules of the United Church of Christ, the successor to the Evangelical and

Reformed Church of his youth. He was ordained in his home church in Washington, Missouri, at the end of his first year in Texas (1959).

The Pfautsch family settled into a lovely home at 3710 Euclid

Avenue in Highland Park. Highland Park and University Park, collectively known as the Park Cities, are incorporated cities surrounded on all sides by the City of Dallas. Southern Methodist University is mainly in the Park Cities as well. At the time, Pfautsch felt really stretched to meet the mortgage payments for that house, because his salary at SMU was not very much more than he had been making at IWU. When he retired, however, he reaped the benefits of this choice, as he sold the property for many times what he paid for it. He told this writer in 1988 that his taxes that year on the Euclid house were more than his mortgage payments had been when he moved there. In fact, after retirement he was able to buy another very nice house still in the Park Cities for cash and also deposit a significant profit from the sale of the Euclid home to his retirement account.

 

Chapter 5. The Dance of Adoration (Popularity and Success)

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The Dance of Adoration(Popularity and Success)At the same time he was building two graduate degree programs at SMU, Lloyd Pfautsch was also building an impressive career throughout the United States as a choral conductor and a composer.

From the late 1960s until his retirement in 1992 he was very much in demand to conduct All-State High School Honor Choirs and single and multi-church sacred music festivals (see Appendix G).As noted in the program for the 1977 National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association, by that stage he had been a guest lecturer at more than fifty colleges and universities.1 Although he almost always included a few of his own compositions at these choral festivals, he seldom used more than one or two per festival unless those in charge specifically asked him to include more. Unlike some of his colleagues on the choral festival “circuit,” Pfautsch was humble enough to feel that festival participants needed to experience a wide variety of good literature and did not use these occasions for self-aggrandizement. Nevertheless, his anthems received  

The Eternal Dance (An Epilogue).

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The Eternal Dance

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An Epilogue

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lthough Lloyd Pfautsch was the first to admit that he had led quite a wonderful life, he had his challenges, too. Among them health ranked fairly high. He was generally a very healthy person, robust and athletic. But in his fifties he developed a hyperthyroid condition. It began when he was conducting at the Presbyterian

Montreat Conference in North Carolina. In fact the rumor mill among church musicians started the fortunately false idea that Pfautsch was dying from this illness. He was not, but it did make him feel like he was burning up! His doctor, who had had the condition himself and who had also been a high school chorister under Pfautsch at an AllState Festival, recommended against surgery. The patient was thankful for that. Instead, he was given an “atomic cocktail” of radioactive iodine. He was made to lie still on his back and to be sure not to swallow for about eight minutes (which seemed like eight hours to him).

Gradually the swelling did subside in the next few weeks and when he was completely over it, in about six months, he found he could sing again nearly as well as he did when he was thirty. He was angry, though, with the rumor mongers for awhile after that.

 

Appendices

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Appendix B

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Chronological List of

Musical Events Involving

Lloyd Pfautsch

’38—Played Contrabasse Viol in the National High School Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Bakaleinikoff at Municipal Auditorium in St. Louis,

31 March. Played Moussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, among other works. 56 Vln, 15 Vla, 22 Celli, 13 KB, 16 Hrn, 9 Cl, 2 Bass Cl, 7 Fag, 6 Ob,

1 Picc, 10 Fl, 10 Trpt/Cornet, 9 Tromb, 1 B-flat Sousaphone, 3 Hrp, 5 Perc.

’46 —Sang Elijah at The Church of the Messiah in Patterson, NJ

’46 —Review of Shaw’s Christmas Concert (Dec 23) at Carnegie Hall. Sang bass solo in Bach’s Cantata No. 64 “Sehet, welch’ eine Leibe” with Collegiate

Chorale and Orchestra. Reviewed by Irving Kolodin in the New York Sun

’47 —Narrated King David at Carnegie Hall with Shaw conducting the

Juilliard Chorus and Orchestra

’47 —Sang Elijah at HPMC in Dallas

’48 —Oratorio, Israel at the Red Sea (Exodus 14–15) performed in James

Chapel, UTS on 12 May

’48 —Sang Elijah at Trinity Lutheran in Lancaster, PA

 

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