Feast of Wilhelm Wexels, Marie Wexelsen, Ludwig Lindeman, and Magnus Landstad (October 9)   3 comments

Church of Our Savior, Christiana, 1880s

Above:  The Church of Our Savior (now Oslo Cathedral), Christiania, Norway, 1880s

Image in the Public Domain

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WILHELM ANDREAS WEXELS (MARCH 29, 1797-MAY 14, 1866)

Norwegian Lutheran Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator

uncle of

INGER MARIE LYCKE WEXELSEN (SEPTEMBER 20, 1832-DECEMBER 7, 1911)

Norwegian Novelist and Hymn Writer

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LUDWIG MATHIAS LINDEMAN (NOVEMBER 28, 1812-MAY 23, 1887)

Norwegian Lutheran Organist and Musicologist

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MAGNUS BROSTRUP LANDSTAD (OCTOBER 7, 1802-DECEMBER 8, 1880)

Norwegian Lutheran Minister, Folklorist, Hymn Writer, and Hymnal Editor

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This post began with one name–Magnus Brostrup Landstad (1802-1880), hence the assigned feast day being October 9, the anniversary of his death.  During the process of taking notes one thing led to another until I had four names.  The addition of the final name, that of Inger Marie Lycke Wexelsen (1832-1911), resulted from following up on a lead I found in an index of The Concordia Hymnal (1932).  Lives intersect and human stories overlap.  One way of conveying that truth in posts of the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to write multi-saint posts.  Another is to write separate posts and to link them into each other.  I have, obviously, chosen the former approach as the dominant tactic in this case.  I could have added a fifth name easily, but I have chosen to write about that person later and to link the two posts then.  A post can become too busy, after all.

By the way, I have decided to set the mood for typing this post properly by listening to Norwegian classical music of the Romantic era.  That is an appropriate choice, given the influence of one of these four saints on Norwegian music.

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Denmark-Norway and Sweden 1763

Above:  Scandinavia in 1763

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1967)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The 1800s in Europe was a time of, among other things, nationalism in the politics, literature, and music.  This was certainly true in Norway, which, after centuries of union with Denmark, became part of Sweden in 1814, as part of the settlement of the Napoleonic Wars.

Denmark and Sweden-Norway 1815

Above:  Scandinavia in 1815

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1967)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Finally, in 1905, Norway became an independent nation-state.  Even then the ties to Denmark were sufficiently strong that a Danish prince became Haakon VII (died in 1957), King of Norway, who served his adopted country ably and died a national hero.

Denmark, Norway, and Sweden 1914

Above:  Scandinavia in 1914

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1967)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The changing politics of Norway played out in the life of our first saint, Wilhelm Andreas Wexels.  He entered the world at Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 29, 1797.  His parents were Fredrik Nannestad Wexels, who worked in the glass industry, and Bolette Cathrine Bolling Wexels.  Our saint had a sister, Marie Louise Wexels (later Wexelsen) (1793-1873), one of whose children was our next saint, Inger Marie Lycke Wexelsen (1832-1911).  Young Wilhelm grew up in Denmark.  He attended the Metropolitan School of Copenhagen before moving to Norway in 1815.  He settled in Christiania (now Oslo), where he studied theology at the University of Christiania, graduating in 1818.  That year he became catechist at the Church of Our Savior, Christiania.  In 1846 his job title changed to curate.  Wexels remained in that position for the rest of his life, which ended on May 14, 1866.  He even turned down an opportunity to become the Bishop of Bergen to remain the Church of Our Savior.

Wexels had an interest in hymnody.  He wrote hymns, translated others, and became the first person to attempt to edit a Norwegian national hymnal.  He edited three hymnbooks (in 1834, 1840, and 1859), not none of them fulfilled that ambition.  Perhaps the main reason for this was that his orthodox Lutheran piety offended rationalistic Lutherans on one side and Pietistic Lutherans on the other.  Another saint, Magnus Brostrup Landstad (1802-1880), succeeded, albeit over the vocal objections of Pietists.

Wexels published many works, including the first theological journal in Norway and books about aspects of the New Testament.  Among English speakers, however, his best-known works are hymns which others have translated.  One such text is the following J. C. (Jens Christian) Aaberg (1877-1970) translation, courtesy of the Danish-American Lutheran Hymnal for Church and Home, Third Edition (1938):

Arise, my soul, this Easter morn

With joy and praises heavenborn,

And hear good news from death’s dark portals

To all distress’d and grieving mortals.

O blessed Easter morning, show’r

On us thy pow’r!

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Disarm’d and crush’d, for ever fell

This morn the pow’r of death and hell,

For He who lay in death’s grim prison

With might and glory is arisen.

O blessed Easter morning, show’r

On us thy pow’r!

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Come, souls, by sin and death dismay’d,

With all that in the grave ye laid,

To Him who rose on Easter morrow

And brings you balm for all your sorrow.

O blessed Easter morning, show’r

On us thy pow’r!

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My soul, why shouldst thou grieve and pine?

The peace and joy of heav’n are thine.

The Lord arose with might supernal,

And thou art heir to life eternal.

O blessed Easter morning, show’r

On us thy pow’r!

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Come, people of the Lord, employ

Your heart and soul in songs of joy,

Go forth to meet with praises ringing

The Lord who life for death is bringing.

O blessed Easter morning, show’r

On us thy pow’r!

Niece Marie Wexelsen, whose first name was Inger, lived from 1832 to 1911.  The native of Ostre Toten, Norway, was the daughter of Marie, sister of Wexels, and Wexel Hansen Wexelsen (1784-1867), a cousin of our first saint.  Marie Wexelsen, a novelist and children’s writer, composed at least one Christmas hymn, which exists in an English translation from 1931 courtesy of Professor P. A. (Peter Andrew) Sveegen (1881-1959):

How glad I am each Christmas Eve!

The night of Jesus’ birth;

Then like the sun the Star shone forth,

And angels sang on earth.

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The little child in Bethlehem,

He was a king indeed;

He came from His high state in heav’n,

Down to a world in need.

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He dwells again in heaven’s realm,

The Son of God today;

But He knows the little ones,

And hears them when they pray.

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How glad I am each Christmas Eve!

His praises then I sing;

He opens then for ev’ry child

The palace of the King.

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Then mother trims the Christmas tree,

And fills the room with light.

She says that so the Star shone forth

And made the dark world bright.

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She says the Star is shining still,

And never will grow dim;

And if it shines my way,

It leads me up to Him.

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And so I love each Christmas Eve,

And I love Jesus too;

And that He loves me in return,

I know so well is true.

Wexelsen died at Trondheim, Norway, on December 7, 1911.

Church of Our Lady, Trondheim

Above:  The Church of Our Lady, Trondheim, Norway

Image in the Public Domain

Ludwig Mathias Lindeman (1812-1887), a native of Trondheim, Norway, came from a musical family and continued in that tradition.  His father was Ole Andreas Lindeman, who served as the organist at the Church of Our Lady, Trondheim.  Ole, who went on in 1835 to publish the Koralbog, the first Norwegian chorale book, blazed a trail his son followed.  Young Ludwig, who learned music well from his father, substituted for him as young as age 12.  Ole discouraged Ludwig from becoming a professional musician, so our saint, having completed his liberal arts studies, began to study theology at the University of Christiania in 1833.  During his student days our saint played the cello in an orchestra at a theater and substituted for his brother, the organist at the Church of Our Savior, Christiania.  Lindeman, who chose to become a professional musician, succeeded his brother as the organist at the Church of Our Savior in 1839 and held that post until he died on May 23, 1887.  The pastor there during much of that tenure was Wilhelm Andreas Wexels, who thought that Lindeman’s organ playing dominated the service.  Lindeman, in turn, thought that Wexels preached too long each Sunday.

Lindeman became a musicologist and a virtuoso.  In 1848 he started the process of traveling throughout Norway to collect folk tunes.  He published more than 2,500 folk tunes in a series of books from 1853 to 1867.  Composers such as Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) used that collection as source material.  Lindeman’s reputation as a virtuoso of the organ led to him playing a series of recitals in London in 1871 on the occasion of the opening of Royal Albert Hall.  The previous year he had published the Norsk Messebog, which, following Martin Luther’s instructions in the Deutsche Masse (1526), laid the foundations for chanting liturgical texts in Norwegian Lutheran churches.  Our saint, who composed hymn tunes, finished his own Koralbog (1872), which, in 1877, the Church of Norway declared to be the official tune book to accompany the Kirkesalmebog (1869), the new official hymnal which Magnus Brostrup Landstad (1802-1880) had edited.  Lindeman broke with the Norwegian Lutheran tradition of singing in half notes and added quarter, dotted quarter, and eighth notes to tunes.  This change proved controversial, of course, for it was something new. But, as one speaker said at our saint’s funeral in 1887, Lindeman taught Norwegians how to sing.

Lindeman, who published at least four other collections of tunes, created a fine musical legacy.  In addition to what I written about already, he taught singing and church music at the University of Christiania.  And, in 1883, he and his son, Peter (whose mother was Aminda Magnhilde Brynne, Lindeman’s wife since 1848), founded the School for Organists, the first conservatory in Norway, at Christiania.  In time this institution became Oslo Conservatory.  Since 1973 the successor to that conservatory has been the Norwegian Academy of Music.

Magnus Brostrup Landstad was an influential in Norwegian folklore and literature as Lindeman was in music.  Landstad entered the world in Maaso, Finmarken, Norway, in the extreme northeast of the country, on October 7, 1802.  His father, Hans Landstad, was a Lutheran minister.  The family was poor.  Our saint was one of ten children, crops often froze before anyone could harvest them, and war and economic depression made matters worse.  The Church transferred the Landstads to Oksnes in 1804, Vinje in 1811, and Seljord in 1819.  The father educated the son until 1822.

Then, at age 20, our saint embarked on his own career.  In 1822 he enrolled at the University of Christiania.  Five years later he graduated, having taken a year off due to financial necessity to work as a family tutor in Gran, in the Hadeland district.  Landstad, who wrote the first of his nearly 175 hymns in 1825, married Vilhemine M. Lassen of Gran in 1829.  The couple lived long enough to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Landstad, as a minister, served at Gausdal (1828-1834), Kviteseid (1834-1839), and Seljord (1840-1849), succeeding his father.  In 1848 the Church of Norway asked Landstad to prepare the next official hymnal.  At first he declined, citing his pastoral workload.  In 1849, however, our saint transferred to Frederikshald, where the Church provided an assistant pastor to share those responsibilities, thereby enabling Landstad to work on the hymnal.  Our saint commenced work on the project in 1852.  The first edition, Udhast til Kirkesalmebog, was ready in 1861.  The book was radical, for its language was Norwegian, not the conventional Danish.  Also, the language was popular, contemporary Norwegian.  Furthermore, there were the usual complaints that certain hymns were absent.  The revised edition, the Kirkesalmebog, became the official hymnal in 1869.  Landstad had created the first Norwegian national hymnal, a collection of Norwegian texts and translated Greek and Latin texts.  He excluded almost all rationalistic Lutheran hymns.  Pietists were generally quite unhappy due to the orthodox, objective Lutheran piety of the hymnal.  (Pietism began as a reaction against a certain form of orthodox Lutheranism.)  Nevertheless, his Kirkesalmebog became widely accepted.  The Church of Norway authorized a revised and expanded version of it in 1926 before replacing that volume in 1985.  Norwegian Americans sang out of the 1869 hymnal, reprinted it, and added hymns to it.

Landstad was also a folklorist.  In 1853 he published Norske Folkviser (Norwegian Ballads), an influential collection of folklore and folk songs.  Norwegian literary giants such as Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) found much useful material there.

Landstad retired in 1877.  The Norwegian parliament voted unanimously to grant him a pension in recognition of his work in the Church and his contributions to Norway.  He died at Christiania on October 9, 1880.

These saints received and used gifts of creativity, leaving legacies of faith and artistic beauty.  They did well.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COKE, U.S. METHODIST BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Wilhelm Wexels, Marie Wexelsen, Ludwig Lindeman, and Magnus Landstad)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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3 responses to “Feast of Wilhelm Wexels, Marie Wexelsen, Ludwig Lindeman, and Magnus Landstad (October 9)

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  1. Pingback: Wilhelm Andreas Wexels | GATHERED PRAYERS

  2. Pingback: Magnus Brostrup Landstad | GATHERED PRAYERS

  3. Pingback: Feast of Erik Christian Hoff (December 8) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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