National Lutheran News

Leaving a musical legacy

Of compositions and children

It was a surprise two-and-a-half years in the making. In December 2007 the children of Paul and Sally Westermeyer began plotting to go behind their parents’ backs and solicit a present that would ultimately involve the whole family in the “deception.”

It all started even earlier when partriarch Paul Westermeyer put a note in one of his son’s pockets with the instructions, “When we die, take some money from our estate and commission a piece in [your mother’s] honor.” But, as the occasion of a 70th birthday celebration approached, the four siblings decided they’d take Paul’s advice, but do it while both parents could still appreciate it.

Composer Tim Mahr, center, is surrounded by the Westermeyers, from left: Chris, Rachel, Sally, Paul, Rebecca, and Tim. Metro Lutheran photo: Kat Singer

“One of my brothers said, ‘Let’s not wait; let’s do it in their lifetime,” Rebecca Westermeyer told Metro Lutheran. “And since we all are St. Olaf grads and all had played with the Minnesota Symphonic Winds [at various times], we decided that [St. Olaf professor of music] Tim Mahr would be the appropriate person to compose the commissioned work.

Mahr’s piece, “Homilies on ‘Rise, O Church, like Christ Arisen,’” was performed in early May at St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church, where one of the brothers, Tim, is pastor. The composition features two clarinets, a trumpet, and a bassoon — the exact instrumentation of the four Westermeyer siblings.

The siblings got their parents to the concert, explaining that Rebecca had a significant solo, which she actually did on the opening piece. The commissioned work was not on the program, explained Rebecca, but inserts were handed out to inform the audience.

Rebecca remembers seeing her parents near the front, and was moved by their reactions, even though she was mostly nervous about her solo.

“I hold onto the memory,” said Rebecca. “And I look forward to what form of life this piece of music takes on. The commissioned piece is an ongoing gift to the church.”

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