Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Teaching the entire world to sing

Luther Seminary Library receives Gerhard Cartford hymnody collection

Gerhard Cartford already knew that he didn’t want to be a pastor when he registered as a student at Luther Seminary.

“When Gerhard came here to study, he told his professors that he wanted to study theology in order to understand the place of music in the church’s life,” explained Paul Westermeyer, professor of sacred music at Luther Seminary. “Basically, I understand the response was, ‘Well, we train pastors here.’ But he stayed and dedicated his life to church musicology.”

According to Westermeyer, Cartford eventually became “probably the world expert on the move musically and liturgically from Norway to this country.” In 1961 he finished a Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Minnesota titled “Music and the Norwegian Lutheran Church: A Study of its Development in Norway and its Transfer to America, 1825-1917.”

The front cover of one of the serials in the Gerhard Cartford Collection donated to the Luther Seminary Library. Image provided by Luther Seminary Library

Cartford recently donated his extensive collection of books and serials on hymnody and the music of worship to the Luther Seminary Library.

Finished with his dissertation, this son of missionaries to Madagascar and his wife Polly headed off to Brazil. His fascination with Scandinavian hymnody and liturgics accompanied him on his mission project. “With his existing sensitivity to Lutheran worship and music, Gerhard’s experience in South America elevated his interest in the church universal and its worship life,” Westermeyer said. “He is a really interesting guy who has accumulated a great deal of fascinating material.”

A donation to the Luther Seminary Library

Cartford recently donated his extensive collection of books and serials on hymnody and the music of worship to the Luther Seminary Library. “[Cartford’s] book collection includes several hundred items,” explained archivist and curator Paul Daniels, who is also currently the interim library director for Luther Seminary. “It is composed mostly of traditional materials, with some personal papers included. His interest clearly is with worship liturgies, hymnody, and church art and architecture, much related to Scandinavian culture.”

“The main depth of the gift collection is in the area of Scandinavian and Lutheran church music,” added Bruce Eldevik, reference librarian at Luther. “This collection solidifies or extends somewhat what we already have [in Luther’s library].

“Luther has a remarkable hymnological collection, obviously centered in its heritage,” Westermeyer interjected. “But it is not a music library. Sacred music students have access to the St. Olaf College and University of Minnesota music libraries” for broader study.

The unique aspect to the Cartford Collection is that there is such a concentration in non-traditional Lutheran countries. “It really is world music with a liturgical bent,” explained Daniels.

“This collection fills many gaps in our collection,” he continued. “Luther is trying to provide a collection that reflects the worldwide church. Luther now has more material that reflects the diversity of the church universal. “

“I have heard that Gerhard was encouraged by an assistant to then-ALC president David Preus to pursue this line of missionary work because no one else was doing it,” said Daniels. His own personal interest — international mission work — made this a natural fit. And the Gerhard Cartford Collection will now benefit Luther students for generations to come.

Celebrating the gift

Luther Seminary is sponsoring “Oh, Sing to the Lord,” a hymn festival November 3, to recognize Gerhard and Polly Cartford and the Cartford Collection of Worship, Music, and the Arts. In addition to the 2 p.m. Hymn Sing at Northwestern Hall’s Chapel of the Cross on Luther’s campus, a reception honoring the Cartfords will be held at 3 p.m. Central Lutheran Church cantor Mark Sedio will be the organist for the hymn sing.

Students will have unique access to the collection. “We are not treating this collection as sequestered material, though there may be some access restriction for some items,” explained Daniels. “This is a bit different than some of the special collections; this will be in the catalog so people can make use of the material.”

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