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In memory of L. David Miller
On May 21in the early evening I received a call that L. David Miller had just died. A life that had been a special blessing and inspiration to many others had ended.
I arrived at Wittenberg in the late summer of 1966 with my husband Dr. J. Arthur Faber, newly hired assistant professor of English. It was David, then dean of the School of Music, who met with me in his tiny office and hired me as an adjunct instructor of organ and harpsichord. I realize now what an auspicious year that was. As director of the Wittenberg Choir, David had recently returned from a 50-day, 25,000-mile tour with the group and was glowing thanks to a citation from the U. S. Congress congratulating the choir for serving “as ambassadors of song and good will to the world for the United States.” Now, back on campus, he delighted in telling me about the new music facility, Krieg Hall, which was almost finished. I’ll never forget the excitement of moving out of the dingy old houses and basement rooms where I began my teaching at Wittenberg into this state-of-the-art facility in 1967.
As a Lutheran pastor, as a church musician, as a composer, educator and visionary, L. David touched the lives of countless people across this country. He was a “people-person” who could charm young and old, especially the old. He delighted in ceremonial events and social occasions. I remember the many elegant receptions, which he and his wife Ann presided over at their home, and his enjoyment in hosting other social events. As one friend once said, “Knowing him was an occasion of grace.”
Herewith a short story, which tells of one of my happiest memories of L. David: In the spring of 1977 I was in Exeter, England. David had approved a sabbatical for me so that I could accompany my husband, who was in charge of the Exeter program that year (the program was designed so that Wittenberg English majors could study at Exeter University during their Trinity term, which was at that time our third term).
Five music students had traveled with me. One day near the end of the term, I received word that L. David, who had been at a conference in Germany and had also visited our recently retired Professor Jan Bender (then living in Germany), would be making a special trip to Exeter. He took me and the five music students out to dinner at one of the best restaurants in the city. After a splendid dinner, David, with typical ceremonial flourish, presented me with a manuscript he had carried from Germany. It was an organ piece in three movements based on the setting of the hymn For All the Saints by Ralph Vaughan Williams, which Jan Bender had written for me. What a thrill to receive this manuscript. And what a thrill it was for David to present it. Perhaps words from that very hymn provide the best closure for David’s life: “But then there breaks a yet more glorious day: the saints triumphant rise in bright array; Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine, we feebly struggle; they in glory shine.”