Lost in wonder, love and praise …

Last evening, our beloved Minister of Music Emeritus, Donald L. Clapper, entered the Church Triumphant.  No words can express our deep sorrow at the passing of this great Saint and servant in the house of the Lord.  Don exemplified the ideal of the dedicated servant and a tremendous love of God during his forty-three year tenure as Minister of Music here at Pine Street.  In all his doings, musical and otherwise, he witnessed to the love of God in  the course of a long and productive life.  Many have been aware that he had not been well for many years, yet he carried on, in good humor and gracious style whatever befell him.  He certainly created some of the most memorable music made in Central Pennsylvania during the 1950’s through the 1980’s.  Those years, and beyond, saw him as director of the Harrisburg Choral Society and the conductor of many memorable works with stellar performers … both local talent and nationally and internationally known musical stars.  He grew a mighty church music program in this place that affected hundreds upon hundreds of young people and adults and brought to them the joy of music in the service of the Almighty.

The great tragedy of Don’s life was the loss of his beloved Barbara, all too early.  In spite of this tragic loss and his great sorrow, which he carried to his last breath, he continued on and led a life of joy and service.  He was a great example.  Following in his footsteps has been an honor and a great privilege for me.  No one could replace Don, but in his gracious way, he made way for a new leader for music at Pine Street and encouraged me at every step.  Whenever he saw me, he would comment on the beauty of a choral anthem, or a special prelude he particularly enjoyed … I could always get him with a well registered reading of the great preludes of Leo Sowerby!   He reveled in our continued success past his own tenure with us, and that takes a great man, and one who cares deeply for his legacy.  I have tried to preserve it over my tenure … but no one will ever replace Don Clapper in the memory of this church.  He was truly one of God’s great Saints … and I joy for him at this moment as he lays his Crowns before the Heavenly Father … well done, by a good and faithful servant.

Those last phrases come from the mighty hymn of Charles Wesley, “Love Divine All Loves Excelling”.  As I write this I can hear its glorious tune, “Hyfrydol” thunder down the nave of Pine Street Church … affirming Don’s great faith and love for this place, and his hope of glory to come … here is the last verse of that hymn.

“Finish, then, thy new creation, Pure and spotless let us be: Let us see thy great salvation Perfectly restored in thee:  Changed from Glory into glory, Till in heaven we take our place.  Till we cast our crowns before thee … Lost in wonder, love and praise!”

Don’s journey is finished … and we continue the work of loosing ourselves in wonder, love and praise until we too, join that might choir, whose number no one can count, and which makes the very vault of heaven ring!



May 30, 2012

Categories Music Blog | Tags: | Posted on May 30, 2012

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  1. by ron poorman

    On May 31, 2012

    Well said, Tom…and I have to say you have continued Don’s tradition of fine music and glorious worship. Many thanks to you.

  2. by Jack Reefer

    On May 31, 2012

    Don was a truly great musician. So much of his preparation for presentation of a choral work was directed toward following and fulfilling the intent of the composer. Dynamics in particular were emphasized to bring out the most from the members of the Chancel Choir, orchestral accompaniment, and the pipe organ which Don played with an attitude of reverence and devotion.
    Beyond that, Don was a great friend of everyone who brought with them a love for music, the desire to offer their talents in worship and praise, and their own lives with all the ups and downs. Even on that awful Good Friday Morning of 1981 when he lost Barbie, he was there to lead us in worship at the Service of Tenebrae that evening. The magnificent Easter Sunday Morning services celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ had a tough act to follow.
    In April of 1981, I had no way of knowing that the quiet struggle of a good friend which began in the summer of 1980 to cope with the impending loss of his beloved would become not only part of the glue, but the staybolt in my own life when I was confronted by the sudden and unexpected passing of my father less than two years later.
    “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” So wrote Martin Luther. That great eternal choir loft where he may now preside will only become more glorious with his arrival in That Kingdom Which Is Coming.
    //s//Jack Reefer

  3. by GeraldMiller

    On May 31, 2012


    Thank you for your very lovely tribute to Don Clapper. As the chair of the former search committee some 14 or so years ago, whose momenteous task it was to find a successor, I recall how gracious Don was to us and our work and his talk to the choir telling us that the work he had done was finished and for us to accept a new person and to move on to even greater music making. While our memories will remain, I trust that over these years we have moved on to new musical experiences.

    Gerald Miller

  4. by Steve Taylor

    On June 1, 2012

    Beautifully expressed Tom. And not one word of exaggeration. His influence on me, as a musician, a Christian, and a man, is immeasurable, and I’m sure there are HUNDREDS more that would say the same.

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