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