Kenneth Jennings 1925-2015
Kenneth Jennings died last week. The current director of the St. Olaf College Choir, Anton Armstrong, in a tribute to Jennings, spoke of his predecessor’s “beautiful hands”.
Since its founding, St Olaf College has set for itself the highest standards of choral singing. Here is the formula: choose voices from a population of young people trained since early childhood to sing in harmony; require them to practice not once a week but two hours or more a day; through disciplined rehearsal bring them to the highest levels of precision and artistry. Give them performance opportunities around the country and around the world.
Kenneth Jennings and his wife Carolyn translated this summer psalm from Swedish. The link is to the St Olaf Choir singing it. “All flesh is grass, the flowers fade…”, a tribute to the achievement of Kenneth Jennings and wistful praise of summer as it passes.
The earth adorned in verdant robe
sends praises upward surging,
while soft winds breathe on fragrant flowers
from winter now emerging.
The sunshine bright gives warmth and light
to budding blossoms tender,
proclaiming summer splendor.
From out the wood, the birds now sing
and each its song now raises,
to join with all the universe
in voicing thankful praises.
With hope and joy their songs employ
a rapturous exultation
in praise of God’s creation.
O God, amid these joys of life,
creation’s glory beaming,
grant us the grace to keep your word
and live in love redeeming.
All flesh is grass, the flowers fade,
and time is fleeting ever;
God’s word remains forever. Waldeman Ahlen (trans. Carolyn and Kenneth Jennings)