This September, on the morning of the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Paul Manz laid his fingers on the keys of the organ at Lakeview's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saint Luke. His thumb pained him, the result of a mishap fixing a water heater, but he did not let it show--as usual, the swell of his playing wafted melodiously through the nave of Saint Luke's, commencing the 10:30 service.
Saint Luke's organ console and its 59 ranks (or sets) of pipes made of copper, zinc, tin, or wood and situated in three sections around the nave are familiar to Manz. He dedicated the organ, made by the Schlicker Organ Company of Buffalo, New York, back in January 1963, and for six years he has been Saint Luke's cantor, or music director. He is also a professor and artist in residence at the Lutheran School of Theology in Hyde Park, but his work as Saint Luke's organist remains a passion. On any Sunday you can't keep him from fingering the keys, pumping the pedals, and pulling out the stops for two services in English and one in German.
As the worshipers took their places in the pews, Manz, 70, a white-haired man in his shirtsleeves, moved through three preludes written by a Belgian organist named Flor Peeters. Waiting for the formal proceedings to begin, some people chatted with their friends, others knelt in prayer. One old man hooked his cane over the back of his pew alongside that of his wife.
As a congregation the Church of Saint Luke dates from 1884. Its present building, designed by a parishioner, was finished in 1960 at a cost close to $1 million, and the expense shows. The narrow sanctuary is 65 feet high, dominated by a radiant stained-glass window at the back of the chancel depicting the Resurrection sunrise described in the book of Malachi. The choir loft, a freestanding balcony in the rear of the church, lends Manz's music a particular quality--it cascades above and below the balcony, then forward toward the altar.
Pastor David Abrahamson, in a white vestment and green stole, reminded the assembled about a Bible-study class and, with the return of fall, about the resumption of full communion. As the church resounded with the sound of the organ, everyone joined to sing "Oh, Worship the King," a hymn of praise. "Oh, worship the King, all glorious above," went the words. "Oh I gratefully sing, his pow'r and his love." Manz addressed that first stanza with excitement, then downshifted to a quieter tone for the other stanzas. Though "Oh, Worship the King" hadn't been sung at Saint Luke's before, the parishioners lifted their voices high, even a teenager up toward the front with a gold stud in his left ear.
At Saint Luke's, the preparation for the year's services begins in June, when the congregation leadership, including Manz and Abrahamson, sit down to map out the readings and the hymns that will attend them. The resulting schedule is itself reexamined several times a year, but in general Manz knows well in advance the musical composition of a particular service.
He prepares for each Sunday's program with diligence. Manz estimates he knows "thousands and thousands" of hymns by heart, and yet before a service he will check over the day's selections and think about how to interpret them. He will look at a hymn of praise and decide, for example, that the first stanza should be rendered passionately. For the second stanza, where the theology concerns supplication, he may decide to reduce the verve. For the third stanza, in which the words constitute a prayer, he may want to turn the organ meditative. The last stanza could merit a dash of brightness. "What I do is also dependent on how many people are down in the nave," he explains. "If there are too few people, to smother them with sound becomes overwhelming."
There were, on the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, about 200 people at the main English service, so Manz didn't have to worry about swamping them with his chords. Sitting erect at the organ, he heaped on the gusto for hymns surrounding the heart of the service. Abrahamson delivered the sermon, a homily on the Pharisees and misplaced righteousness, and the congregants took communion. A baby wailed during "Lamb of God"; Manz, undistressed, swayed at the keyboard and gave the venerable hymn a dramatic floor. At the end of the service, after the benediction, several acolytes conducted Abrahamson and his assistant pastor down the aisle to the accompaniment of a spirited piece credited, again, to Flor Peeters.
Afterward, up in the choir loft, Manz showed off his organ. "It's a good instrument," he said, tapping the console. Then he slipped on his suit coat, put away his music, and got set to leave. Asked about the silver object hanging from a chain around his neck Manz replied "That's a Maltese cross. My son Michael and his wife gave it to me at their wedding. Actually, it's also a symbol of music. I take it off when I go jogging, but otherwise I always wear it. I don't know why."
Ruth Manz, Paul's wife of 46 years, has a better idea why: "The cross reminds Paul that music is the way he has chosen to serve God." She is a deeply religious woman whose father and two brothers were clergymen.
"I don't know if you have heard a lot of sermons," she continues, "but there aren't many I can remember. But when words are put to music, they become a more living part of our memory--music gives wings to words. Music has a great, great capacity to stir the heart. This is not to diminish the place of the sermon, but music can lift you up and underline and undergird. You remember it."
More than other denominations, the Lutherans have always placed great stock in church music. The reverence goes back to Martin Luther, who wrote hymns himself. "I place music next to theology and give it the highest praise," Luther said. "For if you want to revive the sad, startle the jovial, encourage the despairing, humble the conceited, pacify the raving, mollify the hate-filled . . . what can you find that is more efficacious than music?
Undoubtedly a lot of things, if you asked today's worshipers. Music has assumed a relatively incidental place in church, say clergymen, just as it has in secular life. "Music in church is often viewed as an appendage, as decoration," says Richard Proulx, the chief organist at Holy Name Cathedral.
But Manz's whole career is founded on it being otherwise.
Contrary to the general impression, Manz points out, music actually accounts for a healthy share of each service, at least of the Lutheran services he frequents.
Periodically Manz tape-records a service, then uses a stopwatch to compute how much time each element takes up. His results show that music--both liturgical and background--consumes 46 percent of the service. "Over the years my figures have not varied 2 percent plus or minus," Manz says with satisfaction.
Manz does more than work a stopwatch, however. His life's mission has been to ensure that the music slice of the service is time well spent. "I don't regard myself as somebody who comes to church and accompanies the hymns," he says. It's a ministry of music that I am carrying out, a ministry where the word and music are melanged together in the hymns and the liturgy."
Manz's ancestors hailed from a German settlement in what was then part of Russia but is now in Poland. His parents came over to the United States after the turn of the century, married, and settled in Cleveland. Paul's father, Otto, rose through the ranks at a steel company to become personnel manager before taking an early retirement; afterward, he repaired pipe organs.
Organs flowed in the family blood. Otto's father, Christian Mainz, had been a Lutheran cantor, and he, too, lived in Cleveland, though a crippled hand kept him from playing the organ. "I was directed by my parents and my grandparents to serve the church as a musician," says Paul, who was an only child. "This was a decision that was made for me."
When Paul was a young boy his father and grandfather installed a reed organ in the family's small living room. A reed organ operates by air being sucked in and then blown over reeds, which vibrate to render the music. To make that organ work, Manz says, "my mother cheerfully donated her vacuum cleaner."
By the time he was five years old Paul was displaying some proficiency. At eight, he started piano lessons with one Mrs. Dinda. A year or so later he switched to a man named Henry J. Markworth, organist at Trinity Lutheran Church in Cleveland. Paul would go for lessons Saturday mornings from 9 to 11:30; for two weeks he studied piano, and every third Saturday Markworth would teach Paul the organ. "He held out the organ as a carrot for me to learn the piano," says Manz, who loved the organ above all else. Soon he was playing the organ in churches and any other opportunity he got.
A block and a half from the Manz house stood an organ workshop. "I used to stick my nose in the window," Manz recalls. "One day the owner, Walter Holtkamp, came out and asked me in German what I was doing. He was a very gruff man, but he asked me inside. There was an old German organ there. 'I'll get somebody to play it for you,' said Mr. Holtkamp. 'That's OK,' I said, 'I'll play it for you.'"
For high school Manz came to Chicago, boarding at the academy at Concordia College in River Forest. The school policy allowed him to study piano but not organ. When he entered college at Concordia, however, he resumed classes downtown with an organist named Edwin Eigenschenk. There was a lot of material to study. Manz delved into works by Bach, who penned nine volumes for the organ, and by Cesar Franck, a 19th-century musician and composer who colored his pieces with a Romantic style. There was also the influence of later French Romantics who trained with Franck: Charles Tournemire, Marcel Dupre, and Louis Vierne, the longtime organist at Notre Dame in Paris, who had the distinction of dying with his boots on--he succumbed to a heart attack at the cathedral instrument in 1937.
Following college Manz taught at a church school in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; later he became principal of an elementary school in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He also taught music, and ultimately the profession of education couldn't compete with that of the organ. During summers he began studying for a master's degree in music at Northwestern University. In 1946 he became the cantor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, a post he would hold for the next 37 years.
The predominantly German neighborhood in which Mount Olive was located changed during Manz's tenure to include blacks and Native Americans, and Manz saw his talent as conveying religion through the organ. "Paul has never been someone who goes around with his hands folded," says Ruth Manz, "but he is centered in the gospel, and that has found expression in his music." At Mount Olive he played on Sunday, directed the choir, and did weddings and funerals, but with a firm eye on tradition.
For example, he scorned do-it-yourself weddings. Once a young woman came to Manz and asked him to perform the group Chicago's hit song "Color My World" at her nuptials. Manz refused. "It's my wedding," the woman argued. "Yes, it is," said Manz, "but you are getting married in the sight of God." The woman backed down. At Mount Olive, even funerals were celebrations. "For us to dwell on the sorrow, the tears, the disappointment, is not a Christian point of view," Manz says. For a time, when required to, the church imported a soloist "who would perform sentimental slush" at funerals, Manz says, but finally "we got rid of him."
Soon after arriving in the Twin Cities Manz cemented a friendship with Arthur B. Jennings, organist at both the University of Minnesota and Plymouth Congregational Church. Jennings was rooted firmly in the Romantic school of organ; he had started out delivering background for silent movies and all his life remained a theatrical interpreter.
Manz's great turning point came in 1955, when he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study in Belgium with Flor Peeters. Peeters was then director of the Royal Conservatory at Antwerp, an organist and composer renowned throughout the world. Peeters was a traditionalist of the European school. Everyone stood when he entered a class and addressed him only by his last name. He adored Gregorian chants.
Manz, who had arrived with his wife and their three children in tow, was in a class of 18 students, of whom only four were allowed to perform; the rest of the students just took notes.
Manz was picked as one of the players, but that was less thrilling than daunting. The other three players were Belgian, and Manz had to pick up Flemish in order to compete. Each class lasted three and a half hours. For the classroom recitals, Manz sat on a high stool to play, and someone else would change his stops and turn the pages of the music. Worse yet, "afterwards you were expected to make an intelligent critique of what you just played," Manz says. On Saturdays Manz also had two-hour individual sessions with Peeters.
Peeters invited his American student and his family to Christmas mass and dinner. Afterward, much to Manz's astonishment, Peeters encouraged his guest to compete in a year-end contest in organ improvisation. Only one prize was to be awarded; if Manz won, he would receive a degree.
The first level of the contest occurred the following June, when Manz and the three other players performed several hitherto-unseen selections before five judges. If you messed up, a judge would ring a bell and you were out. For the first selection, Manz had to accompany a Gregorian chant. Then he had to read what's called a "figured base," a kind of baroque musical shorthand. Next he had to briefly improvise an original theme. Finally he was required to render works by Bach and Franck. "I never got the bell," says Manz. "I returned to my room, and a half hour later we were summoned back in. We'd all passed."
The finals occurred one month later, although this time the students were allowed to prepare ahead of time. The standards seemed impossibly high. For the first selection each student had to play a Bach sonata, and they all had to agree on the phrasing beforehand; if anyone flubbed the phrasing one iota, he was disqualified. The pressure and excitement was such that Fulbright officials shipped Manz a piano so he could practice in his apartment. He was practicing 50 hours a week, both at home and at an Anglican church.
The site for the concert was the great hall of the Antwerp conservatory. Manz got through the Bach sonata, plus pieces he had worked on by Franck, Peeters, and Hans Fredrich. He didn't get the bell. Following his bow Manz repaired to his practice room, from which he could hear the applause for the other participants.
"In the center of the conservatory there was a little garden," Manz remembers. "We were called down there, and the judges were still out making their choice. After a bit out they came in. The head judge said I had scored 97.5 points. Before I could even respond my colleagues came up and hugged me, which I thought was generous of them." First prize accorded Manz the honor and $150, which he used to buy a Rolex watch in Switzerland. Shortly thereafter Peeters insisted that Manz call him Flor (though only in private), which Manz took to be an added distinction.
Of Peeters, who died three years ago at 83, Manz says, "He was a surrogate father to me."
On the way back to the United States Manz studied in Frankfurt with Helmut Walcha, a blind man who was the leading exponent of baroque organ literature.
Not yet 40, Manz returned to Minneapolis a master organist, but a master of a certain order. This was no E. Power Biggs, the English-born concert organist who popularized the art. "I never wanted to be a recitalist, never," Manz said. "Doing recitals constitutes a fleeting period of time. You last 10, maybe 20 years, and then somebody comes along who's better than you are. I wanted to be a good parish-church organist."
For several years following his return to Saint Paul Manz was just that. He rarely appeared outside of Mount Olive Church. "He needed to merge in his own mind the various influences in his life and, if necessary, choose among them," wrote Victor Gebauer of Manz in the periodical Church Music in 1979. In effect, he had to decide between the romanticism of Arthur Jennings and Peeters's classicism. In the end Manz's own style emerged as more classical, and Manz feared it would cost him his friendship with Jennings.
"But he was a wise old man of 65 or 66," says Manz, "and I think by that point, in my 30s, I was a little more mature. He could have felt I was forsaking him, but he didn't. We remained good friends, and I became his guardian in the last years of his life."
Manz's reputation grew with the years. In 1957 he became chairman of the music department at Concordia College in Saint Paul, and he taught organ to a generation of students. "Other teachers were more detail oriented, concerned that you get the mechanics of music making right," says Martin Seltz, a Detroit-area minister and organist who studied with Manz. "Paul has an innate sense of leading people in singing, and he passed on to us the incentive to be kind of exciting as performers." For his part, Manz says he has always been more interested in inspiring passion in organists than in creating virtuosos. "To be a church organist," he says, "you had better enjoy the organ--there has to be discipline and commitment. Those are the number-one things." Manz got personal with his students; he took an interest in how their lives were going, and he became known for throwing beer-and-pizza parties for them.
In 1953, when Manz's middle son, John, was three, the boy came down with an upper respiratory infection coupled with a high fever. John was hospitalized, but the sickness persisted and the fever rose to 105 degrees.
"Everyone despaired of John's life," remembers Ruth Manz.
Paul and Ruth stayed at the hospital in shifts around the clock as doctors tried to fathom what was wrong. Ruth was on deck during the day, Paul at night, but they found time to collaborate on a hymn. Paul contributed the music, and Ruth took the words from the 22nd chapter of Revelation, which ends the New Testament. A second diagnosis determined that John was suffering from a rare type of double pneumonia, and the boy survived. So did the hymn, Called "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come."
"E'en So, Lord Jesus" is, ironically, a motet written to be performed by a choir without instrumental accompaniment, yet the work, which expresses longing for Christ's coming, carries great power. "It is an anthem for Advent, which comes at you directly, right from the heart," says Holy Name's Richard Proulx. Haig Mardirosian, in a review in the American Organist last year, called the piece "Manz's little masterpiece." Continued Mardirosian, "Although critical superlatives are dangerous to put into print, one could suggest that when the book of 20th-century American choral music is finally written, this work will rank near the top for its enduring popularity and unaffected lucidity. With the sole exception of the notorious high B-flat for sopranos, lines are technically within reach of choirs of even modest accomplishment. Singers grow to love this work."
Manz is also esteemed for his organ improvisations, meant to precede the performance of hymns. Scores of Manz's have been published as sheet music, amounting to ten volumes. Some, such as intros to "Beautiful Savior" and "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," were recorded a dozen years ago at Mount Olive in an all-night session that Manz still recalls as having been incredibly stimulating. "I let my imagination run wild," he says, "and the people who worked with me made lots of suggestions." As with "E'en So, Lord Jesus," the improvisations seem to please their public. "They are very inventive and wonderfully wild," says Proulx. "When you use one, about the time you want people to sing the first verse they are all stirred up."
As the years passed, those in the know would converge on Mount Olive to hear Manz. "It was a place of pilgrimage for church-music students" says Proulx, himself a onetime student of Jennings. "You went to Mount Olive to watch a first-class church musician at work." By 1966 Manz had a new 56-rank organ to perform on, a Schlicker-made instrument he had helped design.
Manz's emergence did not come without its crises, however. Ruth Manz's brother, Herbert Mueller, had become the associate pastor at Mount Olive. One day in 1961 a heart attack overcame Mueller in his church study (it was Manz who discovered his brother-in-law on the floor), and he was dead at 39, just days after his youngest son, John, was born. Three years later Mueller's wife Helene took sick with inoperable cancer. "She became ill in July and she was gone in October," says Manz. "It was hard on us, because there is no doubt Helene and Herb were our dearest friends."
Before she died, Helene Mueller made clear to the Manzes, who had three sons of their own, that she wanted them to care for her four children. "There are some things in life that you don't question," says Ruth. "You are walking down a path, and you go where the path leads you. There was no question that we would take the children." John Mueller, to differentiate him from John Manz, was nicknamed John Two.
"It was an adjustment, but I can't say any of the kids gave us any trouble," says Paul. "We became a melded unit. It was really a blessing. We became very close." The house was, not surprisingly, awash with music. All the kids went through the Mount Olive choir. "Our lives centered around music and the church," recollects John Manz, who is now a minister and psychotherapist in Saint Paul.
Manz was a firm father, and though the kids sometimes rankled under his control "the older they got the more they realized he had done right," says Ruth. University of Chicago religion professor Martin Marty, a close friend, says the children have always loved Manz. Once, when Marty was staying at the Manzes' house (which has its own nine-rank pipe organ), he was hunting for something in a bathroom. As Marty opened various drawers he kept coming across what he describes as "love notes" the children had left for Paul to find. "Dad, I missed you when you were gone," read one. One Mueller daughter, Sara, even converted Paul's name into a new middle name for herself: Paulette.
In the mid 70s the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod was thrown into turmoil by the conservative positions of its president, Jacob A.O. Preus, and a faction loyal to him. Concordia College in Saint Louis, a Missouri Synod institution, was full of dissidents. After Preus dismissed Concordia's president, John T. Tietjan, an outlaw institution was established at Saint Louis University, ultimately called Christ Seminary-Seminex; among the first students to graduate from Christ Seminary was John Manz.
John's decision put his father in an awkward position up at Concordia in Minneapolis, which was (and still is) a Missouri Synod institution. It became difficult for Manz to stay at Concordia. "Church musicians aren't usually rebels, and Paul was not a rebel," says Marty. "But what was happening in the Missouri Synod reached his artistic integrity and his sense of fairness. His colleagues [at Concordia] were losing their tenure, which firmed up his resolve." He quit Concordia in 1976, painful as it was to leave, and returned to Mount Olive, which had left the synod.
Manz pushes off questions about the church split and what it meant for him. His son John says "My dad had put in a lot of time at Concordia and had built up a fine school of church music. But once he was gone that was it--I don't think Dad has looked back over his shoulder much."
As a consequence of the split, the more liberal Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) was founded at a convention in Chicago, and Manz joined up. He stayed active with that splinter sect until January 1988, when the AELC merged with two other Lutheran groups, the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America, to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). To celebrate the merger, Manz and Walter Wangerin Jr., an Indiana author of Christian fantasy novels, wrote a mass called "Una Sancta."
It was in 1983 that Manz took his present job at the Lutheran School of Theology (LST), an ELCA institution into which Christ Seminary-Seminex has since merged, and he and Ruth migrated to Chicago. "I needed a change," says Manz of the move. He doesn't teach classes, though he works individually with some students; mostly he plays at chapel and composes, using an electric organ hooked up to a Macintosh computer. There is an abruptness about his manner as he goes about his tasks--he signals that he's had enough of a conversation by checking his watch. "He has an absence of patience," says Marty. "He doesn't suffer fools gladly."
Most recently Manz has become famous for anchoring hymn festivals--celebrations that include readings from scripture interspersed with singing. "He has developed this genre of expression," says Marty. "When I first heard about it I thought it was cornball, something off the sawdust trail. I had the image in my mind of some small city near Nashville, the light coming from a faint light bulb, the singing taking place by a river, the whole affair a doleful kind of thing. Actually, one of Paul's hymn festivals is an amazingly transcendent kind of thing."
The First Congregational United Church of Christ of Ottawa is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The congregation has had a number of events to commemorate the sesquicentennial, among them a hymn festival that occurred on the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost. The soloist was Paul Manz.
After the service concluded at Saint Luke's, Manz and the assistant pastor from Saint Luke's, Randy Lee, drove the hour and a half from Chicago to Ottawa, arriving around two. Until six Manz practiced on the church organ, then he did a run-through with the First Congregational choir at 6:30.
By seven he was seated at the organ console at the front of the church. Only his head was visible to the 300 people who had come to hear him.
"We are blessed to have an internationally known organist with us tonight," said the Reverend Wayne D. Kirk, First Congregational's minister, standing at the pulpit of his stark, oak-trimmed church. "May we now praise the Lord together."
And so congregants did for the next hour, singing hymns of the religious calendar: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and more. Each hymn was preceded by a reading. Manz gave an improvised introduction that, true to form, grabbed everybody's attention. Midway through the hymn, he gave a solo.
"O Come, O Come Emanuel" received a haunting prologue; the solo began mutedly, proceeding to a crescendo which had the organ pipes blasting. "Good Christian Men, Rejoice" got a beboppy introduction and an airy solo. The last hymn, "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past," received three interpretations between the singing: at the outset deep and brooding, then brisk and humorous, like a reel, and at the close Bachian in its intricacy.
Halfway through, ushers wearing white boutonnieres passed brass dishes to collect the offering. The church was filled with a romantic aria of Manz's own composition.
As the service wound down, the acolytes, in red robes, snuffed out the candles at the altar. The benediction came from Reverend Kirk, and then the congregation was on its feet, applauding. Manz deflected the applause by acknowledging the choir. That done, he bowed simply and headed out underneath an exit sign. ("He always seems so out of place taking a bow," says Marty. "It's as if the console is a big protection for him.")
Following the hymn festival there was a reception for Manz in the church basement. The church ladies served punch and sheet cake.
"Small talk is not Paul's forte," says Ruth of her husband, but you'd never know it from catching him in Ottawa. Manz stood in the reception line, greeting his fans with a magnetic smile and a firm handshake. He looked like a Lutheran matinee idol.
Most of those who approached Manz were middle-aged or older, but one was a kid of ten. "I love you, and I love your music," the youngster told the organist. Later, the boy's father confided to Manz that his son has a learning disability putting him four years behind in school. "But music sends him into orbit," said the father. Manz grinned, more pleased than usual.
"Paul is considered the dean of church music in America," says Holy Name's Proulx, an observation that may overstate Manz's status but not by much.
"E'en So, Lord Jesus" is now played all over the world. "Do you know the group Winter Solstice III?" Manz asks. Actually, A Winter's Solstice II is an album published by Windham Hill Records, the most prominent publisher of New Age music. "E'en So" is included on the all-instrumental album, described as a compendium of "nontraditional Christmas music," according to a Windham Hill spokesman. "I bought the tape and the disk," Manz admits. "They have played the song with mandolins. It's an idiom I hadn't conceived of before, but the mandolins work out gloriously."
The hymn festivals and related performances have been taking Manz to 60 or so engagements a year, some done on behalf of LST and some for Manz himself. Mary Bode, one of the Mueller children, books the personal gigs from her home in Minneapolis, and both she and Manz say it's no problem securing engagements. "We get more requests than we can possibly fill," reports Bode. "We don't advertise," says Manz. "It's not that I'm stuck up, but if we advertised I'd be gone every day." Randy Lee has been Manz's frequent companion when he goes on the road for LST; the past academic year included stops all over the country: Houston; Dallas; Saint Louis; Washington, D.C.; Kearney, Nebraska; and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Often, say former students, Manz checks in with them from his hotel room.
Gigs have taken Manz before every type of Protestant denomination except Pentecostal and Jehovah's Witness. (Manz has been invited back to Concordia College in Minneapolis this October, causing him to remark, "The wounds are healing.") He has graced the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, giving a half-hour recital on "an instrument so enormous I almost got lost in it." A Lutheran-Catholic dialogue occasioned his playing at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York ("the church was packed," he notes). When William Lazareth was inaugurated as the ELCA bishop of New York a couple years ago, Manz commanded the organ at the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine before an audience of 10,000.
On the day before President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. in March 1981, Manz honored an invitation from Edwin Meese, then the attorney general, and played a recital at West Point. "Meese's son was about to graduate," Manz says. "His own parents were up in years, and it was felt by June that they wouldn't be able to make the trip from California. I had gotten to know the Meeses when my son John was their pastor in California. I don't know what you think about Edwin Meese, but the fact is he was a very dear supporter of our son. It was a thrill to get into that chapel and do a program."
The thrill, however, had as much to do with the organ as with Meese--the West Point organ, with 301 ranks and 18,732 pipes, is the largest church organ in the world. (There exist two bigger, nonecclesiastical instruments, one at the Wanamaker department store in Philadelphia and the second at Convention Hall in Atlantic City.)
But then Manz is rather taken with Army duty. Though he never served as a young man (deferred on account of his teaching duties during World War II), he serves now. He has just returned from West Germany, where he conducted a workshop for Army chapel organists from all over Europe.
His goal, though, is to slow down. He has promised to cut his road engagements back to 30 for the coming year. The Manz family jointly owns a getaway in Colorado, a wooden house near Colorado Springs with two bedrooms, a loft, and a large deck; the house is named Narnia, after the magical land in the children's books by the Christian writer C.S. Lewis. It is at Narnia that the tribe of children and grandchildren gathers in the summer from disparate locations. "The intent is that Paul and I will be spending more and more time there," says Ruth. The Manzes also still own their old house in Minneapolis, to which they retreat every six weeks or so.
Manz is at that stage in his life when the encomiums come. In June the Lutheran School of Theology conferred on him its Confessor of Christ award, a prize voted on by the faculty, which for the first time went to one of its own. Wrote ELCA bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom at the time, "I am not a musician. I cannot even read notes. I only know that what [Manz] does at the organ and with the choir is at least as important as what I do at the altar and in the pulpit."
After having heard Manz in concert in Ottawa, a woman approached him in the reception line. "It impresses me that you are a happy man," said the woman. "I could see it in the music."
"Yes, I am very happy," he told his admirer. "I have everything to be thankful for."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Kathy Richland.