Walter Hillert was Distinguished
Professor of Music Emeritus at Concordia University, River
Forest, Illinois. His career as a teacher at Concordia
spanned five decades, from 1959 to 1993. During this time
he taught classes in music theory and composition, music
literature, 20th century music, orchestration, organ and
piano instruction, comparative arts and liturgical worship.
served in various capacities in the music department, including
as chair in 1964-65 and from 1986-89, as coordinator of the
Master of Church Music program, and as associate editor of
the journal Church Music (1966-80).
Hillert was born in Clark County, Wisconsin, near the small
town of Granton, on March 14, 1923. There he attended parochial
and public schools and later enrolled at Concordia Teachers
College (now Concordia University), River Forest, where he
received the Bachelor of Science in Education. He served as
teacher and music director for parishes in St. Louis, Missouri,
Wausau, Wisconsin, and Chicago and Westchester, Illinois. He
received both the Master of Music and Doctor of Music degrees
in composition from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.
He later attended Aaron Copland's Tanglewood, the Berkshire
School of Music, where he studied composition with the Italian
composer, Goffredo Petrassi.
is for his work as composer and teacher of composition that
Richard Hillert is best known. His compositions and publications
include an array of pieces of liturgical music and hymns for
congregation, choral motets and hymn anthems, psalm settings,
organ and chamber works, concertatos and cantatas, including
major settings of The Christmas Story According to St.
Luke and The Passion According to St. John,
and most recently The Seven Words from the Cross.
He edited eleven volumes of the Concordia Hymn Prelude Series.
He wrote liturgical pieces and hymns and settings and served
as music editor for Worship Supplement (1969). He
was a member of the Liturgical Music Committee of the Inter-Lutheran
Commission on Worship (1966-1978) and was the music editor
of Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).
his most frequently performed liturgical works for congregation
is Setting One of the Holy Communion, which appears in Lutheran
Book of Worship and Lutheran Worship (1982)
and the most recent Lutheran Service Book (2006). Worthy
Is Christ, with its antiphon, "This Is the Feast of Victory," was
written as an alternate Song of Praise for inclusion in Setting
One. It is now widely published in at least 30 recent worship
books, appearing along with his hymns in North American, Canadian,
and international publications.
list of original hymn tunes is extensive and many of them have
involved direct collaboration with a number of distinguished
hymn poets of the day. These include Jaroslav Vajda, Martin
Franzmann, Fred Pratt Green, Henry Lettermann, Gracia Grindal,
Herman G. Stuempfle, Jill Baumgaertner, Susan Cherwien, and
texts have been chosen primarily from the biblical psalms,
the ordinary and proper readings from Old and New Testaments,
and words from the historic liturgy of the Western church.
other compositions are symphonic works such as Symphony
in Three Movements, Variations for Orchestra, Suite for Strings,
chamber works for small orchestra and ensembles including Alternations
for Seven Instruments, two Divertimentos, as
well as many works for keyboard, instrumental solos and songs.
The latter include Sonata for Piano (1961), a violin
sonata, and two sonatas for flute and keyboard. Major organ
works include Prelude and Toccata, Ricercata, Passacaglia
on Innocent Sounds, Partita on Picardy, Partita on Atkinson, and Fantasy
on a Solemn Ostinato. There are also concert works with
sacred texts, such as Five Canticles from the Exodus (1958), Te
Deum for two pianos, percussion and wind instruments
(1962), The Alleluiatic Sequence (1980), and Seven
Psalms of Grace for baritone solo, choirs, and chamber
choral works, many written for the choirs of Concordia University,
conducted by Thomas Gieschen, include the cantata, May
God Bestow on Us His Grace (1964), Motet for the
Day of Pentecost for choir, vibraphone, and tape recorder
(written for the round-the-world tour in 1969), Motet for
the Time of Easter for double choir, percussion, and
harp (1971), and Agnus Dei for three choirs and percussion.
Hillert authored scholarly articles and reviews for periodicals
such as Church Music, CrossAccent, Currents in Theology
and Mission, and other professional books and journals. His
compositions have been recorded on more than 20 compact discs.
He received an honorary Doctor of Sacred Music from Valparaiso
University, and honorary Doctor of Letters from Concordia University,
Seward, Nebraska, and from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.
He was an honorary lifetime member of the Association of Lutheran
Church Musicians. Many of his former students throughout the
land have careers as practicing church musicians, as teachers
in elementary, secondary, and higher education, as music editors
and publishers, and as composers.
and his wife, Gloria Bonnin Hillert, lived in Melrose Park,
Illinois. Her career has been as a professor of anatomy and
physiology at colleges in Springfield, Illinois, Winfield,
Kansas, and in the Chicago area. Richard
is survived by children Kathryn Brewer, Virginia, and Jonathan
music by Richard W. Hillert