A Tribute to Carlton R. Young
Carlton R. (Sam) Young (1926-2023) shaped congregational song for The United Methodist Church in the United States — and well beyond the United States — for the last seventy years. As the editor for two official hymnals with countless other collections and writings, his influence has been a driving force in worship and song, shaping the expression of sacred song in the USA and throughout the world. Following are remembrances from people who worked with Sam over the years.
Diana Sanchez-Bushong, Executive Director of Worship Ministries, Director of Music Ministries; former Director of Music Resources at the General Board of Discipleship (1986-1993)
I remember the first time I met Sam. I was part of the Methodist Festival Choir in 1984, and we traveled to five countries in three weeks. It was a tremendous experience, as we traveled with a person who knew so much about the history of both music and Wesleyan theology. It seemed everywhere we went, he had personal connections, and the choir members were the richer for it. Little did I know that a couple of years later, I would be living in Nashville and working alongside Sam and others with the hymnal revision committee. That’s when I discovered how fortunate I was to be a part of his choir that year and now in the inner circle of his work for the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal. We remained in contact throughout the years, most recently when I was developing a hymn festival for the Hymn Society in North America and Canada and then again when he was writing his memoir. Click here to read an article that developed out of our conversation.
Finally, he would send me music, including this beautiful improvisation of his composition written for Shirley Erena Murray’s text “Star Child.” It was part of a digital Christmas card he sent in December 2020 and in his email he writes, “Shirley's prophetic text moves beyond familiar nativity hymns and carols and connects to the daily accounts of abused, neglected, lost, hurt, used children. My improv beginning in parallel D minor is a tonal reflection on those accounts.”
Dean McIntyre, Director of Music Resources (2001-2015)
Franz Schubert used to remark on how difficult it was to be a musician and a composer in the early nineteenth century with the ghost of Beethoven tramping through his past. Every United Methodist church musician alive today can say the same thing about Dr. Carlton R. Young. Occasionally, my office phone would ring, and the Caller ID would flash "Carlton Young," and I would immediately begin to wonder if something I'd done, said, or written provoked his call. But most often, to my great thankfulness, Sam had called to express a word of encouragement, thanks, clarification, or even congratulations. My memory of Sam Young will certainly include composer, editor, professor, arranger, performer . . . but I count myself so greatly privileged to also include pastor, mentor, and most of all, dear friend. The day following Sam's death, I spoke by phone with several friends who knew him well, and we all agreed that we had awakened that morning to a diminished world that no longer included Sam Young. Sing on, dear friend, sing on.
Jackson Henry, Director of Music Ministries (2015-2018)
I was blessed to be able to break bread with Sam many times over the past several years, especially as we celebrated his birthday each year. Dean McIntyre had been pulling some folks together for these birthday lunches, and I inherited this enjoyable task when I followed him at Discipleship Ministries. You could always expect Sam to approach anything in the life of the church with a sharp wit and hilarious logic. In almost all of my time with him, he was a mentor, an encourager, and a supporter. I shared with him when times were tough and life got interesting, and his response felt like a loving grandparent (who was more than forty times as smart and wise as I). I already miss his insight and wisdom, and I can only pray to do my work in such a way that he would be pleased. Cheers, Sam!
Gary Alan Smith, MSM, MTh, 1975 Composer, Church Musician, Music Editor
I was serving a Methodist church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when the Methodist Hymnal was published. It became “my” hymnal. When it came time for me to pursue graduate studies, only Perkins and Union Seminary offered a combination of theology and sacred music degrees. So, of course, I chose the program led by my hero, the editor of The Methodist Hymnal, by then The Book of Hymns, Carlton R. “Sam” Young.
As I studied under Sam, we became friends, and I became his librarian and cataloguer of his compositions to date. My then-wife, Christine Shadeberg, and I, along with Dick DeLong, formed the Occasional Singers, an alternative vocal ensemble to Dr. Lloyd Pfautsch’s Concert Choir, directed by Sam. It was in that group that I learned to appreciate the art of “soft” choral singing, Sam’s favorite.
Sam and I went our separate ways after my graduation, he to Atlanta and me to Memphis. Three years later, in response to my Christmas letter wherein I admitted my newfound love of computers, Sam contacted me and asked me to serve as editorial director of the Hymnal Revision Project. What a chance he took on me! We spent four very busy, and very controversial, years putting that book together.
Many who worked for and with Sam described him as both cordial and contentious, and my experience was very much the same. Sam was a demanding boss, and we had more than a few heated exchanges over issues about which we were both passionate. But I absolutely loved him, and I loved working for him and with him, and I consider those four years as formative as any in my life.
Sam was definitely the most intelligent person I have known. He was also funny, and to his closest friends, occasionally vulnerable. Somehow the world doesn’t seem quite as rich without Sam, but I am quite sure heaven is now far richer.
S T Kimbrough, Jr., Research Fellow, Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition, Duke Divinity School
Carlton Young’s Hymnological Contributions Beyond The United Methodist Hymnal
When the Global Praise Program (GPP) was initiated in 1994 by the Mission Evangelism office (of which I was the director) of the General Board of Global Ministries, Carlton R. Young (Sam) was hired as the music consultant. We knew each other well since I had worked with him on two committees of the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal. The GPP program brought together indigenous authors and composers, many of whom Sam knew, who had worked with the World Council of Churches in developing resources for its assemblies every five years. The purpose of the GPP was to gather and share songs of the People Called Methodists and other Christians around the world to enhance the worship and witness of the church.
During the twelve years that we worked together in the program, Sam and I edited eighteen books of global song, including three major collections of indigenous song, Global Praise 1, 2, and 3, each of which was officially introduced to the General Conferences of the United Methodist Church in 1996, 2000, and 2004. A GPP Working Group with authors and composers from around the world was formed that made invaluable contributions to the GPP publications. Sam was the music editor whose skills sharpened with each publication, and I handled the textual editing. However, my own music editing skills developed quickly with Sam’s guidance. In addition, we edited a number of indigenous songbooks, but always with an indigenous editor and/or committees: Africa Praise, Caribbean Praise, Hymns of Charles Albert Tindley, Russian Praise, and two collections of John and Charles Wesley hymns with settings by composers from Europe, Asia, Latin America, and North America, and others.
As new missions of the United Methodist Church were established, the Mission Evangelism Office initiated efforts to develop resources in Cambodia, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, and French-speaking United Methodism in Europe and Africa. Hymn and worship resources were essential. Sam traveled with me to each context to work with local and indigenous committees and editors to develop appropriate hymn and worship books. His ability to develop new music editors in diverse contexts was amazing. The work of the GPP resulted in the first hymnbook for Methodists in Cambodia, the first hymnbooks for renewed Methodism after the fall of Communism in Russia, Lithuania, and Latvia, and the first-ever hymnbook for French-language Methodism in Europe and Africa.
In addition to Sam’s many scholarly contributions, one final project that we worked on together for twenty years should be mentioned; namely, the critical editions of the three tune collections of John Wesley: Foundery Collection (1742), Select Hymns with Tunes Annext (1761), Sacred Harmony (1780). The first two were published by The Charles Wesley Society, and the third by Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Far beyond the impact of two hymnals on North American Methodism, Sam’s hymnological influence in the development of global song will be felt for many years to come. In addition to his musical and technical skills, his personal and social skills in working with people in difficult contexts exhibited a gentle, wise, and sincere spirit who joyously and willingly shared the gospel of Christ in song.
Music and Ecumenical Dialogue
Carlton Young made significant musical contributions to a series of four consultations on “Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality,” which the office of Mission Evangelism held by S T Kimbrough, Jr., at the General Board of Global Ministries convened jointly with St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. For each consultation, six worship services of the two traditions were planned. A music resource for all participants was prepared by Professor David Drillock of the St Vladimir’s faculty, Carlton Young, and Kimbrough. Young prepared some new compositions for the musical resource; for example, his version of the Phos Hilaron, “Jesus Christ the Gladdening Light.” When one consultation was convened at the Orthodox Ecumenical Center on the Island of Crete, the decision was made to prepare the Wesleyan services to be completely a cappella, the musical form for all Orthodox services.
At one of the consultations, Young also presented a lecture on the role of music in the Wesleyan tradition. He often commented on how the consultations reshaped his views of ecumenical dialogue and his vision of ecumenical conversation: music must be an essential element. A basic premise for the four consultations was to begin within each tradition and not from some ecumenical premise.
Sam, you will be missed, and we all feel blessed to have known you, worked with you, and even argued with you. You made us all better. Rest well, good and faithful servant.
Elise Eslinger (Director of Worship and Culture, General Board of Discipleship, 1978-1981)
The three years I spent on staff featured a rich delving into the production of hymnal supplements and new worship resources. Along with Songs of Zion, Celebremos 1 &2, and Hymns from the Four Winds, a primary engagement was editorial work with the committee for a Supplement to the Book of Hymns, led by Dr. Young. This “forerunner” to the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal included a broad sample of diverse hymns and gospel songs, and, uniquely, input from African American, Hispanic-American, and Asian-American supplemental projects funded by the Ethnic Minority Local Church quadrennial mission emphasis. Sam later told me that this material saved the 1989 Hymnal Committee eighteen months of work. I cherished that information. Sam became more and more engaged with global hymnody, working extensively with Global Praise projects in the course of this work. (Sam commented to me once that he was not sure there would ever be another Methodist hymnal, a sign of unity and common ground for the United Methodist Hymnal. The massive, challenging 1989 project nevertheless happened!)
Another important relationship with Sam came when he invited me to be the accompanist for the first Methodist Festival Choir in 1980 on its three-week tour of European countries. The Choir of 140 young people and chaperones was richly engaged with the history, liturgy, and culture of each site we visited --- two of the most moving visits being Coventry Cathedral, England, and the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. Sam’s intellectual curiosity and commitment to excellence and diverse musical repertoire---leading with both humor and a controlling hand---were important gifts to me and countless other students across the years, including my own two brothers. His was a challenging personality, but he will be long remembered for his monumental contributions. Alleluia.
David Bone, former Executive Director, The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts (1991-2021)
Much has been written about the legacy of Sam Young and his profound influence on the music of The United Methodist Church and beyond. At thirty years old, Sam was one of the founders of The Fellowship, and his devotion to that organization was unceasing. I have three personal treasures from his legacy, three compositions that will always be very special to me.
When I was in my thirties and directing a youth choir at the annual Church Music Workshop of the Florida Chapter of The Fellowship, I bravely called Sam to ask about his tune for the hymn "Star-Child." Before I knew it, he had written a full anthem for the workshop, dedicating it to me and the choir.
In 2017, I led an adult Sunday school class at West End United Methodist Church in Nashville, and Sam taught us for several sessions. Sam asked the class for a text they thought needed a new tune as an exercise in hymnody. The class suggested "Help Us Accept Each Other," and Sam wrote a beautiful new tune. I was incredibly moved when he named the tune "David"; I hope I live to see it in a hymnal someday.
But most intimately, when I married Arlen, he wrote a beautiful setting of "Set me as a seal upon your heart" as a wedding gift. He was so excited about attending his first (I believe) same-gender wedding, and he and Marge were honored guests seated alongside our parents.
Could he be confounding? Yes. Did one usually feel quite awed by his knowledge? Yes. But did he love and love generously? Most definitely, YES! Sam, thank you for all your gifts shared so freely with so many.