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Composers Michael Dennis Browne and Stephen Paulus.

Internationally renowned composer and alum Stephen Paulus (left) and U professor and poet Michael Dennis Browne wrote "Pilgrim's Hymn," which will be performed on June 11 at President Reagan's funeral.

Hymn by U prof and alum to be performed at funeral of President Reagan

By Patty Mattern

Published on June 10, 2004

A 90-voice chorus from all branches of the military will perform a hymn by University of Minnesota professor and poet Michael Dennis Browne and internationally renowned composer and alumnus Stephen Paulus for a world audience on Friday during the funeral for President Ronald Reagan.

In 1997, Paulus composed "Pilgrim's Hymn" and Browne wrote the text. The piece is the finale to Paulus' and Browne's one-act opera "The Three Hermits," which premiered in 1997. Critics say the hymn is a moving anthem that brings listeners to tears.

An Army conductor called Paulus earlier this week and asked that he Fed Ex 90 copies of the hymn to the military choir, Browne says.

The hymn is popular in its own right and has sold more than 60,000 copies worldwide, Browne says. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is among two dozen choirs that have recorded "Pilgrim's Hymn." Twin Cities audiences heard the hymn in October 2001 at "Elegy," a benefit concert at Orchestra Hall for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The hymn's inclusion in Reagan's funeral raises it to a new level. "For a poet who writes books and sells a few copies, this is serious," Browne says.

Browne and Paulus are deeply grateful to have their hymn used in this way. "It's honoring the passing of a fellow human being, a man who was once the most powerful in the world," Browne says. "To contribute to any eloquence of such an occasion is a great privilege."

To listen to "Pilgrim's Hymn," go to the Stephen Paulus Web site.

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