Music Man: A look at Darwin Wolford, editor of the Latter-day Saint hymnbook - East Idaho News
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Music Man: A look at Darwin Wolford, editor of the Latter-day Saint hymnbook

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REXBURG – When praise is heaped upon him, Darwin Wolford gives it back to God.

“My talents are a gift that comes from heaven above,” says Wolford.

Darwin Wolford’s faith in God is evident in the music he composed. The 86-year-old Rexburg local is the oldest living contributor to the current hymnbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Published in 1985, Wolford is credited as the book’s chief music editor. His personal contributions to the book include two hymns he set to music, namely, “Sons of Michael, He Approaches” and “Listen to a Prophet’s Voice.”

Wolford was born and raised in Logan, Utah. Upon reaching adulthood, he was called by the church to serve a special mission for the Church’s General Music Committee.

“I traveled to over 200 stakes, teaching basic courses in organ playing and music directing,” Wolford says. “I taught classes in most of Utah, Idaho, Oregon, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and more.”

After completion of his service on the General Music Committee, Wolford obtained a bachelor’s degree in music from Utah State University and a master’s degree and doctorate in music composition and theory from the University of Utah.

“It was at the University of Utah that I was privileged to study under the great Alexander Schreiner,” says Wolford.

Schreiner served as the chief organist for the Tabernacle at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah for over 50 years.

Wolford says that when he got to second-year music theory, the class hosted 25 to 30 students. By the end of the semester, only three remained. Wolford was one of them.

“Schreiner recognized I had a passion for composing music. I believe it was a gift from heaven. Schreiner knew this,” says Wolford.

After completing his degrees, Wolford came to Rexburg in 1967 to teach music at Ricks College. He was hired to be the director of music studies. He retired in 2010 at the age of 74.

During his first year at Rick’s College, he would meet his wife of 53 years, Julie Lofgren.

“She was one of my students at the time. A young man from Louisiana insisted I take her on a date. I wasn’t so sure. But she knew she was going to marry me. By the third date, I knew I would never court another woman again,” he says.

Darwin and Julie were married in 1967 inside the Logan Utah Temple. They would have five children, their first dying at just four months old.

One of their sons, Andrew Wolford, says that his father always has a sense of humor.

“He makes the corniest jokes,” Andrew says. “He tends to recycle material. My mother tends to just roll her eyes at him. Her being introverted and him being extroverted tends to work really well for them.”

Wolford says Julie is an incredible singer and a finer wife and mother.

“She suffers from complications from scoliosis today, but she has always been my rock,” Wolford says, eyes filled with adoration, as he glances at a Del Parson portrait of Julie.

Over the years, Wolford has accomplished many things. He has written several music collections, including “Come, Rejoice!: Six Hymn Settings for Piano and Organ Duet.” He has edited a significant portion of the LDS Church’s Children’s Songbook and is credited with writing 12 musical selections that are included in the book. He was the organist for the dedication of the Rexburg Idaho Temple in 2008.

But if you asked him what his greatest accomplishment was, he would say it was being asked by the First Presidency of the LDS Church to create a revised version of “The Hosanna Anthem.”

“This anthem is sung at every temple dedication worldwide,” says Wolford. “In the ’80s, the brethren asked me to arrange and compose a simpler version of the anthem, one that could be sung by masses of people and a choir.”

Wolford’s arrangement is now heard by millions today worldwide.

Michael Moody says that Wolford is a very gifted musician.

“His accomplishments extend even beyond his contributions to the hymnbook,” Moody says. “He is a very conscientious man with a wry sense of humor.”

Moody served as the chairman of the General Music Committee from 1978 to 2006. He has enjoyed a close personal friendship with Wolford through years of service together.

“He was a great man to work with – an all-around talented musician,” Moody says.

Both Andrew and Moody say that he is quite the “punster.” saw this too, with one of Wolford’s asides being, “The reason an idea dies in someone’s head is because it can’t stand solitary confinement.”

Wolford says he is an optimist.

“We need to laugh more,” he says. “We need to laugh more and endure to the end, but endure happily.”

Despite the jokes, Wolford says he sees so much anger in society, but it’s his faith in God that gives him hope.

“People refuse to listen to each other these days. But it’s my faith in God that keeps me going,” he says.