Dr. Carl Flentge Schalk is distinguished professor of music emeritus at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Illinois, and served Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, as assistant director of music from 1968 until 1997.
He was born in Des Plaines, Illinois, where his father was the fifth and sixth grade teacher at Immanual Lutheran School. Schalk went to Concordia High School and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Education in 1952 from Concordia University Chicago (then Concordia Teachers College) in River Forest, Illinois.
Schalk holds advanced degrees from the Eastman School of Music of the University of
Rochester in Rochester, New York (M. Mus.) and from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis,
Missouri (M.A.R.). He has received honorary degrees from Concordia University Nebraska in Seward (LL. D.), Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota (L.H.D.) and Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri (L.H.D.). He was named a Fellow of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada in 1992 and an honorary life member of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians in 1995. He was elected distinguished professor of music at Concordia University Chicago in 1993 by his faculty colleagues. In 1999 he received the prestigious Wittenberg Award from The Luther Institute, Washington, D.C., and in 2002 received the Distinguished Composer Award from the American Guild of Organists.
He served as lead consultant for “Celebrating the Musical Heritage of the Lutheran Church,” an interactive CD-ROM with five audio CDs distributed to Lutheran churches and schools published in 2002 by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Earlier in his career Schalk served as teacher and director of music at Zion Lutheran Church in Wausau, Wisconsin (1952-1958), and as director of music for the radio broadcasts of the International Lutheran Hour (1958-1965). He taught at Concordia University from 1965 until his retirement in 1994.
A lecturer and clinician at numerous church music workshops and pastoral conferences, Schalk was editor of Church Music magazine (1966–80), and served as a member of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, Hymn Music Committee, which prepared Lutheran Book of Worship (1978). He served on the Music Editorial Advisory Committee of Concordia Publishing House (1964–2003) and has served on various boards and committees of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, and the Lutheran Music Program.
It was during the preparation for the Worship Supplement (1969) that Schalk was asked to write a hymn tune to “Now the Silence,” text written by Jaroslav Vajda. The text has an unusual meter, creating a challenging musical opportunity. The hymn caught on and has appeared in many hymnals and was featured this past summer as a "theme hymn" throughout the national conference of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. Schalk and Vajda were often commissioned to write a hymn together. Vajda liked to write in unusual meters, and Schalk found the longer and more irregular patterns to be interesting. “It gave me room to do something musically with longer lines and longer hymns.”
Herb Brokering also provided texts and influenced Schalk’s work. Schalk says, “It’s a challenge to write something that is within the ability of a congregation to sing, but yet always stretching them a bit in what they can do. Congregations can sing beyond what they think they can do. I try to write keeping the congregation in mind.”
Schalk’s numerous choral compositions and hymn settings for congregational use -- published by Augsburg Fortress, Concordia Publishing House, MorningStar Music Publishers, GIA Publications, Hope Publishing Company, and Selah Publishing Company—are widely used in many denominations. His original hymn tunes and carols exceed 100 in number, many of which can be found in over 30 denominational hymnals in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and South East Asia.
Four CDs of Schalk’s choral music have been recorded as Sing Ye Choirs Exultant: The James Chorale Sings Music of Carl Schalk; Christ Be Our Seed: The Choral Tradition of Carl F. Schalk sung by the American Repertory Singers; Hymns of Grace recorded by the choirs of Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, Illinois; and Shine Like Stars recorded by the Kapelle of Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Illinois.
His publications include Music in Early Lutheranism: Shaping the Tradition (1524-1672)
(2001); the award-winning God’s Song in a New Land: Lutheran Hymnals in America (1995) and its companion Source Documents in American Lutheran Hymnody (1996); First Person Singular: Reflections on Worship, Liturgy, and Children (1998); The Praise of God in Song: An Introduction to Christian Hymnody for Congregational Study (1993); Luther on Music: Paradigms of Praise (1988); Key Words in Church Music (1978, rev. ed. 2004) and Handbook of Church Music (1978; rev. ed. 2004). He is the editor of the Concordia Book of American Carols and has prepared a Catalog of the Hymnals and Chorale Books of the Klinck Memorial Library at Concordia University Chicago. His numerous articles and reviews have appeared in Christian Century, Church History, Concordia Theological Monthly, CrossAccent, Pastoral Music, Currents in Theology and Mission, Journal of Religion, Lutheran Education, Notes, and The Hymn. Schalk has amassed one of the best collections of Lutheran hymnals in this country, both in the German and Scandinavian languages of recent immigrants as well as English.
During the years his daughter Jan Westrick taught at the Hong Kong International School, Carl and Noël often traveled to Asia. From there they were able to visit many parts of Southeast Asia including Angor Wat in Cambodia, Bali and Easter Island. They have also explored islands off Scotland tracing the Vikings, following routes to Greenland, Newfoundland to North America.
Schalk is married to Noël Donata Roeder. They have three children: Jan Marie Westrick (Gregg), Valparaiso, Indiana; Rebecca Nagel (Edward), Columbia, South Carolina; and Timothy Schalk (Ingrid), Knoxville, Tennessee.; and four grandchildren, Aaron Michael Schalk, Brian Paul and Peter Charles Westrick, and Samuel Nagel.