The musical topic most interesting to Lutheran composer John Ylvisaker is the reuse of traditional tunes. He notes that there is a strong tradition for tune-borrowing in Lutheranism, as Martin Luther was “real good at it.”
Ylvisaker, a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Waverly, Iowa, leads workshops and has written articles on the practice of borrowing melodies from bygone cultures and compositions. Despite that, it came as a surprise when, 15 years after writing “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry,” Ylvisaker learned he may have unknowingly borrowed the tune.
“We were at an anniversary celebration for some friends, and their kids had put together a video of their life,” he said. “There was some music in the back of it, and I thought, that’s ‘Borning Cry.’ But it was Duke Ellington’s ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’ .... It’s the same six notes that start ‘Borning Cry.’ ”
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