Father Henry Bryan Hays OSB, 96
Henry Bryan Hays was born on a farm near Clarksville, Tennessee, the son of Henry Bryan and Lucy Ellis (Beaumont) Hays, on December 10, 1920. Bryan, as he preferred to be called, grew up as a Methodist with a half-brother and two half-sisters. After graduating from Clarksville High School in 1939, he went to the Chicago Musical College. In 1943 he was drafted into the Army for three years. After his discharge in 1946, Bryan returned to college and earned a B.A. in 1948 and an M.A. in music composition in 1949.
In 1949, Bryan won the George Gershwin Award for a short orchestral composition, Pastorale and Allegro, performed at Carnegie Hall. Bryan later accepted a composition scholarship as a student of Aaron Copland; and in the fall of 1950, he was one of two composers featured in a concert at McMillan Hall, Columbia University, New York. In 1951, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Musical Composition and traveled to Italy for two years.
In Rome Bryan met the mystic priest Padre Pio who impressed him very much. Later he became fascinated with the life of monks through the writings of Thomas Merton and made a retreat at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, Merton's monastery. It was during this visit that he was overwhelmed with the desire to become a Catholic and a monk. He enrolled at Saint John's University in 1956 because of the reputation of the music department and its connection, through the Abbey, with the Liturgical Movement in the United States.
Bryan entered the novitiate of Saint John's Abbey in 1957, receiving the religious name Hippolytus (he resumed his baptismal name Bryan after the Second Vatican Council), and professed vows as a Benedictine monk on July 11, 1958. After his novitiate, Bryan continued his studies for the priesthood and was ordained on June 2, 1962. Bryan earned an M.A. in French from Laval University in Quebec, and taught French at Saint John's University (1965-72), and music (1974-79).
Bryan's musical compositions include numerous vocal solos, duets and trios; choral music; five operas (including The Little Match Girl 1978); oratorios (including Stations of the Cross 1981, 1993), instrumental ensembles (including the Grandma Moses Suites 1992-97), orchestrations, a CD Uncommon Daisies 1999, and a collection of over 200 hymns and Six English Epitaphs.
Father Bryan died peacefully on 2 March in the retirement center at Saint John's Abbey. He is survived by a half-brother and half-sister, nieces and nephew and the monastic community of Saint John's Abbey. The monks, family, and friends will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial for Father Bryan on 7 March at 3:30 pm in Saint John's Abbey and University Church with interment in Saint John's Cemetery following the service.
Published in St. Cloud Times on Mar. 6, 2017.