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Mikkel C. Thompson Papers
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Contains materials related to the career of Mikkel Thompson, including personal documents pertaining to his life as a pastor and his musical composition. Although a pastor, he also had an extreme love and passion for music, and music composition. Many of his compositions were written for the church, but he also wrote a number of pieces for his own pleasure that are not dated, nor, at this time, have any recognizable references. Also included here are musical selections he composed to various writers’ poetry, mainly Gertrud Schnackenberg whose father Walter Schnackenberg was a PLU history professor until his death in 1973.
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Mikkel Thompson was born June 6, 1948 in Southern Minnesota. He later resided in Tacoma, Washington, and attended Parkland grade school, then Keithly Jr. High, and finally graduated from Franklin Pierce High School. He went on to study at Pacific Lutheran University, where he graduated with majors in English, German, and Music.
He continued his education at the University of Iowa in 1972 where he received a Masters of Arts, with a concentration in musicology and choral conducting. It is here that he took an interest in early medieval music and composition. Finding his graduate school professors lives “too solitary and dull” he then went to Lutheran Theological Seminary. It was here he felt that “at seminary, it was like coming home—not a return to childhood, but to a maturing and challenging faith life which [he] stud[ied] to keep fresh” (from Box 1/File 1). In 1977 he gained his masters in Divinity. To end his education Thompson received his Doctorate of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary.
During his life, Thompson was known for having a love of traveling the world. His father owned a charter airplane business and would often take the family to various parts of the world. This active experience in traveling led Mikkel to one of his passions in life; that of Germany and the German language. During his junior year at Pacific Lutheran University, he traveled abroad to the German city of Hamburg to study.In his later life, following his time at PLU, he retuned to Germany every two years to attend the Kirchentag Church festival held in varying cities all over Germany. His attendance to this festival was one that he both cherished and looked forward to. He often kept in touch with a family in Hamburg with whom he stayed and became very close. There are letters in his file that show a close relationship with them. Before his death in 2002 he was able to attend his final Kirchentag festival after gaining permission from the Reverend Dr. David C. Wold, Bishop in 2001.
Thompson played in the Tacoma Youth Symphony Orchestra as a teenager, University Symphony Orchestra as a PLU student, and continued playing as location would allow. After being an interim pastor in a small town, he requested to be transferred to a city where there was an orchestra so that he could once again feed his need for music. Traveling, his faith, and his instruments were all things that nourished his life; however, there is one passion that he enjoyed more than the other three, that of musical composition.
Mikkel had a talent for composition that was unique and personal. He wrote a plethora of music to poetry by others, as well as to some poetry written by himself. In his writing it is so apparent that he had a love of the Romantic period and his compositions pour out with romantically driven melodies, and passionate chordal structure. Also obvious in some of his early manuscripts, is the inclusion of medieval compositional techniques. During his career as a pastor, he wrote many arrangements of the Lutheran Book of Worship, a setting entitled “Verses for the Church Year,” and a musical called “Abraham and Sons.” At one point in his career Mikkel was close to becoming a published composer as his “Verses for the Church Year” were continually being reviewed. This excitement however, proved to be a disappointment as he was denied publication. However crushing this may have been, Mikkel continued to be a man of faith and a musician of passion.
Mikkel Thompson passed away on January 15, 2002. He was beset with inherited muscular dystrophy during his life, which worsened towards the end. It was difficult for him to continue playing the piano and cello as this degenerative disease weakened his body. But nevertheless, he remained full of integrity and compassion. This is supported by a letter written to his close friends in Germany in which he explains his disease and insists that he must learn to ask for help. He dwells on this a little, and the letter finds him more concerned with his friends than of himself.