EDMOND—Dwight Armstrong Performing Arts Conservatory, the newest building on the campus of the Herbert W. Armstrong College campus in Edmond, Oklahoma, honored its namesake on November 17. This date marked the 33rd anniversary of Dwight Armstrong’s death and the occasion of a new portrait of the composer being installed in the lobby.
“It was always our intent to have a portrait of our building’s namesake adorning the entrance area, but art takes time,” said Armstrong College Music Director Ryan Malone. “I can’t think of a better way to honor Dwight Armstrong’s memory than to coordinate the installation and unveiling of this fine piece on this day.”
Born in 1904, Dwight Armstrong—the youngest brother of Herbert W. Armstrong—was a violinist, pianist and the composer most known for writing a majority of The Bible Hymnal published by the Worldwide Church of God and now used by the Philadelphia Church of God.
Philadelphia Church of God staff artist Gary Dorning painted the portrait over the course of a year of on-and-off work. Dorning frequently produces portraits of prominent world figures for the Philadelphia Trumpet magazine. He based his painting of Armstrong on a 1965 portrait, and adapted the image to the Church musician sitting at a piano.
According to the autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, his brother was one of about 100 people who attended his first evangelistic campaign in Harrisburg, Oregon, in late 1930. The younger Armstrong became one of four people who were baptized as a result of that meeting, the first four baptisms Mr. Armstrong conducted.
Dwight had shown a penchant for music from childhood—even after a debilitating bout of spinal meningitis at age 4 left some permanent damage. However, he pushed past any disabilities. His musical gifts were noticed particularly by his older brother. Herbert Armstrong explained in the introduction to The Bible Hymnal that in 1947, shortly after he founded Ambassador College, he employed his brother full-time in the effort to compose hymns suitable for singing in God’s Church. Dwight Armstrong spent about 27 years on this project—composing more than 100 four-part hymns. He was assisted by his wife, Karen, who took metered psalm-text and set or adapted these texts to her husband’s music.
The Bible Hymnal was published in its current form in 1974. Thereafter, until 1984, when the sickness that took his life made it impossible for him to walk to the piano, Dwight Armstrong continued to compose music.