Bryan Beaumont Hays was born on December 10, 1920, on a farm near Clarksville, Tennessee. He died March 2, 2017 at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. His roots are very Southern, and he remained a Southerner even after 60 years as a monk at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota.
After having served in The Pacific during World War II, he returned to school and obtained a Master’s Degree in music compositions in the late 1940’s at The Chicago Musical College, now the music department of Roosevelt University in Chicago.
In 1949, Hays won the Gershwin Memorial Award for a short orchestral composition, Pastorale and Allegro. This piece was performed at Carnegie Hall during the annual Gershwin Memorial Concert.
During the summer of 1950, he was awarded scholarship to Tanglewood, where he was a student of Aaron Copland. In the fall of that year, two of his pieces were performed at a concert of contemporary music at McMillan Hall, Columbia University. In early 1951, Hays received the first of two Guggenheim Fellowships in music composition, and spent two years in Italy composing and listening to opera.
In 1957, Bryan entered St. John’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Collegeville, Minnesota. He has composed five operas, numerous art songs, choral music, and music for chamber ensembles. In 1995, some of his choral and organ music was performed at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis.
Due mainly to incipient blindness and deafness, Hays, at 95 had come to the end of his composing but still continued to work with his publisher, Alliance Publications, on the preparation of a treasure trove of contemporary choral scores for publication. Rich, meaningful sacred and secular texts inspired this significant American composer to write musical settings for choir a cappella, with organ or with brass accompaniment.