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Klassen, John C. (1934–2016)

Proper Title

John C. Klassen fonds

Dates of Creation


Physical Description

10 cm of textual materials, 3 sound recordings, and 2 photographs

Biographical Sketch

John C. Klassen (GRANDMA ID: 469564) was born (June 25, 1934) and raised in the North Kildonan area of Winnipeg, Manitoba. His parents were Cornelius and Mary (Janzen) Klassen. John C. confirmed his Christian faith through baptism and joined the Mennonite Brethren (MB) church in North Kildonan. While a student at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute (MBCI), he met Bertha Pauls (GRANDMA ID: 242507). They were later married in the Elmwood MB Church (1958), which became their home congregation and where they were active in music ministry.

John and Bertha spent many years in the radio music ministry of Gospel Light Hour (later MB Communications, then Family Life Network, now Square One World Media). John trained as a school teacher and spent most of his 30-year teaching career in Winnipeg School Division schools, teaching instrumental music, mathematics, and computer programming.

A gifted musician, John played viola with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and double bass in various other orchestras. After retirement (1992), he and Bertha made several trips to teach music in Paraguay and Russia. John composed and arranged music in many genres, both choral and instrumental. He published several collections of music, including a German hymnal, songs for a Russian Bible camping program (Kingdom Ventures), a collection of instrumental arrangements of sacred music, as well as two volumes of Low German hymns.

While widely-recognized for his musical abilities, he was also remembered as a good listener, someone "who brought out the best in everyone he met." He passed away on June 16, 2016, just days before his 82nd birthday.

Custodial History

In 2017, Bertha Klassen donated her husband's music and memorabilia collection (song books, photos, brochures, compositions, vinyl recordings) for preservation and description at CMBS.

Scope and Content

The John C. Klassen fonds consists of compositions and publications (e.g., Russian Bible camp song books, choral and instrumental compositions, and Low German song books) he produced over his many years of music ministry, first with the Gospel Light Hour and then with other choirs, orchestras, and organizations. The fonds documents the assumptions, motivation, vision, and everyday life of one Mennonite orchestral musician, John C. Klassen, and the particular organizational culture of the Mennonite churches and the musical institutions in which he served.


  • Title based on contents of fonds.
  • Accession number: 2017-06.
  • Volume Nos.: 1525.
  • Finding aid consists of a description and a file/folder list.
  • See also images preserved at https://archives.mhsc.ca/index.php/klassen-john-c-1935
  • Description created by Jon Isaak, July 2022.
  • No restrictions to access.
  • Language: English, Russian, German, and Low German.

File List

Volume 1525

1. Obituary for John C. Klassen. -- 2016.
2. Two portrait photographs of John C. Klassen. -- 1972, [198-].
3. Book launch files for Klassen's Plautdietsche Eewanjeelische Leeda Buak 2 with presentation notes from a 2015 speech given at CMBS on "Why Plautdietsche?" where he explains the process he used to create Low German songbooks. -- 2014–2015.
4. Memorabilia: CD digitization of Mennonite Symphony Orchestra's recording of Handel's Messiah, two 33 1/3 rpm recording discs of the Gospel Light Hour Quartet, and the 20th anniversary brochure of the Gospel Light Hour. -- [1948?]–1967.
5. Three orchestral compositions: "Brotherly Gavotte," "Mennist Waltz," and "Great and Marvelous are Thy Works." -- [198-].
6. Russian language song book 1 made for Logos Christian Youth Camps. -- 1993.
7. Russian language song book 2 made for Kingdom Ventures, Christian Youth Camps of Russia. -- 1994.
8. Russian language song book 3 made for Kingdom Ventures, Christian Youth Camps of Russia. -- 1995.
9. Russian language song book 4 made for Kingdom Ventures, Christian Youth Camps of Russia. -- 1997.
10. Song book collection of hymns used by John & Bertha during their ministry trips to Paraguay and Brazil. -- [2002?].
11. Plautdietsche Eewanjeelische Leeda Buak 1 [Low German Evangelical Song book 1]. -- 2012.
12. Plautdietsche Eewanjeelische Leeda Buak 2 [Low German Evangelical Song book 2]. -- 2014.
13. Suite for Male Chorus and Orchestra by John C. Klassen, a large format bound composition book. [Note: located at the bottom of the volume box.] -- 1981.

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