She’s renowned throughout the Salvation Army world and beyond for her rich soprano voice. Yet there was a time when she couldn’t even talk, let alone sing.
Jude Gotrich has sung on four continents. Her full–throated singing projects energy that flows from her rich, exquisite soprano voice to the audience.
But there was a time when Jude couldn’t even talk, let alone sing. When she was 3 years old, a simple tonsillectomy brought complications that affected her larynx, and the surgeon told her parents that their daughter probably would go through life as a mute.
Despite earnest prayer for her, Jude uttered not a sound for three months. Then one day her mother, busy in the kitchen, heard the childish but melodic sounds of “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.”
“It was a miracle,” Jude says, “an absolute miracle.”
Judith Louise—the nickname “Jude” comes from the Beatles song—was the sixth of seven children born to Salvation Army officers William and Alice Hulteen. As a child, she was thoroughly surrounded by Salvation Army influences.
“My parents were corps officers [pastors],” Jude says, “so we were at the building before anyone else arrived, and we stayed until everyone else left.”
Often, the family home was in the corps building, so the chapel was downstairs. Jude remembers “playing church” there as a child. “My sister was the ’tenant [lieutenant], and I was the sinner who had to seek forgiveness at the Mercy Seat [altar].”
The day came when Jude went to the Mercy Seat for real.
“I remember distinctly,” she says. “I was 11 years old, and it was a blustery, snowy Sunday in New Jersey. Everything in town was closed because of the storm. But our family made its way to the corps in case anyone showed up. It was just our family and the door sergeant [greeter], Mr. Browning. My father led the meeting as if there were a huge crowd present. It was on that Sunday that the Holy Spirit spoke to me, and I gave my heart to Jesus.”
Music runs in the family
Jude comes from a family she describes as “incredibly musical.”
Her father, a baritone, landed a contract to sing for the Metropolitan Opera. When he entered the service during World War 2, he left with a promise that the contract would be waiting for him when he was mustered out. But while he was away, he felt a calling from God to give his life to full–time Christian service.
“So when the war ended,” Jude says, “instead of going to the Met in Manhattan, he went to the Army’s Training College for Officers in the Bronx.”
The first four children born into the family were boys, whom Jude calls “a perfect quartet with each of the voice parts covered.” The next three were girls, who formed their own trio, with Jude singing soprano. All the siblings played brass and string instruments; the eldest played tuba with the Boston Symphony during his college days.
As for Jude, her first solo was at a music camp competition when she was 11. She won! Two years later she attended the Star Lake Musicamp, an intense week of study for young Salvationist musicians.
“My voice was always a lot older, more mature, than my chronological age,” Jude says. “That year I was chosen to be a member of the Star Lake Chorus—extremely unusual for a first–year camper and for a youngster barely into her teens. That very much encouraged me.”
During her last year of high school, Jude’s parents were transferred from New Jersey to Boston.
“I was quite angry at the time,” Jude confesses, “but in retrospect it was the perfect thing. It allowed me to fulfill a childhood dream of attending the New England Conservatory of Music.
“I was only 16 and still in high school when I auditioned. I sang some scales, and I actually sang some Salvation Army songs. Bernard Barbeau believed my voice was mature enough, and that I had ‘it’—whatever ‘it’ is. He accepted me as his student.”
Jude’s first professional engagement as a soloist, at age 19, was a recital of art songs for the Daughters of the American Revolution, for which she received $200—a virtual king’s ransom. Many other recitals followed, including one at Harvard University. Awarded a Performance Certification by the conservatory, Jude was ready to launch a musical career. Or so she thought.
The next logical steps would have been to spend some time studying in Europe and then hire an agent. She did neither. She couldn’t afford to study abroad. And she felt an inner urging to trust God for her singing engagements.
God’s plans play out
Jude graduated with a B.A. in English and languages from Gordon College in Massachusetts, but she couldn’t find employment in the area. She decided to visit her brother in Minneapolis and test the job market there.
After a year of filling temporary jobs, she said to the Lord, “Father, it’s been nice living in the Midwest. The people are lovely. But I’m going to be bold and say, ‘If I’m to stay here, would you provide me a job in the music industry?’ ”
The following week she sang at an annual civic meeting of The Salvation Army. “I only sang ‘The Star–Spangled Banner’ and perhaps one other tune. Immediately afterward a man in a white turtleneck shirt and sportcoat came up to me and said, ‘I like the way you sing.’ ” Jude was barely listening until he said, “I’d like you to consider singing at my church.”
“My church” turned out to be the largest Lutheran congregation in North America, with 10,000 members. They had eight paid soloists and what Jude described as a “fantastic music program,” including six choirs and an orchestra.
“All I had to do was show up for rehearsal on Wednesdays and the four services on Sunday,” Jude said. “And it was the best–paying job I could have imagined. That was a real, obvious answer to prayer.”
God also had another plan for Jude: meeting the man who would become her husband.
Jude, of Norwegian heritage, was asked to sing in Swedish at a festival for 23,000 Swedish–Americans. To make sure her pronunciations were correct, she needed a native–born Swede as a coach. Jude’s brother John introduced her to Bert Gotrich. Like Jude, he was a child of Salvation Army officers, and they hit it off immediately.
During the period she was working for the Lutheran church, Jude would sing at the church, then hurry over to the Army corps for meetings there. When she married Bert, she decided it was only right that they should worship together, so she gave up her position and made the Army her home church.
‘Fill my calendar’
Under some duress from the corps officer (who happened to be her brother–in–law), Jude agreed to be the songster leader (choir director). At the first rehearsal, she discovered that the pianist didn’t read music!
“I decided that without the skills of a piano accompanist, I needed to teach the people how to sing a cappella, which meant I had to teach them how to sing,” Jude says. “So every week the first 15 minutes of rehearsal were voice lessons for the whole group.” The lessons worked. At a music congress in Chicago, one songster leader said admiringly, “You get more music out of your 20 than I get out of my 80.”
Jude has had many engagements as a singer. She has performed in operas, in professional chorales, and in oratorio societies. She sang backup for Perry Como and Andy Williams. She’s also sung on TV’s “Sesame Street” and done commercial jingles for radio.
But she feels most fulfilled when she sings for the Lord.
“What is etched on my heart is the fact that the Lord gave me a voice for a specific purpose, and ‘success’ for me is doing music where He wants it done. Through the years He has said to me, ‘Don’t worry how the world views you. I’ve placed you in venues where people can hear what I have to say to them.’
“And through the years I have said to Him, ‘Here’s my calendar. If You want to fill it, it’s yours. If it’s not filled, then I’ll know I’m supposed to go a different direction.’”
Music is a large part of Jude’s life, but she is not by any means a one–dimensional person. She loves to cook and write. She and Bert are avid hikers; they started a group called Trail Mix Ministries (Priority!, Spring 2011). The couple have two grown sons, one a teacher of special needs children and the other a music producer for NPR (National Public Radio).
One outstanding memory for Jude is her first appearance at London’s Royal Albert Hall. “I was really frightened out of my mind,” Jude recalls. “[Then–Captain] Len Ballantine had written a special arrangement of ‘Amazing Grace.’ As I always do before a performance, I read from Isaiah 61: ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to preach the good news …’ I read it again to get my spiritual feet on the ground. And when I went on stage, I felt like I was singing from my toes. I had a 500–voice songster brigade behind me, and the ISB [International Staff Band] as accompaniment. I really felt a laser alignment with the Father. As I was singing I felt that alignment. It was pure gold praise. I felt like the entire audience was worshiping with me.”
For several years Jude was Gospel Arts director for the USA Southern Territory. Five years ago she was appointed to head the Territorial Worship Development and Prayer Initiative for the territory. She frequently conducts seminars on worship and prayer for corps and for divisional and regional groups of soldiers and officers.
She still maintains a schedule of vocal engagements “as the Lord fills my calendar.”
Typically as each number ends and the audience shows its appreciation with applause, Jude gives the “Army salute,” right hand raised and index finger pointing Heavenward to say, “The glory belongs to God, not to me.”
Jude loves to sing, but she sings always as unto the Lord.