Lorayne Elisabeth Swartout Coombs
1919 - 1998
Lorayne Coombs, pianist, violinist, singer, and choir director, lived most of her life in California. She was associated with music at the White Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church for most of her life.
Lorayne was born in China, the daughter of Hubert O. and Daisy Butka Swartout, SDA missionaries in Shanghai at that time. Her father, who had been teaching at Mount Vernon College, now academy, in Ohio, had gone to the mission field with her mother in August 1916.
When the family returned to the U.S., he became a physician and a member of the staff at the College of Medical Evangelists, now Loma Linda University, in California. He authored The Modern Medical Counselor, a popular book published by the Pacific Press in the early 1940s, and served as chief public health officer of San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles counties.
Lorayne began formal music study on piano and violin at a young age. At age thirteen, she began singing in the White Memorial SDA church choir, the beginning of a musical relationship with that church that continued for over forty years. She directed the sanctuary choir for a number of years.
She attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, where she studied under Howard Swan, completing B.A. and M.A. degrees in music, with an emphasis in choral conducting. During her study, she wrote a six-part choral setting for God Be in My Head, a devotional prayer from an anonymous French source dated from 1490. Her setting, which then circulated in manuscript form, became a favorite with Adventist choirs around the world. It was adapted to four-part hymn harmony, retaining her chord progressions, and published for the first time as hymn no. 679 in the 1985 Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.
In 1938, Lorayn married Samuel Henry Coombs, who became a physician. They resided in California, where they raised their six children and spent their retirement. She died at age 79, shortly after their 60th wedding anniversary.
Source: Wayne H. Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988, 612; Social Security Death Index; The Coombs Family Album, an online resource.