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Thomas Richner: Organist, Pianist, Teacher, and Composer

I presented the following paper at the

Boston AGO convention in 2014:

Thomas Richner: Organist, Pianist, Teacher, and Composer

American Guild of Organists National Convention 

June 26, 2014    Boston, Mass.

Copyright 2014 © Neal Campbell

t-at-the-mother-church

1. Brief Introduction

Thomas Richner was not part of the “organ scene” of Boston musical life in the way that—say—George Faxon or Francis Snow were. Indeed, he never maintained a permanent residence in Boston, but rather commuted from his home on Long Island or his apartment in New Brunswick for his duties in Boston, where he had an apartment in the Prudential Center.

But from 1971-1993 he was the organist of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, The Mother Church, in Boston and in that capacity he was one of the most visible and best-known of Boston organists, and—indeed—of American organists in general.

Contributing to this was the fact that

a) he was already a well-known concert pianist and professor at Rutgers University,

b) The Mother Church, as the headquarters church of the denomination, was well-known, services were broadcast internationally, and it provided instant name recognition, and

c) the organ was already famous as the largest Aeolian-Skinner ever built.

2. Biographical Information

Born November 4, 1911 in Point Marion, PA, “where the Cheat River and the Monongahila River come together—that’s the point!” as Uncle T would say.

And, lest you think I’m being overly familiar in referring to Dr. Richner as Uncle T—believe me—to anyone who was in his presence for more than ten or fifteen minutes, Thomas Benjamin Richner was Uncle T at his own insistence.

There was not a lot of musical incentive growing up, but he did develop an early interest from local musicians and he eventually earned the B.Mus. degree from West Virginia University.

He found his way to New York to study with Dora Zaslavsky who, together with her husband—the famous painter John Koch, quickly became family to him. Later, he even lived across the street from them in Setauket, a lovely village on the north shore of Long Island, when they told him of a bungalow that was for sale. Uncle T was even represented in one of Koch’s paintings. It was Koch’s custom to use friends and colleagues as subjects in the paintings of his and Dora’s life together in New York.

koch-richner

“Summer Party” by John Koch. Tom Richner is depicted looking out the window next to the woman  gesturing outside.

Tom won the Naumburg Award in 1940, sharing the prize with pianist Abbey Simon, and violinist Harry Cykman—and his significant performing career was launched, including a debut recital in New York at Town Hall for which the reviewer in the New York Times declared that he was a “born Mozart player,” an appellation that stuck for life.

He earned masters and doctors degrees from Columbia University, where his dissertation titled Orientation for Interpreting Mozart’s Piano Sonatas was turned into a standard reference book of the era. He taught at Teachers College from 1946-68, and at Rutgers University from 1959-86.

During his early years in New York he converted to Christian Science, and for the rest of his life he remained a devoted follower, but he was never ridged, doctrinaire, or proselytizing about it. It was just a natural part of his life.

In the 1950s Tom became the organist of the Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, in New York, an influential branch church which inhabits the lower floors of a mid-town office building near Grand Central Terminal which had an old Skinner organ. It was rebuilt by Aeolian-Skinner in 1955 when he and G. Donald Harrison set about turning it into a deluxe instrument for playing services, as well as for repertoire, including double antiphonal expressive divisions which T used to great effect in the “tapers” at the conclusion of the hymns and other passive portions of the service. While retaining all of the solo and color stops of the old organ, it exhibits all of the classic hallmarks of Harrison’s post WW II organs—cohesive independent choruses on all manuals, and fully developed Positiv and Pedal divisions. It is truly a great organ desperately in need of restoration or relocation.

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Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, New York City

All of which brings up T’s organ playing and study. He was essentially self-taught. But he regularly went to the Sunday afternoon services at St. Bartholomew’s Church played by the legendary David McK. Williams, and T emulated much of Williams’ style in accompanying and service playing. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that DMcKW’s playing had the single most influential effect on T’s own organ playing. T talked about David and his playing until the end of his life—almost with tears in his eyes. He said it was that beautiful and he was that moved.

Tom later received the honorary D.Mus. from Colby College, where he directed the Richner-Strong Institute in the summers, and the honorary D.H.L. from Greenwood College in South Carolina. After his retirement from The Mother Church and Colby, he was Artist-in-Residence at Rollins College.

He died at his home in Worcester on July 11, 2008—at age 96.

1992-cc-nc-and-t-june

At his house organ in Setauket, Long Island, with Charles Callahan and me, Summer 1992

3. “Organist, Pianist, Teacher, Composer”

Since this is a gathering of organists, I titled this talk with T’s role as organist first. I really think that he could have had a significant career in any of these categories, but the realities of life are such that one aspect of one’s abilities usually eclipses others, even if the gifts are distributed evenly.

With that in mind, I’d say that in Tom’s career, in terms of capacity and influence, the correct order might be:

1. Pianist and Teacher—this was the centerpiece of his career, and that for which he was best-known, was most seriously trained, and started earliest, followed closely by

2. Organist, both at the two cardinal Christian Science churches mentioned, and as a touring concert organist. And only as a distant third . . .

3.   . . . is he remembered as a Composer.

But I do feel that in his small body of work he found a unique compositional voice that—had he devoted more time to it—would have yielded a style that was both approachable and lyrical, but also a challenging synthesis of expression within the mid-century school of American composition.
7:00 minutes

cc-uncle-t-at-tmc

With Charles Callahan at The Mother Church in Boston, 1990

4. Two Recordings of Solos for use in the Christian Science service.

Each were recorded, as was T’s custom, at regular Saturday rehearsals prior to Sunday services. The soloist is Esperanza Isman, who had a significant singing career. She later converted to Christian Science, eventually becoming a practicioner.

O Gentle presence well-known hymn by Mary Baker Eddy (6:15 minutes)

The Raising of Lazarus  Biblical dramatic account from  John 11 (6:19 minutes)

  TOTAL 20 minutes

nc-t-baron

With me and Charlie Callahan’s dog Baron, Orwell, Vermont, ca. 1993

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Roy Perry: Musician and Organ Builder

Copyright © 2013 Neal Campbell

at 1173 old console

Background

Were it not for the East Texas Pipe Organ Festival Roy Perry’s name might be relegated to a footnote among students and enthusiasts of Aeolian-Skinner history and folklore.  But what an enduring footnote it would have been, all the same.

A happy confluence of events led to the appointment of Lorenz Maycher to Roy Perry’s former Kilgore post in 2010, and it was his inspiration and vision that established this festival, honoring the life and work of Roy Perry and the Williams family of organbuilders from New Orleans, featuring five organs which Perry finished and had a hand in designing, and which the Williams installed and maintained for approximately 30 years. For the first festival in November 2011 I was asked to present a talk about Roy’s life together with remarks about the music associated with Opus 1173, and that is largely what is given here in narrative form, using many of the same photographs I used in the live talk.

Introduction

Roy Perry’s association with G. Donald Harrison and his role and presence in the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company during the years just prior to and following Harrison’s death was significant, and there are several reasons for this:

First, his own larger than life personality and musicianship yielded an impressive list of sales for the company.  And, it must be said, at that time Aeolian-Skinner was the preferred organ of most organists, even of those couldn’t afford it or could not wait for the three-year backlog of orders. Roy often said that the organs sold themselves: once prospective customers heard his home organ at First Presbyterian Church, Aeolian-Skinner’s Opus 1173 or it’s sister organ in the First Baptist Church in Longview, one opus number younger, they were hooked.

By his own reckoning he was responsible for about 25% of the company’s sales during his time with the company. Part of this was because he shared the sales territory commissions, as well as the work of installing and finishing organs, with the Williams.  For a fuller account of this, see Nora Williams’ Interview.  And it’s really impossible to appreciate and assess these organs without understanding the family like association between Roy and the Williams family which, for most of his career, consisted of father and son, T. J. “Jack” and J. C. “Jim” and their wives Sally and Nora. It was a real family enterprise. By the time I came to know Roy in 1972 Jack and Sally had died, but Jim and Nora continued the family business in taking care of these organs and many others throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

Left to right: Nora, Jim, Sally, and Jack Williams in the Kilgore organ ca. 1966.

Left to right: Nora, Jim, Sally, and Jack Williams in the Kilgore organ ca. 1966.

Second, the Perry sound. A few years ago a graduate student consulted with me about his proposed dissertation about Roy Perry; he wanted to see all of the organs with which Roy had been associated, taking measurements and obtaining empirical information in his attempt to identify the uniqueness of Roy’s organs (and I suppose to defend his findings before a panel of examiners)—a noble undertaking reminiscent of Donald Harrison’s first trip to Germany wielding calipers and other measuring tools in an attempt to gather definitive information which would enable him to replicate the sounds of Silberman et al.  But the real sign of GDH’s genius was in quickly giving that up in favor of just listening and absorbing the sound, ambiance, and ethos of these historic organs so that when he arrived back in America, he could incorporate what he had heard in creating his own instruments, which may have been informed by the past, but were uniquely modern.

Trying to quantify or define the uniqueness of Roy Perry’s organs presents a similar difficulty. In Donald Harrison’s own words, writing to Willis in England in 1955 about Roy Perry, he says

He is a top notch finisher and during my periodic visits to Texas I cannot remember a time when I have had to suggest that something might have been done a little differently. He just has that kind of organ sense.

Better than any other analysis, this explains how Roy’s organs bore the original stamp which is hard to miss by comparison with Aeolian-Skinner’s many other fine organs.

Lastly, his work as a practicing organist and church musician was well-known within the region of East Texas and was recorded for posterity in the Aeolian-Skinner King of Instruments series of recordings, many of which have been reissued in modern formats.  See Review of Aeolian-Skinner’s “King of Instruments” series of recordings, Volumes 1-3 remastered by VTOA | Neal Campbell–Words and Pictures.  These, and the few private recordings of Roy’s playing that exist, are tangible reminders of the color and personality which were imbued in his playing over his forty-plus years as a church organist. Also, Roy’s understanding of the physical attributes of the churches in this part of the country and his forthright dealings with his colleagues and clients also figured prominently in the effectiveness of his work.

Then, of course, there is the not inconsequential work he undertook with Jim Williams apart from the company in the later years of Aeolian-Skinner’s existence, most of which still exists.  His final statement and undoubtedly his most highly visible work was the renovation of the organ in Washington Cathedral from 1973-76.  This large-scale project was indigenously complicated and was a committee-driven project occasioned by the cathedral’s unique physical properties and its liturgical and logistical requirements, all of which was undertaken just as the Aeolian-Skinner company ceased operations.  Ostensibly designed by Joseph Whiteford, who oversaw the work from his home in California, he never made the trip to Washington to see either the work in progress or the final outcome. Roy’s official title was supervising architect and finisher, but in practical matters, he was the boss of the job.

Early Life  

The details of Roy’s early life are sketchy, at best.  He was born on September, 27, 1906 in Indian Bayou, Vermillion Parish, Louisiana, near Lake Charles. Most of what we know comes from an autobiographical piece Roy wrote himself as a mature adult titled Poor Bob’s Boy, the title of which refers to the fact that his father (Bob) died some time before Roy was born. He had an unstable home life. I’ve not been able to find out the circumstances of either his father’s death, or any biographical material about his mother or step father, except anecdotal suggestions that the step father drank too much and was abusive. It seems that as a boy Roy was passed around to be reared by assorted women of his extended family, notably his grandmother and particularly his Aunt Jenny, his father’s sister, who first recognized his ability. It was she who provided anything resembling a continuing family presence and he kept in touch with her and even visited her in July 1964. He did have a half-sister who lived in California whom he visited at least once as an adult.

In elementary school Roy had a music teacher, Mrs. Ora M. Reams, who came to his school once a week, teaching the elementary principles of solfège.  Roy was naturally bright,  possessed a keen intellect, absorbed everything around him, and grasped information quickly. In his mid-teens he was already self-sufficient and had jobs playing in a Jewish temple and a movie theatre near Lake Charles. At this point he did take some formal lessons with Mrs. Reames.  By the time he came to the attention of anyone in Kilgore, he was the organist of St. Cyprian’s Church and The Pines Theatre, each in Lufkin, some thirty miles south of Kilgore. And at some point he was confirmed in the Episcopal Church.

Oil Boom, the Crim Legacy, and the First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore

Roy’s coming to Kilgore in 1932 at age 26 was simultaneous with the East Texas oil boom and his own life was quickly intertwined, inextricably so, with the Crim family, the owners and beneficiaries of the largest tract of oil-producing acreage in what came to be known as the East Texas Oil Field.

In the organ chamber, 1939

In the organ chamber, 1939

Lou Della Crim, also known as Moma Della, was the matriarch of the family.  Her husband, William Robert Crim, had long since died by the time of the boom. The local history books tell of how Moma Della’s father, Captain John Martin Thompson, amassed a large lumbering enterprise in East Texas and it was his intent to bequeath the land to his sons. As John T. Crim tells the story:

When my grandfather decided to give his children their portion of his assets, he called them together and offered them gold dollars or the land. The boys decided they would take the gold dollars. Miss Lou Della, trying  to be helpful and please her father said ‘Oh, Papa, just give me the land for my part.’[1]

And it was on this land that oil was found, and in a big way!

A4.Lou Della Crim on her front porch 2

W. R. and Moma Della had four children: J. Malcolm, Pauline Florence (later, after her first husband died, Pauline MacIntosh) John Thompson Crim (later, John T., Sr. after the birth of his son; Roy, who had a nickname for everyone, called him Santa Claus), and Liggett, the youngest, who was always interested in things theatrical.

LN Crim and Knox LambEach of the Crim children was in various ways devoted to the newly incorporated town and their family church, the First Presbyterian Church. In 1931 Malcolm became the first mayor of Kilgore, and Liggett owned a chain of movie theaters in Kilgore and the surrounding area. Managing this chain of theatres was a man named Knox Lamb, who—in various ways as time went on—also made his living in and around the theatre, including a long period on the technical staff of Kilgore College.

The First Presbyterian Church of Kilgore had its beginnings in the mid-19th century in a settlement just south of present-day Kilgore called New Danville and was known as the Gum Spring Presbyterian Church. A circuitous series of events having to do with the expanding railroad and property belonging to Constantine Buckley (Buck) Kilgore led to the founding of a new town. At a meeting of the church congregation in 1874 it was voted to move the church four miles into the new town, using the name New Danville Presbyterian Church, commemorating its original location. By the end of 1885 they had built a new church at the corner of South and Rusk Streets in Kilgore. The Crims were devoted members of the church.

The Crim family.

Lou Della Crim, center, Malcolm Crim to her right, John T. Crim to her left, Leggett Crim to his left (in sun glasses), the Rev. Shirley Guthrie, far right.

In 1930 rumors began to surface about the possible presence of oil in the area. The speculative wells drilled on the Crim farm were not the first to come in, but when they did, in late 1931, they produced the largest share of what became known as the East Texas Oil field.  Moma Della was in church on the Sunday the wells on her property came in.

At this time the area surrounding Kilgore consisted largely of rural cotton-producing farms, all of which were caught in the grips of a devastating drought. No sooner had the oil wells come in than Malcolm Crim, owner-operator of a his family’s local general store, with whom everyone in town did business, declared that all debts were forgiven, and he invited his customers down to the store where he tore up their IOU papers into scraps and burned them saying “we’re wiping the slate clean, we’re even with everybody.” He knew what conditions were like for his fellow citizens and he knew immediately how the discovery of oil would change all of their situations for the better.  It was also an early example of the many similar charitable acts for the good of the community that the Crims performed in the following years.

The story of life in Kilgore in the earliest days of the oil boom is a fascinating tale beyond the scope of this article, but it is integral to the church story to recall that in May 1931 the East Texas Railroad Commission tried to control oil production and to ration amounts to be produced. Chaos ensued resulting in what was later known as the Great Oilfield War, which caused the governor to declare martial law. Oil which had been priced at $1.15 per barrel before the discovery, fluctuated afterward to as low as $.02 per barrel!

Downtown Kilgore at the height of the oil boom.

Downtown Kilgore at the height of the oil boom.

In the midst of this frenzy of events, an incendiary fire broke out in Kilgore—probably arson, though never proven—which destroyed the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches. The rumor that circulated was that it was disgruntled oilfield workers who had started the fire because they were angry that they had lost their jobs because of the ration order which shut down too many wells.

B4.one derrick

The new First Presbyterian Church, with one lone derrick in view, shortly after it was built at South and Rusk Streets.

In short order a new church in a modest Gothic style was built on the same site, which came to be known as the First Presbyterian Church. It was outfitted with a six stop organ built by Pilcher. It was to this church and this organ that Roy Perry came to Kilgore to be the organist and choirmaster in 1932.  The new church had no organist, and the story is told that Liggett Crim mentioned this casually to Knox Lamb, the manager of his chain of theaters, and it was Lamb who suggested to Crim that he consider the organist of his theater in Lufkin. Nora Williams tells the engaging story of waking Roy up in the middle of the night, more or less commanding him to go over to the Pines Theatre to “audition” for Liggett, only to find that the building was locked. So, Lamb just kicked the door in and then went in and we assume the audition was successful. Nora Williams Interview  So it was that Roy Perry moved to Kilgore, initially living with Liggett Crim and his wife Tincy Elder.  Beginning then and there, Roy’s life was closely linked to those of the extended Crim family for the rest of his life, and he ultimately was even buried in the family cemetery, Thompson Cemetery at Laird Hill, just outside of Kilgore. Roy immediately set out to make improvements and additions to the modest Pilcher organ, enlisting the assistance of Jack Williams whom he had known in Lufkin. Williams was an independent service man, but he did a lot of work for Möller, and he installed the new organ which Möller built around the small Pilcher. This was during the time the noted English voicer Richard Whitelegg was associated with the company, although it is uncertain that he had any influence on this relatively obscure job.

B9.McAmis at Kilgore flyerIn 1935 Roy established a recital series at the church on the new organ and brought noted organists to town, including Hugh McAmis, the civic organist of San Antonio, and a youthful Virgil Fox, then 23 years old. Virgil and Roy remained friends and Fox played and visited several times in Kilgore over the years.  Roy composed a piece titled Lamento for Fox’s 1936 debut in Carnegie Hall in New York, although the piece was not listed on the program.

Study in New York

The Crims financed Roy’s education in sending him to New York for two extended periods of time, where he went to study with Hugh McAmis, by then relocated to New York. I’ve not been able to ascertain precisely what connection led him to seek out McAmis, other than their previous association in Kilgore.  McAmis at the time would have been 36 years old, and tragically died in 1942 shortly after being drafted into the Army and reporting for basic training duty.

Notations in the printed music Roy used in his New York study indicate that he got a good overview of the basic repertoire of Bach, Widor, etc.  Roy’s handwritten notation also show his address as 160 West 73rd Street, the same building as McAmis’ apartment and studio.  Hugh McAmis Studio

Two other events of great significance also occurred during this New York interlude: Roy heard his first Aeolian-Skinner organ and he met David McK. Williams.  The organ in the Anglo-Catholic Church of St. Mary’s the Virgin was Aeolian-Skinner’s Opus 891. http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/StMaryVirgin.html Even though the organ was unfinished as it stood, it was uniquely positioned to exemplify the organ building revolution in America at the time. Combined with the spacious acoustic environment, its sophisticated music program (many of the organ works of Messiaen had the first performances in America at SMV), and its location in the heart of New York City, it seems natural that Roy would have visited it on his rounds through the city. He was known to have said “That’s the sound I want!”

David McK. Williams, the legendary organist of St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue, was at the height of his powers and was very popular and influential among organists in New York. Hugh McAmis was very proud of his friendship with David and the two of them and Roy socialized often. Roy’s accounts of some of their frolics are more reminiscent of the Jazz Age than of the lingering depression which gripped most of the country. But the one thing that David said which made a lasting impression on Roy was something to the effect of “how nice that you’ve come to New York to study with Hugh. But don’t stay here. Go back to your people and thrill them with your music, and one day I’ll come visit you.”  True to his word, David McK. Williams did come to Kilgore for a memorable visit.

David McK. Williams

David McK. Williams

McAmis was the organist of All Saints Church in Great Neck, a suburb of New York on the north shore of Long Island.  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is set in the fictional villages of East Egg and West Egg, and it is in this part of the so-called “gold coast” of Long Island where Great Neck is located.

McAmis composed a new piece titled Dreams and dedicated it to David McK. Williams.  Roy told the story of going out to Great Neck with David for the recital which included the new piece, which includes some very prominent single notes from the chimes of the organ.  David must have known the new piece, because just prior to its being played on the program he said in his well-known, inimitable, not-so-discrete stage whisper “This piece will have chimes!”  He then pantomimed the chimer pulling the ropes of the chimes at the appropriate places during McAmis’ performance, which apparently caused something of a scene.  Dreams continued to be popular in general and always held pride of place in Roy’s repertoire and on programs in Kilgore.

Hugh McAmis at the console of the Aeolian-Skinner organ in All Saints' Church, Great Neck, Long Island

Hugh McAmis at the console of the Aeolian-Skinner organ in All Saints’ Church, Great Neck, Long Island

Meanwhile, back in Kilgore, almost no plot of ground in town was left without an oil derrick pumping away at all hours of the day or night. The footprint of the new church was not immune from the boom and no fewer than five producing wells occupied the same earth as the church which weakened its foundations. Finally, the church proper was torn down, leaving the education building standing alone, where it functioned as an adjunct church facility and, later, a youth center well into the 1950s. Dave Garroway’s television program “Wide, Wide, World” even did a segment on the church in Texas that had been torn apart to make room for the rig in search of oil under its foundation.B11

And so it was that in October 1938 a portion of the congregation gathered at Main and Lawrence streets to break ground for yet another church building. In spite of the fact that the old church was but six or seven years old, it was not a particularly difficult decision to raze it and build anew, given the concentration of producing wells in the confines of downtown Kilgore.

A humorous story survives about the initial fundraising which gives us a clue to the slightly twisted humor of the minister, the Reverend Cecil Lang, and of Leggett Crim. Knowing that a gathering of men was scheduled for the purpose of raising what we would today call “leadership gifts” for the new church, Lang and Leggett had surreptitiously entered the room and wired a chair with electricity. As men gathered for the meeting, Leggett made sure that his oldest brother, Malcolm, was seated in that chair. As the Reverend Mr. Lang solemnly asked “Who’ll give the first ten thousand dollars for the building of the new church?” Leggett pushed the button releasing current to Malcolm’s chair. Malcolm, literally shocked, bolted straight up out of his chair. Lang thanked him graciously for his enthusiastic and generous contribution, and the meeting continued!

The Present Church 1939-1949

Proposal for the new church at Main and Lawrence Streets. The tower was not built.

Proposal for the new church. The tower was not built.

John T. Crim was the chairman of the committee which oversaw the design and construction of the new church, which is a fine representation of the Gothic spirit; there is even a rather elaborate rood screen separating the choir from the pulpit rostrum, a fairly unusual attribute of any protestant church, especially in this part of the country at that time. And its proportions and lack of artificial sound-absorbing materials, are perfect for organ and choral music, also something of a rarity for this time and place. It seems obvious that Roy Perry had a firm hand in this outcome, and as he told me the story in his typical hyperbole, you’d think that he had actually designed it! I imagine he was forceful and demanding in his requirements and he probably did show the committee and architect the historical precedents upon which construction was founded.  And as construction proceeded, it must have been an incongruous sight in boom town Kilgore.

C3.1939 Church under construction

Roy was drafted into the Army, but soon received a medical discharge. He was even listed in the honor roll of the men of First Presbyterian Church who were in the service of their country. Never in what would be described as robust health, Roy evidenced problems with his sight fairly early in his Kilgore days. He once had an automobile accident while borrowing Liggett Crim’s car: he said he simply didn’t see the other car and he never drove again. His eyesight was always a difficult issue.  He also developed in the mid-1950s the tremor that was to plague his playing and handwriting for the rest of his life, presumably from Parkinson’s disease, although that diagnosis has been disputed by some, so it’s hard to confirm just what was the cause of the tremor.

C2.1939 church building during construction

RP conducting the Kilgore Civic Chorus

RP conducting the Kilgore Civic Chorus

In 1945 following his discharge from the army, at the age of 39, he earned his Bachelor of Music degree at North Texas State university in a highly unusual arrangement for which the dean of the school of music, Wilfred Bain, was responsible.  Having completed a requisite amount of class work (mainly in summer sessions and transfer credits from Kilgore College), he completed credit for four years of applied organ study by examination in one afternoon! He later taught at North Texas State, at Evergreen—the summer music conference in Colorado sponsored by the Episcopal Church, and at local Presbyterian church and seminary conferences and American Guild of Organists classes. His surviving notes give an indication of a solid learning coupled with practical parochial advice, and a few hints at his outrageous humor. They also indicate something of Roy’s mature faith. A few excerpts follow:

Thus church music, like all music, is a matter of taste—and taste is simply a matter of experience.  For that reason we cannot approach the subject of church music objectively nor apply the standards which we know to be good until we have educated the taste, that is, widened the experience of our congregations; and to this slow and difficult process they offer the most strenuous and highly articulate objection.

***

I am not arguing that great music will make people religious; nor do I think that a performance of the B Minor Mass will deter a man from stealing chickens.  Music is an art, not an ethic.  But it is strangely true that the church’s contribution to the art of music has been greatest in those periods where the religious life of the church was at its highest vitality.  We shall not bring on the great return to religion by replacing a Palestrina motet for Pull for the Shore.  But we can strive when we offer up music before God’s altar (In the Old Testament sense, if you will) to make the offering the best it is humanly possible for us to get.

***

Have some positive ideal about your profession. Do not forget that you are working in a field that J. S. Bach and César Franck lifted to the pinnacle of greatness. Be constantly sharpening your tools and raising your sights. Keep in touch with the big people in your profession. When you get a vacation in New York, spend your Sundays in church instead of in bed with a hangover.

***

Now from the layman’s point of view, the most satisfactory definitions of religion are those which emphasize those elements which no wisdom can explain:

the mystery of the Godhead,

the divine ordering of the universe,

life after death,

and other queries before which reason and experience are helpless.

These things are in the realm of faith, and are felt rather than taught.  And it is exactly here, where the logic of human speech is helpless, that the imaginative factor in art and ritual and music is most eloquent.

***

Develop your sense of humor–and by a sense of humor, I do not mean a ready guffaw for parlor stories. I mean the ability to tell a big thing from a little one. Remember that the world is not bounded by the walls of your choirloft. Other people–your choir–have other things for the centers of their lives. Laugh a lot, and always hold out an ideal you cannot quite reach, work hard at your job, and you will be a perennially young institution in your church and community.

***

Special music services, if they are services should be planned with the same attention to unity and dignity as other services of the church.  The principal difference would be that in place of the sermon there is some important musical work around which all the other items center.  The minister should lead in such services, and certainly should be consulted about scriptures and prayers.

But if there is an out and out concert in your church—say a concert by a visiting choir, or an organ recitalist, place your minister in a comfortable pew and have him keep his seat.  The business of opening a concert performance with a word of prayer and closing it with a benediction is out of character, and in questionable taste.  People come to a concert to enjoy music, not to worship.  Casual and thoughtless invoking of God’s blessing on purely secular pleasures is essentially flippant and unwarranted.

***

Never, without an excellent excuse, turn down an invitation to the houses of your congregation or choir.  Choose your close friends to your own liking . . .  but do not forget that

a few flowers to a sick person,

a few minutes of your time spent in visiting a shut in old lady,

an inquiry about a new baby,

postcards to your choir while on vacation—

all these things will pay big dividends in your church’s acceptance of the program you are trying to put across.  A little thoughtfulness is a capital investment.

***

Introduction to a talk 8th District Texas Federation of Music Clubs in 1950:

I have been a Church Musician for 25 years.  I had rather live by this work than any other way I know.  I love the Church—although it is uphill work to love some of the people in it—and I believe that a musician can have no higher calling than to serve the Church, and through it, serve God and his fellow-man.

During World War II, beginning on June 27, 1942, it was the custom of the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Dr. Shirley Guthrie, to send at two-week intervals a newsletter to the soldiers from the church, which included words of inspiration and encouragement, as well as news from the church. In this day of instant email communication this doesn’t seem too daunting—perhaps even a lazy interval, but this Dr. Guthrie continued to do in hard copy format until August 22, 1945.  Roy and the music of the church were sometimes mentioned in his reports, two of which follow:

Roy Perry gave us some mighty fine music last Sunday afternoon at his first organ recital since returning from the Service. He played a group of request numbers that were simply beautiful.  January 2, 1943

I suppose that the big news as far as I am concerned is the fact that our Church is now paid for and dedicated. I wish each one of you could have been present on October 22 at our dedication service. The week before that we had gotten together enough money to pay off our indebtedness, and we all came together with grateful hearts for the blessings of God and for our beautiful church. You cannot have any idea . . . what a truly beautiful service we had. Roy and the choir brought us music such as they were not capable of bringing.   November 1, 1944[2]


Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1173 and G. Donald Harrison 1949-1956

D1When Aeolian-Skinner installed its Opus 912-A in the First Presbyterian Church in Houston, Roy had the occasion to meet G. Donald Harrison and to tell him about his desire to make some changes to the existing Möller organ in Kilgore.  But he was firm in his request that he have Jack Williams and his family install it. Harrison agreed to this as it was A-S’s practice to have local firms known to them install their organs throughout the country.  This was the beginning of Roy Perry’s relationship with Aeolian-Skinner which would last until the company ceased operations in 1972.

The organ was immediately successful, in spite of (or maybe because of!) the fact that considerable portions of the pipework and mechanical and structural portions of the Möller organ remained. However, the core of the organ bore all of the hallmarks of the inimitable Aeolian-Skinner sound: bold, yet cohesive, choruses and mixtures rich in harmonic development, and fiery chorus reeds, together with evocative imitative solo reeds and a variety of celestes and quiet foundation stops ranging from an impressive forte to a mere whisper.

Crowning the tonal development was the Trompette-en-Chamade under the chancel window.  In reality, the stop is one of the standard Aeolian-Skinner Trompette Harmonïque designs, just mounted horizontally and winded on moderate pressure. Even visually it is not particularly impressive out in the church, as it is somewhat obscured by the rood screen. But pictured close up against the stained glass window, it was an impressive icon of Aeolian-Skinner’s latest work, which they billed as the first example of a horizontal reed in America, predating their famous State Trumpet at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York by several years. It was featured prominently in the company’s sales materials and with articles in the trade journals.

D7

Perry's review of William Watkins' Kilgore recital.

Roy immediately began to showcase the organ in recitals, as he had done in the organ’s previous incarnations. Two of the first recitalists to play on the new organ were Catherine Crozier and the 28-year-old William Watkins. Watkins had recently won the first prize in a competition sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs which had been held in Dallas in 1949. At the time before any of the AGO competitions this was the most prestigious music competition an organist could enter; it was open to all instrumentalists and Watkins was the first organist to win. For his Kilgore recital the church was full and Roy Perry himself wrote the review that appeared in the Kilgore News Herald; it caused something of a rift in Perry’s friendship with Virgil Fox, who had played in Kilgore several times previously. Watkins’ use of it in his publicity also strained his friendship with Fox, his former teacher.

For more information on Watkins, see  https://nealfcampbell.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/obituary-william-watkins/

The King of Instruments Series of Recordings

In the early 1950s, shortly after the Kilgore organ was installed, Joseph S. Whiteford launched the “King of Instruments” series of recordings issued by Aeolian-Skinner, which were not only advertising tools for the company, but were an artistic undertaking of serious proportions, capturing the playing of the leading organists of the era on the company’s new instruments.  The Kilgore organ was featured prominently in the first two volumes, together with other recent new organs.

Volume I consisted of Harrison discussing the various stops of the modern organ together with several musical examples. Harrison sent a copy to Henry Willis III in England together with the following note dated October 19, 1955

Glad that you had another opportunity to try out the record.  The instruments used are as follows:

Symphony Hall, Boston, Mass., St. Paul’s Cathedral, Boston, Mass., Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York, First Presbyterian Church, Kilgore, Texas; First Unitarian Church, Boston, Mass. (This is Bill Zeuch’s job.)

The latter organ was used to demonstrate the romantic instrument in the second rendition of the last part of the St. Anne Fugue. There were several players used—Thomas Dunn did the examples played at Symphony Hall, Boston.  George Faxon, who was then organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston, did a major part of the examples played on that instrument and also the Trio Sonata which concludes the second side of the record.  Roy Perry played the examples at Kilgore.  There were just two of them: the opening to the reed section of the record where he used his Trompette-en-Chamade.  There is also an excerpt of the Flute Celeste played by him on the same organ.

[ed. also French Horn and English Horn in samples from Nuages of Debussy that never made it to the LP, but are restored on the VTOA CD remastering.]

Joe Whiteford played some of the examples, particularly those made at Saint John the Divine.  This included the last part of the B Minor Chorale of César Franck.[1]


[1] Callahan, Charles. The American Classic Organ: A History in Letters. Richmond: Organ Historical Society, 1990. 414.1173 King of Instruments

Volume 10, made several years later, featured Roy’s choir and organ of the First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore, together with the choir of Austin College, in an album of church music which, though fairly standard fare today, was largely unfamiliar at the time. Roy did all of the playing for the recording and generally directed the project, although the combined choirs were directed by college choir director, Robert Bedford.

The one solo organ work on the album, Bruce Simonds’ Prelude on Iam sol recedit igneous, which was particularly effective in presenting the quiet and imitative stops of the organ, and Roy was largely responsible for introducing this work to the American organ-playing public, in spite of the fact that it was written in 1928 and had previously been recorded by Catherine Crozier at the First Baptist Church in Longview. In my own listening to the individual recordings it is not clear to me who introduced the work to whom, but if I had to guess I’d say that Roy introduced the work to Crozier. Her performance on the Longview organ is similar in many ways to Roy’s recording at Kilgore, and is warmer and more luxuriantly paced than is typical of her playing, at least later in her career. On the other had, we know that Crozier was always passionate about new music and she certainly traveled a lot more than Roy, and in somewhat more exalted academic circles, so it is entirely possible that it was she who initially showed it to Roy.

1173 A-S vol XIn an example of ever-evolving tastes, David McK. Williams’ anthem In the Year that King Uzziah Died was at the time a very popular anthem which was in the music library (if not the active repertoire) of most church choirs in the country, but has passed out of fashion in recent years.  Its descriptive account of the text from Isaiah 6 and the orchestral accompaniment on the Kilgore organ made for a memorable performance, notably in the quasi-timpani effects of the 32’ Bombarde clusters under expression, which were quite a cause of wonderment. What the LP liner notes do not tell is that 32′ sound was courtesy of the Longview organ; Roy borrowed the lowest 12 pipes from it and temporarily set them up for the recording. Kilgore didn’t get its own 32′ reed until 1966.

Trip to England and France

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In 1955 Roy made a trip to England and France, his only trip abroad. On his passport for this trip he lists his occupation as Musician and Organ Builder, the occupation from which this article derives its title.  It’s a good overall description of how Roy viewed himself. Donald Harrison wrote on his behalf to Henry Willis III in England, saying

May 10, 1955

Dear Henry:

During this summer our representative in Texas, Mr. Roy Perry, will be visiting England with a friend of his and would naturally very much like to meet you and see some of your organs.  Also he would like some advice as to those instruments he should see generally in the middle and southern part of the country.

Roy Perry, or Perriola, as he is affectionately referred to in our organization, has supervised, with the aid of Jack Williams and his son, most of our important installations in Texas.  He is an accomplished organist and has a wonderful ear.  He is a top notch finisher and during my periodic visits to Texas I cannot remember a time when I have had to suggest that something might have been done a little differently.  He just has that kind of organ sense.

I think you will also enjoy him as a personality.  He knows some good southern stories and, by the way, he is an expert at southern hospitality.  I always look forward to my trips down to his neck of the woods as we have a glorious time just waiting for sundown to start on a little nourishment.

I would be particularly grateful for any courtesy you can show Perriola and with many thanks in advance.

As ever,

Don[1]

_______________

[1] Callahan, 398.

Donald Harrison also wrote a general letter of introduction for Roy to present to various local celebrities as he traveled through England and France–a typical courtesy of the era. Roy told the story of calling upon William McKie at Westminster Abbey and, as he was pulling GDH’s letter from his jacket pocket, Sir William gently pushed it away saying, “I know who you are; if it weren’t for our English policies, I would have one of your organs here in the Abbey.”  Whether he actually would have or not is open to conjecture, but the fact is known that McKie was kindly affectioned to American organists of that era, and certainly knew of Aeolian-Skinner’s work.

Post G. Donald Harrison: 1956-1972

Diapason obitThe death of G. Donald Harrison from a heart attack on the evening of  June 14, 1956 came as a shock, not only to the Aeolian-Skinner family of workers, but to the organ world in general, so greatly loved and respected was he. He was finishing his work on the new organ at St. Thomas Church in New York just weeks before the American Guild of Organists’ national convention and had to walk home in intense heat because he couldn’t find a taxi during a subway strike.  Harrison was heard to say that he considered the St. Thomas organ to be his masterpiece. Ernest Skinner, who was older than GDH by 23 years and outlived him by four years, was by this time openly hostile and vitriolic to the younger Harrison, especially so in the advertising of his own separate company and his letters to the editor in the trade journals.  Ever since being forced out of the company bearing his name, it had been a bitter pill for the older man to see his early successes one by one fall prey to advancing tonal ideals which were now favored by the leading organists of the day. St. Thomas Church, in particular, was one of Ernest Skinner’s favorite and most celebrated organs. For many years the Skinner company had an office and showroom across Fifth Avenue and Skinner and his friend T. Tertius Noble often entertained customers using the St. Thomas organ as a demonstration instrument. Harrison saw his new organ at St. Thomas to be his response to the verbal abuse which Skinner had dished out through the years, to which Harrison had never replied in print. For all of these reasons, the mystique surrounding Harrison’s death and his role as the figurehead of Aeolian-Skinner has been perpetuated, even to this day, quite apart from the organs he wrought.

Inevitably, Harrison’s death paved the way for Roy Perry to gain further prominence as he placed his own personal stamp on the body of work for which he was responsible. Upon Harrison’s death Joseph S. Whiteford was immediately appointed tonal director and chairman of the board of Aeolian-Skinner, so there was no crisis of leadership within the company, except for the fact that Whiteford was young, rich, and was seen by many of the older company employees (many of whom had been with the company for many years) as something of a Johnny-come-lately on  the scene. The work that came out of the factory at this time was of uniform quality, but varied greatly in their final tonal attributes, depending upon the local installation crew and finisher. This was particularly so in the case of the large four-manual organ in the new St. Mark’s Church (now Cathedral) in Shreveport, Louisiana, where Roy and the Williams took it upon themselves to make significant changes on the job. William Teague said in his talk at the 2011 East Texas Festival that Whiteford quipped, not entirely in jest, “it’s a Perry organ, not a Whiteford organ.” Nora Williams, in her interview referenced above, likewise tells of serious disagreements between Roy and Donald Gillett, Whiteford’s successor several years later. Roy, for his part, however, always gave credit to both men and their gifts and, while not afraid to offer suggestions and criticism boldly, he yielded to their authority, at least in principle.

Apart from the Kilgore and Longview organs, Roy Perry’s most compelling work was undertaken in the post-Harrison years of Aeolian-Skinner: Church of the Heavenly Rest, Abilene, Texas; Caruth Auditorium of Southern Methodist University (now in Saint Luke’s Church in Dallas); Temple Emanu-El, Dallas; First United Methodist Church in Houston; St. Mark’s, Beaumont, Texas; First Presbyterian Church (now Trinity-First Presbyterian), Laurel, Mississippi; and First Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee; and, of course, the Shreveport organ. Occasionally his work took him outside of his normal territory and it is known that he worked on company jobs at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, and Trinity Church in Upperville, Virginia.

In Kilgore he made some additions to the organ in First Presbyterian Church in 1966, notably the low 12 pipes of the 32′ Bombarde, his personal memorial to G. Donald Harrison. Also the exposed pipework flanking the chancel window and Trompette-en-Chamade, consisting of a mounted cornet with separate draws for the 8′ and 2′ ranks, and a third mixture in the Great division called Plein Jeu, which was designed to cap the full organ with sound from the flue chorus, contrasting to the Trompette-en-Chamade in the reed chorus.  This was one of his signature goals when he could accomplish it in larger organs: the choruses of either the reeds or the flues/mixtures could dominate the organ as desired, or they could each contribute to a thrilling full organ sound.  He also added a high pitched tierce mixture in the Swell which he called Carillon, for use as a special effect, particularly in episodic contrapuntal music. He also added in the Choir division a new and unusual celeste stop of tapered harmonic flutes called Harmonic Spitzflöte II.

At this time the console was updated with drawknobs and a new combination action, but still within the original Möller console. These additions were made possible through the contributions of the Crim family who had given and enhanced the organ from its humble beginnings to this point. The Crim’s had also given the chancel window when the church was built in 1939 which, together with the Trompette-en-Chamde, became an icon in the printed literature of both Aeolian-Skinner and of the church.

Frederick Swann and Roy Perry, 1967.

Frederick Swann and Roy Perry, 1966.

In 1967 Roy was feted on his 35th anniversary as Organist and Choirmaster of the First Presbyterian Church, including a recital by Frederick Swann, a testimonial dinner with gifts, and a commemorative plaque in the chancel presented by the Aeolian-Skinner company. In retrospect, for want of a story with a happy ending, once could wish that he had retired then at the top of his game, but he was only 61 years old.

RP with the Rev. Dr. Shirley C. Guthrie, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, at his 35th anniversary celebration.

RP with the Rev. Dr. Shirley C. Guthrie, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, at his 35th anniversary celebration.

Post First Presbyterian Church and Post Aeolian-Skinner: 1972-1978

The demise of the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company may have caused Roy and the Williams some sentimental angst, but they probably had seen the handwriting on the wall; by this time they had built several organs on their own. Aeolian-Skinner’s fortunes had been hanging in the balance for some years. One can cite with reasonable accuracy and authority a combination of factors for the company’s inexorable fall from its once dominant place in the organ building field, including post-World War II inflation, the death of Harrison, growing interest in historical organs (for example, the Organ Historical Society was founded in 1956), and careless business practices.

One of the ideas tossed about, with some seriousness, in Aeolian-Skinner’s end game was a plan hatched by none other than Martin Wick, president of the Wicks Organ Company. It was Wick’s idea to buy Aeolian-Skinner and bring it to Longview, Texas, with Roy Perry as the tonal director.  Martin said he had no trouble with the idea of building Cadillacs in one factory and Chevrolets in another! But, if I remember the story correctly as Roy told me, Wick couldn’t get his board of directors to agree with him.

However, Roy’s unhappy separation from the church in 1972 was a devastating personal trauma which, in varying degrees, caused him pain for the rest of his life.  Like so many talented workers in the church with unusually long tenures, the very attributes that contribute to an effectiveness over a long period of time, became, in a fairly short period of time, a negative force in the climate of inevitable change. The precise series of events leading to this denouement may never be known and are really irrelevant in terms of Roy’s legacy, except to complete the poignant narrative. A talented novelist could, in all likelihood, have taken the cast of characters and circumstances as given at this confluence of events in post-oil boom, small town Kilgore, and made a compelling page turner fit for night time television without altering any of the facts.

Almost simultaneous with his leaving the church came the opportunity to do what Roy considered his greatest work. Writing in March 1973 to Frances Anderson, his former student, choirmember, and occasional substitute organist Roy said  “I have just about got a come-and-go job spread over four years as supervising architect for the rebuilding of the Great Organ in Washington (D. C.) Cathedral. That is a pretty high-keyed swan song.” And again in May of that year “. . . so music is gone for me, but . . . people are still willing to buy my brains. I go to Washington day after tomorrow.”

For a detailed account of Perry’s work at Washington Cathedral, see Roy Perry, Paul Callaway, and the Washington Cathedral Organ | Neal Campbell–Words and Pictures.

I met Roy Perry in June 1972 when I was a finalist at the National Organ Playing Competition held in conjunction with the AGO national convention held that year in Dallas. My teacher was William Watkins, and he wanted me to meet Roy and to see the organ in the First Presbyterian Church, which was his favorite and on which he had played and recorded shortly after its installation. At the time I did not know of the impending talks with Washington Cathedral, but when I did learn that Roy would be coming to the city where I lived, worked, and studied, his trips were given priority in my calendar, and I cleared the way to meet him at the airport, run errands for him, and introduce him to my friends and invite him to come to some of my services. I also had many opportunities to sit in silence as he and Aeolian-Skinner’s former head voicer John Hendricksen went through the painstakingly patient process of finishing the many ranks of new pipework for the cathedral organ. I also had the opportunity to visit a few of his friends who made their way to Washington to see him and his work at the cathedral, including Joseph Bramlette for whom Roy and Jim Williams had just completed a house organ in Malibu, California.

Roy Perry on the first page of the Style section of The Washington Post, July 4, 1976.

Roy Perry and the cathedral organ on the first page of the Style section of The Washington Post, July 4, 1976.

I left Washington in 1976 just as the work at the Cathedral was complete. By this time Roy had made something of a name for himself as a consultant and potential organ designer, and various offers and inquiries came his way, both in Washington and beyond. His last work was designing and finishing some additions to the Aeolian-Skinner organ in the Church of the Epiphany in downtown Washington, where my good friend Charles Callahan was then the organist. I kept in touch with Roy via telephone and letters, and through Charlie, who had the occasion to see him frequently. Increasingly the reports of his health were not good, his various afflictions worsened, complications from diabetes escalated, and his behavior became more erratic, approaching that of dementia.

I was soon to see for myself something of the nature of this disturbing series of events. Undeterred, however, I had arranged for him to survey the Aeolian-Skinner organ in St. George’s-by-the-River Episcopal Church in Rumson, New Jersey, where I was organist. The organ, while very effective, had never been completed and it was my thought that Roy and his cathedral consortium, which he humorously referred to as Organbuilders Anonymous, might complete the organ.

I forget the exact sequence of crossed signals surrounding his visit, except that I had been given the flight number for his plane which was to arrive at Newark Airport. When I arrived at the gate I was told that the flight number he had quoted me was for a flight to LaGuardia Airport in New York.  This being the days before cell phones or hand-held email devices to confirm such details, I simply got in my rickety Volkswagen and drove from EWR  through the Holland Tunnel, through Manhattan, and out to LGA.  No Roy on any flight there, either.  So I called the secretary at St. George’s saying I had been delayed, only to be told that a Mr. Perry was waiting for me in the chancel of the church.  His flight did arrive in Newark, but was indeed assigned a different number from that which he quoted me.  So, back home I went, across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, through Staten Island, the Outerbridge Crossing, down the Garden State Parkway, to the church, now several hours later than I had planned, where—sure enough—he was at the organ.  That was enough of a snag for one day, but I only learned later, from various sources, what had actually transpired during the morning while I was driving all over Monmouth and Essex counties in New Jersey, and the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.

When I didn’t show at EWR, Roy had confidently hailed a limousine for the only good-sized hotel near Rumson anyone could find for him, the Molly Pitcher Inn in Red Bank.   When he got there, he inquired for a room, but they told him they had nothing.  He pressed a little, invoked the name of St. George’s-by-the-River, said he was only there on business for the night, so they gave him an unused staff room—fine.

He got to his room, unpacked, called the church leaving a message for me when I called in, and decided to freshen up.  So, he undressed and got in the shower—no soap.  Traveling light, he didn’t have a robe, but he did have a Washington Cathedral stone carver’s apron in long gray canvass with the Cathedral’s iconic Jerusalem cross embroidered in episcopal purple on the front which a stone carver from the Cathedral had given him.  Foolishly (but this was Roy!) he slipped it on, and went out into the hall to find some soap and some slightly disoriented, non-English speaking women saw him naked from the back and shrieked in horror.  God only knows what he said to her, but the house security detail forced him to leave the premises immediately.

As he strode indignantly through the lobby with his belongings to find a cab to the church, he yelled at the top of his voice to no one in particular, thinking he was quoting the namesake of the hotel, Molly Pitcher,  “shoot this old gray head if you must, but spare our country’s flag, she said.”  To which some mousey anonymous tourist sitting on a suitcase said, “wasn’t Molly Pitcher said that, it was Barbara Fritchie!” Exeunt omnes!  It’s a tragic, yet humorously noble scene, and though containing obvious overtones of instability, it still causes me to laugh, even as I write this!

Shortly before this time there came to Kilgore a new organist of First Presbyterian Church named Stephen Farrow who reached out to Roy, effecting a time of calm and healing in Roy’s life which in the best of schemes might have evolved into a happy golden era. Sadly, this was not to be as Roy died by his own hand on Saturday, May 27, 1978.

The Crim’s, taking the role of his next of kin, served as his pallbearers and made arrangements to have him laid to rest in their ancestral cemetery just outside of town. For his funeral in the First Presbyterian Church, where he served for forty years, Stephen Farrow played the organ, and the Rev. Dr. Shirley Guthrie, by now the pastor emeritus, presided. Later, the church placed a plaque at the foot of his grave, in addition to the actual marker, which gives the years of his service to the church, concluding with the quotation Dr. Guthrie had used at his 35th anniversary celebration, which is as good a summary of his life as any I can think of: “His Music Enriched Our Lives.”

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[1] Pirtle, Caleb III, and Terry Stembridge. Echoes From Forgotten Streets: Memories of Kilgore Texas, Oil Capital of America, 65. Dallas: Dockery House Publishing. ISBN 1 879 234 56 4

[2] Pirtle, Caleb III. Holding Forth The Word of Life: The Legacy of the First Presbyterian Church of Kilgore, 79, 84. Kilgore, Texas: by the church, 2000.

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Honoring Judith Hancock: 2004 and 2012

In the spring of 2004 two of the happiest events of my professional career occurred within about six weeks of each other–the second a direct result of the first.

To celebrate the completion of a two-year restoration of the fine Aeolian-Skinner organ in St. Stephen’s Church in Richmond, Va., where I served from 1985-2006, we organized a weekend of events featuring Judith and Gerre Hancock, Charles Callahan, and Steve Emery.  On Friday evening Judith was presented in a full length recital  which was co-sponsored by the local chapter of the A.G.O.  Saturday was given over to masterclasses and workshops led by Judith and Gerre on pieces and improvisation topics relevent to the current A.G.O. examinations.  Charlie Callahan  talked about G. Donald Harrison and Aeolian-Skinner, and Steve spoke about the organ’s restoration and took workshop registrants through the organ.

Gerre Hancock, Richard Newman (who played in the masterclass), and Charles Callahan at St. Stephen’s, Richmond, Va., March 2004

On Sunday morning, Gerre directed the choir and played the organ, and Steve led interested parishioners on tours through the organ between services.  In the afternoon, an open rehearsal was followed by a big Evensong, for which Gerre directed and Charlie accompanied, which combined St. Stephen’s Choir, and  the choirs of St. Catherine’s and St. Christopher’s Schools–two diocesan schools whose campuses are adjacent to the church which were led by my colleagues Greg Vick and Nick Stephenson.  The repertoire included Gerre’s Responses, Charlie’s Harvard Service, and concluded with all of the choirs singing Parry’s cantata-length anthem Hear my words, ye people.  Folk in my choir were excited to be singing music by living composers in their presence! The afternoon concluded with one of Gerre’s signature symphony improvisations, the themes for each of the movements drawn from prominent themes  from the service.

A month or so before these events, at Charlie Callahan’s instigation, I had been added to the board of trustees of St. Dunstan’s College of Sacred Music in Providence, Rhode Island.  And so it was that late that Sunday evening after we had all been to dinner, Charlie said to me that he thought it would be fitting if the College awarded an honorary doctorate to Judith.  The Hancocks were soon to be leaving New York where they had served at St. Thomas Church since 1971, and Gerre already had several honorary degrees, and Charlie and I thought this was a fitting climax to our celebratory weekend.  But we kept these thoughts to ourselves for a few days.

Later that following week, I called Gerre and laid our plan out to him and he thought it was “just WON-derful!  Judith will be so pleased.”  I then suggested that I knew the ideal time to do this: the first Sunday in May.   The recital following Evensong that day was to be the Hancocks farewell recital at St. Thomas Church.   It was also the opening event of the church’s annual choirmasters’ conference and was to be followed by a gala reception sponsored by the American Guild of Organists honoring Gerre, and many from the A.G.O. national council and other visitors were to be present.  So it was agreed that at an appropriate interval during the recital I would make the presentation.  But Gerre insisted that it be kept a secret from Judy.  He wanted it to be a surprise for dramatic effect; I had practical reasons in mind!  Since this scheme was cooked up in haste, I couldn’t arrange to be away from Richmond for the Sunday morning service and Charlie was not available to be in New York that afternoon.  In short order Charlie had the diploma made up and I ordered a doctoral hood from Collegiate Cap and Gown.  Not knowing whether or not St. Dunstan’s College had a color scheme for academic regalia, I just ordered the colors of Manhattan School of Music, which they had on file.

Now, in order for me to make it up to New York following my own morning service in time for the Evensong recital-presentation, I had to make some intricate logistical arrangements at each end of the trip, and Gerre and I knew that the success of the endeavor was predicated on each piece of my travel puzzle flowing seamlessly without snags.  So we had the understanding that if I showed up in New York that afternoon, we would proceed with the plan; if not, we would do it another time.

Over the years I have made the trip between Richmond and New York many times, in all modes of transportation, land and air, and the time taken for the journey ranged from a low of a couple of hours to a 24-hour-overnight trek.  I gave this enterprise about a 50-50 chance.  But fate was on my side that day, and I knocked on the door of Gerre’s office after Evensong, collected the academic hood Collegiate Cap and Gown had drop shipped to the church, and took my place in the chancel with my other colleagues on the council.  Someone observed me toting this hood and  I simply said “don’t ask.”

There were other speeches and presentations made at the mid-point interval in the recital, of which mine was last.  As Judy told me the story later, she said she was at the console preparing for the next number and was only slightly aware of these speakers droning on, and she assumed that Gerre was receiving yet another honorary degree, and only when she began to be aware of feminine pronouns in my citation did she catch on to what was happening!  Following is the complete citation:

Photo by Tony Thurman, Development Director of the A.G.O. who organized the gala reception following the recital.

I am here this afternoon in my capacity as a trustee of Saint Dunstan’s College of Sacred Music in Providence, Rhode Island.

The college was founded in 1928 and chartered by the legislature of the State of Rhode Island in 1930 as a degree granting institution for the study of sacred music operating under the “rules of the Episcopal Church” to quote the first catalog.  Among its initial leadership was John Nicholas Brown whose idea it was for the college to function in connection with Brown University in providing courses of study leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees in sacred music studies.  It was housed in property on Benefit Street adjacent to the Cathedral Church of St. John, and its initial faculty and board was made up of leading musicians and clergy, some of whose names are still familiar today: Canon Winfred Douglas, David McK. Williams, Hugh Ross, Wallace Goodrich, Hollis Grant, and E. Power Biggs.

The vicissitudes of the Depression and World War II altered the scope of the college’s fortunes and function over the years and for many years it served as an east coast counterpart to the Evergreen conference in Colorado, with which Canon Douglas was also affiliated, and offered a certificate granting summer course of study in Providence and, later, Newport.  It also continued to publish books and music for the church, and served in an advisory capacity to churches and dioceses throughout the church.

Its activities over the years also included honoring outstanding musicians in the service of the church with the honorary degree, Doctor of Sacred Music.

This afternoon the trustees are proud to recognize a colleague who has served this parish church, the greater church, and the entire sacred music profession through her outstanding achievement as a complete church musician, especially in her role as a master accompanist to the comprehensive choral repertoire offered by the St. Thomas Choir, and through her untiring devotion to and love of the organ repertoire, and especially for her offerings of the great literature for the organ within the liturgies of the church.

Therefore, at the most recent meeting of the trustees of St. Dunstan’s College of Sacred Music, it was resolved to confer the degree Doctor of Sacred Music, honoris causa, to Judith Hancock, and we offer to her this diploma and hood as symbols of that degree, and as tokens of our affection and esteem.


Given the second day of May 2004, being the
Fourth Sunday of Easter, and the eve of
The Feast of Saints Philip and James
in Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York

Dr. Judith Hancock and her husband, Dr. Gerre Hancock, at the reception in Andrew Hall, St. Thomas Church, following their farewell recital, May 2, 2004.

Fast forward to 2012: Gerre Hancock, one of the founders of the Association of Anglican Musicians, died on January 21.  For the AAM annual conference in Philadelphia in June it was decided to honor his memory by including many of his compositions in the conference programs, and by asking Judith to play and to be present for the conference.  I was honored to be invited to introduce her at the opening banquet before she made her own remarks, and this is what I said:

The invitation to say a few words about the Hancocks this evening sent me to my files, where I found the printed order for the first service I attended at St. Thomas Church:

I was in college and it was over Christmas/semester break during the Hancocks’ first season at St. Thomas.  It was a weekday Evensong right after Epiphany, and the anthem was Sowerby’s Now there lightens upon us a holy daybreak.

Remembering from the distance of forty years, two things are still vivid:

1) The choir sounded very good—much the same in style and sound as it always has sounded and still does—obviously inspired by and molded in the English Cathedral tradition.

and . . .

2) . . . the choir was directed by Judith Hancock, the associate organist of St. Thomas Church, and wife of the new organist and master of choristers, Gerre Hancock.

Gerre was off concertizing someplace and Judith was left in command.  So my first fan letter to St. Thomas was to Mrs. Hancock, and I still cherish her written reply, which I also found in my file.

It is this pattern of family collaboration, yet individual artistry and professionalism established at the outset of their careers, that I want to recall and honor tonight.

St. Thomas being the obvious centerpiece of the Hancocks’ careers, it is easy to forget that they had a life before New York—but they did, and it was a good life!

Gerre was in charge of the music at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati—the cathedral church of the Diocese of Southern Ohio—was on the artist faculty of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music—and had already established himself as a successful concert organist, touring under the auspices of the Lilian Murtagh concert management since 1964.

In Cincinnati Judith directed the music and played the organ at her own church and they had two very young children—Deborah and Lisa.  They were not all that eager to move.  And, to be honest, St. Thomas at that time was not the obvious career move one would assume today.

But . . . once in New York it was a partnership of shared work right from the start, as evidenced by the weekday Evensong I attended that first visit.  And . . . while there was no doubt that Gerre was in charge, Judith was apt to often be at the helm in this, their highly visible position at the crossroads of the world, at Fifth Avenue and Fifth-third Street.

And . . . not just at the church.  I had just moved to Philadelphia and was present for Evensong and a concert by the St. Thomas Choir during the Third International Congress of Organists in the summer of 1977, right over at the Church of St. Francis de Sales in West Philadelphia (and at Girard College)—on that occasion Judith lead the choir and Wes McAfee played the organ.  It was immediately after Gerre’s first heart by-pass surgery, and he was in the congregation, but had not fully recovered to be able to conduct.  It was the first time I had ever heard of this medical procedure, and it seemed to me at the time that it was experimental surgery.  And Father John Andrew, in announcing Gerre’s presence, made it sound as if he’d been brought back from the dead, and we all clapped and cheered!  But it was Judith who led the music, as she would after his second similar operation many years later.

Judith’s own concert and teaching career also began to blossom: she also concertized under the banner of Karen McFarlane’s newly minted Murtagh-McFarlane management, and we all became accustomed to seeing both Gerre’s and Judith’s pictures on the back of The Diapason and The American Organist each month.

While she did all this with lots of grace and loving, wifely support, she was not incapable of sustaining her own pride of place while she was at it.  I’m sure I’m not the only one here to have heard her say in his presence:

“but Gerre, I have to practice; I play real music!”

As if to corroborate this, the Rector in his sermon at Gerre’s Requiem even said

you know, although Father Andrew and I certainly remember Judith at the console practicing, we can’t recall [ever] seeing Gerre there for that purpose!   

And I’ll never forget a scene at one of the early Choirmasters’ Conferences—back in the days when Judith was the sole associate organist and did all of the accompanying.

Other than emcee the event and visit with all of us, there really wasn’t a whole lot for Gerre to actually do, and during the rehearsal for some lengthy psalm or anthem, Judith was playing and Gerre was hovering.  The 32’ Bourdon was on and Gerre must have thought it was too much, so he reached over and took it off—while Judith continued to play!  Well—within the time span of a sixteenth rest Judy had that 32 back on, and it stayed on until she took it off!

(And, by the way, how many of us could have withstood the scrutiny of not only our musical programs, but our domestic lives played out to human view displayed the way the Hancocks did at these annual events!)

In 2004 as the Hancocks were leaving New York for the University of Texas, Judith was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Sacred Music, the citation of which reads in part, that she is recognized as

a colleague who has served the entire sacred music profession through her outstanding achievement as a complete church musician:

. . . especially in her role as a master accompanist . . . her untiring devotion to and love of the organ repertoire . . . and . . . for her offerings of the great literature for the organ within the liturgies of the church.

          That’s as true now as then, and to it I can only add that I know there are students at the University of Texas who salute her for her continuing work as an inspiring teacher and mentor.

There is another female organ personality out there who is unofficially styled as “The First Lady of the Organ,” but—Judith, to me you will always be the First Lady of the Organ, and you are the undisputed First Lady of this Association, and it gladdens our hearts to have you here with us as we give thanks .  .  .  for your rich career as artist and teacher,  for your extraordinary role as wife and colleague of our beloved Uncle Gerre,  and especially as a cherished friend to all of us!

Judith Hancock address the AAM conference opening banquet, Philadelphia, June 18, 2012.

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New York Organists from the Past

One of my most enjoyable volunteer jobs was that of newsletter editor for the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists from 2009-2015.  Beginning with my first issue each month included a page titled “Members from the Past” where I placed an archival image of a NYC organist and asked the membership to identify it.  The following month I would list the names of the members who correctly identified the mystery member, together with brief identifying commentary.  I tried to include a balance of living and deceased persons.  Occasionally I also included Members from the Past in tandem with notifications of chapter programs featuring the mystery member, or birthday commemorations, or some other AGO newsworthy item.

Included here are only New York organists who have died, and in some cases I suspect their inclusion may, in fact, be their only presence on the internet and its related search engines.

These are not meant to be definitive encyclopedia types of entries.  In some instances exact dates of birth and death are not known.  Rather, they are thumbnail sketches and reminescences for the edification and amusement of our member readers.  However, each entry was proof read by several of our chapter editorial board, and is accurate so far as our collective memories can ascertain.  In a couple of instances entries are written by chapter members other than myself in which case the author is clearly identified.

One of the hoped for benefits of this enterprise has been commentary and questions from within and without our organization, and these sketchs have been edited to include commentary from our members and others, and I would welcome similar commentary here, whether in the form of additional information, clarification, or (I hope not too often) correction.  Complete issues of the newsletters are archived at   http://www.nycago.org/html/newsletter.html

Jack H. Ossewaarde (1918-2004)

The photo of Jack Ossewaarde at the console of the organ in Calvary Church was scanned from the March 1951 issue of The Diapason together with an article about a program at Calvary Church featuring the music of Henry Wellington Greatorex, a 19th century organist of Calvary.  Jack went to Calvary in 1948 (following Harold Friedell when HF went to St. Bartholomew’s) and he stayed there until he left for Houston in 1953 to be Organist and Choirmaster of Christ Church Cathedral and organist and program annotator of the Houston Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stowkowski.

When Friedell died in 1958, the Rev. Terence J. Finlay, Rector of St. Bartholomew’s, called Ossewaarde to succeed Friedell again, and he stayed at St. Bartholomew’s for 24 years until he retired in 1982. He lived in Stamford, Conn., and was the conductor of the Greenwich Choral Society for several years early in his New York tenure. In his retirement he substituted for several local churches, including Christ’s Church in Rye, New York, and Saint Luke’s Parish in Darien, Conn., and assisted senior citizens in the preparation of their income tax returns.

Jessie Craig Adam

The photo appeared in the June 1932 issue of The Diapason together with an article describing the music program and new organ at Church of the Ascension where she was Organist and Music Director.

Jessie Craig Adam succeeded Richard Henry Warren at Ascension in 1914 and was followed by Vernon de Tar in 1939. She was one of several women who held prominent positions in New York churches during the first half of the 20th century. She was responsible for a large program that included weekly oratorios and the installation of the sizable Skinner Organ, portions of which remain in the present Holtkamp organ.

Robert S. Baker (1916-2005)

The photo was taken in 1939 on a Hammond organ at Interlochen summer music camp in Michigan.  Dr. Baker was a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and earned Master’s and Doctor’s degrees from the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary, studying with Clarence Dickinson.  He was at various times organist of the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Temple Emanu-El in New York, and First Presbyterian Church in New York. He was the founding Director, in 1973, of the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University. Prior to that he was the Dean of the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary from 1961-73. He was an early proponent of the Hammond organ and wrote his Master’s thesis at Union in 1940 on its evolution and technical properties.

Norman Coke-Jephcott (1893-1962)

Dr. Coke-Jephcott was born in England, and won the Turpin Prize when he gained the F.R.C.O. in 1911. He also held F.A.G.O., F.R.C.C.O., and F.T.C.L. diplomas, and was awarded an honorary D.Mus. from Ripon College in 1945.

He came to the United States in 1911 to be the organist of the Church of the Holy Cross in Kingston, New York, leaving there in 1915 to take up a position at Church of the Messiah in Rhinebeck. He served there until he became organist of Grace Church in Utica in 1923, staying there until he was called to New York to be Organist and Master of the Choristers at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in 1932. He retired from the cathedral in 1953, but stayed in New York, teaching privately and playing at St. Philip’s Church in Harlem. For many years he was on the National Examinations Committee of the AGO.

This photo was taken in the late 1950s at Coke-Jephcott’s home “Blue Gates” in upstate New York by the late Charles Hizette, a pupil of “Cokey” and is provided through the courtesy of Earle Grover.

Roberta Bitgood (1908–2007)

The photograph appeared in the June 1932 issue of The Diapason announcing her new position at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Miss Bitgood graduated from Connecticut College where she studied with J. Lawrence Erb before coming to New York to study at the Guilmant Organ School as a student of William C. Carl. She earned the A.A.G.O. and F.A.G.O. certificates while a student at the Guilmant School. Later, she earned the S.M.M. and S.M.D. degrees at Union Theological Seminary School of Sacred Music. While in New York she assisted Dr. Carl at First Presbyterian Church in New York directing the junior choir and the mixed glee club and playing for the Sunday School and weekday noon hour services. Later she was the director of music at First Moravian Church in New York where she was introduced to the musical heritage of that denomination and ultimately wrote her UTS thesis on Moravian Music.

After leaving the metropolitan area Dr. Bitgood held positions in Buffalo, New York; Riverside, California; and Bay City, Michigan, and traveled extensively on behalf of the Guild in various positions she held. In 1975 Roberta Bitgood made AGO history as the first woman and the first write-in candidate to be elected president. She was a prolific composer and her anthems and solos are still well represented in the repertorie of churches around the coutnry.

In her “retirement” Roberta moved home to Connecticut and served as dean of the New London County AGO Chapter and as organist and choir director of the Waterford United Presbyterian Church.

Andrew Tietjen (1910-1953)

Andrew Tietjen in the churchyard of Trinity Church. Photo courtesy of Yolande Tietjen Fitz-Gerald, Rowayton, Connecticut.

Tietjen was a legendary organist and choirmaster in his own time who died prematurely young from complications of a misdiagnosed disease contracted while serving in World War II. At the time of his death he was the associate organist of Trinity Church Wall Street, and was the founding director of the Trinity Choir of St. Paul’s Chapel, a choir formed in 1947 specifically for weekly Sunday broadcasts on CBS from St. Paul’s Chapel. Before World War II he played a series of Sunday morning organ recitals broadcast weekly on CBS from Chapel of the Intercession for which he was selected from among several organists, including E. Power Biggs, who auditioned for the job. Young Andrew began his career as a choirboy and pupil of T. Tertius Noble at St. Thomas Church and Choir School, where he assumed the duties of assistant organist at the age of 15, and was playing preludes, postludes, and weddings before that. He was generally considered one of Noble’s most brilliant pupils, together with Paul Callaway and Grover Oberle. Tietjen later went on to serve at St. Thomas Chapel (now All Saints Church),  All Angels Church, Chapel of the Intercession, and Trinity Church-St. Paul’s Chapel. At Trinity-St. Paul’s he played four recitals weekly–two at Trinity and two at St Paul’s, in addition to the weekly broadcast. As was common at the time, he held no academic degrees, but earned the FAGO and FTCL certificates. He studied at Trinty School and Columbia University, where Daniel Gregory Mason arranged for him to audit his classes.

Charlotte Garden

Remembered only by a few today, Charlotte Garden was one of America’s most famous recitalists and teachers in the 1950s and ’60s. As a teacher at the Union Theological Seminary School of Sacred Music she had a huge impact on students. In his “Dear Diary” article in the May 2010 issue of The Diapason Charles Huddleston Heaton tells of his pligrimages to her church, Crescent Avenue Presbyterian in Plainfield, N. J., a church of cathedral proportions and an organ to match. The photo above, which was scanned from the 1956 NYC AGO National Convention booklet, shows Dr. Garden at the console of the church’s Richard Whitelegg/M. P. Moller organ.

At her recital in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for the 1956 convention she played the first performance of Alec Wyton’s Fanfare for the State Trumpet which was written for the occasion. The work was later published by H. W. Gray and titled simply Fanfare and is inscribed “To G. Donald Harrison, who created the State Trumpet.” GDH later said that it was the only piece ever dedicated to him.

At the age of 53 Charlotte Garden died in an automobile accident on May 19, 1961.  She was a passenger in the car driven by the tenor soloist of her church who survived.  They were en route to a concert at the Bethlehem Bach Festival.  Robert Baker played for her funeral at Crescent Avenue where she had been organist for over 30 years.

Born Charlotte Mathewson in Hartford, she spent her youth in North Carolina, where she became a church organist at age 11, and Richmond, Virginia (where her sister Mary Ann Gray is still alive and playing for church) .  She was a graduate of Salem College and Union Theological Seminary School of Sacred Music where she studied with Clarence Dickinson.  She also studied with Widor in Paris and Ramin in Leipzig.  She held an honorary doctorate from the College of the Ozarks.  She was the first woman admitted to the Bernard LaBerge management, and she concertized and taught extensively.  As a composer and arranger many of her works were widely used at the time.  She was also a consultant for the new organ at Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center.

James Morris Helfenstein (1865-1953)

Organist and Master of the Choir of Grace Church from 1894-1922, Helfenstein was the founder of the church’s Choir of Men and Boys and was the founding Headmaster of the Grace Church Choir School. This was the first choir school in New York and was the prototype for those established later at St. Thomas Church and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

Helfenstein had an unlikely background for a church musician. A member of a prominent New York family which descended from Gouverneur Morris (one of the foremost statesmen of the American Revolution who was also in the Continental Congress and Minister to France) he graduated from Yale and Columbia University Law School and held a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. But he was always passionate about church music and frequently traveled to England to observe cathedral and academic choirs there. He came to Grace Church having previously established a similar choir at All Angels Church.

In 1922 in a serious dispute with a member of the vestry of Grace Church over the running of the choir school, he resigned suddenly, and subsequently became Organist and Choirmaster of the Church of the Heavenly Rest.

The  NYC Chapter’s annual Presidents’ Day Conference in February 2011, held at St. Bartholomew’s Church, was titled “The Grand Old Men” and it consisted of presentations on the lives and music of Clarence Dickinson, Harold Friedell, Seth Bingham, and T. Tertius Noble, each prominent New York organists and composers in the first half of the 20th Century.  In the months leading up to the conference, as a way of promotion, I ran photos and very brief commentary on each of them, leaving substantive information for the individual presentations on Presidents’ Day.

Clarence Dickinson ( 1873- 1969)

Of course we know Dickinson as one of the founding members of the AGO, the founder of the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary, and the organist of the Brick Church for over fifty years. The photo at right is from 1920, scanned from The American Organist.  Dickinson’s life and music was discussed by Lorenz Maycher and his comprehensive handout containing several historic photographs is available at the link below: http://www.nycago.org/pdf/110221_Dickinson_Maycher.pdf

Harold Friedell (1905-1958)

The photograph shows HF in his early 20s from a newspaper notice of an upcoming recital at the First Methodist Church in Jamaica, Queens, his family church where he was organist in his teens.   My handout, consisting of a biographical time line, bibliography and sources, discography, and catalog of Friedell’s complete works may be found at the link below, and my article written on the occasion of HF’s 100th anniversary is contained elsewhere on this site: http://www.nycago.org/pdf/110221_Friedell_Campbell.pdf

Seth Bingham  (1882-1972)

Bingham was the organist of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church and he taught at Columbia University.  Christopher Marks’talk focused solely on the organ works of Seth Bingham, and his handout, which included not only a complete list of Bingham’s organ works, but the persons to whom each work is dedicated, provides a snapshot into the lines of continuity in the organ community of the day.  It may be found at the link below: http://www.nycago.org/pdf/110221_Bingham_Marks.pdf

T. Tertius Noble (1867-1953)

The final of the four grand old men to be discussed was T. Tertius Noble, the founder of the St. Thomas Choir School, and organist of St. Thomas Church.  It was led by John Scott, Dr. Noble’s successor three times removed.  John’s talk was based primarily on Noble’s unpublished autiobiography contained in the AGO Organ Library at Boston University http://www.organlibrary.org/  However, from the archives of St. Thomas Church, Dr. Scott unearthed several fascinating letters to and from Noble from some of the leading figures in church music of the day from his native England.  The ones used for the lecture may be found at the link below: http://www.nycago.org/pdf/110221_Noble_Scott.pdf

The Presidents’ Day Conference concluded with Evensong sung by the Choir of St. Bartholomew’s Church directed by William Trafka, accompanied by Paolo Bordignon, featuring the music of these four New York organist-composers.

Participants in the NYC AGO Presidents’ Day Conference 2011 on the Chancel steps with the Choir of St. Bartholomew’s Church. Photo by Steve Lawson.

Lilian Carpenter (1889-1973)

Rollin Smith, one of the chapter members who correctly identified Miss Carpenter provided the following biographical sketch:

Lilian Carpenter was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 10, 1889. Coming to New York, she studied with Gaston Dethier at the Institute of Musical Art and was the first to graduate with an artist diploma in organ. She was his assistant, teaching organ and piano at the Institute for 30 years; the school eventually became the Juilliard School and once Vernon de Tar got in as organ teacher by default (both David McK. Williams and E. Power Biggs were hired but never showed up), he eased her out.

Lilian Carpenter was the first woman to earn the F.A.G.O. diploma and was always active in the Guild, including serving as national treasurer. She was organist of the Church of the Comforter-Reformed; Flatbush Presbyterian; and Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn and, at the time of her death, Edgehill Church in Riverdale. She died on February 21, 1973.

Arthur Sewall Hyde

Hyde was the organist of St. Bartholomew’s Church from 1908-1920, studied with Widor in Paris, and came to St. Bartholomew’s from Emmanuel Church in Boston where he served with the Rev. Leighton Parks, before Parks was called to St. Bartholomew’s. It was Parks who, upon assuming the Rectorship of St. Bartholomew’s, went to England looking for an organist, someone not too British as legend has it. It’s never been fully explained why Parks was looking in England if he didn’t want someone too British! But he found what he was looking for in Leopold Stokowski who came to America as the organist of St. Bartholomew’s from 1905-08. Following Stokowski’s brief and colorful tenure, it seems Dr. Parks looked to someone familiar in calling his old Boston organist to join him in New York.

Hyde was greatly loved by the choir and congregation. He volunteered for service in World War I, but when he returned he never fully recovered from the strain and injuries he sustained, and his death in 1920 was lamented by all. A concert was given in his memory, the proceeds of which were used to install chimes in the organ. A large tablet above the lectern reads:

The Chimes in this Organ

Are the Gift of the Choir

In Memory of Arthur Sewall Hyde

Organist and Choirmaster 1908 – 1920

Artist   Soldier   Christian

M. Searle Wright

Within hours of posting Searle Wright’s  photographas the Member from the Past, many chapter members correctly identified this icon of our profession.  This early photo of Wright is courtesy of Andrew Kotylo, associate organist of Trinity-on-the-Green in New Haven, who has researched the life and works of Searle Wright for his Doctor of Music dissertation at Indiana University and he provided the following synopsis:

Searle Wright (1918-2004) was Director of Chapel Music at St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University from 1952 until 1971. Wright’s residency in New York began in 1936 when he became a “resident pupil” of T. Tertius Noble at St. Thomas Church. Almost instantly, he began a close connection with the local AGO, first through the now-defunct Headquarters Chapter and then as a founding member of the New York City Chapter in 1951. One might be hard-pressed to find someone who contributed as much in serving the Guild as Wright did during his New York years. As a member of the National Council, he held tenures as Secretary, Librarian, and finally as President; served on countless committees and panels; and co-originated the National Playing Competition and encouraged the development of the Improvisation Competition.

The festival concerts that Wright conducted at St. Paul’s Chapel were truly legendary. Three times each year, he would present comprehensive programs featuring the latest choral and instrumental works of Vaughan Williams, Holst, Dello Joio, and others–several of which were American, if not world premieres. Wright’s international renown was also spread through his fine sacred choral and organ compositions, his long tenure as a teacher of improvisation and composition at Union Seminary, and his uncanny versatility as an organist which earned him equal respect from his theatre and classical organist colleagues–and also enabled him to build bridges of understanding between these two camps who had formerly looked upon each other with disdain. In spite of his wide-ranging successes, Wright forever remained the epitome of kindness and humility, and with his refined wit and manner of dress, was a class act and true gentleman.

Philip James (1890-1975)

Philip James, at work on the score of “Fanfare and Ceremonial” for band. Photographed by B. Perry, Aug 16, 1955, Francestown, New Hampshire. From “A Catalog of the Music Works of Philip James” comp. Helga James, 1981.

James was born in Jersey City, N. J., and was educated in New York public schools and at the College of the City of New York. His teachers include J. Warren Andrews, Alexandre Guilmant and Joseph Bonnet in organ and Rubin Goldmark and Rosario Scalero in composition. He was the organist for several churches in New York and New Jersey (St. John’s Jersey City: St. Luke’s Montclair; St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowerie. NYC) but he is primarily remembered as a composer, conductor, and teacher at Columbia University and New York University, where he was head of the music department. He appeared as guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, and the NBC and CBS orchestras. He was the music director of radio station WOR, and was the regular conductor of the New Jersey Orchestra, Brooklyn Orchestral Society, and was the music director of theatrical productions by Winthrop Ames and Victor Herbert. In 1932 he won the $5,000 First Prize of the National Broadcasting Orchestral Awards for Station WGZBX, an orchestral suite, which was performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski. The following year he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He was also a member of the Century Association and the MacDowell Colony. His anthem By the waters of Babylon, a dramatic setting of Psalm 137 was at one time de rigeur in the repertoire of most church choirs and it was recorded and performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. On May 17, 1970, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin marked the occasion of his 80th birthday with a recital of his works played by Rollin Smith and the choir sang his Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, Come Holy Spirit, and O Saving Victim at Evensong and Benediction directed by James Palsgrove with McNeil Robinson as organist.

Marie Schumacher (1923-1979)

Marie Schumacher was a student and disciple of Ernest White whom she also assisted during his celebrated tenure at the Church of St Mary the Virgin.  She later married the Rev. Frederick William Blatz (1910-1962), an Episcopal clergyman, and served at St. Paul’s Church in Westfield, New Jersey, and at churches in upstate New York and Washington, D. C., where she oversaw the installation of organs designed by Ernest White in his unique style. She also studied with Virgil Fox at the Peabody Conservatory.

The photo at the right was published in March 1949 issue of T. Scott Buhrman’s The American Organist (no relation to the present AGO magazine of the same name) with a caption in his inimitable curmudgeonly style:

“Marie Schumacher, whose ability, not to mention also courage, has placed her on the organbench of that highest of high churches in spite of the unwritten ecclesiastical law that tries to exclude women from these holy precincts–and she holds her own with the best of them all.”

David McK. Williams (1887-1978)

David McK. Williams in his Canadian Army uniform in 1920.

David McKinley Williams was born in Wales he came to Denver at an early age and was trained as a chorister by Henry Housley at the Cathedral of St. John in the Wilderness. At age 13 he became organsit and choirmaster of St. Peter’s Church in Denver. In 1908 he came to New York as organist of Grace Church Chapel and studied with Clement Gale. He spent the years from 1911 to 1914 in Paris where he studied with Vierne, D’Indy, and Widor. Returning to New York, he was at the Church of the Holy Communion from 1914 to 1916, when he joined the Canadian Artillery and saw service overseas. In 1920 he returned to Church of the Holy Communion, leaving six months later to become organist and choirmaster of St. Bartholomew’s Church upon the death of Arthur Hyde. There, for the next twenty-seven years, he developed an already outstanding program into one of tremendous popularity and superlative influence. Inspired by the organ in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, it was his vision that led to the placing of the Celestial Organ in the new dome of St. Bartholomew’s Church in 1930 and by all accounts he was very creative in his service playing and accompanying. He was precise and demanding of his choir and was vivid and dramatic in his music and in his speaking. Virgil Fox was a great admirer of David McK. Williams and quotes him at some length in his 1968 masterclasses, recordings of which are extant and may be found at http://www.virgilfoxlegacy.com/masterclass.html  In fact, much of Fox’s own theatrics are the result of his infatuation with DMcKW, including his wearing of a cape! After his retirement from St. Bartholomew’s he traveled widely and maintained many friendships throughout the country with students, colleagues, and others, including James Michener, with whom he traveled to the South Pacific.

He died in 1978 and is buried in the crypt of St. Bartholomew’s Church.

The Choir of St. Bartholomew’s Church in the 1940s. DMcKW is at the altar end of the first row on the right side.

Pietro Yon (1886-1943)

Yon at St. Francis Xavier, New York, in 1919

Yon was born in Italy and studied at the Royal Conservatory in Milan, the Conservatory in Turin, and graduated from the Academy of St Cecilia in Rome. Before coming to America he was an assistant organist of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican City. He was organist of St. Francis Xavier in New York from 1907-19, and again from 1921-26, before assuming his position at St. Patrick’s Cathedral where he remained until his death in 1943. He was also an honorary organist of St. Peter’s at the Vatican.

Roberta Bailey

Chapter member Craig Whitney, author of All The Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ And Its American Masters, and former managing editor of The New York Times, correctly identified this entry and provided the following sketch of Miss Bailey’s very interesting life and career:

After graduating from the University of Minnesota where she studied music and journalism-advertising, Roberta Bailey came to New York in September of 1949 as assistant to Virgil Fox at Riverside Church. Besides playing the organ (then a Hook & Hastings that Fox wanted to replace) her duties included climbing into the organ chamber to pull out ciphering pipes and chauffeuring Virgil around in his white Cadillac convertible, and in 1951 she became his concert manager. She found him demanding, and “selfish,” but in a class of his own. In 1955, thanks to continuing ciphers and to the generosity of John D. Rockefeller Jr., Aeolian-Skinner completed installation of the new organ.

In 1956 the AGO National Convention was to be in New York and Virgil Fox and Robert Baker were the co-chairs of the convention. Roberta Bailey was the convention manager, and she had Fox play the American premiere of Durufle’s Suite, op. 5, dedicating the performance to the memory of G. Donald Harrison, who had died two weeks earlier.

Soon after the convention, she met and fell in love with Richard F. Johnson, a businessman who was also an organist in Westborough, Massachusetts, and after they were married she moved there and had three children. Roberta Bailey Concert Management tried to carry on as Fox’s concert manager from Massachusetts, but in 1963 Fox replaced Bailey with Richard Torrence, who had become his personal secretary.

Her concert management business continued successfully, with Pierre Cochereau and Karl Richter among her famous clients, but in 1973, when Fox was trying to acquire the Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester, Mass., she and Johnson decided to help him raise money and convince local authorities and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Boston, which owned the museum, to let him buy it. When they did, in 1975, she and Johnson served as directors of the Hammond Castle Museum and of the Virgil Fox Center for the Performing Arts he established there. His ambitions to enlarge the organ that the inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. had installed in the castle, and to broaden the cultural ambitions of the museum produced immediate financial disaster, and Fox forced Bailey and Johnson to resign after only a few months.

Roberta Bailey Johnson died in 1996, before she could complete a planned autobiography. Richard Johnson died in 2001.

Ernest Mitchell (1890-1966)

Mitchell was the organist and choirmaster of Grace Church in New York from 1922-1960. The photograph of Mitchell at right was cropped from a choir photo taken in 1934. Many organists “of a certain age” however will likely have seen the photo of him below which appeared in several 1950s-60s era editions of the World Book Encyclopedia with the entry on ORGAN.  The curious caption no doubt refers to Mitchell’s very precise instructions for the console of the new 1928 Skinner organ in Grace Church. It was lavish in its appointments and controls, was very compact and low for so large an organ and was the prototype for the even larger 1948 console Aeolian-Skinner built for The Riverside Church. The console is on display in the music office of Grace Church. 

Mitchell was a legend in his own day. He came to Grace Church from Trinity Church in Boston and he knew many of the leading organists in Europe and often played the first American performances of their works as voluntaries and recital pieces at Grace Church. Both Tournemire and Vierne dedicated works to him. In a letter to me dated 14 June 2002 Jack Ossewaarde said “David McK. Williams said that he [Mitchell] was the most brilliant of the organists in New York during his [1920-46] heyday.”

Warner Hawkins

Warner Hawkins, Mus.D., F.A.G.O.

Several members incorrectly identified this mystery member as Clarence Dickinson, and the resemblance is remarkable. Dickinson, in an early photograph, was the mystery member in the October 2010 issue. For comparison photographs of Dickinson in his later years, see Lorenz Maycher’s comprehensive handouts from his 2011 Presidents’ Day presentation.

However, Warner Hawkins was the correct identification, and the photo at right was taken from his obituary notice in the April 1960 issue of The Diapason.

Hawkins was National Warden of the AGO, as the office was then known, from 1941-43. The name was later changed to President. He was a student of Gaston Dethier at Juilliard, on whose staff he served for ten years before becoming head of the music department at the College of New Rochelle, New York. He later became associate director of the New York College of Music and was organist of Christ Church (Methodist) for twenty years. His funeral was held at Christ Church and its pastor and one time national chaplain to the AGO, Dr. Ralph Sockman, presided.

Claire Coci (1912-1978)

Claire Coci at the console of the organ in the West Point Cadet Chapel in the 1940s.

Haig Mardirosian, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Tampa, writes the following about Miss Coci:

Claire Coci was one of those organists who enjoyed a larger-than-life presence in the profession through the 1950’s Although a recitalist since the late 1930’s, her career advanced the most rapidly after marrying Bernard LaBerge, the impresario and manager who died in the early 1950’s (his secretary, Lillian Murtagh took over the business which continues today as Karen McFarlane Concert Artists). Coci remarried in the later 1950’s and shortly thereafter moved to Tenafly, NJ where she established her own music school, the American Academy of Music in an old Victorian house on Magnolia Avenue.

Mainly a recitalist, Coci was a product of the virtuoso tradition and studied with Charles Courboin and Marcel Dupré. While she was best remembered for her virtuoso accouterments, colorful costume, and a Plexiglass organ bench, Coci also invested much effort in playing the works of contemporary composers. She had, however, a performer’s ego. Like Virgil Fox, she called herself “Dr.” after receiving an honorary degree. She also hesitated little in making particular claims of prominence. She greeted a young auditioning student in 1960 in Tenafly by springing to her feet from her desk (on which she had previously planted her feet while on a phone call) in front of a map with pins marking all of her recital destinations and saying “you are now looking at the world’s greatest woman organist!”

Despite this, Coci was not an elitist. She took advantage of all playing and teaching opportunities from the greatest of venues in Europe and the US to an appearance at the local high school in her town of Tenafly with the community orchestra in a Haydn concerto on a small Allen organ.

Linzel article_four_1

Edward Linzel

Edward Linzel (1925-2010)

Kyle Babin, a former member of our chapter who is the organist of Grace Church in Alexandria, Va., and who wrote his doctoral dissertation at Manhattan School of Music on the history and music of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, writes the following:

Edward Linzel was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on September 14, 1925. From an early age, he showed a vested interest in music, especially the organ. While a student at Westminster Choir College in 1945, he first met Ernest White at a recital played by White at Princeton University Chapel. He subsequently moved to New York City to study privately with White while he was Director of Music at the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. Linzel also studied with White later at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Through his connection with Ernest White, Linzel immersed himself in the vibrant music scene at St. Mary’s. In this milieu, he was among several other talented students of White, including Albert Fuller, Marie Schumacher, and Edgar Hilliar. These students, including Linzel, performed in frequent recitals in White’s Studio in the St. Mary’s Parish House.

Linzel also performed as a recitalist in venues across the country, and as a true disciple of Ernest White, he relished in presenting modern organ works, many of which were by Olivier Messiaen. Linzel also substituted for White as an organ teacher at Union Theological Seminary. In October of 1958, Linzel succeeded White as Director of Music at St. Mary’s, and he moved into the Parish House apartment where White had previously resided. One of his notable achievements in this time was his continuation of music publishing under the auspices of “St. Mary’s Press.” Linzel also adapted the chant propers of the Mass into English versions that were far superior to the rather antiquated ones found in the English Gradual. In 1962, Linzel left St. Mary’s and continued to hold a number of church jobs in other cities. At the end of his life, he lived in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, and in his last days, he lived with his son in the Dallas area, where he died of a heart-related illness on January 19, 2010.

Edouard Nies-Berger (1904-2002)

Edouard Nies-Berger and Albert Schweitzer at St. Thomas Church, Strasbourg, 1959.

Edouard Nies-Berger, sometime organist of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and protegé of and collaborator with Albert Schweitzer, was born in Strasbourg in 1903 when that region was still part of the German empire. At 15 he saw the French army reclaim the city and the surrounding provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. In 1922 he came to New York at the age of 19 and remained in the United States professionally for the rest of his life, although he maintained an apartment in Colmar.He played in various churches and synagogues in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. During his Los Angeles years he found work in the movie studios and recorded the organ music for “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “Border Town.” “They had me play Bach’s great Toccata in D minor while Karloff carried Elsa Lancaster to her execution” Nies-Berger told an interviewer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1991. “It was not my proudest moment artistically.”

Nies-Berger aspired to be a conductor, so in 1937 he left the United States for Salzburg where he studied with Bruno Walter and Rudolf Baumgartner. He was preparing for his European conducting debut when the Nazis took over Salzburg. He moved to Riga, Latvia, and from there to Brussels conducting opera and summer concerts. Shortly after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Nies-Berger caught the last boat out of Rotterdam and returned to New York.

He kept his conducting dream alive for a few years in New York where he founded an orchestra comprised mainly of freelance musicians. These concerts were characterized by progressive programming, often featuring Nies-Berger conducting works for organ and orchestra from the console in Town Hall. He earned the respect of Olin Downes writing in the New York Times. T. Scott Buhrman, writing in The American Organist (no relation to the present day journal of the same name), was particularly effusive in his praise of Nies-Berger’s offerings. “But after renting the halls and paying the stagehands and hiring the musicians, there was no money left. I had married and had a son. It was time to be a responsible father” Nies-Berger acknowledged in the aforementioned interview. In 1940 he moved to Richmond, Virginia, and to relative stability as the organist of Centenary Methodist Church. Attempts to start a symphony orchestra in Richmond had recently failed, and Nies-Berger was frustrated in his attempts to organize musical groups in the city. After only two years, he again returned to New York and began what turned out to be the most fruitful years of his career.

Artur Rodzinski, the new conductor of the New York Philharmonic, tapped Nies-Berger to be the orchestra’s organist, a position he held for several years playing and recording under such conductors as Walter, Szell, Reiner, Stokowski, and a young Leonard Bernstein.

Albert Schweitzer was a family friend when Edouard was growing up in Strasbourg. His father and Schweitzer had been students together at Strasbourg University where they were each disciples of Professor Ernst Munch, leader of the Bach circle, and father of the conductor Charles Munch. By the time Edouard moved to New York in 1942 , Schweitzer was established in his missionary work in Africa. However, Schweitzer made a trip to the United States in 1949 where he and Nies-Berger were reunited. “To meet Schweitzer again after so many years was a wonderful event for me” Nies-Berger recalled.

at Maison Schweitzer
Their rekindled friendship culminated in a project that cemented Nies-Berger’s and Schweitzer’s association. Schweitzer had collaborated with Widor in a new edition of Bach’s organ works, the first five volumes of which were published by Schirmer before Widor died and before the outbreak of World War II interrupted the project. Schweitzer asked Nies-Berger to be his collaborator in the remaining three volumes which contained the chorale preludes.

“For the next six years, three or four months each summer, I went to Alsace or Africa to work with Schweitzer. He made a little time every day for Bach. It wasn’t easy–he’d won the [Nobel] Peace Prize already, and everybody in the world was after him for one thing or another. He was too kind to say no. To work with Schweitzer was almost like working with Bach. To know him at such close range was the great spiritual experience of my life. I have never thought the same, or made music the same way, after Schweitzer” said Nies-Berger. By the time the project was finished in the 1960s, Schirmer’s Widor-Schweitzer / Nies-Berger edition of Bach’s organ works represented the most current scholarship and was widely used by students and performers.

Bach EN-B 2
The demands of professional life in New York became more pressing and Nies-Berger left New York for the last time, as he moved again to Richmond to be the organist and choirmaster of St. Paul’s Church, where he served from 1960 until he retired in 1968. He continued to live in Richmond (and in Colmar) until his death in 2002.

Much of his retirement time was spent writing treatises on music and philosophy, as well as a memoir about his time with Schweitzer. After multiple rejections from American publishers the memoir (written in English, which by now Nies-Berger considered his primary language) was published in 1995 in a French translation titled Albert Schweitzer m’a dit as part of a series Memoire d’Alsace by the small French firm Editions La Nuee Bleue. Rollin Smith has since prepared an English translation published by Pendragon Press. Nies-Berger was also a composer with several published compositions to his credit, one of which, Resurrection: An Easter Fantasy, is still in print in an anthology published by H. W. Gray.

Age 98 in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Age 98 in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

William Strickland (1914-1991)

William Strickland, from the program book of the AGO National Convention in New York, 1956.

Strickland was a major player in the musical world of New York in
the first half of the 20th century, and not just within organists’ circles. But it was as an organist that he got his start, first as a chorister at the Cathedral
of St. John the Divine, and later as the organist of Christ Church, Bronxville, and Calvary Church in New York.

He would likely have succeeded David McK. Williams at St. Bartholomew’s Church were it not for the fact that in 1946 he was engaged to be the founding music director of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, serving there from 1946-51. In Nashville he was known for his imaginative programing which often featured new music by living composers. He steadily improved the professionalism of the group and laid the foundation for the work of some of his better-known successors such as Thor Johnson, Kenneth Schermerhorn, and Leonard Slatkin.

Returning to New York after his tenure in Nashville, he was for a time the conductor of the Oratorio Society of New York. Working with the State Department, he conducted concerts of American music in Europe and the Far East. In 1955 he conducted the inaugural concert in a fund-raising series to preserve Carnegie Hall, and in 1956 he conducted a program for the AGO National Convention in New York. The photo at right is from the program booklet.

Always passionate about contemporary music he edited an anthology of works for organ by composers who aren’t generally associated as writers for the organ, such as Krenek, Milhaud, Copland, and Harris which was published by H. W. Gray and is still in print.

Paul J. Sifler (1911-2001)

Paul J. Sifler

Several members incorrectly identified this Member from the Past as John Grady, and the resemblance is obvious to those who knew John. However, Paul J. Sifler is the correct identity.

Sifler, a naturalized American citizen of Yugoslavian birth, was a prolific composer of organ and choral works, of which his Agony and Despair of Dachau published by H. W. Gray in 1975 was probably his best-known among organists. He studied organ and composition at the Chicago Conservatory where his principal teacher was Leo Sowerby. He also studied with Claire Coci in New York.

Although not immediately identified with New York, Sifler held positions in churches and synagogues in Mt. Vernon, Kew Gardens, and Brooklyn before moving to California, where he held positions at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hollywood, and St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.

The photo at right appeared in the March 1951 issue of The Diapason announcing his appointment as organist and director of the Canterbury Choir at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Bronson Ragan

Kevin Walters, organist of Rye Presbyterian Church and Congregation Emanu-El also in Rye, and a former student of Ragan, wrote a memorial tribute which appeared in the April 1996 issue of The Diapason, from which the following is taken:

E. Bronson Ragan served the Church of the Holy Trinity on East 88th Street, the historic Rhinelander Church, from 1946-1971. He died suddenly at the age of 56, within a few months of completing twenty-five years as organist and choirmaster. A native of Rome, New York, Ragan graduated from the Institute of Musical Art (predecessor of The Juilliard School) with the artists’ diploma in piano and organ. His principal teachers were Gaston Dethier and David McK. Williams. In 1938 he was appointed to the theory faculties of both the Institute and Juilliard Graduate School, as it was then known. After service in the U. S. Army during World War II, he returned to New York and to the reorganized Juilliard School where he joined his longtime friend and colleague Vernon de Tar on the organ faculty. He remained until 1969 when he left Juilliard to become chairman of the new organ department of the Manhattan School of Music where he was already a member of the theory faculty. He also taught at Pius X School of Liturgical Music and The Guilmant Organ School from the early 1950s.

Of all his many professional activities apart from the Church of the Holy Trinity, Ragan would surely have said that the most important was his involvement in the examination program of the AGO to which he was passionately committed. He served several terms as a member of the examination committee and the national board of examiners, working to encourage thorough preparation on the part of candidates and to uphold uncompromisingly high standards on the part of examiners. All his students were expected to attend to the applied disciplines of transposition, harmonization, and score reading as diligently as to the learning of the organ repertoire. Where the latter was concerned, Ragan had a very definite preference: the music of J. S. Bach reigned supreme. Any organ music preceding Bach was derisively referred to as “pre-music” and, with the exception of Franck, he was largely unsympathetic toward much 19th and 20th century French music. Through his love of sixteenth-century counterpoint and vast knowledge of its diverse stylistic applications, he was able to communicate a considerable appreciation and understanding of this subject. His own playing was a model of rhythmic and technical precision and his improvisational abilities were phenomenal–he could extemporize a four-voice fugue on a given subject in virtually any style, but adamantly maintained that improvisational skills were largely “unteachable.”

In his last few years at Holy Trinity, the Skinner organ was diagnosed as “terminal and inoperable.” The church did not have adequate funds to repair or replace it, so Ragan reluctantly agreed to the purchase of a large electronic instrument. At about the same time, Holy Trinity found itself unable to maintain a fully professional choir. Rather than establishing a volunteer choir, Ragan proposed the rather startling idea (for that time) of calling upon his many colleagues and students to introduce instrumental music of all types into regular church services–everything from wind ensembles to a solo violoncello with all the repertory possibilities they brought with them. The result was more successful than had been imagined, and first-class instrumentalists were eager to play in the church with its excellent acoustics. His enthusiasm for this different approach to church music made many of us aware of new possibilities for repertoire and instrumental combinations with the organ.

Anne Versteeg McKittrick

Anne Versteeg McKittrick

Anne Versteeg McKittrick

Paul Richard Olson, organist of Grace Church, Brooklyn Heights, provided the following:

Anne Versteeg McKittrick, FAGO, FTCL, served as Organist and Choirmaster for 38 years at Grace Church, Brooklyn Heights, from 1939-1976. Mrs. McKittrick took full charge of the music program at Grace Church in 1939following the death of Frank Wright who had held the position for 43 years. She died on May 3, 1976 from complications of a heart attack. She played andconducted her last service on Easter Day, April 18, 1976. Her funeral service was held at Grace Church on May 6, 1976.

Anne McKittrick studied with Frank Wright, her predecessor, G. Darlington Richards, organist of St. James Church, NYC, and Norman Coke-Jephcott, organist of Cathedral of St. John the Divine. For many years she was very active in the work of the American Guild of Organists, serving on the Examinations Committee, the National Council, and as National Librarian-Historian. Mrs. McKittrick was known for her cheerful presence and her faithful service to the AGO.

Mrs. McKittrick’s work with the choir of men and boys brought great recognition and honor to Grace Church. She was married to Alfred Hadley Hanson, longtime member of the choir. He died in 1962. Mrs. McKittrick was succeeded by Bradley Hull.

Channing Lefebvre

Channing

Channing Lefebvre, scanned from the 1940 AGO National Convention booklet.

Channing Lefebvre is best remembered among organists as being the organist and choirmaster of Trinity Wall Street from 1922-1941 and Warden (the position was changed to President in 1949) of the American Guild of Organists from 1939-41.

But his name was held in even wider renown as director of the University Glee Club of New York from 1927-1961, and as music master and school organist of St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, from 1941-61.

Following his positions in New York and Concord, he lived in Manila, Philippines, for six years and was the organist of the Episcopal Church of St. Mary and St. John in Quezon City. In April 1967 he had just arrived in New York for a visit on his way to retirement in Digby, Nova Scotia, and attended a rehearsal of the University Glee Club for an upcoming concert in Philharmonic Hall, when he died the next day of chronic cardiovascular complications while staying at the Columbia Club.

He was a native of Richmond, Va. where his musical gifts were nurtured at an early age, particularly by his great uncle, the Rt. Rev. Channing Moore Williams, the Bishop of Japan, who was visiting his home church of St. Paul’s in that city. From that time on Bp. Williams supported his young namesake as he attended first St. Paul’s Choir School in Baltimore, and then Peabody Conservatory.

After early positions at St. Stephen’s Church in Washington, and assistant organist of at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Lefebvre served during World War I in the Navy Reserve. Following that he served at St. Luke’s in Montclair, New Jersey, before being called to Trinity.

Before his long tenure with the University Glee Club, he founded the Down Town Glee Club, and served as director of the Musical Art Society of Orange, N. J., and of the Golden Hill Chorus, a group of women singers who worked in the financial district of Manhattan.

LefebvreTrinityEpis_EMSCons

His obituary in The New York Times, dated April 22, 1967, states that he was 72 at the time of his death. It also says that “he was an inveterate pipe-smoker” and that “he used to conduct his chorus rehearsals without outbursts of temperament.”

He received an honorary doctorate from Columbia University sometime in the late 1930s at which time President Nicholas Murray Butler’s citation read in part that he was “born to love of music and early seeking a musical career; successively choirboy, organist, and now choirmaster and organist at Trinity, that ancient foundation to which this university is bound by ties that go back to its very birth.”

Lefebvre

Rehearsing in the choir room at St. Paul’s School

T. Frederick H. Candlyn (1892-1964) Candlyn

Candlyn was born in Cheshire, England, and educated at the University of Durham. He emigrated to the United States in 1912 and held positions as Head of the Music Department at the New York State College for Teachers in Albany, and was the Organist and Choirmaster of St. Paul’s Church, also in Albany, for 28 years.

In 1943 he succeeded T. Tertius Noble at Saint Thomas Church, New York, where he remained until 1954, at which time he became Organist and Choirmaster of Trinity Church in Roslyn, Long Island.

He is the composer of much organ and choral music which remains in print.

George Markey (1925-1999)

Markey

Many members correctly identified George Markey, who graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music where his major teacher was Alexander McCurdy. He also studied with Leo Sowerby, Dimitri Mitropoulos, and Rudolf Serkin, and held an honorary doctorate from MacPhail College.

Markey taught at Westminster Choir College and the Peabody Conservatory, and was the director of the Guilmant Organ School in New York, where it was his unfulfilled dream for the school to compete with the major conservatories in organ studies. In New York he was also the director of music and organist of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church from 1961-70. He concertized throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, India, and Japan. He lived in Maplewood, N. J., and in his later years was the organist of the Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and Holy Communion in South Orange.

The photograph above was taken at the Wanamaker Organ in 1954.

Paul Callaway (1909-1995)

Paul Callaway, Mus.D., F.A.G.O. in the 1940 Washington, DC AGO National Convention booklet.

Paul Callaway, Mus.D., F.A.G.O. in the 1940 Washington, DC AGO National Convention booklet.

So associated was Callaway with music in Washington, D. C., that it is easy to forget that he began his career in New York. The son of a Disciples of Christ clergyman from Illinois, the young Callaway found his way to New York where from 1930-1935 he was an “articled pupil”—the term he always used—of T. Tertius Noble, and was the Organist and Choirmaster of St. Thomas Chapel, now All Saints Church on East 60th Street. It is generally acknowledged that, together with Andrew Tietjen and Grover Oberle, he was among Noble’s most talented and prominent pupils.

While at St. Thomas Chapel, where the Sunday evening services were at 8:00, he regularly turned pages at Evensong for David McK. Williams at St. Bartholomew’s and assimilated much of Williams’ style in his own service playing, especially in anthem and oratorio accompaniment. Although Callaway was careful to point out that he never studied formally with David McK. Williams, he was also quick to acknowledge Williams’ great influence upon him and his playing, and the two remained good friends until Williams died in 1978. Callaway was approached about succeeding Williams at St. Bartholomew’s in 1946 and he likely would have had he not just returned to Washington Cathedral from service in World War II, where he was a bandmaster in the South Pacific.

In a conversation with me Callaway said that one day Dr. Noble came to him unexpectedly and said “I want you to do some missionary work in Grand Rapids” and with that Callaway was packed off to his new post at St. Mark’s Church in that city in 1935. This was not entirely to young Callaway’s liking, who by this time had grown to enjoy New York, but he did as he was asked, and four years later Dr. Noble was instrumental in securing his appointment at the Cathedral in Washington where he was to remain for 38 years until his retirement in 1977.

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Bach St. Matthew Passion at Peabody in the late 1950s.

He was a major force in the fledgling musical life of Washington. He founded the Cathedral Choral Society shortly after he arrived, and in 1956 he was the founding musical director of the Washington Opera Society, now known as the Washington National Opera. He also taught organ and directed the choir at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and conducted opera in the summer at the Lake George Opera Festival in upstate New York. He was on the faculty of the College of Church Musicians, the extraordinary graduate school founded by Leo Sowerby for the training of organists and choirmasters (one of five schools on the cathedral close), which combined the rigors of conservatory study together with the master-apprentice approach afforded by its small size. During its short life the college had a tremendous influence on Episcopal church music throughout the country as its students gained appointments in large churches and cathedrals throughout the 1960s and 70s.

At the conclusion of a concert by the Cathedral Choral Society

At the conclusion of a concert by the Cathedral Choral Society

In addition to his many other activities he was a virtuoso organist who maintained his technique and put his vast repertoire to use in cathedral services and the recitals which followed Evensong each Sunday. While he did not tour as a recitalist, he did frequently appear locally and within the region. In 1960 he was the soloist for the premiere of Samuel Barber’s Toccata Festiva which was written to inaugurate the new Aeolian-Skinner organ in Philadelphia’s Academy of Music and was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy.

8. Phila Orchestra Barber premiere

At the console of the new Aeolian-Skinner organ in the Philadelphia Academy of Music, 1960

Callaway’s musical tastes were broad and catholic. Long before the early music movement gained anything like the prominence it holds today, he performed large doses of Renaissance and Elizabethan music with the cathedral choir, both settings of the ordinary, and anthems and motets, together with the standard English cathedral repertoire of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and copious amounts of contemporary music. In 1964 for the dedication of the Gloria in excelsis Tower, the central tower over the cathedral crossing, which is the only tower in the world housing both a carillon and a ten-bell ring, he commissioned music for carillon and a variety of instruments from Samuel Barber, Lee Hoiby, Stanley Hollingsworth, Roy Hamlin Johnson, John La Montaine, Milford Myhre, Ned Rorem, and Leo Sowerby.

With Ronald Rice, a student at the College of Church Musicians who became the first organist of the new Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta.

With Ronald Rice, a student at the College of Church Musicians who became the first organist of the new Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta.

When he retired from Washington Cathedral he assumed the position of Director of Music at St. Paul’s K Street in Washington, the noted Anglo-Catholic parish, one of whose previous organists, Edgar Priest, was the first organist of the Cathedral. For his service to Anglo-American relations he was awarded the O.B.E. (which he said irreverently—referring to himself, we presume—stood for Old Bastard Extraordinaire).

He lived his life as hard as he worked: a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes was seldom far from reach, and when asked what drink he preferred, he said it was “gin before dinner, bourbon after.” I left Washington just before he went to St. Paul’s. When I saw him on a trip home shortly thereafter I asked him how he liked his new position, and he replied in his inimitable guttural growl “Oh yeah, I always wanted to play in one of those . . uh . . smoky places.”

His Requiem Mass, for which the Rt. Rev. James Winchester Montgomery was the celebrant, was held at the Church of the Ascension and St. Agnes in Washington, where he was a parishioner. Fr. Frederic Meisel was the preacher. Fr. Meisel was the long-time Rector of the church and a great friend of Callaway’s whom he met when he was Noble’s pupil, and young Freddie Meisel was a choirboy at St. Thomas.

Paul Callaway, 1977

Paul Callaway, 1977

Paul Smith Callaway is interred in the crypt columbarium of Washington National Cathedral, together with fellow musicians Leo Sowerby, Richard Dirksen, and Edgar Priest, cathedral architect Philip Hubert Frohman, and various bishops and clergy associated with the Cathedral.

Virgil Fox (1912-1980)  

Virgil Fox in 1932

Virgil Fox in 1932

 When I added Fox to the Members from the Past column I tried to find the oldest picture of him I could find in the hope of lessening the obviousness of his identity. Clearly I failed in that attempt since more members correctly identified Fox than any previous entry.

So much has been written about Fox that a detailed sketch here seems superfluous. Thirty years after his death his legacy is still widely known and discussed passionately, often with the most conviction by those born since he died!

Virgil Fox was the organist of The Riverside Church from 1946-1965, sharing his tenure with his partner Richard Weagly, who was the choir director. As they had in their previous position in Baltimore at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Fox and Weagley set a new standard for music at Riverside, and in New York.

Virgil Fox with Richard Weagly shortly after their appointment to Riverside.

Virgil Fox with Richard Weagly shortly after their appointment to Riverside.

While in Baltimore, Fox also taught organ at the Peabody Conservatory where among his pupils were Richard Wayne Dirksen, William Watkins, Milton Hodgson, Marie Schumacher, and Helen Howell Williams.

For the Sixtieth Anniversary AGO National Convention held in New York in 1956, Fox served with Robert Baker as co-chairman of the convention, which was attended by the largest number in the Guild’s history at the time. He also was a member of the AGO national council and was one of the organsts chosen to open the new organ in Philharmonic Hall, as Avery Fisher Hall was known when it was new.

TAO Bossert 2

Virgil Fox at the organ in his home in Englewood, New Jersey, in the late 1970s.

Walter Baker (1910-1988) was widely regarded as one of the leading concerts organists of his generation. He graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in 1938 where he was among the first pupils of Alexander McCurdy. Prior to that he spent some time in California as a semi-professional boxer.

baker-walter

While still a student at Curtis, he became the organist and choir director of the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia, founded the Oratorio Society of Philadelphia, and was added to the roster of organists who toured under the management of Bernard LaBerge.

In 1948 he left First Baptist Church and increasingly became involved in conducting in Philadelphia and New York. He was from 1948-51 assistant to Dimitri Mitropoulos for concerts by the New York Philharmonic. He also worked closely with the music department of the Wanamaker store in Philadelphia, which at that time often featured concerts with full orchestra and organ. On Good Friday 1948 he conducted what is believed to be the first televised performance of Wagner’s Parsifal with the Philadelphia Orchestra and a chorus of 300 in the Wanamaker Grand Court.

From 1949-59 he was the organist of the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in New York and taught, at various time, at Westminster Choir College, Peabody Conservatory, and the Mannes College of Music. The last years of his life were plagued with ill health and a series of strokes curtailed his activities, although he continued to play on occasion.

Alec Wyton (1921-2007)Picture2

The photograph at right appeared in the December 1950 issue of The Diapason announcing Wyton’s appointment to Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis.

Alexander Francis Wyton, his given name, was born in London on August 3, 1921. He was a choirboy at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Northampton and his first teacher was Ralph Richardson Jones. At age twelve, after his voice changed, he held his first church position as organist of a village church. After graduating from high school he held apprentice jobs in chemistry and law before joining the Royal Signal Corps. During his military service he prepared for his F.R.C.O. examinations which he passed at age nineteen. Formal organ study included work at the Royal Academy of Music where he studied with the legendary virtuoso G. D. Cunningham. He received his B.A. from Exeter College of Oxford University in 1945. While at Oxford he was organ scholar and sub-organist of Christ Church Cathedral working under Sir Thomas Armstrong.

In 1946 Wyton was appointed organist and choirmaster of St. Matthew’s Church in Northampton where the Vicar, the Rev. Walter Hussey, had inaugurated a program of commissioning works to celebrate the parish’s patronal feast each year. Two years before Wyton arrived Britten wrote Rejoice in the Lamb for that occasion, and it was during Wyton’s first year in Northampton that Britten that wrote his only organ work, Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Vittoria, for him.

In 1950 Alec Wyton was invited by the Bishop of Dallas to come to Texas and create a boy choir. He accomplished this in six months at what is now St. Mark’s School in Dallas. In September of that year he became the Organist and Choirmaster of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, a position he held until he came to New York in 1954 to be the Organist and Master of the Choristers and (later) Headmaster of the choir school at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

Taking a daily rehearsal at the Cathedral Choir School.

Taking a daily rehearsal at the Cathedral Choir School.

His work flourished in his early years at the cathedral, as he maintained a rigorous schedule of daily rehearsals and services in the English cathedral tradition of his predecessors Miles Farrow and Norman Coke-Jephcott. He relinquished his duties as Headmaster in 1962. As the liturgical innovations of the 1960s gained momentum, Wyton responded in kind, furnishing the cathedral with a wide range of musical expression, commissioning works from Duke Ellington, Ned Rorem, and Benjamin Britten, as well as offering his own compositions for use in the trial liturgies which emerged prior to the new Book of Common Prayer. He also was responsible for bringing personalities such as Leopold Stokowski and the cast of “Hair” to the cathedral.

With Leopold Stokowski at the Cathedral.

With Leopold Stokowski at the Cathedral.

He was the president of the American Guild of Organists from 1964-1969 and was twice dean of the NYC Chapter. He also taught at various times at Union Theological Seminary, Westminster Choir College, and Manhattan School of Music.

He left St. John the Divine in 1974 to take the position at St. James’ Church on Madison Avenue, where he remained eleven years. The story has been widely told of St. James’ Rector calling Wyton asking for a recommendation to fill the vacant position and Wyton replied somethng to the effect of “would you consider an aging cathedral organist?” During his time at St. James he was the coordinator for the Episcopal Church’s Standing Committee on Church Music which produced the Hymnal 1982, the hymnal still used in the Episcopal Church.

At the console of the Cathedral Organ, Aeolian-Skinner Opus 150-A.

At the console of the Cathedral Organ, Aeolian-Skinner Opus 150-A.

In 1985 he moved to Ridgefield, Conn., to become the Minister of Music at St. Stephen’s Church, a church he had known since his early cathedral days when he would take choirboys annually for a day in the country at the nearby estate of a cathedral patron, which always concluded with Evensong at St. Stephen’s.

Wyton was a prolific composer of music for choir and organ, some of which is still in print. For the legendary 1956 national convention of the AGO he wrote Fanfare for the State Trumpet which was premiered by Charlotte Garden at St. John the Divine. It was later published by H. W. Gray titled simply Fanfare and is dedicated “to G. Donald Harrison who created the State Trumpet.” Harrison was known to have said that it was the only piece of music ever dedicated to him.

Alec’s funeral was held on Friday, March 23, 2007 at St. Stephen’s Church in Ridgefield, Conn., and his ashes are interred in the columbarium of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

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Lillian ClarkClark Lillian article_four_1 appears in photo at right which was in the December 1952 issue of The Diapason announcing her appointment as the assistant organist of St. Bartholomew’s Church. The announcement told that in addition to assisting the then organist, Harold Friedell, Miss Clark was to be in charge of the junior choir. She held the AAGO certificate and was a member of the AGO National Council.

Attempts to find definitive dates for Miss Clark were inconclusive. Fred Swann responded saying that she was Friedell’s assistant before he was, and that he presumed that she was no longer with us, but I have not been able to confirm that. At any rate, she was one of several female organists in prominent positions in and around New York in the middle of the last century.

She began her piano studies in metropolitan New Jersey, and first studied organ with Frank Scherer at St. Luke’s Church in Montclair. Before going to St. Bartholomew’s she held several church positions in New Jersey and played recitals frequently, including appearances at the Portland (Maine) City Hall and the John Hays Hammond home (now museum) in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Harold Vincent Milligan (1888-1951) SP4TD00Zis pictured at the console of the original Hook & Hastings organ in The Riverside Church. The photograph is by the noted photographer Margaret Bourke-White, and is one of several of her photographs which appeared in the December 20, 1937 issue of Life magazine with an article about The Riverside Church.

Milligan was an organist, composer, writer, and arranger. He spent his early life in the Pacific Northwest and was from an early age the organist in churches where his father was the minister. He came to New York in 1907 to study with William C. Carl at the Guilmant Organ School. In addition to Carl, he also studied with T. Tertius Noble, Clement R. Gale, and Arthur E. Johnstone.

After one year as organist of the First Presbyterian Church in Orange, New Jersey, he worked for five years at Rutgers Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, and two years at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. In 1915 he was appointed organist at the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, remaining with the church throughout the era when it moved several times, culminating in the building of a new church in Morningside Heights renamed The Riverside Church. He held this position until 1940.

From 1929-1932 he served as the president of the National Association of Organists, which later was folded into the American Guild of Organists, and was the secretary of the AGO from 1926-1951. For many years Milligan wrote articles and reviews for The Diapason and The New Music Review, and was a columnist for The American Organist and Woman’s Home Companion. He was the author of Stories of Famous Operas (1950), and edited The Best Known Hymns and Prayers of the American People (1942), and (with Geraldine Soubaine) The Opera Quiz Book (1948). He also authored short fiction, lectured on opera at Columbia University, and was associate director of the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts.

Milligan composed two operettas for children,The Outlaws of Etiquette (1913) and The Laughabet (1918), and incidental music for several plays, as well as numerous songs, sacred and secular choral works, and organ music. He is probably best remembered by the general public as the collector and editor of four volumes of previously undiscovered 18th century American songs, chiefly by Francis Hopkinson, a leading musician in colonial America and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Milligan also wrote the first biography of American songwriter Stephen Foster in 1920.

His papers are held by the music division of the New York Public Library, the web site for which also provided most of the information contained in this biographical sketch.

Federlein no captionGottfried Federlein (1883-1952)

Federlein is best remembered as the organist of Temple Emanu-El from 1915-1945, first at the former temple at Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street, playing the J. H. & C. S. Odell organ, and then at the present location at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street when the congregation merged with Temple Beth-El, where he played the large new Casavant organ.

Federlein also served several churches in the metropolitan area including Marcy Avenue Baptist Church in Brooklyn, the Church of the Incarnation, Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Trinity Church and the Society for Ethical Culture in New York, and Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair, New Jersey.

He studied at Trinity School and the Institute of Musical Art where his teachers included Edward Biedermann, Percy Goetschius, and Louis V. Saar. He was the composer of many works in various genres for the church, synagogue, and concert hall, and was a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. He earned the FAGO in 1904 and served the Guild in several capacities, including sub warden, as the position of vice president was then known. In 1915 he received the AGO’s Clemson Prize for best anthem for mixed voices and organ.

William Whitehead (1938-2000) Whitehead, William

Whitehead was the Director of Music and Organist of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church from 1973-1990. Prior to that he served at First Presbyterian Church in Bethlehem, Pa., where he was also organist of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem.

He attended Baylor University and was a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, the Curtis Institute of Music, and Columbia University. In 1962 he was the first organist to win the annual Young Artist Award of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which included a performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Eugene Ormandy.

At various times he was on the faculty of the Guilmant Organ School, Mannes College of Music, and Westminster Choir College, and he toured under the auspices of the Lillian Murtagh management, now Karen McFarlane Artists. He was formerly the dean of the Lehigh Valley chapter of the AGO, and was later elected to the Guild’s national council. He was also a founder of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians.

After leaving New York he served at Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and at the time of his death he was Minister of Music at Second Congregational Church in Greenwich, having served as guest organist at several Connecticut churches since 1995.

J. Warren Andrews (1860-1942)Andrews

The photo is from Andrews’ obituary which appeared in the December 1942 issue of The Diapason which noted that he died January 18 of that year. Andrews was one of the founders of the American Guild of Organists and at the time of his death had been the organist of the Church of the Divine Paternity (now Fourth Universalist Society) for 33 years. He was on the national council of the Guild for over 25 years and the first AGO national convention was held during his term as warden, as the office of president was then called.

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1860, he studied with Charles H. Wood and Eugene Thayer. After student positions in Massachusetts, he became the organist and choirmaster of Trinity Church in Newport, Rhode Island, at age 19, directing its boychoir. Following that he served at Pilgrim Church in Cambridge, Mass., and Plymouth Church in Minneapolis, before moving to New York.

Andrews was also elected president of the New York State Music Teachers Association in 1908. Following funeral services at the Church of the Divine Paternity, there were Masonic ceremonies conducted by members of the Roome Lodge, and he was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn, Mass.

Robert Owen (1918-2005)

Robert Owen at the new Aeolian-Skinner organ in Christ Church, Bronxville, 1949.

Robert Owen at the new Aeolian-Skinner organ in Christ Church, Bronxville, 1949.

Robert Owen served as organist and choirmaster of Christ Church, Bronxville, for 45 years until his retirement in 1988. He was from Longview, Texas, where his father was the minister of the First Presbyterian Church. For his first organ lessons he traveled a ten-mile dirt road to Kilgore to study with Roy Perry.

After graduating from the conservatory of music at Oberlin College, he returned to Texas where he taught at the University of Texas at Austin and commuted to Houston where he was organist and choirmaster of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Divine. At the beginning of World War II he served in the U. S. Navy until he received a medical discharge in July 1943. While convalescing in Philadelphia he made several weekend tips to New York where he ultimately learned that Christ Church was looking for an organist, thus beginning a remarkable partnership that carried the musical life of the church to a new level.

Robert Owen’s first undertaking was the organ, a four-manual, 90-stop Hall in continual need of repair. In short order a contract was signed with Aeolian-Skinner for a new organ, and delivery was set for December 1948.

In February 1947 the Dean of the American Cathedral in Paris offered Owen the job of reorganizing and directing the cathedral’s music program which had been in disarray since the German Occupation. Since the Christ Church organ would not be ready for some time, the vestry agreed to give Owen a leave of absence and Gordon Jones, an Oberlin classmate of his, assumed his duties for a year. While in Paris Owen became the first student at the Paris Conservatory on the G. I. Bill, and he studied with both Marcel Dupré and Nadia Boulanger.

Returning to New York, Robert Owen played the opening recital on the new Christ Church organ on Trinity Sunday, June 12, 1949. According to the local paper 800 people attended, including the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, with temperatures in the high 90s.

In the ensuing years Owen recorded for the Aeolian-Skinner “King of Instruments” series and on RCA. He maintained an active concert career himself, and brought many of the world’s leading organists to play in Bronxville. He also maintained a vigorous choir of men and boys, and later, girls and mixed voices as well. Several of his former choirboys became clergymen, including the Rev. Peter Hawes, Rector of St. George’s Church in Germantown, Tennessee, who in 1991—on the occasion of the installation of officers of the Memphis AGO chapter—reminisced about being a boy soprano in the choir of Christ Church:

” . . . tonight I dedicate my remarks and much of my ministry to Bob Owen, who showed me all the wonders of God without ever opening a Bible, without ever preaching a sermon, without being anything other than who he was, a superb musician.”

At Robert Owen’s retirement the vestry voted to install a set of stained glass windows in the clerestory of the nave to honor his 45 years of service. Robert chose in turn to honor the French composer and organist Olivier Messiaen, who had recently died and whose compositions Robert had frequently played at Christ Church. Known as the Revelation Windows, they consist of nine lancets arranged in groups of three which celebrate the roles of art, music, and literature as sources of God’s revelation in the world. They were created by renowned stained glass artist Ellen Miret, and fabricated at the Rohlf Studios in Mt. Vernon, New York, and were completed in 1994.

Note: most of the material for this sketch, including the photograph, is taken from Built Upon A Rock by David T. Andrews, the 100th anniversary history of Christ Church.

Ray Francis Brown (1897–1964)

Ray F. Brown

Ray F. Brown

Brown was professor of music and organist of The General Theological Seminary from 1934 until his death. He was from Vermont and went to Oberlin College.

After graduation he was organ instructor in the Oberlin Conservatory and organist and choirmaster at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Elyria. He also studied at the Royal School of Church Music and at Pius X School of Liturgical Music. Prior to his appointment at General he was for five years he was director of the Music School at Fisk University and conducted the Fisk University Choir.

He was an Associate of the American Guild of Organists and served on the national council. The University of the South at Sewanee awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Music in 1956. His edition of The Oxford American Psalter was published in 1949 and is characterized by pointing that sets the texts in speech rhythm, a practice then largely unknown in this country at the time. He also wrote articles for musical and church journals and lectured at seminaries and church conferences throughout the country on hymnody, chanting, and the use of plainsong in English.

He was an authority on choral music and helped form the Episcopal Church tradition and was a member of the Joint Commission on Church Music of the Protestant Episcopal Church and served on the tunes committee for the Joint Commission on the revision of The Hymnal 1940.

Concurrent with his position at General, he served several churches in New York, including Christ Church Bronxville, Church of the Resurrection and Calvary Church

William C. Carl (1865-1936)

Carl, Wm C at 1st Pres NYC

Carl was the organist of First Presbyterian Church in New York from 1892 until his death. He was born in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and was the organist of the First Presbyterian Church in Newark before going to Paris to study with Alexandre Guilmant in 1890-91.

Returning from Paris on the same ship as Carl was the Rev. Howard Duffield, newly appointed pastor of First Presbyterian Church who in short order appointed the 27-year-old Carl to be the organist and choirmaster of the First Presbyterian Church, the first serious musician called to the church. Dr. Duffield was a strong visionary leader with progressive ideas and a lover of music. At the time the church moved to its present location in 1846 only vocal music was considered appropriate for worship, and it was not until 1888 that a new organ by Roosevelt was installed in the gallery. Little is known about the first organists to play the new organ, and Carl’s appointment marked a new era in the prominence with which the organ was to play in the life of the church.

Carl immediatley established an organ recital series that packed the church regularly, requiring police to control the crowds we are told. He also produced a concert version of Wagner’s Parsifalwhich caused great interest, as full productions were only allowed in Bayreuth at that time.

Carl was a leading disciple of Guilmant in America, and during Guilmant’s second American tour in 1898 the two decided to establish the Guilmant Organ School in New York to further the teaching ideals of the Parisian master. Dr. Duffield invited the new school to make First Presbyterian Church its headquarters, featuring the church’s magnificent Roosevelt organ as the centerpiece for lessons and recitals. The first class was held in October 1899. Guilmant was the President, Carl was the Director and Instructor of Organ, and Dr. Duffield was the Chaplain and Instructor in Theology. The initial announcement stated that:

“William C. Carl, having been authorized by Alexandre Guilmant to open an organ school under his patronage, begs to announce the Guilmant Organ School, in which the method as set forth by the great French organist will be taught. Since the phenomenal success of M. Guilmant in America, a new impetus has been given to the organ as a solo instrument and its relation to the church service. Organists in all parts of the country are giving more attention to its study and in preparation of their work. Organ concerts are in demand with a growing success. Church committees are exacting a higher degree of ability from their organists and the press is giving it attention.”

In the ensuing years the school gained considerable recognition in America and Europe. The French government bestowed upon Carl the Officer de l’Instruction Publique, and he was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in recognition for his work in promoting the works of Guilmant and other French composers. New York University also conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Music.

At the 25th anniversary of the school in 1924 it was noted that 150 students had graduated, and 26 of them were in positions of renown in the greater New York area. To celebrate Dr. Carl’s 40th anniversary as organist of First Presbyterian Church in 1932, the church installed a bronze plaque in the choir seating area in the chancel. In 1935 Dr. Carl was granted a leave of absence from his duties at the school for health reasons, and Williard Irving Nevins, Carl’s first student and associate, became director of the school. Dr. William C. Carl died on December 8, 1936, and Nevins was appointed organist and choirmaster of the church the following month.

Ernest White (1901-1980)

White, Ernest in TAO March 49

From the NYC Organ Project page on the chapter’s web site we learn the following about White:

Ernest White was born on June 20, 1901 in London, Ontario. He studied violin locally and organ at the Toronto Conservatory of Music with Ernest MacMillan and Healey Willan. He moved to New York in 1926 for lessons with Lynnwood Farnam and was acclaimed for his performance at the 1927 AGO Convention in St. Louis. He was organist-choirmaster 1927-35 at St. James Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, and 1935-37 at Trinity Church, Lenox, Mass. For 21 years (1937-58) Ernest White was associated with the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City, first as organist, and later as music director, where it was his custom to give two series of organ recitals each year.

White also became tonal director for the organ builder M.P. Möller, of Hagerstown, MD, designing and supervising installations in the USA and Canada, including those in New York at St. George’s Episcopal Church, the Interchurch Center Chapel, and a studio organ at St. Mary the Virgin.

StMaryVirgin1940Pipes

Church of St. Mary the Virgin, ca. 1940

White taught at Bard College (Columbia University) and Pius X School of Liturgical Music in New York (1935-38), at the Music Teachers’ College, University of Western Ontario (1948-51), at Jordan College (Butler University) and the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis (1963-71), and at the University of Bridgeport, Conn., 1971-73. He became organist-choirmaster at St. George’s Church, Bridgeport, in 1973.

He gave over 1000 organ recitals featuring both old and modern repertoire. He was noted also for his trail-blazing editions of early organ music and for his recordings, among which was the first issued of Messiaen’s La Nativité du Seigneur. Rollin Smith (AGO and RCCO Music, August 1977) said of White, “That he was able to synthesize the many contingencies of organ playing and organ construction into one pioneering point of view will distinguish his name and stature for many years to come.”

Ernest White died in Fairfield, Conn., on September 21, 1980.

Charles Dodsley Walker (1920-2015)

1941 CDW at ChCh Cmbdge in TAO

The photograph, from 1941, shows Charlie at the console of the then new Aeolian-Skinner organ in Christ Church, Cambridge, Mass., where he was assistant organist during his years as a graduate student at Harvard.

This article also appeared in the April 2015 issue of The Diapason.

Charles Dodsley Walker, 94, died in New York City on January 17, 2015, following a brief illness. At the time of his death he was the conductor of the Canterbury Choral Society and organist and choirmaster emeritus of the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City, and was the artist-in-residence of Saint Luke’s Parish, Darien, Connecticut.

In one form or another for most of the 20th century—continuing into the 21st —Charles Dodsley Walker was active and prominent in the cultural life of New York City, directing the musical activities for churches, schools, and secular organizations. He was also a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists and was president of the AGO from 1971-1975.

Born on March 16, 1920, in New York City, into a family with roots in Michigan, his family soon moved to Glen Ridge, New Jersey. There, at Christ Church of Bloomfield and Glen Ridge, he first sang in a choir and played the organ. In 1930 he was admitted to the Choir School of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine where he sang in the cathedral choir directed first by Miles Farrow, and shortly after by Norman Coke-Jephcott who was young Charles’ first teacher, with whom he studied organ, harmony, and counterpoint in weekly lessons. Upon graduation Charles went to Trinity School in New York, while continuing his study with Coke-Jephcott. He soon assumed the duties of school organist at Trinity, playing for daily chapel services. As he told The Diapason in a 90th birthday interview in the March 2010 issue “They then brought in a French teacher to play the organ who simply couldn’t play, so I went up to the headmaster and said ‘I can play’ and so I became the school organist.”

Upon the advice of Channing Lefebvre, organist of Trinity Church Wall Street, CDW went to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. It was his desire to receive a liberal arts degree while still studying music seriously, as his goal was to have a classroom teaching career in addition to being a church musician and organist. So it was that he pursued a major in modern languages with concentration in French, while also studying organ with the college’s organist and music professor, who just happened to be the leading proponent of the French school of organ playing in America at that time: Clarence Watters, a protégé and friend of Marcel Dupré. While at Trinity College CDW held his first church appointment at Stafford Springs Congregational Church in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, about halfway between Hartford and Worcester, Mass.

After graduating from Trinity College he enrolled in graduate school at Harvard University studying musicology, choral conducting, theory, and composition with Walter Piston, Archibald T. Davison, and Tillman Merritt. While at Harvard he was assistant organist of Christ Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, working under W. Judson Rand.

His studies were interrupted by service in the Navy where he served in a number of non-combat capacities. Following military service he completed his master’s degree at Harvard in 1947 and was appointed simultaneously to his first two New York City jobs: organist and choirmaster of St. Thomas Chapel (a chapel of St. Thomas Church, now All Saints Church) and director of music at Trinity School, his alma mater. He was all set to embark upon a secure career as a church musician and teacher in New York when a thoroughly unplanned and felicitous (his word) event occurred: he learned of the opening for organist and choirmaster of the American Cathedral in Paris. The dean of the cathedral was a New Yorker who just happened to be in town, so Charlie called on him and was offered the job on the spot! He took a modest cut in salary to move to Paris, but did so gladly to immerse himself in the French culture and music he had grown to appreciate during his undergraduate study. At the cathedral he succeeded Robert Owen who was in France studying on the GI Bill. While in Paris he made the acquaintance of and collaborated with the leading French organists and musicians of the day, including Pierre Duvauchelle, Nadia Boulanger, Francis Poulenc, a young Ned Rorem, Maurice Duruflé, André Marchal, Marcel Dupré, Olivier Messiaen, and Jean Langlais, with whom he and his family remained particularly close. In Paris he also met Janet Hayes, an American soprano studying with Boulanger in France and performing throughout Europe. After a brief courtship they were married in the American Cathedral.

While in Paris CDW was also the director of the American Students’ and Artists’ Center, a comprehensive educational and social organization with nearly a thousand members which was administered under the auspices of the cathedral and its dean. He held this full-time, non-musical job concurrently with his position at the American Cathedral, and it provided a secure living including an apartment. But the demands of this entirely administrative job soon left him looking for a change and, when he heard of the vacancy, he applied for the opening at the Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue and 90th Street in New York. Armed with letters of recommendation from Canon Edward West from St. John the Divine, and the Rev. C. Leslie Glenn and the Rev. Francis Bowes Sayre (later dean of Washington Cathedral), his clergy colleagues from Christ Church in Cambridge, he was offered the position. One of the unsuccessful candidates, from whom CDW unknowingly had asked a reference, was his old teacher, Clarence Watters! Donald Wilkins succeeded CDW at the American Cathedral.

CDW began his duties at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in January 1951, and he founded the Canterbury Choral Society in Advent of the following year. Initially conceived as an adjunct Evensong choir for the church’s music program, the choral society soon adapted the pattern of inviting members of the community to join the church choir by audition for presentations of oratorios with full orchestra at three concerts each year in the Church of the Heavenly Rest. The group continued to operate under the aegis of the church until 1988 when CDW left the church, at which time the choral society became an independent organization, even though they maintain a close relationship with the church and still present most of their concerts there. On special occasions the Canterbury Choral Society did present concerts in other venues such as the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Avery Fisher Hall, and Carnegie Hall, including several performances of the Mahler Eighth Symphony assisted by various choirs of children from area schools and churches.

Concurrent with his position at Heavenly Rest and Canterbury, CDW at various times taught at Kew Forest School (where Donald J. Trump was numbered among his students), Chapin School—where he was head of the music department for twenty-four years, New York University, Union Theological Seminary School of Sacred Music, Manhattan School of Music, and SUNY Queens College. In 1969 he co-founded, with his wife Janet Hayes Walker, the York Theatre Company. He directed the Blue Hill Troupe, performing all of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in fully staged productions several times during his thirty-five-year tenure. He was a founder of the Berkshire Choral Festival in 1982, and was the organist of Lake Delaware Boys Camp for fifty years in the summers from 1940-1990. Given the number of organizations he led and the length of his tenures, it is not an exaggeration to say that Charlie Walker’s sphere of influence reached thousands of persons, young and old.

In what others would call their retirement years, Charlie Walker never lessened his professional activity. From 1988 until 2007 he was the organist and choirmaster of Trinity Church, Southport, Connecticut, directing the church choir and a community chorale, sometimes in joint concerts with the Canterbury Choral Society in New York and Southport. From 2007 until his death he was artist-in-residence at Saint Luke’s Parish in Darien, Connecticut, where he assisted in playing and directing weekly rehearsals and services, and taught young choristers in the RSCM Voice for Life curriculum. During all this time he continued his vigorous leadership of the Canterbury Choral Society, never missing a concert until close to the end of his life.

Janet Hayes Walker died in 1997 and in 2001 Charles Dodsley Walker married Elizabeth Phillips, who survives him, as do his children Susan Starr Walker and Peter Hayes Walker, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, March 21 at 3:00 pm in the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York. Interment will be in the family plot in Niles, Michigan, at a later date.

In a follow-up to his 90th birthday interview, in the June 2010 issue of The Diapason, when asked how he would like to be remembered, CDW said:

“Well, I feel that to be a good church musician, doing your job from Sunday to Sunday, is a very worthy thing to be doing, and if you have the good fortune to be able to develop more elaborate musical programs—that’s good, too. But our job as church musicians is to provide, with the resources available, the best possible music for our church, week by week. I like that.”

Richard Torrence (1936-2011)Torrence, Richard

In his identifying response Bishop John J. O’Hara says:

“Richard Torrence passed away four years ago, on February 7, 2011. His interests were varied and wide ranging, spanning the globe. He is best remembered as the founder of the Richard Torrence Management in the early 1960s. Some of the world’s finest concert organists were represented by his agency, including . . . Pierre Cochereau, Ted Alan Worth, Richard Morris, Joyce Jones, Donald Dumler . . . and the legendary Virgil Fox, whose career Torrence guided in Fox’s later years at The Riverside Church and beyond into the late 1970s. Richard had a tremendous impact on the instrument we love.”

For a complete biography and other news articles about Richard, including an account in The New York Times of his work in Russia and his association with Vladimir Putin, with whom he worked closely when Putin was First Deputy Mayor of St. Petersburg, click on the following links:

http://www.circlesinternet.org/torrence/page0/page0.html

http://www.hectorsfriends.com/RichardTorrenceBio.htm

McNeil Robinson (1943-2015)

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At the 2006 Chicago AGO convention.

This obituary appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of the Newsletter of the NYC Chapter of the AGO.

McNeil Robinson died on Saturday, May 9, 2015 after a lengthy illness. A memorial service to be held in New York is being planned for the fall at a time and location to be announced.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, McNeil Robinson quickly developed a prodigious technique and repertoire as a pianist, studying at the Birmingham Conservatory. In his teenaged years he played with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (now the Alabama Symphony Orchestra) on several occasions.

Neil attended Birmingham Southern College as a scholarship student, and in 1962 came to New York City to study at the Mannes College of Music with Leonard Shure as a full scholarship student. He also studied piano privately with Rosina Lhevine and Beveridge Webster. In 1965 he entered Juilliard where he studied organ with Vernon de Tar and Anthony Newman, and composition with Vincent Persichetti.

In his DMA dissertation on the life and work of McNeil Robinson, our colleague Tony Thurman makes the following salient observation:

“From early childhood, Robinson displayed an inexhaustible appetite for knowledge and learning. Even after graduation from The Juilliard School, he continued to study. Continuing education has always been a major focus in his life, even after having achieved international acclaim as a soloist, Robinson continued to seek out and interact with the major teachers and performing artists throughout the world.”

In this vein McNeil continued his organ studies with George Faxon, the noted teacher in Boston, and Clarence Watters, the leading disciple of Marcel Dupré in this country at that time. He also continued his composition studies with Yehudi Wyner and Jacob Druckman in New York, and later Allen Forte at Yale. Even in his mature years he continued to coach with Russell Saunders and Catharine Crozier in this country, and Guy Bovet and Monserrat Torrent in Europe. He was a fixture at AGO conventions and NYC Chapter workshops, anywhere he thought he might gain a new insight into a performance practice, something of historical interest or pedagogical advice. And in looking over those in attendance at such events he could be fairly disdainful of those who were not present who, in his estimation, could have used the information imparted—students and colleagues alike. He was not shy in expressing himself in his opinions, and needed not in the least any assertiveness training!

While still a student Neil gained two positions in New York that thrust his name into the front ranks of the profession: organist of Park Avenue Synagogue and organist of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. The music lists of each of these noted houses of worship indicate the early use of his compositions and there is much commentary about his prowess as an improviser. His 1970 recording of Dupré’s Vêpres du Commun at St. Mary’s earned him a letter of congratulations from the composer.

Neil came to the Park Avenue Synagogue in 1965 at the invitation of the famous Cantor David Putterman to whom he had been recommended by Leonard Bernstein and Jack Gottleib, and he remained at Park Avenue Synagogue until he retired in 2012. He came to St. Mary’s also in 1965 first as the assistant to James Palsgrove, assuming the directorship of the music program in 1974. He continued in that capacity until 1982. Prior to this time he served at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, even sharing duties there during his early years at St. Mary’s.

As his renown as a performer and improviser increased, prospective students began to seek out McNeil Robinson, and his teaching career began to increase, especially after he left the rigorous liturgical schedule at St. Mary the Virgin. As his private studio increased, he also assumed a faculty position at Mannes. In 1984 at the invitation of John Walker, he joined the faculty of Manhattan School of Music, later becoming chair of the organ department after John moved to Pittsburgh in 1991, a position which Neil held at the time of his death. During this era he taught a succession of students who have gone on to significant careers of their own, and who have won numerous competitions and prizes. A tribute on the web site of the American Guild of Organistsnotes that he taught more winners of the AGO Improvisation Competition than anyone else.

As a composer his work continued to be performed in venues throughout the world, including several national conventions of the AGO, where his organ concerto was first performed at the National Convention in San Francisco in 1984. His liturgical compositions regularly find their place in the music lists of Roman Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant houses of worship throughout the country.

After St. Mary the Virgin, Neil’s church career trajectory took him to a lengthy tenure at Park Avenue Christian Church, and later Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, from which he retired only last fall.

Throughout the history of music there have been notable exceptional masters of the musical art who were equally gifted and proficient in the complimentary disciplines of performance, improvisation, composition, and pedagogy. Clearly McNeil Robinson was one such master musician whose life and work happily intersected with our own here in the New York City Chapter.

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Gaston Dethier (1875-1958)

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Dethier is best remembered for his long tenure on the organ faculty of Juilliard, and its predecessor institution, the Institute of Musical Art, where Carl McKinley and Powell Weaver were among his better-remembered students.

Dethier was born in Liège into a musical family that included his father Emile, an organist, and brother Edouard, a violinist. At a very early age he was appointed organist of two churches in Liège.

He came to the United States in 1894 and eventually became an American citizen. He was the organist of the Church of St. Francis Xavier from 1894 until 1907, at which time the position was filled by Pietro Yon.

Dethier taught at Juilliard from 1907-1945, where there is to this day a scholarship awarded in his name. He also composed much organ music which is highly idomatic to the organ, but evocative of his era and is played only infrequently today. His “Variations on Adeste fideles” has remained popular, largely through the efforts of Virgil Fox who recorded it and used to play it frequently around Christmas.

Frank Cedric Smith (1924-2010)

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This obituary appeared in the December 2010 issue of the Newsletter of the NYC Chapter of the AGO.

We are saddened to learn that long time member Frank Cedric Smith died on 2 October 2010 at his home in North Eastham, Mass. He was born in Brooklyn and as a boy sang in several choirs, including the famed Choir of Men and Boys at Grace Church in New York under Ernest Mitchell, whom he succeeded at Grace Church in 1960. He remained at Grace Church until his retirement in 1992 when he and Dilys Smith, his wife of 52 years who survives him, moved to North Eastham.

Following service in the Army Medical Corps in World War II, Mr. Smith studied with Norman Coke-Jephcott and Alec Wyton and earned the Licentiate from Trinity College in London (LTCL) and the Ch.M certificate from the AGO. Prior to his New York appointment, he held the position of Organist and Choirmaster of Grace Church in Newark for fourteen years.

He served as Dean and Treasurer of the New York City Chapter, was a member of the St. Wilfrid Club of the City of New York, serving for many years as treasurer, and was a life member of the Association of Anglican Musicians. In his retirement he continued to teach and play in area churches, and he served the Cape Cod and Islands Chapter of the AGO as treasurer and newsletter editor.

On October 30 his life was celebrated with a Musical Offering and Holy Eucharist at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Orleans, Massachusetts, at which many local organists and choir directors participated, along with representatives of local churches and choral societies with which the Smiths were affiliated. Also participating were former choristers and other representatvies from Grace Church in New York, including the Rev. Fleming Rutledge who preached.

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Roy Perry, Paul Callaway, and the Washington Cathedral Organ

 

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of The Diapason.

Copyright © 2008 Neal Campbell

            In preparing the outline for a volume of memoirs reflecting on Aeolian-Skinner organs I have known, it became clear that my involvement with the organ in Washington Cathedral was sufficient in recollection, scope, and primary sources, to warrant a chapter all its own.  That is what is presented here, along with enough commentary to place the topic in context.

A note about the Cathedral’s name: its full ecclesiastical name is the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington.  In most of the Cathedral’s publications today it is styled as the Washington National Cathedral.  During the era I was familiar with it (ca. 1964-1976) the Cathedral was called simply Washington Cathedral in its weekly orders of service and other publications, listings in the local newspapers, and on all Aeolian-Skinner correspondence, so for ease of continuity that is how I refer to it in this article.

The New Organ in 1937

Much misinformation and technical ambiguity surrounds the Washington Cathedral organ. This is due to the fact that by the time the Cathedral organ was built Ernest Skinner had left the company he founded in 1901.  Also at some point in the early 1930s the Skinner Organ Company merged with the pipe organ division of the Aeolian Company creating the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company.  The entangling alliances of these dramas are beyond the scope of this article, but it is fascinating reading and the reader is referred to Charles Callahan’s two books[1] for the complete saga as told by the principals in their own words.

In 1932 Aeolian-Skinner built a small two-manual organ as its Opus 883 and lent it to Washington Cathedral while Ernest Skinner was still with the firm.  Later in the decade as the Great Choir was nearing completion Ernest Skinner’s new company, the Ernest M. Skinner and Son Company, was contracted to build a large four-manual organ for the Cathedral, and the small organ on loan was reinstalled by A-S in Lasell Junior College in Newton, Massachusetts, retaining the 883 opus number.  The organ no longer exists.[2]

The Great Choir, ca. 1932

By this time the Cathedral worship space consisted of the Great Choir and two side chapels, a rather sizable and impressive edifice in itself, in spite of the fact that it represented but 20% of the finished cathedral church as planned.  The new organ was built by the Ernest M. Skinner and Son Company of Methuen, Massachusetts, as their Opus 510.  This was the company that Ernest Skinner and his son Richmond set up in a factory adjacent to Serlo Organ Hall in Methuen, now known as the Methuen Memorial Music Hall.  Edward Searles, an eccentric organ aficionado living in Methuen, commissioned Henry Vaughan to build a new music hall, completed in 1909, to contain the old Boston Music Hall organ.  In 1889, on a site adjacent to the hall, Searles had purchased an old textile mill and had Vaughan renovate it to function as an organ factory for James Treat.  Treat had worked for Hutchings, Plaisted & Company in Boston, which is probably where Searles met him, as Searles had purchased an organ from Hutchings in 1880[3].  From this factory they manufactured organs under the name of the Methuen Organ Company.  Skinner purchased the factory and the hall during the Depression and ran concerts in the hall and built several notable organs in the factory from about 1936 until the factory was destroyed by fire in 1943.   Of the organs they built, the one for Washington Cathedral was by far the largest. [4]

Given the fierce loyalty in some circles to Skinner, and given his longevity (1866-1960) one wonders whether he might have been a stronger competitor had not the Methuen factory been destroyed by fire in 1943.  For example, the Skinner Organ for the new St. Thomas Church in 1913, Opus 205, was built in collaboration with T. Tertius Noble and it remained one of Skinner’s favorites.  Noble was likewise devoted to Skinner.   From the Methuen factory Skinner electrified an old Johnson organ for Noble’s St. Thomas studio.  The company also relocated and revised the organ in the Brick Church in New York when the church moved to its new and present location under Clarence Dickinson’s direction in 1940.  Dickinson had also played the opening recital on Skinner’s Opus 150 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in 1911.  The records show that most of the work of the new Ernest M. Skinner and Son Company was limited to rebuilding and relocating of some of Skinner’s former organs.  Of the four-manual organs Skinner built in Methuen only two survive: the organ in the chapel of Mt. Holyoke College (built in 1938 as his Opus 511, which was rebuilt from his previous organ in the chapel), and the organ in St. Martin’s Church in Harlem, a rebuilt Skinner from a previous location.  He did build a completely new four-manual organ for St. John’s Lutheran Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania, but it has since been extensively modified.  And a three-manual organ for St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church in New York is extant and unaltered, but unplayable. [5]

Serlo Hall and factory of the Methuen Organ Company

The committee to select a new organ for Washington Cathedral included Noble and Channing Lefebvre of Trinity Church in New York, each enthusiastic supports of Ernest Skinner.  So it is not hard to imagine the Cathedral turning to this new company headed by Skinner to build its first organ, in spite of its somewhat shaky organization.   According to Ernest Skinner authentic Skinner organs were available only through the new company building out of Methuen—and this was arguably true.  Advertisements in The Diapason and The American Organist about this time barely disguise Skinner’s contempt of the tonal philosophy of the continuing Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, and his letters to the editor are openly hostile to G. Donald Harrison.    GDH for his part never responded in kind, though his business correspondence shows that Skinner’s remarks disturbed him.  He ultimately let his own instruments speak for themselves as growing numbers of younger organists, many of whom had studied in Europe during and after World War II, found favor with his classically inspired instruments.  Paul Callaway, the Cathedral’s new organist, also studied with Dupré in Paris and later served in the war as a bandmaster in the South Pacific.

An Organ for the Completed Cathedral Emerges

The North case and Great division, ca. 1940

The Ernest M. Skinner and Son Opus 510 organ served the cathedral well in essentially unaltered form—albeit with additions—until 1973, at which time the major renovation began, the result of which is the present organ.  In 1957, with the projected completion of the nave in sight, the Cathedral began a series of consultations with Aeolian-Skinner regarding what steps it should take in providing for the organ.  Although G. Donald Harrison designed a small, two-manual organ for the Cathedral’s Bethlehem Chapel[6] in 1951, he had nothing to do with the design of the main organ, and I have not discovered any comments by him about it.  By the late 1950s the crossing, transepts and first three bays of the nave were nearing completion.  The big decision before the building committee at that time was whether to build the great central tower over the crossing and let the nave wait its turn, or complete the interior of the nave and build the tower later.  There were persuasive arguments for both approaches, but it was decided to build the tower and let the nave wait.

With all of that in mind, it was decided to develop a master plan for the organ with a view to gradually altering and enlarging the organ to accommodate the full cathedral.  Joseph S. Whiteford, the new president and tonal director of Aeolian-Skinner, developed this in consultation with the Cathedral organ committee, which in reality amounted to Callaway and his associate Richard Wayne Dirksen, reporting to and receiving reactions from the Dean, the Very Rev. Francis B. Sayre, Jr.  Whiteford’s scheme specified what might be called a post-Harrison American Classic concept—a standard four-manual layout, together with a large Positiv, independent choruses on manual and pedal divisions, together with a plethora of imitative voices (some new and some saved from the old organ) and softer sounds to accompany the choir.  The correspondence shows Whiteford to be in total command of the subject, including convincing arguments surrounding the scientific properties of physics and acoustics involved in the emerging cathedral space.  Responding to a request from the Organ Committee of the Cathedral in February 1957 he says:

          “The present enclosed volume of air, which has so much to do with the acoustics of  both the organ and choir, is between 60 and 70% of the completed Cathedral.  Furthermore, the surfaces normal, or adjacent to the organ and choir, are approximately 90% complete.  These are the most important surfaces and the most important air volume, since thy have the most to do with the projections of the sound to the listener.  The air spaces and surfaces at the West end of the Cathedral, for instance, while important as a terminus, do not shape and control the sound in anywhere near the same capacity as the Great Choir and Crossing.

“The present organ is truly magnificent in certain respects.  It has a wealth of soft voices which create an extremely fine effect.  These were the high points of the period in which the organ was built.  Since that time tremendous strides have been made in making instruments of this character greatly more flexible with regard to the many periods of music . . .  [which] demands primarily, highly focused and clear sound, rather than the nebulous, floating, ethereal sounds of many strings and flutes in which the present organ now abounds.”[7]

The Cathedral from the air, ca. 1965

From this point Whiteford’s letter continues in language reminiscent of Harrison and Emerson Richards a decade earlier.  He posits that the best location for the organ would be the yet-to-be-built west gallery, but that idea never received serious consideration.  He then takes the Cathedral through a logical long range plan to accomplish the task, beginning with the console, wiring, and relays (“the nervous system of the organ” he says), then adding the Brustwerk and Positiv divisions nearer the choir and in direct sight line to the congregation, continuing with the replacement and relocation of various portions of the remaining divisions.  This letter remained the vision statement for the work on the organ that culminated in 1976, when the full length of the Nave was finally completed some 19 years later.

A thorough study of Whiteford and an analysis of his extant organs has yet to be undertaken, but his contributions to Aeolian-Skinner in his own right are considerable and warrant such a study.  In fact, Whiteford worked very closely with Harrison during the building of some of the company’s most successful organs, and it often fell to him to implement the details of the schemes GDH wrought.  At the time when Callaway and Whiteford were discussing the future of the Cathedral’s organ in 1957-58, some of Whiteford’s own most successful organs were built.  Opus 1308 for St. Mark’s Church (now Cathedral) in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Opus 1309 for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now called the Community of Christ), in Independence, Missouri, come to mind.  These were large four-manual organs in new, highly visible venues—very different in concept, use, and outcome, but important manifestations of A-S as it emerged following the death of G. Donald Harrison.  The Shreveport organ in particular derived much of its distinction through the on-site alterations and finishing of Roy Perry and J. C. Williams[8], noted A-S representatives in that part of the country.  Callaway particularly liked the Shreveport organ and measured plans for Washington Cathedral against its success.

It is true that Whiteford did not come to organ building through the traditional apprentice method, and there is no doubt that many of the Aeolian-Skinner craftsmen (several of whom were old enough to be his father) didn’t resonate with what some perceived as Whiteford’s Johnny-come-lately status.  But from my experience with many of his organs, I tend to agree with Emerson Richards in his report to Henry Willis III in England when, after Harrison’s death, he wrote “I think that he [Whiteford] has more ability than he is given credit for but he is impatient and for some reason does not inspire confidence—just why I cannot say.”[9]    

By this time Ernest Skinner’s star had set, his attempts failed to set up a shop after the Methuen fire, and even though he was on the scene and continued to offer his diatribes against what he considered the desecrations of his masterpieces, no one paid much attention to him.  Still, it is still hard not to feel a bit sorry for the grand old man as he saw his early successes at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, then St. Thomas Church, and now Washington Cathedral fall prey to advancing ideas carried out by the company still bearing his name!

The first step in the lofty long-range plan was to provide a new four-manual console to control the completed organ.  The new console was encased in elaborate Gothic panels designed for the previous console by Cathedral architect Philip Hubert Frohman, which had pedalboard, swell shoes, and toe studs on a hydraulic elevator.  Thus, while the bench height remained the same, the pedalboard could be raised or lowered.  Presumably this was to accommodate the disparate heights of the Cathedral’s organist and his associate—Paul Callaway who was unusually short, and Richard Dirksen, who was unusually tall.   This 1958 console was referred to by Aeolian-Skinner as Opus 883-A, picking up on the opus number of the small two-manual it lent the Cathedral in 1932, even though the original #883 was now in place in Newton, Massachusetts, and the Ernest M. Skinner and Son Opus 510 was the only organ in situ.[10]  Sparse in design by comparison with the digital age of multiple levels of memory, it was luxurious for the time.  It had 18 generals, remote combination action, and the usual couplers and pistons to make for ease in playing.  The nomenclature engraved on the knobs reflected the projected new organ and only approximately correlated to the actual stops of the 1937 organ it controlled.  On the Great, for example, the Prinzipal, Spitz Prinzipal, and Salicional actually drew Diapasons I, II, and III respectively.  It was a bit confusing to the traveling weekly recitalist, but it somehow made sense and had the psychological effect of projecting the vision of the new organ. The console functioned in this way until the overhaul began in 1973.

Dirksen and Callaway

The next step was to add two unenclosed divisions in 1963 named Brustwerk and Positiv with matching pedal in the so-called musicians galleries[11], lofts above the canopies of the stalls in the Great Choir, in the first bay on either side of the Choir, carrying the job number 883-B.  In 1965 as Opus 883-C, the Trompette-en-Chamade was installed in the triforium over the high altar.[12]  This was the organ I knew growing up: the 4-manual Ernest M. Skinner and Son, Opus 510, plus the new console, Brustwerk and Positiv, and Trompette-en-Chamade.  During high school and college years I attended weekly services and events at the Cathedral, and I played a recital on the Sunday afternoon series in 1971 while I was a senior in high school and a student of William Watkins.   Unfortunately, I was too young to have been considered for the extraordinary College of Church Musicians, the graduate level school founded at the Cathedral by Leo Sowerby which had closed its doors by the time I was of college age.  I did know several of the Fellows of the College, and heard all of them as they played their recitals following Evensong on Sunday afternoons.  Sowerby himself was often in attendance and recitals frequently included his music.

The Positiv in the south choir gallery

While attending the University of Maryland, I did study privately with Paul Callaway for a year and observed his rehearsals and services, and will always be grateful to his memory for his helpful mentorship as I began my trek into the intricacies of the Episcopal Church.   Weekly attendance at Evensong and the organ recitals which followed left an indelible memory.  The variety of the repertoire and sheer amounts of it was remarkable.  The choir sang the responses, Psalms, anthem settings of the canticles, and an anthem at the offertory.  On the last Sunday of the month there was a cantata or group of anthems in place of the sermon.  At Evensong the Psalms were either sung either to Anglican Chant or Plainsong, and the service began in one of two ways:  1) a processional hymn, followed by the Responses with the choir in place, followed by the Psalms to Anglican Chant; or 2) the Responses were sung where the choir gathered in the North Transept, and the Psalms were sung to Plainsong in processional accompanied by handbell changes.

Leo Sowerby and students of the College of Church Musicians

In addition to the standard cathedral repertoire of the late 19th and early 20th century, Callaway offered large doses of early music, and modern music.  I recall one Evensong when all of the music was by Byrd.  The movable cathedral chairs for the congregation were arranged facing the North Transept with a portable altar, candles, and officiants’ chairs set up on the Nave floor, while the choir sang from the gallery above, and the entire service was unaccompanied.  New works were also frequently premiered; particularly memorable was the dedication of the central tower in 1964 when new works by Samuel Barber, Lee Hoiby, Stanley Hollingsworth, Roy Hamlin Johnson, John La Montaine, Milford Myhre, Ned Rorem, and Leo Sowerby were given first performances.

Callaway usually played the organ voluntaries himself.  His repertoire was vast, and he listed preludes and postludes to each service.  The now-familiar practice of the principal musician as conductor, with the assistant doing all the playing, was not then in vogue,  and Callaway usually played anthem accompaniments, as well.  Typically, the assistant organist turned pages, and perhaps played the sermon hymn.  In retrospect it is easy to suggest that the technical security of the choir suffered, as they were only able to see the Callaway through a series of mirrors.  But it was the way things were done at the time and it offered a window of opportunity to hear this extraordinary organist in the roles of recitalist playing the repertoire, service player, and accompanist.  Callaway excelled in each of these capacities following the examples of his mentors, T. Tertius Noble and particularly David McK. Williams.

Dr Callaway leading a rehearsal in the Cathedral choir room

Even though Callaway was a pupil of T. Tertius Noble at St. Thomas Church he was great friends with David McK. Williams at St. Bartholomew’s and often spoke of how much he learned from him.  Part of Callaway’s duties as Noble’s student was to play the services at St. Thomas Chapel (now All Saints’ Church on  East 60th Street) where Evensong on Sunday evening was late enough that he usually turned pages for David McK. Williams at 4:00 Evensong at St. Bartholomew’s.  Here he observed in close-up detail Williams’ absolute control from the console, where by all accounts his accompaniments and improvisations were extraordinary.  Callaway often told me of the profound effect David’s playing had on him, even though he was careful to say that never studied with him formally.  Callaway was approached about the position at St. Bartholomew’s when David McK. Williams was forced to resign in 1946, but having just returned to the Cathedral following service in World War II, he declined, and Harold Friedell was appointed.

Paul Callaway and Ronald Rice at the Great Organ console, ca. 1965

Callaway’s playing of large doses of Bach chorale preludes and trio sonatas using the Brustwerk and Positiv were models of accuracy, style, liturgical appropriateness, and performance practice not as a subject unto itself, but a natural vehicle for expressive playing.  The contrapuntal textures were clear and focused, and the new Brustwerk and Positiv divisions were the ultimate in Joseph Whiteford’s development of the classic Aeolian-Skinner sound in the post-Harrison era.  They were characterized by low wind pressures, articulate yet even voicing, pipes of high tin content, and a location within sight lines the choir and congregation. The Brustwerk and Positiv could be used by themselves in Baroque music; added to the old organ they added immediacy and clarity.  In combination with the main organ and Trompette-en-Chamade, the combined divisions were good vehicles for thrilling performances of Callaway’s hefty doses of romantic and modern organ music.  The organ is fairly well documented in LP recordings accompanying the choir and in solo repertoire, including a multi-volume complete performance of the Bach Clavierübung, Callaway playing Part III on the Cathedral organ, and Ralph Kirkpatrick playing the other parts on harpsichord.  Just before the 1973-76 work began, Callaway recorded an album of music of Gigout, Franck, Tournemire, and Messiaen on the organ, the specific intent being to document the organ prior to the renovation.  The plan was then to record the same repertoire on the new organ in 1976, which he did.  To my knowledge these LPs have not been transferred to CD, but are fairly easy to find through the various search engines.

The New Organ 1973-76

             With America’s Bicentennial observances on the horizon, the Cathedral in the early 1970s poured considerable energy into completing the nave and organ, and planned several special services which culminated in the Dedication of the Nave for the Reconciliation of Peoples of Earth in the presence of President and Mrs. Ford, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on July 8, 1976.  I sang during the service as a member of the University of Maryland Chorus.  All aspects of the Cathedral’s Bicentennial  programs were well reported in the media.  The actual bicentennial date, July 4, 1976, was a Sunday, and the front page of the Style section of The Washington Post featured a picture of Roy Perry in the organ blowing a pipe, and a lengthy article by Paul Hume saying:

            “When Queen Elizabeth walks down the aisle of Washington Cathedral Thursday morning, she will be hearing one of the greatest pipe organs in the world . . . Perry worked among the thousands of pipes with the precision and infinite care of a jeweler cutting a priceless diamond so that its facets would produce the greatest possible beauty.  And like the diamond, the sounds of the Washington Cathedral’s organ pipes can be expected to last, with care, indefinitely . . . they now stand ready. . . to create new  beauty in a newly completed setting.  There are those who know no beauty in all of  music that can surpass theirs.”[13]

Aeolian-Skinner had just ceased operation when the Cathedral began its work in 1973.  Joseph Whiteford, even though he retired from A-S before its denouement, continued to be the person with whom the Cathedral (that is, Callaway) corresponded regarding the new work, and it was always assumed that he would oversee the work for A-S, even though he was officially retired.  Whiteford, the son of a prominent Washington attorney and a graduate of St. Alban’s School on the Cathedral close, was a good friend of Callaway, and it was natural that these two would be the point persons in the Cathedral’s ever-evolving planning of the organ.  Reading the 1957 correspondence we see that the Cathedral’s estimated time line for the completion of the cathedral was optimistic by several years.  In hindsight, it is providential that the Cathedral’s work was delayed.  Had the Cathedral contracted to accomplish its ambitious scheme with A-S during its final days, the results would likely have included artistic difficulties and financial disasters.[14]

Roy Perry’s role in the Cathedral organ renovation was an afterthought.  Many of the former Aeolian-Skinner men who weren’t retired were still in business as suppliers to the trade.  It was decided to gather a consortium—the Cathedral’s term—of workers to design, build, voice, and finish the necessary pipes and chests, all under the direction of Whiteford, following the plan of his 1957 design.  The one catch was that Whiteford, who lived in California, did not fly and apparently did not want to relocate to Washington for the long periods of time the job required.  Whiteford pitched the idea to Callaway that Perry, as one of A-S’s most successful field representatives and finishers, be the on-site supervisor and finisher for the Cathedral, working under his (Whiteford’s) direction from California via telephone and hard copy correspondence.  It is poignant to read Perry’s negotiations with the Cathedral regarding his compensation.  At this time Perry was retired and drawing Social Security payments.  He explained to Dirksen—who was the Cathedral’s agent in business and logistical matters pertaining to the new organ—that if in any given month he earned more than $175 his Social Security would be knocked out for the month.  He therefore suggested that for the duration of the project, he be paid “$175 per month as a salary, plus expenses, for a total of $5,875 for the period April 1973-December 1975”[15] and the Cathedral agreed to this schedule of payments.

            In short order the Cathedral had letters of agreement with Aeolian-Skinner pipemaker Thomas Anderson and head flue voicer John Hendricksen to provide the necessary new pipes.  The new chests were made by the Ernest M. Skinner and Son Company of East Kingston, New Hampshire, the continuing company Skinner started when he left Aeolian-Skinner.  Anthony Bufano, another A-S alumnus, who was by then curator of the organs in The Riverside Church in New York, recovered many of the pouches with Perflex and facilitated the necessary console details.  Other structural components were entrusted to Arthur Carr and the Durst Organ Supply Company of Erie, Pennsylvania.  All local arrangements were coordinated through the Newcomer Organ Company and their outstandingly gifted foreman Robert Wyant, who had taken care of the Cathedral organ for many years.  Between these principals—the Cathedral (usually via Dirksen), Newcomer in Washington, Whiteford in California, Perry in Texas, Anderson and Hendricksen in Massachusetts, Bufano in New York, and Carr in Erie—flowed frequent communications for three years: correspondence, pipe orders, voicing notes, shop talk of every kind, travel arrangements, and occasional items of humor, or personal and family notes of interest.  In spite of intense seriousness of purpose and high artistic standards, it is obvious that there was a sense of family about this consortium.

It was a laudable plan which attracted huge interest in the organ community in Washington and elsewhere as word spread.  It called for several unusual features to be built, retaining a large portion of the existing Ernest M. Skinner and Son divisions, and the Aeolian-Skinner Brustwerk and Positiv divisions located in the musicians’ galleries.  The Trompette-en-Chamade over the High Altar was of course to remain.

The Trompette-en-Chamade

The Great in the first bay north triforium was to consist largely of new pipework intended to complement the two Baroque divisions.  The tonal relationships (and to a large degree the pipes as well) of the three enclosed divisions was to remain, because of their proven effectiveness in accompanying the choir.  Seated at the console these divisions were located directly above the organist’s line of sight.  Directly above, behind the case in the second bay north triforium was the Swell, followed by the Choir, and Solo, in the succeeding third and fourth bay triforium galleries.  The Pedal, located throughout the south triforium, was to be a combination of new and existing pipes, including the four full length 32’ stops.

A small division, a typical Ernest Skinner Echo, which was played with the Swell division, was located in the fifth bay south triforium, opposite the main organ near the High Altar.  This was the location of the original organ which A-S lent to the Cathedral in 1932.  It consisted of an 8’—4’ five-rank Choeur des Violes, an 8’ Éoliènne Céleste, and an 8 Voix Humaine.[16]  To this was added a unique stop Perry developed with the curious name Flûte d’Argent II.  Perry told me that once he had found an interesting flute stop built by Estey called Zartflöte or Silver Flute, which was a tapered flute that was also harmonic.  It had a cool, clear sound which Perry thought would sound good with a celeste added to it, so he ordered it in some of the organs he finished for Aeolian-Skinner.[17]  I was present the night Perry pitched the idea to Dirksen to add this unique stop to the organ. Wayne liked it and said he would find the money somehow; it wasn’t cheap!  In Roy’s previous use of this stop he called it Harmonic Spitzflöte II, or simply Silver Flute.  Whiteford was fanatical about nomenclature and insisted that stops in the Great be given German names, and those of the Swell, French.  So, this new stop became in Whiteford’s nomenclature Flûte d’Argent—Silver Flute.  In French, of course, Argent has more than one meaning, and many a visiting organist has wondered if it was a joke that the Cathedral organ contained a “Money Flute.”  It was an expensive stop to build and voice, so the double meaning may indeed be appropriate.

One of the chief goals of the new organ was to provide more sound directly into the crossing and nave, so it was decided to build a new division of significant tonal properties in the first bay south triforium, directly opposite the Great.  This enclosed division had swell shade openings into the chancel and south transept, and was built with funds solicited in memory of Leo Sowerby, so the division became known as the Sowerby Memorial Swell division, since it was also to be played via the Swell manual.  In effect, if not in planning, it was a Bombarde or Grande Choeur division—small but telling, consisting of a Principal chorus topped by two mixtures, a chorus of French reeds, and an exceptional string celeste of special construction which extended all the way to 16’ C in the unison and celeste ranks.

Therefore, the Swell manual played pipes located in three locations: 1) the main Swell directly in front of the organist behind the north case, 2) the Sowerby Swell, opposite the Great, and 3) the Echo Swell in the fifth bay south triforium.  Roy Perry told me that the job ought to have had a five-manual console and it is easy to understand the organizational logic in such a plan. The organ would have benefited from having the Bombarde (Sowerby division) and Echo occupying the fifth manual, but in the pre-digital, pre-solid state age, it would have been enormously expensive, if not impossible, and the big plan did call for retaining the 1958 console.  This brings up the important point that consistently stands out in the project: no expense was spared on what was done, but nothing was done that was considered unnecessary and console rearrangements fell into that category.  As it was the total cost of the new 1973-76 organ was projected to be $216,000[18] which would equal between $1.3 and $1.8 million 2007 dollars.[19]       

          Other unusual features included extending the 32’ Bombarde into the 64’ range for three notes for pieces ending in B, B-flat, or A.  I recall that these three notes were ineffective, being half-length metal pipes extended from a full-length wooden 32’ rank.  There weren’t many miscalculations in the project, but in a job of this scope a few were inevitable—some humorous, others serious.  Perry may be best remembered for his beautifully finished celestes, but he was equally adventurous in designing bold, complex mixtures.[20]  For the Cathedral he and Whiteford designed the unusual VI-X Terzzymbel intended initially to flank the Trompette-en-Chamade over the High Altar, but eventually placed with the Great.  He also called for an unusual mixture in the Solo called None Kornett to replace Skinner’s full mixture, but (in his words) “it was a vast disappointment on the voicing machine, so you may prefer to abandon these two top boards and re-engrave the [draw] knob PERRY’S FOLLY.”[21]  On the other hand, the use of Perflex, which Dirksen insisted upon, stung the Cathedral badly in ensuing years, as it did many other jobs of the era when everyone was desperate to find a substitute for chest leather.  In the 1960s some New York churches found that leather lasted less than a decade.  As it turned out, Perflex itself was indestructible but there seemed to be no satisfactory way to glue it to the wooden chests, so in short order Perflex was deemed even less suitable than leather.

The 1973-76 organ in Washington Cathedral is really the final statement of Aeolian-Skinner’s concept of the American Classic Organ.  Among the Cathedral consortium it was informally referred to as Opus Posthumous.  Perry went a step further and printed stationary in jest (I think!) with the title “Organbuilders Anonymous” in a shaded copperplate font, listing the names of those taking part: “Roy Perry, Most Anonymous; Tommy Anderson, Almost Anonymous; John Hendricksen, All But Anonymous; Bob Wyant, Nearly Anonymous; and Honorary Anonymouses: Joe Whiteford, Wayne Dirksen, Harold Newcomer, Kim Bolten [sic], Arthur Carr, Jim Williams, Tony Bufano, Carl Basset [sic], Adolph Zajic, Bon Smith.”[22]  It was Perry’s hope to actually build organs in his post-Cathedral days with this consortium.  He and Jim Williams had previously built a few organs independent of A-S using the services of several of them.  Humor aside, this is as complete a list of workers as may be found anywhere else in the documentation of the building of the organ.  They are all persons associated either with Aeolian-Skinner or the Cathedral, with the exception of Adolph Zajic, the well known reed voicer still working at Möller at the time, and the independent Carr.  The one piece of the puzzle missing in the original consortium of A-S alumni was a reed voicer.  Oscar Pearson, the famous voicer who created the State Trumpet at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine[23] was still alive, but had retired and was deaf.[24]  Herb Stimson, A-S’s last reed voicer died just about the time A-S went out of business.  So, for the Cathedral Möller built and Zajic voiced the Great reeds.

Roy Perry was central to the tonal outcome of the Cathedral organ.  I would venture to say that his influence was greater than that of Whiteford, who never made the trip to Washington either during the work or after.  The correspondence often shows Perry dutifully asking permission to make various alterations, some slight, others significant.  Except for stop nomenclature, it appears that Whiteford never tried to second guess him.  Perry’s on-the-job adjustments, combined with his natural gifts as a finisher, resulted in the unique sound stamped with his genius.

Roy Perry at the Kilgore organ before the new console, ca. 1962

I had nothing official to do with the Cathedral or its organ project.  I had met Roy Perry in the summer of 1972 when I was a finalist in the AGO National Organ Playing Competition at its national convention in Dallas.  My teacher, William Watkins, knew Perry and had played and recorded at his church in Kilgore, the First Presbyterian Church—home of the well-known Aeolian-Skinner organ which in the 1950s and 60s was prominently featured in company sales literature and on the “King of Instruments” series of recordings.  Volume II has recordings of both Perry and Watkins on the Kilgore organ, and Volume X featured the Kilgore organ and choirs.  It was through these recordings that Perry’s name became known outside of the Texas-Oklahoma-Louisiana territory he covered for Aeolian-Skinner.  The English choral repertoire on the Volume X is standard fare now, but was revelatory at the time.  However, it was in the American music that Perry used the organ to greatest effect, notably in his accompaniment of David McK. Williams’ anthem In the year that King Uzziah died, and the Bruce Simonds’ Prelude on Iam sol recedit igneus, which he introduced to the organ world through the recording.[25]  Watkins thought it important that I meet Perry and see the Kilgore organ, and that was the source of our association.

When I learned of Perry’s involvement in the Cathedral project I, still a student living in Washington, offered to meet him at the airport, run errands for him, and in the course of events introduced him to my fellow organists and showed him around town.  His trips were a whirlwind of activity and were red letter days on my calendar.

On the one hand I was fortunate to have been able to simply sit and watch him at work finishing the various stops as installments of new pipework arrived.  He listened as I played the pieces I was working on and came to some of my church services.  His musical insights from his perspective as an organbuilder were valuable, especially regarding registration.

His knowledge of the repertoire was vast and greatly belied his humble upbringing.  In designing several stops for the Cathedral he would have special pieces of music in mind, and would often request that I have such and such a piece ready when such and such a stop arrived.  For the new strings in the Sowerby Swell he wanted to hear Duruflé’s Veni creator AdagioAnd he wanted to hear Bach’s chorale prelude Nun komm der heiden heiland, BWV 659, beginning  with the accompaniment on the new celestes, especially the opening pedal notes on the new 16’ Violoncelle Celeste against the boldest cornet in the organ.[26]  As the project completion drew near toward Holy Week 1975 he was particularly looking forward to the full ensembles in Langlais Les Rameaux which was on the program for Palm Sunday.  And he was irritated when Wayne Dirksen (in fact a fine organist who was in the class of Virgil Fox at the Peabody Institute) on Good Friday played Bach’s O mensch bewien with the cantus firmus, in his words, “played on a lard-butted clarinet, with four cornet’s in the organ to choose from!”—a curious admonition given his preferred registration for the Bach Nun komm!  He did love the cornet combination for Bach ornamented chorales and I think he perceived string celestes, as a family of tone in his design, as an equally viable and appropriate accompaniment as are flutes or principals, and—who knows—he may have a point.  He was a wonderful teacher, vivid in imagination, yet grounded in a thorough knowledge of the repertoire.  I still feel his influence when practicing and playing.

On the other hand, in social settings stories of the personalities he had known and worked with flowed in a heady ether wherever we went.  Early in his career he had come to New York to study with Hugh McAmis and it was then that he met David McK. Williams and struck up their life-long friendship.  He told of how his involvement with Aeolian-Skinner began by accident, and lasted for 25 years, during which time his sales amounted to roughly 25% of Aeolian-Skinner’s business, and he was full of humorous anecdotes of Donald Harrison’s trips through the southwest on various jobs.

Likewise, for his part, Harrison had great regard for Perry and enjoyed his trips to Texas, as he relates in a letter to Henry Willis in England:

          “Roy Perry, or Perriola, as he is affectionately referred to in our organization, has supervised, with the aid of Jack Williams and his son, most of our important installations in Texas.  He is an accomplished organist and has a wonderful ear.  He is a top notch finisher and during my periodic visits to Texas I cannot remember a time when I have had to suggest that something might have been done a little differently.  He just has that kind of organ sense.

I think you will also enjoy him as a personality.  He knows some good southern stories and, by the way, he is an expert at southern hospitality.  I always look forward to my trips down to his neck of the woods as we have a glorious time just waiting for sundown to start on a little nourishment.”[27]

Roy Perry during the finishing of the organ in First Baptist Church, Longview, Texas, 1952

As the work was in the planning stages at the Cathedral, I remember several of us being given a tour through the organ.  Roy was explaining where the various stops and divisions were to be located or relocated.  He was particularly proud of two sets of string celestes he was designing.[28]  These were to be of varying scales, very broad in tone, becoming narrower as the notes descended in the compass, and having 2/7 mouth construction, a mouth width usually found only on Principal pipes.  He said we would “smell the rosin” when we heard it.  Being the eager and easily malleable students we were, we expressed appropriate awe, and he said rather matter of factly “well boys, the way I see it, if you can’t fill the house with string tone you’re just not sittin’ in the front of the bus.”

Roy was a character!  He was part of that vanishing (vanished?) breed of larger than life extrovert, totally uninhibited Louisiana Cajun humorists the likes of which Episcopal Washington had never seen.  Though I was not part of it, he had a non-musical, non-organ related, social orbit involving the higher echelons of the Cathedral hierarchy.  Usually his trips, which brought him to Washington two or three times a year, sometimes for four or five weeks’ duration, included a big party where he cooked his famous Louisiana gumbo.  These were the talk of the Cathedral work force, and not just the music office.  Accounts of these gatherings and recipes are also mentioned in the correspondence, taking their place along side voicing notes and complex Cathedral schedules.

Roy made friends easily with all of the cathedral staff, especially the vergers and volunteer tour guides called Aides.  He regaled us at dinner one night telling of a sight he swore he witnessed.  A very tall, “professional Texan” as he called him, complete with Stetson hat in hand, tooled leather cowboy boots, shirt with pearl buttons, and long, thick, white sideburns (think Jock Ewing in the nighttime soap opera “Dallas”) came up to Ginny Hammond, the Head Aide.  He drew himself up as he took in the wide vistas of the transepts, the newly completed nave, then the High Altar with the Trompette-en-Chamade atop, and said in his thickest Texan drawl, “Tell me, ma’m, is this yer MAIN SANC-tu-ar-y?”

Roy Perry at the Cathedral console, 1976

At some point midway through the work, word got out that this former Aeolian-Skinner representative and finisher was nearby and consulting offers began to appear.  He actually designed a rather interesting organ for All Saints’ Church in Chevy Chase where I was assistant organist.  The case was made that we could get a new organ in essentially the same way as the Cathedral had via the consortium, but nothing came of the plan.  I accompanied him to the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, who had sought his advice regarding their organ.[29]  He also did a thorough inspection and report for All Saints’ Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, [30] and—in 1977 after the Cathedral work was complete—made a visit and proposed additions at St. George’s-by-the-River, in Rumson, New Jersey.[31]  Also in 1977 he did what turned out to be his final work in some tonal refinishing to the organ in Church of the Epiphany in Washington, D. C.[32]  He died in May 1978.

I moved away from the city of my youth in 1976 just as the Bicentennial furor was dying down.  I did return to play a Sunday afternoon recital at the Cathedral in 1977 in a program of music I had coached with Roy.  I have not played the organ since, although I have occasionally attended services at the Cathedral when traveling, notably at the memorial service for Dirksen in July 2003 and have heard it on the telecasts of funerals and memorial services of national figures.  The organ had its eccentricities and could easily be mismanaged by visiting recitalists lacking practice time.  But the sound is still unmistakable as a creation imbued with Roy Perry’s magic and the Aeolian-Skinner aesthetic.  The organ in its post-1976 state has been featured in several recordings, notably the series of live Sunday afternoon recitals on the JAV label, where the performances of Erik Suter, Gerre Hancock, Peter Richard Conte, Ann Elise Smoot, Todd Wilson, Daniel Roth, and John Scott display the great variety, contrast, and depth of this unique organ.

In reading the correspondence and technical data surrounding the creation of the Cathedral organ, what impresses me most is the humility tinged with pride, innate talent, sense of history, exuberance, and exceeding devotion to the Cathedral that this unique consortium exhibited.  It is summed up best by Wayne Dirksen himself in a report as the work was nearing completion:

            “We began twenty-six months ago with the security of long planning, (since 1957),  the thorough experience and knowledge of two principal consultants, with confidence in our craftsmen and maintainers, and with ample time to correlate and coordinate a complex project toward the perfect result we believed possible.

Now the largest part is accomplished.  During this Holy Week, 1975, thousands will hear with their ears what we knew in our hearts: that an incomparably magnificent pipe organ will grace this cathedral for centuries to come, the result of extraordinary talents, devotion, and skills we have combined for its creation.”[33]

 

+++   +++   +++

 NEAL CAMPBELL grew up in Washington, D. C. and attended the University of Maryland.  He holds graduate and undergraduate degrees from Manhattan School of Music where he earned the DMA in 1996.  He held church and synagogue positions in Washington, Virginia, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York, before assuming his present position at St. Luke’s Church, Darien, Connecticut, in 2006.  He was for ten years on the adjunct faculty of the University of Richmond, and served three terms on the AGO National Council.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY and SOURCES

Callahan, Charles. The American Classic Organ: A History in Letters.

            Richmond:Organ Historical Society, 1990.

______________ . AEolian-Skinner Remembered: A History in Letters.

            Minneapolis: Randall Egan, 1996.

Two volumes of letters, commentary, shop notes, and photographs which chronicle the history of the Skinner and Aeolian-Skinner Organ Companies.  Aeolian-Skinner Remembered also has essays and reminiscences by Donald Harrison’s son and other former A-S employees.

Diapason, The.  Arlington, IL, Scranton Gillette Communications, Inc.

Feller, Richard T., and Fishwick, Marshall W.  For Thy Great Glory.    Culpeper, VA: the Community Press of Culpeper, 1965, 1979.

A history of the construction of the Cathedral.

Workman, William G., and Dirksen,Wayne, comp.

The Gloria in excelsis Tower Dedication Book.  Washington Cathedral, 1964.  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: R64-1214, with recording.

Contains the complete orders of service for the Dedication of the central tower on Ascension Day, 1964, together with the music commissioned for the occasion.

“Guide to Washington Cathedral, A.”  The National Cathedral Association, 1965. Library of Congress Catalogue Number 25-2355.

Contains much information and photographs about the Cathedral’s music and organs, including a stop list of the organ at that time.  Also contains information about the College of Church Musicians.

“Guide to Washington Cathedral, A.”  The National Cathedral Association, 1953.

Contains a photograph of the original Ernest M. Skinner and Son console, and other information on the organ also available in the 1940 edition.

Kinzey, Allen, and Lawn, Sand, comp., E. M. Skinner / Aeolian-Skinner Opus List. Richmond: Organ Historical Society, 1997.

Opus list and notes on the Skinner Organ Company, Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, Ernest M. Skinner and Son Organ Company, and organs built by Carl Bassett, Skinner’s foreman.

Morgan, William.  The Almighty Wall: The Architecture of Henry Vaughan.  New York: The Architectural History Foundation, 1983.

Biography and analysis of the work of the noted architect, who was the first architect of Washington Cathedral and architect of Serlo Organ Hall, now known as Methuen Memorial Music Hall.  Includes an entire chapter on the patronage of Edward Searles in Methuen.

“View Book of Washington Cathedral, A.”  The National Cathedral Association, 1940.

Contains information about and photographs of the new organ.

Roy Perry Papers.

Files pertaining to the building of the Cathedral Organ 1973-76, consisting of correspondence and technical data.  In the possession of the author.

Liner notes on recordings of the Cathedral Organ 1964-1976.

Web sites:

Aeolian-Skinner Archives  http://aeolian-skinner.110mb.com

Opus lists, notes, and photographs of organs built by the Skinner Organ Company, Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, and Ernest M. Skinner and Son Company.

Vermont Organ Academy http://www.vermontorganacademy.com

Writings and photographs of Roy Perry from the archives of First Presbyterian Church, Kilgore, Texas.

“Aeolian-Skinner Legacy” series of recordings.

Washington National Cathedral http://www.cathedral.org

Music pages include information on the Cathedral organs.

 


[1] Charles Callahan, The American Classic Organ: A History in Letters (Richmond:Organ Historical Society, 1990),                                                             63, 110.

Charles Callahan, AEolian-Skinner Remembered: A History in Letters (Minneapolis: Randall Egan, 1996), 1.

[2]  Aeolian-Skinner Archives.  http://www.aeolian-skinner110mb/com. (accessed 16 September 2008).

[3] William Morgan, The Almighty Wall: The Architecture of Henry Vaughan (New York: Architectural History Foundation, 1983), 146.

[4] This company continued well into the 1980s, first under Skinner’s foreman Carl Bassett, and later John J. Bolton, as a supplier of pitman chests to the trade and as a maintenance firm in the Boston area. It supplied new chests for the 1973-76 work in Washington Cathedral.  It has since gone out of business.

[5]Allen Kinzey and Sand Lawn, comp., E. M. Skinner / Aeolian-Skinner Opus List. (Richmond: Organ Historical   Society, 1997), 207.  Aeolian-Skinner Archives.  New York City Chapter AGO: The New York City Organ Project. http://nycago.org/Organs/NYC/ (accessed 18 September 2008)

[6] A-S Opus 1248.

[7] The entire letter is in Callahan AEolian-Skinner Remembered, p. 94, and in the Roy Perry Papers in the possession of the author.

[8]  “The Williams Family of New Orleans: A Life of Installing Aeolian-Skinner Organs” Interview with Nora Williams.  The Diapason, May 2006.  Also on the website of Vermont Organ Academy, http://www.vermontorganacademy.com/assests/textDoc/NoraInterviewRev.htm (accessed 9 September 2008).

[9] Callahan, The American Classic Organ, 433.

[10] Roy Perry’s files also referred to the 1973-76 work informally as 883-A.

[11] The 1940 Cathedral guidebook states that in these galleries there would be “accommodations for a concealed orchestra of sixty pieces and a choral group of about 120 voices.  Here it is planned to give the famous oratorios at regular intervals.”  This is no doubt a reference to the emerging Cathedral Choral Society, but to my knowledge they never presented their concerts from these galleries.

[12] Callahan, AEolian-Skinner Remembered.  The exchange of letters surrounding the creation of this stop begins on page 288 and provides a glimpse into the involvement of clergy, administration, donor, architect, and organbuilder, and invites the question, “will future historians have such a wealth of documentation in this electronic age?”

[13] Paul Hume, “Organ-ized Sounds at the Cathedral,” The Washington Post, 4 July 1976, H1.

[14]  Callahan, AEolian-Skinner Remembered.  The correspondence regarding the rebuilding of the organ in St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York—a project similar in scope and cost to the Cathedral job—in the last days of A-S’s existence begins on p. 378.

[15] Roy Perry Papers. This is the figure Perry quotes in his proposal, although the math comes to $5,775.

[16] These names on the 1958 console reflect Whiteford’s penchant for French nomenclature in the Swell division.  Ernest Skinner’s stoplist called these stops Muted String Ensemble, Aeoline and Unda Maris, and Vox Humana.

[17] The others are in A-S Opus 1173, First Presbyterian Church, Kilgore, Texas; Opus 1452, Central Union Church, Honolulu, Hawaii; Opus 1476, First Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Opus 1498, First Presbyterian Church (now First-Trinity), Laurel, Mississippi; and Opus 1485, Church of the Epiphany, Washington, D. C., which Perry undertook in 1977.

[18] Memo from Richard Dirksen to Cathedral Foundation, March 1975.  Roy Perry Papers.

[19] Measuring Worth. http://www.measuringworth.com (accessed 24 September 2008)

[20] The reader is referred to Volumes IV and V of “The Aeolian-Skinner Legacy” series of recordings on the Vermont Organ Academy label.  http://www.vermontorganacademy.com

[21] Roy Perry Papers.

[22] Roy Perry Papers. Bolton and Bassett are the correct spellings.

[23] A-S Opus 150-A, 1953.

[24] He died in 1986 in his 101st year.

[25] The 32’ Bombarde heard in on Volume X was borrowed from First Baptist Church, in nearby Longview, Texas, Opus 1174. Kilgore got its own 32’ Bombarde in 1964.

[26] A recording exists of Perry playing this piece this way on the Kilgore organ on Volume IV of the “Aeolian-Skinner Legacy” on the Vermont Organ Academy label.

[27] Callahan, The American Classic Organ, 398.

[28] Violoncelle II in the Sowerby Swell, and Viola Pomposa and Celeste in the Choir.

[29] A-S Opus 1119, complete with Willis Tubas in the Solo, at the request of Ernest Willoughby, the English organist of the church at the time the organ was built.

[30] A-S Opus 909.    Roy Perry Papers.

[31] A-S Opus 1432.  Roy Perry Papers.

[32] A-S Opus 1485.  Roy Perry Papers.

[33] Roy Perry Papers.

Revised as of 10/3/11

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Harold Friedell: A Hundredth Anniversary Retrospective

Friedell at St Bartholomew’s Church

The following article, condensed from my doctoral dissertation, appeared in the October 2005 issue of  The American Organist:

HAROLD FRIEDELL  (1905-1958):                                      

A Hundredth Anniversary Retrospective

         Copyright © 2005 Neal Campbell

EARLY LIFE, FIRST TENURE AT CALVARY CHURCH

Harold William Friedell was born on 11 May 1905 at the home of his parents in Jamaica, Queens, in the City of New York.  It seems likely that the young Harold inherited musical talent from the Welsh influence of his mother’s side of the family.  While still a teenager, he gained his first appointment as organist at his family church, First Methodist in Jamaica.

Local newspaper photo of HF in his early teens

A one-page résumé prepared by Friedell sometime after 1946 indicates that his early organ study was with Clement Gale and David McK. Williams.  Gale was an Englishman who served several New York City churches and was a founder of the AGO in 1896.

In the early twentieth century it was not common for church musicians to hold a college degree.  The successful completion of the AGO examinations was the practical equivalent of a graduate degree and much of Friedell’s early study was in preparation for the exams.  He earned the A.A.G.O. just prior to his appointment as organist of Calvary Church in New York, which he assumed in December 1928, succeeding Hugh Porter, who had been the organist for four years.  In addition to his duties at Calvary, HF also trained a choir of boys and girls at the Church of St. James the Less in Scarsdale, New York.  This position was a minor one, consisting of leading the choir for rehearsals on selected weekday afternoons and occasional appearances at Sunday afternoon services or events.  He continued his studies and gained the F.A.G.O. in the spring of 1929 and studied composition with Bernard Wagenaar and Roger Sessions.

Bernard Wagenaar (1894-1971), of Dutch origin, came to Americain 1920 to play violin in the New York Philharmonic.  He taught fugue, orchestration, and composition from 1925 to 1968 at the Institute of Musical Art, which later became the Juilliard School.  In addition to HF, his long list of pupils includes Norman Dello Joio and Ned Rorem.  His First Symphony was premiered by the New York Philharmonic in 1928, beginning a public career which included many awards and commissions.

HF’s recital programs show a definite catholicity of taste, including a lot of early music.  Alongside the standard repertoire of Bach and Franck, there are works by Pachelbel, Clérambault, Couperin, Scheidt, Muffat, LeBègue, Titelouze, and du Mage.  At the other end of the spectrum, he played regularly works by many lesser-knowns of the era, such as Karg-Elert, Rheinberger, Mulet, Guilmant, Lemmens, Parry, Bairstow, and West, and, of course, much from the repertoire of  Widor, Vierne, and Dupré.  He also programmed works of his colleagues Seth Bingham, T. Tertius Noble, Eric DeLamarter, Philip James, Carl McKinley, and T. Frederick H. Candlyn.  It is also fun to see lighter works crop up in the orders of service, such as an occasional transcription of works by Debussy or Wagner, a prelude by Scriabin, adapted works of Honegger and Stravinsky, as well as popular works by Chadwick and Borowski.  In fact, for the remainder of his career, he usually played a transcription of the Prelude to Parsifal at some point on Palm Sunday.  During his first tenure at Calvary, he also listed for the first time works by Vaughan Williams and Howells.  The works of these two English contemporaries held a special interest to him, and people close to him have remarked on the stylistic compositional influences each of these composers had on Friedell’s own works.[1]

Two months shy of his third anniversary at Calvary notice was made that Friedell “accepted a call to become Choirmaster and Organist of St. John’s Church, Jersey City.  We follow him with our interest and good wishes.”[2]  The following week the order of service listed William R. Strickland, Jr., as the organist.  This is the first recorded association between HF and Strickland.  It is not known exactly when they met, but their lives were closely linked throughout HF’s life, both professionally and personally.

THE JERSEY CITY YEARS

At St. John’s Church in Jersey City, New Jersey, Friedell had, for the first time, charge of an entire music program, including the direction of the choir. St. John’swas a prosperous parish with over one thousand communicants and was the largest of the eleven Episcopal churches in Jersey City.  In the area locally known as Jersey City Heights, or simply “the Heights,” St. John’s edifice has a commanding location high on a bluff overlooking lower Manhattan.  Designed in the Gothic Revival style, it sat approximately four hundred persons, with a high ceiling, shallow chancel, and excellent acoustics.    Following a serious fire in 1914, the entire chancel was renovated and a new Austin organ was installed, under the direction of Philip James.

St John’s Church, Jersey City, New Jersey

When Harold arrived at St. John’s, one of the sopranos in the choir was Amy Valleau McGown, the daughter of prominent members of the parish with strong family ties to Jersey City and the Episcopal Church.   They were married in St. John’s Churchon 22 October 1934.  William Strickland[3] played the organ and Paul Callaway was one of the witnesses.[4]

Amy and Harold Friedell on their wedding trip to Atlantic City

A period of youthful activity followed.  Amy, a graduate of New York University, taught music at Stevens Hoboken Academy and directed the glee club of the Jersey City Women’s Club, and pursued a career as a singer, in addition to her position in the choir of St. John’s Church.  In addition to his work at the church, Harold had by now developed a teaching studio, primarily in coaching students preparing to take the AGO examinations.  He was also the accompanist for the 200-voice Downtown Glee Club in New York, a group comprised primarily of businessmen.  He also played regular noonday recitals at Trinity Church, Wall Street, for a fee of twenty-five dollars each, and sang tenor in a group known as the Organists’ Quartet of New York,[5] a group previously unknown to this writer.

Friedell played many recitals but he rarely left New York in so doing.  However, in August 1936, he did make a recital appearance before a convention of the Canadian Collegeof Organists[6] inLondon, Ontario, at the Dundas United Church, which received the following review:

To members of the Canadian College, in attendance at the convention, and to London music lovers generally, last night’s program afforded opportunity of hearing one of the most interesting of the younger organists of the day.  Mr. Friedell plays with brilliance, with style and with authority.  He built up a distinctive program with distinctive skill.  He is a master of the richer, fuller tones of the organ and by the vigor and fluency of his playing adds a certain zest to the performance of even the most severe works.  All these interesting and vital qualities make Mr. Friedell a recitalist worth hearing and his choice of organ literature last evening, including two Bach preludes and closing on the rich dramatic music of the Cesar Franck Final in B flat, demonstrated the judgment and power of his interpretation and his assured ability as an interpreter.[7]

These remarks hint at his playing style, particularly about his being “master of the richer tones” (presumably a positive remark about his use of the organ), and his playing having “a certain zest.”  Each of these echo similar descriptions from those who describe HF’s playing later in his career.[8]

The years in Jersey City were also the most productive years for composition for Friedell, strictly in terms of quantity.  He composed anthems in a youthful style, but belonging

. . . by affinity of artistic temperament to the school of English composers who are writing a new chapter in music on the ancient “modes” as opposed to the schools which are evolving through tonality or atonality.[9]

Several of these early works were submitted under a nom de plume for competitions. By 1936 HF had composed what was to be his largest work, a Symphony for Organ in four movements, which received its first and only known performance by William Strickland, to whom it is dedicated.[10]  In 1937, also under a nom de plume, he composed his only orchestral work, Pavane, which has never been performed.

THE SECOND TENURE AT CALVARY CHURCH

In the fall of 1939 Vernon de Tar resigned as organist and choirmaster of Calvary Church, where he had followed Strickland, to take the position at the Church of the Ascension.  There he succeeded Jessie Craig Adam, one of several women organists who held positions at prominent churches in the New York area at the time.

A major achievement at Calvary during de Tar’s tenure was the rebuilding of the organ.  Calvary’s organ dated from the late nineteenth century and was built by Roosevelt.  The work was undertaken by Aeolian-Skinner, which kept some of the Roosevelt pipework, and one rank of Cavaillé-Coll reeds from the old organ. Otherwise, it provided an essentially new organ reflecting many of G. Donald Harrison’s early concepts of what soon came to be known as the American Classic Organ.

The printed order of service at Calvary indicates that HF had added the Fellowship from Trinity College of Music in London, England, to his F.A.G.O.  The F.T.C.L. examination was similar in content to the F.A.G.O. and was undertaken by many organists at the time.

In his music lists modern composers of the day were well represented in the services.  Works by Amy Beach, Seth Bingham, Warner Hawkins, Leo Sowerby, Herbert Howells, Healey Willan, and David McK. Williams find their place along side the masterpieces of Brahms, Mendelssohn, and a fairly large dose of Bach.  Several of Friedell’s own works began to appear in the rotation as well, including settings of the communion service, King of Glory, and When Christ Was Born of Mary Free.

In addition to a traditional performance of Bach’s St. John Passion on Palm Sunday, the choir presented three or four major choral works each season for the evening service.  At these services, works such as portions of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Mozart’s Requiem, Gounod’s Gallia, or Horatio Parker’s Hora Novissima would be sung in the context of a service.  With the coming of the new Aeolian-Skinner organ, recitals began to be part of the weekly life of music at Calvary and mid-week recitals were played after the noon service by HF, and guests.

The Friedells’ apartment was in the church house directly behind the church

In addition to the regular yearly cycle of church services, there were frequent special services.  There were many “St. George’s Societies” throughout Manhattan, gatherings of Episcopal lay people who organized themselves at their places of work.  There were St. George’s Societies within the Consolidated Edison Company, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the telephone workers, the police department—even a St. George’s Society within the transit workers.   Each of these St. George’s Societies had annual services at one of the major Episcopal churches in the city, and Calvary got its share. Calvary’s choir also regularly sang for the annual American Guild of Organists’ service, held on Ascension Day in St. Bartholomew’s Church.  At that time St. Bartholomew’s was a sort of unofficial chapel for the AGO.  The church was located near AGO headquarters, and the annual meeting was always held in St. Bartholomew’s choir room, before the service. These services usually combined several choirs, of differing denominations, to sing Evensong together with a major choral work, or group of shorter works. By 1945, Friedell also taught on the faculty of the School of Sacred Music of Union Theological Seminary, teaching composition and improvisation.  Later, he joined the faculty of the Guilmant Organ School, as well.

As the effects of the Great Depression wore on, the fact that the position of organist at Calvarycame with an apartment was a significant benefit to a young man, now with a family.  Calvary House, as the church’s parish house was known, is an eight-story apartment house situated on the north side of Gramercy Park.  The lower floors of the building contain parish offices and common rooms typical of any church facility.  The upper floors contain apartments where the clergy and some of the lay staff, including the Friedells, lived.  There is every indication that HF always got along with everyone and enjoyed cordial and friendly relationships with everyone at Calvary, and especially so with the rector, the Rev. Samuel Shoemaker.  In his weekly announcements in the orders of service and in the annual year books, the rector spoke warmly about Friedell and the choir and reveled in  their accomplishments.

Likewise, in his Friedell paid homage to his rector, dedicating to him one of his recent anthems for Christmas, When Christ was born of Mary free.  HF continued to compose as much as he could, given the growing demands that the church job and family made on his time.  His anthem King of glory, King of peace, to a text by George Herbert, won the annual AGO anthem prize in 1941 and, although it was not his first published composition, it was his first to be published by H. W. Gray, was a very popular, and brought Friedell’s name to an even wider public.

By 1946 Friedell had established himself as one of the foremost church musicians, organists, and teachers in New York.  In addition to his teaching he had been the national treasurer of the American Guild of Organists since 1934, and was by now the chairman of the committee on examinations of the AGO.  He was also increasingly in demand as a summer workshop teacher.  In the summer of 1946, he was on the faculty of the Wellesley Conference School of Music, a noted ten-day summer conference held on the campus of Wellesley College in Massachusetts.  In June and July 1946, he shared faculty positions with his old friends William Strickland and Paul Callaway.

It was a complete shock when, early in November 1946, the rector of St. Bartholomew’s, the Reverend George Paull Torrence Sargent called, asking Friedell to stop by his office, telling that David McK. Williams would be leaving St. Bartholomew’s, and asking Friedell to be his successor.

ST. BARTHOLOMEW’S CHURCH, DAVID McK. WILLIAMS, AND THE RESIGNATION QUESTION

The Choir of St Bartholomew’s Church. David McK Williams is on the right side toward the back

It is difficult to adequately describe the singular significance of St. Bartholomew’s Church, and its music, as it evolved through the first half of the twentieth century to the point where Friedell found it at mid-century.  The church’s dramatic architecture and location, its social history and noted clergy, the large double organ and professional choir, and impressive heritage (including Leopold Stokowski) all set the stage for a superlative program.  Added to this was the dynamic, charismatic personality and creative musicianship of David McK. Williams, organist and choirmaster since 1920.

David McK. Williams was the stuff of legends.  To say he was colorful is a serious understatement.  Much of Virgil Fox’s playing style[11] and flamboyance, including his wearing of a cape,[12] were directly influenced by David McK.Williams.   DMcKW was well-known and liked, was a leader in AGO activities, and had many pupils and friends all over the country.  He also led a very public gay lifestyle, which, even for New York City in the 1940s, was cause for comment.[13]   By all accounts, his service playing—improvisations, hymns, and oratorio accompaniments—were brilliant.  People flocked to his musical services.  It is not an overstatement to say that by 1946 he was a legend.

St Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue in the 1950s

David McK. Williams’ leave taking from St. Bartholomew’s created a frenzy in the church music community.  In reality, he was terminated for an undisclosed indiscretion of some sort, which the church took significant pains to cover up.  The rector said in the weekly announcement sheet “The Message” that St. Bartholomew’s beloved Dr. Williams was taking a leave of absence because a hearing loss adversely affected his work, that he was seeking treatment, and that it was fervently hoped that he could return to his duties.  Vestry minutes contain elaborate, solicitous descriptions of DMcKW seeking treatments, together with discussions of favorable financial arrangements for both his temporary leave and, ultimately, his permanent retirement.  In an astonishing scenario, the rector even asks DMcKW on who ought to follow him.  The rector vetoed Vernon de Tar.  Paul Callaway and William Strickland were considered.  Strickland had just been appointed conductor of the Nashville Symphony and Callaway had just returned to Washington Cathedral following military service, so neither of them was interested.  So it was that David McK. Williams recommended his former student to succeed him.  Friedell was initially appointed as interim just before Advent 1946, his permanent appointment withheld until the following spring.  Stories, gossip, and innuendo were rampant.  Announcements in the magazines gave conflicting stories.  T. Scott Buhrman, writing in The American Organist of January 1947 said

I consider Dr. Williams the world’s greatest exponent of the beautiful and forceful in Episcopal music and it is not at all necessary to hear every other Episcopal church service in order to make such a statement.  It’s not necessary to be bitten by every rattlesnake in order to state without question that such an experience is painful. . . . Will Dr. Williams return?  I fervently hope so. . . . And now, temporarily at least, the music of St. Bartholomew’s drops back to ordinary excellence.  Its superexcellence will never return in this generation unless Dr. Williams comes back.[14]

This vein of thought was typical of many whose loyalty to Williams bordered on fanaticism.  Buhrman, to his credit, does finish his editorial acquiescing that, indeed, Friedell was the logical successor to Williams, and cited his good work at Calvary Church.  The Diapason of the same month reported the same story by simply stating the facts, quoting largely from the rector’s letter in “The Message.”

The only reason any of this is important (other than to provide an interesting social commentary on the era) is to observe the very visible nature of the job and to impart something of the scrutiny under which Harold Friedell began his work at St. Bartholomew’s.  All the more so in that Williams remained very much on the scene, traveling, leading workshops, and collaborating at friends’ churches around the country.  He did not lead the life of an ill man and lived into his 90s, although the talk of his hearing loss never dissipated.  I was among a large number present at a reception in the Community House auditorium of St. Bartholomew’s Church on his 90th birthday, following Evensong.  We had a brief, but very specific conversation about people we knew in common and he had no difficulty hearing me in the crowded room.

HAROLD FRIEDELL AT ST. BARTHOLOMEW’S

The appointment of Harold Friedell to St. Bartholomew’s Church in the City of New York was duly noted on page six of the April 1947 issue of The Diapason, complete with a recent portrait.  The news release gave the facts, citing Dr. Sargent’s letter to the congregation from the most recent issue of “The Message.”  In essence, Sargent’s letter (portions of which also appeared in The Diapason) told the church music world that David McK. Williams had submitted his resignation a second time, and that despite rest since December 1946, he felt that he could not resume his work.  His resignation was accepted with regret.  There followed the customary good wishes both for Friedell and Williams, with the particular hope that Dr. Williams’ hearing might eventually be restored.  Potential controversy was carefully averted, and a new day began.  In the elegant printed booklet containing the monthly order of service HF’s name and certification initials are listed with those of the parish clergy; his title was “Organist and Master of the Choir.”  Previously, Williams’ name was not listed on the printed order of service.

At the time HF moved to St. Bartholomew’s, he began to relinquish some of his other peripheral activities, including his two volunteer positions in the AGO.  He, of course, kept up cordial relations with the Guild, as it continued to hold their annual meeting and Ascension Day service at St. Bartholomew’s.  Later in his tenure, he again held national office as auditor.

HF seems to have weathered the transition at St. Bartholomew’s well.  He was highly respected as an organist, composer, and teacher.  He had an easy-going personality, good sense of humor, and a high degree of competence, all of which aided him in his ability to easily fit into his new position.  Dr. Sargent made considerable effort to support and accommodate Friedell, knowing full well the load that inevitably would fall to anyone following in the footsteps of DMcKW.  It must be said that Dr. Sargent was good for his word, and remained steadfast in his support.  This good will notwithstanding, there were echoes of jealousy and bitterness regarding his appointment which continued for the rest of his life.  Such was the nature of the much coveted position of organist of St. Bartholomew’s Church.  If there was any worry in Friedell’s mind pertaining to the circumstances of his appointment, there is no indication of it.  He appears to have assumed his tasks with a forthright confidence that comes from competence in one’s craft and security in knowing of the boss’s approval.  HF did cancel his advertisement in The American Organist at about this time.  For some time he felt that Buhrman’s style presented the profession in an undignified light.  For many years, it was Buhrman’s custom to attend church services throughout New York and review them in his magazine, dissecting every nuance of the service, its music, preachers, ushers, ladies apparel, etc. in a chatty style, in every way similar to that of a restaurant reviewer or gossip columnist.  In this practice, Buhrman had his favorites, and St. Bartholomew’s under David McK. was at the top of the list.  His accounts in hindsight are embarrassing in their obsequious superlatives.  Buhrman never reviewed any of Friedell’s services at St. Bartholomew’s, but he did review many of his compositions in The American Organist.

During his first season at St. Bartholomew’s, Friedell programmed much in the manner he did at Calvary.   There was an occasional anthem, or piece of service music of his own composing, but it could never be said that he used his position to promote his own works.  The compositions of his predecessors did get a significant hearing, particularly the works of Williams, but also incidental pieces of Arthur Hyde, and Stokowski’s setting of the Benedicite, which it appears tradition dictated be kept in the rotation.

There were more services at St. Bartholomew’s than at Calvary.  Evensong was sung every Sunday afternoon, together with a cantata or oratorio.  In addition to Sunday duties, there were many occasions for weekday services at which music was expected.  Even though the churchmanship at St. Bartholomew’s was militantly low (there was lively discussion, for example, in 1943, when it was first decided to use a processional cross)[15] the complete liturgical calendar was observed, and days such as Ash Wednesday were kept with services using organ and choir in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  During Lent, there were daily services of preaching, featuring well-known local and national clergy and lay speakers.  On Wednesday evenings in Lent and, sometimes in Advent as well, there were evenings of special music appropriate to the season.  Typically, the six Wednesday evenings in Lent would begin with the annual performance of the Verdi Requiem on Ash Wednesday, one or two organ recitals, a program with organ and other instruments, frequently featuring violinist Eugenie Limberg, (who frequently played major concertos for the violin, such as those of Beethoven, Saint-Saëns, or Bruch, with organ accompaniment), perhaps another choral work, or pageant prepared in conjunction with the choir of the community house.  The Lenten series always culminated with the singing of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion on Wednesday evening in Holy Week.

The Choir of St Bartholomew’s singing carols at a bank near the church at Christmas

On the staff of musicians at St. Bartholomew’s was always an assistant organist who played the early chapel service, and turned pages, and sometime accompanied the choir at the main services.  HF’s assistants, in succession, were, briefly John Morton, whom he inherited, Owen Brady, Lillian Clark, John Rodgers, Frederick Swann, George Powers, and Allen Sever.  Rodgers also worked as an editor at the H. W. Gray Company and edited many of Friedell’s compositions published by Gray.  Since Gray was also the American agent for Novello, Rodgers had access to many of the latest compositions by English composers and passed them along to Friedell.   Typically, Friedell played the entire service, including the prelude, which was usually improvised, and a postlude.  Friedell’s style of service playing was a continuation of what he assimilated from Williams.  It was essentially colorful and musical, with a fluid, legato style.  He used the organ well, soloing out melodies and counter melodies on distinctive stops.  He also improvised well and often, both as voluntaries before and after the service, and in the accompaniments to the hymns.

For his first Lenten series of Wednesday evening programs, Friedell maintained the traditional places of honor for the Verdi Requiem and Bach St. Matthew Passion.  He also played a recital the second week of Lent, consisting of the Prelude and Fugue in B minor of Bach, a chorale prelude on the hymn tune St. Flavian by Seth Bingham, and the three chorales of Franck.  The following week at an organ recital, Searle Wright included Ecologue, the only piece for organ written by Friedell’s old teacher, Bernard Wagenaar.  The fourth Wednesday evening, Ruth Diehl sang a program with organ accompaniment which included Weinberger’s solo cantata The Way to Emmaus.  Ruth Diehl had sung this work in previous years during Lent and it was something of a tradition.[16]  The fifth Wednesday evening featured a performance of Sowerby’s recently-composed Passiontide oratorio, Forsaken of Man.  This work, too, became a staple of the Lenten repertoire at St. Bartholomew’s.

In the 1930s St. Bartholomew’s organ received some significant additions to the 1918 Skinner.  When the dome over the crossing was completed in 1930, Skinner added a Celestial division in it, containing some very soft ethereal stops, as well as a commanding battery of chorus reeds on high pressure.  A fifth manual[17] was added to the existing four-manual console to control the dome division.  In 1936, an essentially new three-manual organ designed along classic lines by G. Donald Harrison, was placed in the gallery of the church.  The pipework formerly occupying that location was redistributed among the chancel divisions of the organ.

Shortly after Friedell’s arrival, discussions arose focusing on the deficiencies in the organ.  Finally, in November 1952, a contract was signed with Aeolian-Skinner for what was essentially a new organ in the chancel and a reconditioning of the other parts of the organ, together with a new five-manual console.  The general character of the organ remained the same, but from a mechanical standpoint it was much improved.

HF at the new Aeolian-Skinner console, ca 1953

Some of Friedell’s best-known compositions date from the mid 1950s and were sung for the first time by St. Bartholomew’s Choir from manuscript copies.  The Te Deum in B-flat was written for the service instituting the Reverend Anson Phelps Stokes as rector in 1950.  This Is the Day and Song of Mary  were composed to texts written or compiled by Leonard Young.  Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether was set in anthem form with an organ accompaniment from a hymn tune he had composed for use as an orison while at Calvary Church.  For This Cause was composed for the service instituting the Reverend Terence J. Finlay as rector in October 1955.

In the tradition of the collaboration between David McK. Williams and Leonard Young, Friedell wrote a pageant, The Feast of the Star, with Lee Hastings Bristol, Jr.,[18] which was produced first in 1956.  Friedell and Bristol had previously collaborated in Hymns for Children and Grownups, an ecumenical hymnal with texts and tunes appropriate for young people, for which they each wrote new tunes to several hymns.

With the advent of the new organ came increasingly more organ recitals.  Noonday programs on Wednesday, and later Friday, were added to the regular musical calendar of the church.  Friedell played many of these, taking turns with his assistants, students, and visiting organists traveling through New York.  In addition to the standard repertoire, Friedell occasionally planned programs entirely of early music, as well.  In June 1954, Friedell and assistant Frederick Swann played four successive programs devoted to the works of du Mage, Frescobaldi, Hanff, Mufatt, Titelouze, Clérambault, Krebs, Buxtehude, Purcell, Zipoli, Couperin, Böhm, Sweelinck, Vogler, Stanley, and Mozart.  It does appear that they were trying to make a point; such extensive forays into the pre-Bach literature were rare at St. Bartholomew’s.  The following fall saw the opening recital on more familiar ground, with works by Bach, Franck, and Percy Whitlock.

Local paper in Marshall, Missouri, announcing honorary degree candidates at Missouri Valley College

In June 1957 Missouri Valley College awarded Harold Friedell the honorary degree Doctor of Music.  Lee Hastings Bristol, Jr. was on the board of trustees and had an honorary degree from the college, and it is likely that he nominated Friedell for this honor. Friedell played a recital in the college chapel as part of the commencement weekend activities and took part in the degree ceremony.  From Missouri, Friedell flew alone to Houston, where he had been engaged to direct the annual diocesan choir festival at Christ Church Cathedral where Jack Ossewaarde, his former pupil, and successor at Calvary Church in New York, was now the organist and choirmaster.  The trip to the mid-west and Texas was more traveling than any of the Friedells had ever before undertaken.  It was, therefore, all the more unusual that the family traveled to Europe that summer, taking a six-week tour of England and France.   The impetus for the trip was the first International Congress of Organists, which was to take place in London in late July and early August, and which was a collaboration between the AGO and the Royal Canadian College of Organists and the Royal College of Organists.  Ralph Vaughan Williams was the honorary chairman of the congress, and Sir William McKie, the organist and master of the choristers of Westminster Abbey, was the chairman of the RCO planning group.  Friedell did not participate in the music making, and none of his music was heard,[19] but he attended many of the congress events and met both Vaughan Williams and Howells, whose music had influenced him since his youth.  In addition to the events surrounding the congress, the Friedell family toured France, where they spent a lot of time hearing services and recitals on the famous French organs.  HF was very interested in hearing for himself French organ playing, and he showed a special interest in hearing as much improvisation as he could, calling at the organ lofts of both St. Sulpice and Notre-Dame, where he spent time with Dupré and Cochereau, respectively.

HF and some relatives in England, summer 1957

Harold Friedell was never more confident and secure in his own work than in the opening weeks of the 1957 season as he experienced a rejuvenation from the summer’s trip, and from the acclaim his work received.[20]  In January 1958 a program devoted entirely to his compositions was given by the newly-formed New York City chapter of the AGO.  It is evident that he was at last gaining recognition for the merit of his own work, not simply as the one who followed David McK. Williams.

The last Sunday before Lent, 16 February 1958, was like most others for the Friedells—the early drive into the city from their home in Hastings-on-Hudson, Amy going to the Church of the Resurrection, where she was the soprano soloist, for the morning service, then joining Harold for Evensong at four o’clock at St. Bartholomew’s.

On the drive home to Hastings that evening it started to snow.   The following morning, Harold had to be in the city as usual, for a lesson.  By then it had snowed so much that Amy couldn’t get the car out of the garage to take Harold to the train, as was their normal routine, so he started to walk to the station.  Under normal conditions it would have been a leisurely walk, less than a mile down the hill toward the Hudson River.  By the time he crossed Broadway, the main thoroughfare through the towns along the Hudson, he started to feel badly.  When he reached the center of town, he stopped in a coffee shop, got on a stool, ordered a cup of coffee, and fell to the floor.  He had died of a heart attack, which came without warning.

Friedell in the classroom

On Thursday morning, following his death there was a simple, but impressive funeral in St. Bartholomew’s Church.  The church was full.  The choir and clergy processed silently into the church, before the coffin, on top of which was placed his doctoral hood.  Allen Sever, the assistant organist played the service.  Following the opening sentences, Psalms 23 and 121 were sung to Anglican chant.  Lessons were read, followed by hymns, “O what their joy and their glory must be,” and “Jerusalem! high tower thy glorious walls.”  Prayers followed, after which was sung one of Friedell’s most popular kneeling orisons “Day by day, dear Lord of thee three things I pray.”  Following Cardinal Newman’s prayer “O Lord support us all the day long” was sung verse five from Cecil Frances Alexander’s familiar hymn,

And our eyes at last shall see him,

Through his own redeeming love;

For that child so dear and gentle

Is our Lord in heav’n above.

And he leads his children on

To the place where he is gone.

Following the blessing and seven-fold Amen, the choir sang a setting of the Nunc dimittis by David McK. Williams, as it processed down the center aisle of the church, the coffin and family following.  On the steps and sidewalk in front of the church, the choir formed a double line, as the coffin and family walked between to the waiting hearse and funeral cars.  The funeral procession then made its way to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, just a few miles north of the Friedells’ home.  There Harold William Friedell is buried in a handsome plot along side many of his wife’s family.  Amy Valleau McGown, Mrs. Harold Friedell, died on 3 February 1994, and was buried there on 13 February 1994.

EPILOGUE 

Harold Friedell’s death was duly announced in The Diapason on page one of the March 1958 issue, and in The American Organist with a recent photograph.  At St. Bartholomew’s, “The Message” the following week contained a tribute, and at the vestry meeting of 10 March 1958 the rector noted his passing and thanked the members of the vestry who had attended the funeral.  A motion made by Walter Hoving, president of Tiffany’s, was passed, which called for an amount equal to Friedell’s salary to be sent to Mrs. Friedell through October.  A memorial account was also set up to channel contributions toward an education fund for the Friedell children.  The rector also noted that he had received several nominations and applications for the position.  In fact, there was a large list of people who wanted the job badly, including Virgil Fox, organist of the Riverside Church, who made quite a campaign to Dr. Finlay in the time before Friedell’s successor was announced.[21]

The musical activities of the Lenten season progressed as usual and the music of Friedell was especially prominent in on the music list during the months following his death.  In the meantime, Dr. Finlay consulted about the matter of a successor with David McK. Williams and Lee Bristol who each vetoed several names.  Before presenting the name of his choice to the vestry, Dr. Finlay spoke with Mrs. Friedell, asking her opinion of two or three leading candidates, including Vernon de Tar, which pleased her—both the gesture of his asking and his choice of Jack Ossewaarde.

Continuing the legacy and memory of Friedell’s life most of all, however, is his music, which has continued to be used throughout the country and recently in England.  Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether is the best-known, selling as many as 20,000 copies in a given year.  Its appearance in hymn-tune form in several hymnals has enhanced its appeal and renown even more.    Newly-published manuscripts and reprints of older works also have begun to appear in recent catalogs.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                    

Neal Campbell is the organist and choirmaster of St. Stephen’s Church, Richmond, Virginia, and is a member of the adjunct faculty of the University of Richmond.  For his DMA degree in 1996 from the Manhattan School of Music his dissertation dealt with the life and works of Harold Friedell and is available as UMI #9703850 from www.umi.com.  Most of Friedell’s music is available from Pine Hill Press at www.pinehillmusic.com.  A chronology, opus list, and discography of Friedell’s music is available from the author at nealcampbell@ymail.com


[1]Eugenie Limberg Dengel, New York; interview by author, Feb. 1996.

[2]Order of service, Calvary Church, New York, 11 October 1931.

[3]Strickland and Friedell were close friends; at one point prior to Friedell’s marriage, they roomed together.  Several of Friedell’s organ works are dedicated to him, and he played the first (sometimes, only) performances. Always passionately involved in contemporary music, he initiated and edited a series published by the H. W. Gray Co., which commissioned organ works from well-known composers who typically did not write for the organ.  The result was a collection, still in print, of original works for organ by such composers as Henry Cowell, Aaron Copland, Ernst Krenek, Darius Milhaud, Walter Piston, Douglas Moore, Virgil Thomson, Roger Sessions, and Arnold Schoenberg.

[4]Callaway was a pupil of T. Tertius Noble of St. Thomas Church. From 1939 to 1977 he was the organist and choirmaster of Washington Cathedral.  During his student days inNew York he was the organist and choirmaster of St. Thomas Chapel, now All Saints’ Church, on E. 60th St., where Sunday evening services were held late enough that he first attended Evensong at St. Bartholomew’s at four o’clock, often turning pages for Williams. It is likely that he knew Friedell from this association.

[5]Hudson Dispatch, 16 Sept. 1936.

[6]Now the Royal Canadian College of Organists.

[7]Hudson Dispatch, 16 Sept. 1936.

[8]Thomas Atkin, Jack Ossewaarde, Frederick Swann, and others; interviews with the author, 1985-96.

[9]Hudson Dispatch, 16 Sept. 1936.  Probably a reference to Vaughan Williams and Howells. Although this is not identified as a quotation of Friedell’s, it seems likely that the unidentified writer was using his language to describe his compositions. It is an articulate and accurately succinct description of his works.

[10]The slow movement, Cantabile, was published posthumously, and has  been performed and recorded.

[11] Tapes of Fox masterclasses at http://www.virgilfox.com

[12] Richard Torrence & Marshall Yaeger. Virgil Fox (The Dish): An Irreverent Biography of the Great American Organist.  New York: Circles International, 2001.  85.

[13] Anthony Tommassini. Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle. New York, Norton, 1997.

14 T. Scott Buhrman, editorial in The American Organist, 30:1 (Jan. 1947).  At the time The Diapason was the official journal of the AGO and TAO was a separate, independent magazine reflecting to a large degree Burnham’s personal views.  It had no relation to the present-day TAO.

[15]Minutes of the vestry of St. Bartholomew’s Church, 3 May 1943.

[16]Frederick Swann later introduced this same work to a younger generation, creating a tradition at The Riverside Church, performing it yearly on the afternoon of Easter Day, with soprano Louise Natalie.

[17]This fifth manual stayed until the arrival of the new five-manual console in 1953, at which time this single, additional keyboard became the property of Aeolian-Skinner, and saw use as a tuning and finishing keyboard–literally traveling around the country on installation jobs.   When Aeolian-Skinner closed for business in 1973, this same keyboard was procured by Anthony Bufano, then curator of the organ at St. Bartholomew’s, who placed it in the Celestial organ in the dome as a tuning keyboard, where it exists today.

[18]Bristol, heir to the pharmaceutical company, and his family, were prominent members of St. Bartholomew’s. Bristol later made significant contributions to church music as a member of the Joint Commission on Church Music of the Episcopal Church, and as president of Westminster Choir College.

[19]Friedell had recently composed a particularly effective setting of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in F, at the request of Searle Wright.  Wright was the program chairman of the American wing of the ICO, and there was some discussion as to the possibility of using Friedell’s canticles for the opening Evensong at Westminster Abbey.  Instead, Howells’ recently completed Westminster Service was sung.

[20]Searle Wright; interview by author, February 1996.

[21]The Rev. Terence J. Finlay; interview by author, Washington, DC, March 1985.

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