This article was commissioned by Emery Brothers and appeared in the December 2017 issue of The Diapason.
Copyright 2017 © Neal Campbell
This article was commissioned by Emery Brothers and appeared in the December 2017 issue of The Diapason.
Copyright 2017 © Neal Campbell
Copyright 2012 © Neal Campbell
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.
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:
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
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!
I wrote the following obituary for my predecessor at St. Stephen’s Church, Richmond, Va., and it appeared in the February 2001 issue of The American Organist:
Copyright 2000 © Neal Campbell
Granville Munson, 80 years old, October 23, 2000, Richmond, Va., after a long illness. He was organist and choirmaster of St. Stephen’s Church, Richmond, from 1947 to 1985, and was dean of the Virginia (now Richmond) AGO chapter from 1951 to 1953. Upon his retirement from St. Stephen’s Church, he was named consultant in church music to the Diocese of Virginia. Mr. Munson attended St. Alban’s School and was a choirboy at Washington National Cathedral under the cathedral’s first organist and choirmaster, Edgar Priest. After his voice changed, he continued to serve as the cathedral’s head crucifer until graduation from St. Alban’s School. He earend his B.Mus. degree from the University of Pennsylvania and was organist and choirmaster of St. Mary’s Church, Hamilton Village, Philadelphia. Following service in World War II, Mr. Munson studied with T. Tertius Noble in New York. Shortly after coming to Richmond, he joined the faculty of St. Catherine’s School and St. Christopher’s School, whose campuses are adjacent to St. Stephen’s Church. He was also a founding member of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in the mid-1950s and he served for many years as Virginia chairman of the National Cathedral Association. More than 100 former choirmembers from the church and the schools participated in his funeral at St. Stephen’s Church. AGO Region III Councillor Neal Campbell, Mr. Munson’s successor, was the organist.
The following review by Michael Barone appeared in the September 2000 issue of The American Organist:
IN THE SPIRIT’S TETHER: Choral and Instrumental Music by Harold Friedell (1905-1958). The Choir of St. Stephen’s Church, Richmond; Neal Campbell, organist and choirmaster; Deborah Cuffee Davis, assistant organist (1951/66 Aeolian-Skinner), with Robert Murray, violin, and Melba Williams, Harp. Pro Organo CD-7096 [DDD]; 67:47. Produced by Frederick Hohman (available from Zarex Corporation: 800-336-2224; www.zarex.com. [Anthems: Psalm 25; Draw us in the spirit’s tether; The Way to Jerusalem; Thou Son of God on Christmas Day; The shepherds had an angel; Sweet little Jesu; Modal Communion Service; Orisons; Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in F; Psalm 121; Organ solos: Lullaby; Prelude on St. Columba; Elegy (with violin and harp).]
Respected and appreciated for his dozen years of service to New York City’s St. Bartholomew’s Church and as an inspiring faculty member of the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seiminary, Friedell was one of the notable East Coast American church musicians of the mid-10th century. Active in the AGO and maintainer of exemplary programs at the churches he served, Friedell left a small body of useful compositions that reveal a sure hand and a full understanding of the needs of the liturgical church. Texts are set clearly and without complication, harmonies and melodies are chaste and effecient, yet also confident and reassuring, and everything is accessible to Sunday singers and worshipers. Though many of the works have been published, two items, which were not, should be: a brief organ Lullaby, with its aura of Delius’s Walk in the Paradise Garden, and the moving soprano solo setting of Psalm 121. The Mag/Nunc pair is as fine as any by an American, and the plaintive Elegy touches heartstrings, too. Campbell’s forces are period perfect, and Hohman’s recording of them is spacious, transparent, and totally effective. No anthem texts are provided in the otherwise informative booklet (and are not really necessary, so clear is the choir’s diction). No useful data is provided about the organ either, this omission being one of Pro Organo’s few recurring bad habits.
This second review, also by Michael Barone, appeared in the July 2001 issue of The American Organist in a column celebrating the 15th anniversary of Frederick Hohman’s Pro Organo label where Barone reviewed a dozen recent Pro Organ releases:
In church music circles, Friedell’s reputation still stands, based on his teachng at Union Theological Seiminar and his years at St. Bartholomew’s and Calvary Church in New York City. Since his compositions are almost entirely for the church, awareness of his work beyond these precincts is virtually nil. Thus, Neal Campbell’s dedicated performances (amplified by five booklet pages of his reflective annotations, drawn from his doctoral researches) are both welcome and necessary, at the very least as a document of an aspect of our culture (the serious church musician/composer) that is very much on the decline. Friedell’s style is harmonically uncomplicated, mildly modal and lyric, easy to follow, and a bit proper as much utilitarian church music is (from any generation). Little of his music is memorable in the way a Howells or Britten or Walton anthem might be, but that may come from an intent to create works that a totally amateur choir could manage. These performances present the scores in a natural environment. The marvelously clean enunciation of anthem texts seems to have been achieved, in part, by a microphone placement that emphasized individual voices (whose diction is flawless) rather than a more blended choral sound. The chorus responds to Campbell’s sensitive direction, and if their ensemble is not as refined as some professional groups (vibrato in the female singers is rich), it still represents a quality level very high on the scale of American volunteer liturgical choirs. All of the music is well within the scope of decent singers. The solo Lullaby (which builds to a modest climax), and the haunting Elegy (in which guest violinist Robert Murray and harpist Melba Williams join Mr. Campbell) would all make satisfying recital interludes. But in what has become an unfortunate Pro Organo tradition when the organ is not the sole focus of attention, little or no mention is made of it in booklet notes. Here, even the organ tuning is credited (justifiably, since the instrument sounds superb), but we are told neither the date of completition, nor size, nor any historical background concerning the instrument. I obtained the data elsewhere.
The following review by Bernard Durman appeared in the April 2000 issue of The Diapason:
This CD is likely to be viewed as the odd-lot recording from Pro Organo, because it features a choir that does NOT model itself after a typical English cathedral choir. Instead, we have a mature, American mixed adult choir, with a rich, come-as-you-are vibrato. The CD features the St. Stephen’s Choir, a choir not unlike that found in the majority of choir lofts in America, and one which approximates the choral blend and choral sound that one would have been likely to hear (and which this reviewer is old enough to remember) coming from the larger New York City area churches during the early 1960s. Oddly enough, it is precisely this choral sound that does much to convey the warmth and quasi-operatic drama of the music of Harold Friedell. Dr. Neal Campbell’s dissertation was centered upon the life and works of Friedell, and he draws upon his experience as he interprets and conducts these works. Friedell was noted for his work in several New York City churches, his last and most memorable post being at St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue.
For the program of this disc, Dr. Campbell has included an engaging instrumental track–the lush Elegy for violin, harp, and organ–as well as a couple of organ solo tracks and one very impressive soprano solo from Lisa Edwards-burrs (a setting of Psalm 121). To this he has added some fine choral singing of service music, and both well-known and little-known Friedell anthems. As one continues to listen to this album, one can begin to identify many of the harmonic progressions, modal flavors, and rhythms that are Friedell’s musical thumbprints. For those of us who only know Harold Friedell from his “hit” anthems, such as Draw us in the spirit’s tether and The Way to Jerusalem, this CD will give the listener a finer understanding of this mid-century church musician/composer. While the choral ensemble and diction are in fine form, and the recorded sound excellent, we are still miles removed from the sound of the Anglican cathedral men and boys choirs. The value of the CD for the church musician is primarily for the opportunity of gaining insight into the dramatics, even the theatrics, of Harold Friedell’s sacred music. The dramatic element must be understood by all who would conduct this music in order that it be delivered with the spirit of dignity and serenity that no musical score alone can convey.