Clarence Dickinson: Dean of American Church Musicians, by Stephen W. Garner


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This is a biography of one of the America’s greatest figures in the world of sacred music. Born in 1873 to a long line of great theologians and educators, he excelled as a church musician, organist, teacher, minister, educator, author, performer, conductor, and composer. Known for playing from memory at an early age, he received much attention from organists in Chicago and New York, and was invited to become a founding member of the American Guild of Organists in 1896.

After studies at Northwestern University, he went to Europe, where he studied in Berlin with Heinrich Reimann and in Paris with Alexander Guilmant and Louis Vierne. He returned to Chicago, teaching organ, serving as organist for St. James Episcopal Church, founding and directing several choral groups.

In 1909 he moved to New York City. There he became Organist-Director of the Brick Presbyterian Church and began teaching sacred music at Union Theological Seminary. In 1928, realizing a great need for a graduate school in sacred music, he worked with the administration to found the School of Sacred Music at Union, where he served as Dean until 1945. It was the first graduate school in Sacred Music in the United States; it was the first to grant seminary masters degrees to both men and women; it was interdenominational, teaching courses to prepare students to serve all major faith traditions.

From his posts at the Brick Church and Union Seminary, he propelled the importance of quality church music in the early twentieth century. He and his faculty taught and served as mentors to hundreds of the first full-time church musicians with graduate degrees in the United States. These came from all denominations and served both in the U.S. and overseas.

Although there were many fine composers in his day, most were not composing for the church. Dickinson composed quality music for the churches of his day, publishing some 500 compositions which were performed throughout the United States and in many foreign countries. He was revered as a true American composer and honored in many ways. Large choral festivals of his compositions were held throughout his professional career, with up to 1200 singers. Few composers have been accorded such honor. In a 1958 festival, he was given the title, Dean of American Church Musicians. In addition to these accomplishments, he was a legendary concert artist at the organ.

The text describes the wonderful romantic and working relationship he had with his wife Helen, a brilliant teacher, author, scholar, and linguist who was the first woman to receive a PHD in philosophy from Heidelberg University in Germany.

Every organist, church musician, and music lover should read his biography!

Gatekeeper Press, 2018, 293 pages

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SKU: 978-1-64237-232-8
Global Trade Item Number: 9781642372328
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Height 9.25
Depth 1.25
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