“Robert Elmore (1913-1985) A Personal Reminiscence”
In the oversight department, the March issue of TAO, pg. 33, notes the premiere performance of the Concerto in C Minor for Organ and Orchestra by Robert Elmore. I refer you to the March issue for all details. Appended to this newsletter is a copy of an article by Pauline Fox (from May 1994 TAO), a student of Dr. Elmore reporting the deposit of the Robert Elmore Collection in the archives and records center of the University of Pennsylvania. It is from this collection, without any doubt, that the score and parts for this Organ Concerto was retrieved.
I was introduced to Dr. Elmore in the Spring of 1974 by one of his organ students whom he taught in his private studio, and who had used some of my organ and choral selections in her Church Service Repertoire.
Having been shown examples of my work, both published and in manuscript, Dr. Elmore expressed a desire to meet me. Our conference took place on a warm afternoon in May at his home in Wayne, PA, on Philadelphia’s Main Line and occupied the greater part of the afternoon.
Dr. Elmore read through numerous organ, choral, and solo vocal selections, both sacred and secular, offering helpful and thoughtful critiques along the way. He seemed particularly interested in my arrangement of “In Thee Is Gladness” for SATB Chorus accompanied by Brass Quartet, subsequently published by Walter Gould in his Music 70 Series (an adjunct to the Lawson-Gould Music Publishers) and my SATB a cappella composition “Wide Open Are Thy Hands” which has not made print, due, no doubt, to the many enharmonic changes, difficult intonation, and chromatic voice leading which abounds in this works; Dr. Elmore took specific note of these aspects of the piece, making reference to them in a very analytic way.
It was during the 1970’s that Dr. Elmore was Organist/Choirmaster of the historic 10th Presbyterian Church, 17th and Spruce Sts. in Philadelphia, PA. Numerous visits to Philadelphia during this period provided many opportunities to attend the 7:00 PM Sunday Evening Services, enjoy “after the Service” conversation, listen to his 70 voice choir, and learn much regarding organ technique from listening to his always virtuoso performances.
10th Presbyterian was, at the time, the point of origin of the Radio Program “The Bible Study Hour,” featuring the Church’s Pastor, the Rev. Dr. James Montgomery Boice. An amusing incident occurred after one of the services when a parishoner approached me, in a reasonably friendly way, inquiring as to why I had been attending the Evening Services. I responded, “Why to hear Dr. Elmore play the organ and direct his choir.” The somewhat taken aback look I received indicate to me that this was not the expected or desired response, in view of the illustrious occupant of the pulpit.
It would hardly be accurate if I did not declare that Dr. Robert Elmore was one of the major influences on my own musical development and professional life.
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Note: A commentary on Hugo Distler and his student Jan Bender will appear in the June/July Newsletter. There will be no August Newsletter. The Newsletter will resume on a bi-monthly basis in September 2011.