Robert Page, Grammy-Winning Choral Conductor and Educator

Samuel Barber “We Have Lost,” Carnegie Mellon Concert Choir

My mother was a choir director and music teacher with a life-long love of orchestral choral music. I regret that I didn’t share her love for the genre while she was alive, nor did I seek to gain a better appreciation for it with her help. Perhaps this post is partial atonement, in honor of her memory.

Robert Page (April 27, 1927-August 7, 2016) conducted choruses for the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Symphony. His last academic appointment was with Carnegie Mellon University (my mother’s alma mater) from which he retired in 2013. CMU published this tribute in recognition of his many years of service to the university.

Page believed singers should be treated as professionals, not merely as volunteers. He created The Robert Page Singers in part to establish paid positions for vocalists.

He won two Grammy Awards for recordings of choral works by Carl Orff: “Catulli Carmina” with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra (1968) and “Carmina Burana” with Michael Tilson Thomas and the Cleveland Orchestra (1976).

 

Sir David Willcocks, Choirmaster of Kings College Cambridge and Rolling Stones

King’s College Cambridge–“The Infant King”

I doubt there are many choirmasters who can list on their resume: performed at a royal wedding, recorded with the Rolling Stones and played piano on the beach during the invasion of Normandy. Those are just three of the remarkable achievements of Sir David Willcocks.

1992 Florida International Boychoir Festival

Long associated with the King’s Choir Cambridge, the Bach Choir and numerous other prestigious choral groups, Willcocks was both a beloved and demanding taskmaster, a director who insisted on discipline and perfection even from seven-year-old choirboys. During rehearsals, choristers were required to raise their hands if they committed an error.

Old Hundredth Psalm Tune, arr. by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Willcocks (December 30, 1919-September 17, 2015) may be best known for “Carols for Choirs,” which he edited with Reginald Jacques. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my mother was an organist and choir director, and I wonder if she used this book in her holiday programs.

Willcocks’ choir performed at the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and directed the choral singers on the Stones’ 1969 hit “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” He was knighted in 1977.