Dan touched so many people, both personally and through his music. The outpouring of deep feeling has been such that this page is dedicated to these reflections.
If you would like to have a reflection included, send it to:
Pinkham@80: Program and remarks from Dan's 80th birthday celebration
Remembering Daniel Pinkham, a tribute by John Aubrey, CMCB faculty and Arcadian Winds member
From Andrew Paul Holman at Dan's Memorial Service, January 20, King's Chapel, Boston:
When Dan was preparing for his mother’s funeral in 1943, the clergyman asked if he would like Tennyson’s poem “Crossing the Bar” read at the service. Dan replied, “Oh no, mother never drank.”
It was this indefatigable spirit and sense of humor (even in adversity) that most of us remember. Dan was renowned — perhaps notorious? — for his jokes, wit, and stories, many of which he first heard right here, back in the choir room.
But while the first things that may pop into our minds are his laughter and story-telling, the legacy of Daniel Pinkham will be his voluminous catalog of works, his highly successful teaching career, his notable career as a performer, and his tenure of 42 years as Music Director of King’s Chapel where many of new works had their tryouts and first hearing. In our age of specialization, it is increasingly rare to find such a combination — composer, teacher, performer, conductor — successfully executed by one man. Dan was from that great and ancient line of musicians who bridged all these fields. His knowledge as a music historian informed his own works. And he in turn imparted much of that knowledge to his students for more than 60 years.
Dan was one of the least sentimental people I have known. But a key turning point in his life came from an unexpected source. Back in 1939, the Trapp Family (just out of Nazi Germany and Austria) gave a concert in Andover. They played unfamiliar instruments: viola da gamba, virginal, a quartet of recorders, and sang with the timbre of children’s voices, producing a spare, clean sound that spoke to young Dan. This epiphany caused him to read everything he could find on 17th- and 18th-century music. He continued this research at Harvard, producing a thesis on performance practice in music of the French baroque. Sharing his knowledge with students, he helped Boston and the New England Conservatory become the center of early music in the United States.
Another aspect of his extraordinary talents was his choice and setting of texts. His library was not that large, but he had extraordinary literary knowledge. The people for whom he wrote music were always pleased with his choice of texts. He also took great care in setting texts to music. His expertise in early music, particularly from the British renaissance and baroque, taught him a great deal about how to set text to music. At a piano concert some years ago, Richard Dyer, former music critic for the Boston Globe, remarked that Dan’s pieces said what they wanted and stopped. There was no excess in his music.
One story regarding texts comes to mind about a commission for West Virginia Wesleyan University. The text is based on Jesus’ descent into hell following the crucifixion. Dan sent his libretto down to the music chair at the college for approval. A few days later he got a telephone call from them. They very much liked the libretto but wanted him to change a few words. Dan replied, “I don’t know anything about Methodist theology. Is there something that you don’t like or agree with? The fellow replied, “Oh, no. The libretto is fine. It’s just that we have some people here who would like to have inclusive language. The sentence that begins, ‘Now cross that man may look upon for eternal life.’ Is it possible for you to reword this sentence so that the word ‘man’ is omitted? Dan replied, “Oh, tell them that I am hopelessly old fashioned and won’t change it.” The phone conversation ended. Ten minutes later Dan called back and said, “I have thought about it and I will make two changes. First, I will change the word ‘man’ to ‘all.’ The second change is that the role of Satan, which was to have been a bass-baritone, will now be a soprano!”
Dan taught us how to live. He was generous to all. Only when he ended up in the hospital last March did his teaching career at the Conservatory end. He had planned to continue teaching last September but didn’t have the strength. He loved teaching and loved his students — whether they were struggling freshmen or doctoral level students. Early in the semester last Fall, he did manage to drive to the Conservatory and have lunch at the cafeteria with his students on one or two occasions.
Dan also taught all of us by example. Only when necessary was he confrontational. And that was quite rare. I remember a story he told of when he was teaching music history to a large class at New England Conservatory. This class was held at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon — not the best time for attentiveness. One of his students habitually fell asleep. Rather than berate the student he found a solution that worked. On this particular day when this student again fell asleep, he quietly adjourned the class and by sign language motioned everyone to exit the room very quietly. He waited outside the classroom and instructed the next class to enter very quietly. The poor student woke up in the wrong class and never fell asleep again — at least in Dan’s class.
This coming June would have marked our 30th year together. We had a great relationship. In July of 2004, we were married at Cambridge City Hall, after a courtship of 27 years. I am so thankful that we were together, often traveling, and that he maintained his health until only last Fall. His final days were peaceful and he didn’t suffer. Your prayers, concerns and letters were a great comfort. It is difficult to explain, but I felt as though a great burden was being lifted by all of you and that I was able to get through that final week of Dan’s life and the days that followed his death.
Dan touched so many of us as a friend, teacher, composer, and music director, as evidenced by this large gathering. When speaking with him he made you feel as though he was your best friend. We will miss his wit, wisdom, charm, creativity, generosity, and cheerfulness. We will treasure the memories and the great musical legacy he left us.
I would like to thank the friends who helped Dan in the last weeks and months. David Carney, John Grimes, Eileen Gibney, Heinrich Christensen, Gregg Sorensen, Scott Woolweaver, Michael Calmes and Susan Smith gave generously of their time and kept Dan company when I wasn’t there. But especially I want to thank Jim Christie and John Finney who opened their home to us after our house fire in August. They were a great support and comfort to us both.
From James David Christie at Dan's Memorial Service, January 20, King's Chapel, Boston:
2007 marks the 300th anniversary of the death of the great North German composer, Dieterich Buxtehude, and I am in the middle of performing the composer's complete organ works this season. Just last week, I was asked if this was the most difficult task I have ever undertaken in my lifetime and I immediately replied:
"No - having been given the daunting honor of speaking at the memorial service of Daniel Pinkham and having to decide what, and what not to say…and then, how to say it…this is without a doubt the most difficult task I have ever faced in all my years on this earth!"
When I look around from this reading desk [and this is my debut at this end of the church…for the past 32 years, I have always been seated on that organ bench looking the other way!], I must see at least 200 faces of people I know who should be speaking at this very moment.
As you know, Danny didn't like things that were too long…the exception being his outrageous, colorful ties! And, I just have to have found two second-class relics just ½ hour before the service began today in the Choir Closet behind the organ, including the tie that Dan wore for his last Kings Chapel concert. [here drape tie over the pulpit]. He especially hated long sermons (sorry, Carl! [Scovel]) and long concerts. I used to complain in my earliest days, as his organist for the King's Chapel Sunday Concert Series, that I felt the concerts were too short - many lasted under an hour with the taking of the offering. He reprimanded me saying: "Just always remember this…no one ever complains when it is too short." We certainly saw that also in his music - he always wrote just the right amount of notes, in just the right amount of time and he never beat a good idea or a good tune into the ground. His good friend, the Boston Globe music critic, Richard Dyer, once dubbed him the "master of the miniature" - and he loved that title.
Like his dear friend and contemporary, Ned Rorem, I think he was always at his best when writing for the human voice. There is always something so captivating and attractive about his vocal and choral music. Of course, he also put that same lyrical gift into the lines of his orchestral, chamber and keyboard works as well. He adored poetry and he was a superb poet and writer himself - just listen to the recently released recording of his fabulous comic opera, Garden Party, to experience Daniel Pinkham, the poet! By the way, it is available from ECS Publishing right here in Boston…Dan would have approved of this sales plug!
Besides not liking things to go on for too long a time, he also didn't like things to get too "heavy" and he detested sentimentality. And, as we all know, he loved jokes…so, I would like to tell his favorite joke - anyway, I think it must have been his favorite joke because I heard it at least 30 times in the past 10 years! So, here goes…The late well-known London music critic and author, Henry Pleasants, and his wife, the harpsichordist Virginia Pleasants, were very good friends of Danny and it was Henry who told this true story. In 1959, Henry was attending the cremation service for his good friend and colleague, the preeminent British musicologist, Eric Blom, at Golders Green Crematorium in London. Prof. Blom, who was Jewish, but completely unreligious, left exact instructions as to what he wanted for his funeral in his last will and testament. The service was to consist of a few of his favorite readings and a couple of tributes by friends and colleagues - there was to be no preludial music or music during the service, only at the very end. Now, the Golders Green Crematorium in London is a kind of "theater" crematorium: at the very beginning of the service, the coffin is placed above the congregation in the front of the chapel on a conveyor belt, and at the very end of the service, a switch is flicked and the coffin then makes a slow cortege across the "stage" into a room where the actual cremation takes place. Well, at that very moment at Prof. Blom's funeral, the organist, who was a gentleman of about 80 years of age, began to play the following…[*here, John Finney played the first 5-6 bars of the "Barcarolle" from the Tales of Hoffman by Offenbach]…Henry Pleasants immediately jumped up, ran over to the organist and exclaimed: "You must stop - this is most inappropriate!" But, the organist just continued on playing and said to Henry: "Oh no, this is just what the deceased requested in his instructions for his service. He said that as his body went into the flames, he wanted the organist to play a simple Bach-chorale…"
About a month before Danny died, we had a party at the house - Danny called it the "Last Supper" - with Janet McGhee, Kim Scown, Lorna Cooke daVaron and a host of others. I talked Danny into telling that joke and how I wish I had recorded it so I could have played it for you today- no one could tell it like he did!
The last three months of Danny's life were difficult, but also inspiring. As you know, Andy and Danny had a terrible fire which left their lovely home in Cambridge uninhabitable. John Finney and I have a huge, empty house in South Natick with a guest suite and we invited them to move in during their rebuilding of the Chilton Street estate. We have vacationed together and have been the best of friends for well over 30 years - and, I knew it would be lots of fun to dine and party together regularly. A week after they moved in, Danny came home from a doctor's visit and announced he had received his "death sentence." His leukemia had progressed and would continue to progress. Chemo-therapy was an option, but it would not cure him, only perhaps slow the disease a bit and give him a little more energy - but, there were no promises this would happen. Danny announced a week later that he had "packed his bags and was ready" and that he wanted to let nature take her course. He rejoiced in the wonderful life he had - and he especially rejoiced about all of us seated here in this room - he told me that the best things in his life were the people who made it so enjoyable and worthwhile.
When I first tried to write some thoughts theses past three weeks about Danny in preparation for today, every other line was about my experiences with this great man. I only have to look around and think of Barbara Wallace, David Carney, Bob Light, John Grimes, Richard Conrad, Michael Calmès, his dear brother, Chris…all of you sitting right here in this chapel at this very moment, to realize what was Danny's greatest quality: he had the ability…the gift…to make each of us feel like we were the most important person in his life.
We had a Pinkham Festival a year ago in Oberlin and one of my organ students there worked with Dan twice and had lunch with him once. The day after Danny and Andy left town, the student told me he thought he had known Danny all his life…what a great gift! I have never known a more generous person in all my life - always giving to his friends, his colleagues, his students and to the world. Danny will be giving to the world for the rest of eternity - how he touched us and molded us by his examples - it is our job now to pass on the spirit of Daniel Pinkham to the next generations.
This would have been already much too long and much too "heavy" for Danny….so, back to the jokes. Danny's other favorite joke was one that Andy always told and he delighted in listening to his beloved partner tell it…of course, I am going to give my own ornamented version - it's like early music: I just can't leave it alone and always need to add my own embellishments!...
There was this Norwegian Lutheran minister who went deep into the woods to ponder the Holy Scriptures. As he was praying, a huge, black bear, looking very hungry, was standing only 10 feet away from him! He quickly fell to his knees and prayed aloud: "Heavenly Father… (N.B.: Norwegian Lutherans, like Daniel Pinkham, are not bothered by sexist language!)…Heavenly Father, please make this bear a Christian!" With that, a shaft of heavenly light descended upon the scene and the bear fell to his/her knees and prayed aloud: "Heavenly Father-Mother: bless this meal which I am about to receive…"…..(we later learned that God made the bear a member of the United Church of Christ and he/she served on the committee for the New Century Hymnal…)
Andy: you were Dan's life and his absolute joy - thank you from all of us for taking such wonderful care of our beloved friend for the past 29 and one-half years.
At the moment when Danny died on December 18, I realized we had not heard any music in the house for the past three days. I immediately went to the CD player and put on Don Teeter's recording at full volume of the last movement of Danny's Christmas Cantata - with those words sung by the heavenly choir of angels on Christmas Eve: "Gloria in excelsis Deo." We are going to hear perhaps his most famous work sung and played again as a "song of farewell" by a choir of sixty of Danny's most favorite angels…the Angel Gabriel's Brass Quartet…the Danish version of St. Cecilia at the organ [Heinrich Christensen, Music Director of King's Chapel]… and all of them conducted by his favorite Archangel, Danny's dear friend, Lorna Cooke daVaron. There is no better way to sum up Danny's life than with those perfect words, and with his sublime music.
From Carl Scovel at Dan's Memorial Service, January 20, King's Chapel, Boston:
So, Dan is gone: our friend, our teacher, the familiar face at the lectern or podium, the master of quips and jokes, the source of insights and inspiration. I wonder if you like me were surprised to find how much you miss him - on the phone, the hastily scratched message on a postcard, the prospect of dinner or a conversation with him, a lecture or concert.
I say "surprised" because Dan was so guarded about himself: enjoying but dismissing public praise, deflecting the invasive inquiry with a subtle but decisive turn of phrase, rarely admitting a deep feeling or conviction. How many times we heard him say: "I'll laugh or cry for the same money."
How is it, then, that once we got word of his death we phoned and emailed each other. I heard from a woman who clerked at Egan's Market, the Conservatory freshman whom he invited to sing in our choir without audition, the author for whom he got permission to quote a poem, the sick friend whom he listened to at a party, and then said, "Yes, I know, I have the same thing."
Strange that this man, so elegant a figure in public, so careful of his private self, this man so touched our selves that we find his world has in some ways shaped ours. Then, maybe not so strange.
Dan was kind - kind to his students, singers, instrumentalist, colleagues, neighbors on Chilton Street, this congregation and its clergy. How many pieces he wrote for our voice or our celebrations - weddings, baptisms, my installation.
I ran the east end of the church and he ran the west end. He took care of the music and I took care of the words, and as the wordman I marveled at how Dan chose texts and set them to music.
Dan said that he read poetry from the viewpoint of a cannibal. He was prowling for meat for his music. Dan said he avoided most poets of his century. Their work, he said, had too many ideas and allusions. Music, he said, makes its best effect when the message is be simple and direct.
Thus you'll find in his works the names of Blake, Campion, Crashaw, Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Shakespeare, and, above all, the Bible, again and again, but especially the Psalms. Dan was an interpreter of scripture as much as the man in the pulpit or the professor in a seminary. His choice of key, meter, note, tempo and caesura enabled the listener to hear sense in a strange or familiar text. Time and again I was struck to hear a well-known passage in a new way. But Dan, as Andy has reminded us, favored three poets from his time - Norma Farber, Robert Hillyer, and James Wright. He set almost a hundred of their poems to music.
For example, once he read a poem by James Wright which describes how Judas on the way to hanging himself saves a man from a beating. Then Norma Farber showed Dan a poem describing how the mother of Judas raised him lovingly only to see his crime. Then Dan found a TV play about Judas being saved from death in infancy.
Dan took these poems, interlaced them with three psalms and four gospel passages about his betrayal of Christ, set them to music, and produced one of the most powerful pieces of chancel drama that we have seen and heard in this church, "The Passion of Judas." Barbara Wallace, Pam Gore, John Franklin, Howard Chadwick and Kim Scown sang the leads, 1976.
Jim Christie said he thought that Dan looked for texts, biblical or poetic, which would motivate him to compose. Even some of his instrumental pieces are titled according to theme and text. Dan, despite his diffidence, was a preacher of the most spare Puritan tradition.
I must say that I respected Dan's refusal to be typed as a pious or religious person. He took the mystery, the undefinability of Christian faith, too seriously to make of it something popular or saleable.
But once, at least, he exposed a bit of his soul, when he himself wrote three poems. "Uncommon Prayers," he called them. Here's one of them:
Make me, God, your music-staff divine.
Write thereon your clef and key.
Choose a gently flowing meter;
Make my life your symphony.
Harmonize me with your spirit.
Orchestrate me to your will,
And with vibrant chords celestial
All my empty measures fill.
In florid counterpoint concordant
Let your melodies entwine.
With ornaments - and trill and mordent -
Decorate both note and line.
May my praises never cadence,
While I glorify your name,
But in racing great crescendos
Let me sing aloud your name.
That, I think, says something of his faith, and why this man so deeply touched us.
Three days before his death we were standing in his bedroom discussing his recordings, and someone mentioned "The Christmas Cantata." Dan roused himself from half-sleep and said. "It's out of print." He paused, then added, "Like me."
I think not, Dan. Not while we're here to sing, play, hear your music; not while we retell your jokes, recall our conversations with you, and not while those who follow us do the same.
But now that you're gone, Dan, now that you're not here to wave away our words and be embarrassed at our feelings, now we can say what we could not tell you face to face:
how much we owe you,
how much we love you,
how much we miss you.
God bless you, Dan.
From members of the Battenkill Chorale singers, Janet McGhee, director:
It makes me so sad to see these photos of Dr. Pinkham, the weight loss and fragility is apparent. Yet he looks so soulful and beautiful in these photos. I remember when he came to our dress rehearsal, and you introduced him, and he was sitting right in front of me. I could hardly croak as we warmed up. I remember a very gracious and dignified and gentle gentleman. You have raised us to be great fans of this man, and I know that you have brought his music to many in our area who would not have heard it otherwise. I for one. In the Dryden Te Deum, when we reach the line "As we had hoped" and the whole feeling and power of the piece shifts at least for me, and it is one of those wonderful moments that music can reach, rare and serene and expressing the spirit of humanity.
Hi, Janet......Thanks for sharing these photos of Dr. Pinkham with us.
It's easy to see the pure and deep radiance of his soul shining out from those beautiful eyes. So powerful and so evocative. Like his music!! Sure - it's different ........... it's downright glorious!
I'm proud and grateful to have been touched by him through his music......... thankfull to him for his part in you becoming you ................... and, thankful to you for sharing.
All week, I've been singing lines from the Dryden Te Deum (No, not humming - singing them out, with lots of emotion!! ... as I imagine he would wish!) Someone else said it.....and, it's true for all of us ... we hold Daniel Pinkham iin our hearts ... embodied within his music.......and, we always will ....... and, I say - we are the better for it.
Thanks for sending the Pinkham photo. It hit me harder than I would have expected to look at his face and think of that brilliance fading away forever.
A Spectacle of Glory was my introduction to Pinkham as well as my first concert with the Battenkill Chorale, so everything deep and wonderful that I associate with the Chorale is inextricably tied up with Pinkham's music. Although I don't know the man, and although it took me a while to "get" his music, I will never forget the feeling of privilege to be a small part of the process of bringing that work into the world. For me, it was a once in a lifetime experience to be listening as the composer made final small changes to the piece during our dress rehearsal, and then to hear those changes come to life with voice and orchestra. This, and the expression on his face after the first performance, are cherished memories.
I hope his final passage will be a gentle one.
I love the "Te Deum". I was at first struck by Dryden's very ingenious rhyming English translation. Sometimes on the verge of the comical, I must say, but the meaning of the text was never altered to get a rhyme. The music is grand fitting this early Christian hymn of thanksgiving. After the prayer of the "Kondakion" it will be a great hymn of thanksgiving for Daniel Pinkham's life and the treasures he has left us.
From Donald Teeters, Music Director, Boston Cecilia:
Many of you will already have heard of the death of Daniel Pinkham yesterday, at the age of 83, after a long struggle with leukemia. Dan was a great friend of mine and of Cecilia's, most recently evidenced, and handsomely so, by his offering us the gift of his "Christmas Jubilations," which he dedicated to us and which we premiered. a couple of years ago. Although he likely received as many commissions for new works as any composer in America, Dan offered us this fine piece with no bill attached. He had been organizing it in his mind for some time, and the sound and musicianship of Cecilia, he said, was what he had had in his ear from its earliest gestation.
Apart from his gifts as a composer and performer, Dan was also--and consistently--a superb colleague. His professional circle was immense and immensely diverse. He undoubtedly heard some really dreadful performances of his own works, but I never heard him offer up anything but gratitude and satisfaction at what on occasion must have been wearying if not indeed painful renderings inflicted on his carefully wrought progeny. His praise was never fulsome, his criticisms/corrrections always direct, precise and without "attitude." His wit was endlessly creative and could be fine-tuned to the sophistication or taste or linguistic skills of the person or crowd he was addressing. The age of the anecdote was immaterial; a good joke never dies. Example: at either his 75th or 80th (I can't remember which) birthday gathering at the Botolphe Club, as part of his remarks to the assembled hundred or so guests, he told this ancient whopper: "Do you know why good Episcopalian girls hate orgies? It's all those thank you notes."
But Dan was also a formidable scholar. For many years he taught the historical music survey course at New England Conservatory. And the breadth and depth of his knowledge about all the music of the past millennium was staggering. Although he had specialized as a performer in the music of the renaissance and baroque, he could speak with equal authority about Machaut or John Cage, Sweelinck or Stanford.
My first exposure to Dan was c. 1960. He was new to the faculty at NEC and I was in graduate school trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up. I studied harpsichord with him for a year and, as the bible has it, the scales fell from my eyes. I had never encountered anyone who could in the flash of an eye turn from a learned discourse on a subtle point of keyboard style in 18th century France to an anecdote, for example, about playing harpsichord in a Bach performance with Munch and the BSO where Munch kept calling out, "More harpsichord! More harpsichord!"
He was also enormously generous. In 1964, when I was organist at St. Andrew's Church in Wellesley, we installed a major new organ built by the Casavant company of Canada. As one of a series of dedication concerts, I decided I would like to play a concerto program, and money was easily raised to cover costs. I spoke with Dan about how to construct the program. I had already decided to include the Poulenc Organ Concerto and a Handel Concerto, and it was Dan's suggestion that we include a work by his composition teacher at Harvard, Walter Piston, and one of Dan's early (and very beautiful) Sonatas for strings and organ. When the program was all settled, I said to Dan, "Now the question is, who should I engage to conduct it?" After discussing several candidates, he said, "Would you consider me?" I was floored by the offer, but gathered myself together enough to accept, graciously I hope. In any event it turned out fine. Dan helped me to assemble some of the best players in town and held things together in his uniquely cool and collected manner, and I played quite respectably I think. He, not surprisingly, refused any fee for his essential contribution to the evening's success.
And so on, and so on. Daniel Pinkham will be missed by a vast number of colleagues and friends, and by some who know him only through his music. But his compositions, some of which I believe will have a life much longer than his, will speak to the seriousness and many gifts of this remarkable, maybe quintessentially 20th century, man.
From the Guestbook:
As we reflect on our delightful encounters with Dan over the years at Chilton Street, at conclaves and gatherings and during his trips to the midwest with Andrew, we remember a kind, witty and gentle giant overflowing with "savoir-faire" and warmth.
He will be greatly missed but his prodigious legacy in composition will afford us many opportunities to "savour the sauce".
William and Yvonne Kuhlman
We'll miss you
My favourite classes at NEC were with Mr Pinkham. (1990 - 1992). He was very enthusiastic, energetic and immensely knowledgeable. Those of you who took classes from him will remember his creative ties. I feel lucky to have an autographed copy of an organ suite he composed, which he gave to all of us organ majors. It's a great loss for NEC, and for all of us.
As a member of the Battenkill Chorale, Cambridge, NY, I have had the honor and the pleasure of singing several of Dr. Pinkham's works. I have been uplifted and inspired each time.
Although he will surely be missed, he lives within me...within all of us...in the music. I am grateful to have met him, and to have known his music, and for the opportunity to have performed it.
The passing of Daniel Pinkham signifies the lost of a great friend, mentor, teacher, composer, and great human being. He will be greatly missed. May his memory be a blessing.
Benjamin D. Sorrell
I will miss you Dan. Thanks for the times of sharing your joy of music with me. You have given me such good memories.
I was saddened to hear of Dan's passing. He was a wonderful teacher, colleague, and friend, and will be missed by so many of us. Besides his brilliance as a composer and musician- and his wonderfully pleasant disposition and sense of humor, Dan truly was one of the kindest people I have known in my life. He was extremely generous to me, and will remain in my thoughts and prayers always.
I was surprised and saddened to learn of the death of Daniel Pinkham. He was the leading composer during my years in Boston in the 1980s and 1990s. I attended many concerts at Harvard and King's Chapel and heard his music. We will miss this fine composer, performer and human being.
Paul M. Pearson
I am very saddened to hear of Andy's loss, and yet also very grateful to have learned about Dan Pinkham's life through Andy. God bless, sustain, and keep you during this time.
Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church
I met Daniel and Andrew in the mid 90s in a carpet shop in Marrakesh while on a cruise with Thom. His disarming friendliness soon won us over and I introduced myself to his compositions on our return to the US. Though it's been nearly a decade we both still remember it and were saddened to hear the news this morning. Our condolences to Andrew in his time of great loss.
I first met Dan Pinkham 34 years ago when I was a freshman at Boston Conservatory and was pledging Kappa Gamma Psi. One part of my "scavenger hunt" was to go the New England Conservatory and get Dan Pinkham's signature. I was a terrified kid and he put me at ease, told me a joke or two and gave me the signature. Today, I have the good fortune to work for ECS Publishing; one of Dan's publishers here in Boston and I have had the pleasure of 18 years of exposure to his music, his marvelous sense of humor and his gentle and sweet nature. I send my heartfelt thoughts to his partner, my friend Andy Holman.
When my own life was going into some shadows my friend James David Christie offered to give organ lessons and insisted I take a course in the evening at New England Conservatory with Daniel Pinkham. I was terrified but Jim took me by the hand to registration. Dan had been forewarned of my fears. He asked me if I read music and I assured him I was fine in C and G and was working on other keys. He had such a twinkle in his eye! I studied Baroque performance practice with him for a year and found an amazing, warm,supportive friend for life. He wrote a beautiful viola and organ piece for Jim to play at the dedication of our Wissinger organ at Plymouth Church in Belmont. I begin my 25th year there now. When Danny retired from his full teaching load
at NEC , he came several times to sub for me. The choir was always thrilled and terrified that they would not reach his standards. He always won their hearts and improved their performance. Our dinner parties together at my house or his and Andy's always included bright conversations, much laughter and my apple and pumpkin pies. Danny is a National Treasure who changed many lives from gloom to bright. Thank you, Danny.
Helen Thompson Taylor
My thoughts are with you, Andy, at this very sad time. In addition to great personal sadness, it is truly the end of an era. Dan was one of the great lions of music, but he never let that enter into the equation in his friendships with young musicians like me. He was always himself and brought out the best in everyone he worked with. Dan's obituary mentioned his time with Aaron Copland. If I have anything to say about it, mine will mention that I knew Daniel Pinkham.
With great sympathy,
Malin Fritz Walrod
Daniel Pinkham's Christmas Cantata is one of the most inspired spiritual works I have ever heard and sung. He ranks with the eternal composers, such as Handel. When I hear the third movement in the Cantata, I know that's exactly what the shepherds heard at the singing of the multitude of the heavenly host announcing the birth of the Savior. Now the performance is in heaven! Thank you, and my prayers are with you and your family.
The Rev. Rusty DeMoss
Daniel Pinkham dies and goes to heaven. When he gets to the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter tells him that new rules are in effect due to the advances in education on earth.
In order to gain admittance, a prospective Heavenly Soul must answer three questions.Saint Peter's first question is "What are the two days of the week that begin with T?" Dan promptly replies "Today and tomorrow." A bemused St. Peter says "Well, that's not the answer I expected, but I'll accept it."
Saint Peter then asks Dan how many seconds there are in a year. After a moment's thought Dan replies "Twelve - January 2nd, February 2nd, March 2nd . . ." St. Peter, finding Dan to be such a clever and entertaining fellow, again accepts his answer.
But now St. Peter poses a question he is sure will test Dan's wits. He asks "What is God's first name?" Dan soon replies, "God has two first names: Howard - and Andy."An incredulous St. Peter can't wait to know the source of this answer. Dan explains: "Howard comes from the Lord's Prayer: 'Our Father, who art in Heaven, Howard be thy name . . .' and Andy is from the song 'Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am his own. . . ' "
This joke is adapted from one found on Beliefnet.com and signed "rutledge." The text "and He walks with me, and He talks with me" etc. is from the song "In the Garden," by C. Austin Miles.
I just learned of the passing of Dan Pinkham and am greatly saddened by the news. Dan was one of my advisors at NEC when I was a graduate student there in the mid 70's and I was greatly appreciative of his warmth and generosity toward all our merry band of teaching assistants. My own teaching today is conditioned by his wonderful spirit. I will always treasure the opportunity I was given to grow in the fertile soil of the influence of those great years with Dan, Julia Sutton, Peter Row, John Heiss, and Matt Ruggerio. My best wishes and condolences go to his loved ones.
Thank you for being our friend through many years; we will always remember your kindness, your wit, your wide knowledge in essential fields - music, literature, language, history. We will remember you, sitting in the garden of Karibakken, composing, reading, taking a nap in the shadows - the great dinners at Trugstad, the family gatherings and your music performed by Andy, in both churches and cathedrals. We will miss you, Dan, but we will always remember you.
Turid og Gunnar Jakobsen, Gry and Paal
Dan's buoyant spirit and sparkling wit are sorely missed, but now surely enliven those above. He was my teacher at NEC (yes, we all slept through some of his classes!); a mentor - especially regarding his own music; and a good friend - even after a long hiatus. The recording of his chamber operas - thankfully released before his death - were our labor of love. Godspeed, Dan.
I learned Christmas Day of Dan's passing and wanted to share what a joy it was to work with him on two children's operas which he composed for the children's opera program at the Opera Company of Boston. He worked well with elementary school kids, visiting them and integrating their ideas into two wonderful pieces. I recall how he asked me what I wanted for instrumentation and how he was able to adapt to any requirement. What struck me the most about this consummate gentleman was his kindness and generosity---he always gave more than was requested and did so with a big smile. For me, Dan Pinkham was a star when I met him, and a bigger star after I had the good luck to work with him. I shall never forget him.
You were a joy, a mentor - and on occasion, a jovial, laconic critic - but above all, a true soul. One who was deeply rooted in a quietly-hidden professionalism blessed with a sincere love of music and life. A love that drove you, and everyone who had the honor to work with you, to know that we can achieve more than any of us ever believed possible.
I hope we can live up to your challenge.
You will be missed beyond belief.
Andy, please be well.
With Deepest Respect,
(MM - NEC - 1983)
As a confused and overwhelmed freshman studying classical guitar at NEC in 1981, I had the opportunity to be coached by Daniel Pinkham on a few Handel arias with a fellow freshman vocal student. I couldn't imagine why Dan would spend his valuable time working with two lowly freshman, but he was kind and patient, and most helpful. Being a guitarist, I came into contact with Dan and his music quite a bit in my 4 years at NEC, and then years after when I contacted him about working on some of his chamber music with guitar and he sent me a stack of beautiful music, some in his own hand. He was a true gentleman and a great musician, and one does not need to aspire to much more.
I remember very vividly my first encounter with Dan. I was a student at NEC and had enrolled in one of his classes. When Dan had read my name on the student list he stopped, looked up and said "that's an Icelandic name!" I was indeed very surprised how this Bostonian composer could pick out and recognize an Icelandic name. At the end of the class Dan told me that his partner was of Norwegian descent and both of them had great interest in Scandinavian culture. That is how my friendship with both Dan and Andy started, a friendship that has enriched my life in so many ways and I feel privileged to have enjoyed. I think with warmth to the times performing in Kings Chapel, dinners at the Maison Robert, and specially the three visits Dan and Andy made here to Iceland. Dan's knowledge, wit and humour were second to none but I will also never forget his warmth and kindness towards me.
Dan, you will be missed. Andy, my thoughts go to you during these difficult times.
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Daniel Pinkham, cultured musician, and inspiration to all who worship at the altar of the "holde Kunst".
As my arrival coincided only with the later years of his tenure at NEC, I only had the pleasure of knowing Daniel Pinkham personally in a peripheral manner. Yet no one could be insensitive to the gentle wisdom that emanated outward from Daniel Pinkham as composer, teacher and mentor to so many.
Daniel used the guitar in a number of compositions, but he never pushed his own music on me or anyone else for that matter. In his music and in his life he was always a consummate gentleman.
I was privileged to teach Daniel's music to several generations of students at NEC. We always appreciated his willingness to use the instrument in such a serious and idiomatic fashion. We guitarists are indeed fortunate to have so much interesting and varied repertoire from Daniel.
We join the entire Boston community in extending our sincerest condolences to his family. Surely his very special presence will remain with us forever.
Dan was my idol since I was 13. When I met him for the first time, I could barely speak--it was like meeting a Hollywood celebrity. Usually, "big names" have big egos, but Dan didn't. "Call me Dan," he insisted. "I don't like formalities." Meeting Dan was exciting enough, but I never guessed that he and I would become weekly lunch companions at the Conservatory for the next three years. Dan was such a charismatic fellow that, over time, more and more students began to swarm around him in the lunchroom. By the end of his final teaching year we often had to push two or three tables together to make room for everyone. Dan radiated warmth and laughter and always had an amusing anecdote on the tip of his tongue. One of my favorites was about the "illegitimate rice crispy" that had "snap, crackle, but no pop." Before I met Dan face-to-face, it was his music that inspired me to become a composer. Now, both he and his music are inspirations. I've been blessed with the most fortunate honor of befriending one of the greatest composers in history, and truly a man of greatness.
Thank you, Dan!
A Plain Song for Dan PinkhamDelicate determinings,
one with another;
a hummingbird's mischief
kindling the air we breathe,
And,Oh yes -
that forgotten lense
for viewing that
reached-up apple tree,
still in early winter,
I met Dan Pinkham probably only a handful of times, always in the company of my dear friend Fenwick Smith, who was hosting something or other, where Dan, Andy, and I (among others) were in attendance. Despite knowing Dan only briefly through these events, I feel a great sadness at his passing. Dan's hospitality, sparkle, wit, and remarkable kindness always made a deep impression on me. I am grateful to have met Dan and enjoyed his company. I'm grateful that I can continue to enjoy his music. I pray Andy and all who are mourning the comfort and hope of the faith we share.
We met Dan when we were studying in Cambridge and worshipping at Harvard-Epworth. He was a gentle soul. Thank you Andy for introducing Dan to us. We learnt of his passing away on the 4th of Jan 2007. Our memory of times spent in his presence remain fond ones and I (Brenda) appreciated the advice he gave when I rehearsed the songs for performances at Harvard-Epworth. Thank you Dan for sharing your gifts and talents and to you Andy thank you for the introduction. Go well.
Brenda & Stephen Hendricks
Dan was inspirational as a teacher and human being in my undergrad years at NEC. He was kind enough to lower his standards and play the "toy organ" at the Wayside Inn Martha and Mary Chapel for my marriage to Vicky. My favorite image of Dan is taken from one of several harpsichord moving sessions we participated in at NEC. Holding up nicely turned legs of the 'chord, Dan gleefully exclaimed, "Pieces de clavecin!" He will be sorely missed but his inspiration and wit live on.
Dan was an important part of my life for the eight years that I sang with the King's Chapel choir. Besides being an eloquent conductor, he was the model of a generous mentor and colleague who approached all matters with grace and good humor.
As our director, Dan had a light touch ("non screamando, if you please") and a choirboy's sense of fun. He was always ready for a joke, whether it was a story that would make a sailor blush or a toy that did some absurd thing, like a wind-up nun doing a backflip.
At the same time, he was composing ravishing new pieces and trying them out on us. Words seem to flower in his music, so that everything he wrote for voices feels wonderful to sing, full of meaning and emotion.
He left us beauty, good stories, and many other gifts, not the least of which was his example as a class act. I feel lucky to have known him.
I’m a student at Mckay High school in Salem, Oregon. I have only sung one of Daniel's Cantatas (Christmas Cantata) and I enjoyed it. I know that Daniel is in a great place. He touched my heart. I didn’t even know him but through his music I was inspired.
Tara and I both had the extreme pleasure of singing under Dan's direction for several years at King's Chapel in downtown Boston. We will NEVER forget his humor which spun out the most outrageous jokes at the most opportune and inopportune times! It was such a blessing to have worked with him and we will miss him dearly. Our thoughts are with you, Andy, and the rest of Dan's immediate and extended family - know that Dan touched so many people and lived such a wonderful and fulfilled life. We all can only hope to be so blessed...
Damian, Tara, Dominic (3 years), and Luca (11 months) Savarino
Dan did good work and we are richer because of it.
Thank you for being such a wonderful friend
Thank you for teaching me things without explaining them
Thank you for the great time spent together
Thank you for your jokes
Thank you for laughing at my jokes
Thank you for your patience
Thank you for your generosity
Thank you for your music
Thank you for the pages you wrote in my book
I miss you
Now looking over some old scores Dan gave me, I remember the comfort knowing his music was composed and passed on to so many with love. It is now a painful joy to know what is beyond words--that his music still and always remains rooted in friendship and love.
Richard J. Clark
Director of Music/Organist
Saint Cecilia Parish, Boston
On Monday, December 18, word came that my teacher, mentor and beloved friend of over 30 years, composer Daniel Pinkham, had died early in the morning in Natick, MA. Dan was an important figure in many of our lives; I had first been exposed to his music the summer before I entered the New England Conservatory, while touring Europe with a small chorale from California. What to my wondering eyes should appear, when on my first day of Music Lit., the instructor sashayed down the aisle wearing blue jeans with a full-length zipper along the leg where the crease on a pair of slacks would have been, a leather bomber jacket and a wide belt with “DAN” emblazoned on the back in silver studs.
A great talent and a kind and caring man who could easily have modeled for the definition of gentleman, I was privileged for many years to be his tenor soloist at King’s Chapel, Boston, and to sing local and world premieres of his music. Dan liked to write for the voices at hand, so no matter who had commissioned the works during my tenure there, the tenor had to cope with music constructed for the peculiar strengths of my instrument (something I secretly gloated over).
After living for 10 years with a self-described “touch of leukemia,” the disease finally kicked in with a vengeance and took him with bewildering suddenness. I was fortunate that I was able to rearrange plans and attend a wonderful impromptu dinner party the week before Thanksgiving, with a guest list including such friends as Lorna Cooke deVaron, who had known Dan since their student days at Harvard/Radcliff; Janet McGhee, my old school friend and cohort, and her beau, John Oakley; Dan’s partner of 25 years, Andy Holman; and their hosts at the time, Jim Christie and John Finney, who had invited Dan and Andy into their home following the fire which had devastated the Pinkham/Holman home on Chilton Street, Cambridge. While Dan had been failing rapidly and had asked if the dinner be cancelled, he rallied and rose to the occasion, sitting at the head of the table and spieling off anecdotes, many musical, all colorful, holding us all in thrall for hours. It was as though 20 years had been rolled back and he was hosting one of his famous dinner parties. A wonderful last memory of Dan for me. I am greedy enough to continue to miss him.
-- Kim Scown
I grew up in a house on Lowell St. in Cambridge, and there was an apartment in the cellar that was around the corner on Foster St. Daniel Pinkham was our tenant there for many years, and some of my earliest memories are of the lilting sounds of his 2 harpsichords wafting up the registers from below. When I was 5 he and his friend Donny took me to Barnham and Bailey circus and I can remember getting sick as hell on peanuts and cotton candy. I was saddened to hear of his passing and thought today to Google him and came upon this link.
Goodbye old friend,
It was with great sorrow that I learned of Dan’s death. Even I am surprised at how hard it is hitting me. I cannot imagine the depth of the loss you must be feeling, though I know you are surrounded by the multitude of friends you shared for decades. That has to help—that and a great sense of gratitude for all the time you did have together. I remember that, some years ago, Dan had a birthday, or he retired from King’s Chapel. Whatever it was, one of the radio stations ran a program about him organized around “The Friends of Daniel Pinkham.” That seemed so appropriate, though I didn’t think anyone could accommodate all those friends in a one-hour program and I doubt they did.
I can’t say I knew Dan well, though he was in some ways so open, egalitarian, human, and generous with himself. I always thought his music poured out of that same generosity of spirit. To know him at all was to want to know him better. If Dan had never set one note to paper, he would still be someone worth emulating for his bottomless decency, kindness, grace, humanity and, of course, his wicked sense of humor. His personality and character were as much masterpieces as anything he ever wrote.
I first met Dan in 1970-1972. I was fresh out of Middlebury College, where we sang and loved his music in the choir. I was working at the New England Conservatory. I was astonished when Dan walked into the office where I was working one day, chatted me up, and told me, “’Dan,’ please! It’s ‘Dan,’ NOT ‘Mr. Pinkham!” Having been exposed to his music, I don’t think I expected to find him anyplace remotely earthly. He told me that he welcomed amateur singers in the King’s Chapel choir and invited me to try it.
Andy, I have had only four years of voice lessons in college. I’m a solid choir singer, but when I arrived in that choir I felt outclassed and very sure my tenure there would be most remarkable for its brevity. Dan could not have been more welcoming. He helped me to gain confidence in what I could do vocally, where I could use my voice best, and told me my sense of pitch and sensitivity to the meaning of the words was a real contribution. He made it clear that he wanted his music—like himself—to be accessible. The few times he got even slightly impatient were when I was timid and hesitant.
What magical years those were for me. We often sang from great accordian-pleated sheets of newly composed music, sometimes fresh from the Ozalid machine and still smelling faintly of ammonia. Dan was enthralled with the newly-installed Fisk organ. He was experimenting with Felciano. He told us one of the recorded sounds for the Ascension was the sound of a vacuum cleaner being turned on. He reported this with unmistakable appreciation for both the humor and the creativity of this. So, ironically, Dan comes to mind whenever I use the vacuum cleaner. (I have lots of ironies in the fire, as did Dan.) That lends some special meaning to this Updike poem:
This baggy broom
whose hum is doom,
refutes for the obtuse
the thought that Nothing has no use:
No, nothing better tidies up a mess
When I returned to Chicago after this, I was confident enough to try out for the Chorus of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and sang for years under Sir Georg Solti—another world-class musician with great spirit and with a zest, intelligence and humor much like Dan’s. I would never have tried out for that if my experience with Dan hadn’t prompted me to go for it I owe Dan a lot for the soulful place music has had in my life.
In simple, uncritical exchanges, he taught me some things about sympathy for other. Once, I remarked that someone we knew made me uncomfortable. Dan said, “Well you know, I think she is uncomfortable with herself.” Another time, I said something about a concert by E. Power Biggs in Geneva. Biggs hadn’t played well. Dan responded, “Well, did you know that he has very painful arthritis?” In very simple ways like that he could bring me up short and make me think in a wider context. I was grateful for his gentle nudge in the right direction and his model for how to handle similar situations with others. Dan was one of the most intentional people I have ever known.
In recent years, there was his unbelievable generosity toward the organ project at the First Parish in Concord. I still think First Parish missed a huge opportunity to take advantage of all Dan offered us.
It’s a surprise when you encounter one of the gods in your life in the flesh—come face to face with some human things you didn’t expect. I was surprised by Dan’s Ichabod Crane-like lope, with his big feet—one pointed east, one west—and his slouchy posture. I later came to think of that posture in a different way—Dan leaning down to hear the very particular music in each of us, and helping us to hear it in ourselves.
So now we all begin the work of our spiritual composting—to transform our sorrow into a profound gratitude for Dan’s life and what it has meant to ours. Let me throw my small contribution on the pile and turn over the spade with you when you are tired.
Consider yourself hugged. I will see you for the memorial service. I am betting on a packed church.
Spencer Harris Morfit
The only proof of the existence of God he ever needed was the existence of music. Kurt Vonnegut
In a career spanning more than six decades, Daniel Pinkham was a central presence in the musical life of Boston. As an organist, harpsichordist, conductor, composer and teacher at New England Conservatory up until his death, his presence reached round the world. Given the conjunction of early music, the organ, and composition in his life, it is fitting that the BEMF 2007 Organ Mini-Festival be dedicated to him. He created a significant body of the organ's contemporary repertoire; he was a champion of the instrument and its music from all periods; and he was a major influence on builders, players, and other composers alike.
As a sixteen-year-old at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, Pinkham experienced what he described as "the single event that changed my life." In 1939, the Trapp Family Singers, just escaped from Nazi Germany and Austria, gave a concert in Andover. Their then unfamiliar instruments – viola da gamba, virginal, and a quartet of recorders, together with the timbre of children's voices – spoke to Pinkham as no music had before. In his words, "here, suddenly, I was hearing clarity, simplicity; it shaped my whole outlook."
Already studying organ, and beginning to find his voice as a composer, the addition of early music and performance practice set the direction for Pinkham's life's work. At Harvard University, he purused composition and early music simultaneously. The latter culminated in a Master's thesis on notes inégale of the French baroque. Also during his Harvard years, Pinkham studied harpsichord with Wanda Landowska and organ with E. Power Biggs.
Pinkham became an early – and ultimately life-long – advocate of the return to historic principles for contemporary organ building. He befriended adventurous builders of the late 1950s-early 1960s who were exploring these principles for both new organs and restorations of older ones. His composing for organ became, in turn, more idiomatic to the mechanical actions and voicing techniques of these instruments. At King's Chapel, Boston, where he was music director for 42 years, Pinkham saw this advocacy personally fulfilled with the installation of a new organ by Charles B. Fisk, in 1964.
As important as the organ was to Daniel Pinkham, he left a great musical legacy encompassing all genres and periods. Beyond the music, for those of us fortunate enough to know him, he also left treasured memories of his wit, wisdom, charm, creativity, generosity, and cheerfulness.
Board member, BEMF
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