Parker, Horatio William



Noted American composer, organist and teacher. Born, of old New England stock, at Auburndale, Mass. His father was a well-known architect and his mother, the daughter of a clergyman, was an excellent organist and a highly cultured woman. Horatio disliked music until he was fourteen, when he suddenly conceived a passion for it, and it was with difficulty that he was forced to cease his musical studies long enough to attend to his general education and bodily development. His mother gave him a thorough foundation in organ and piano playing, and at sixteen he became organist of St. Paul's at Dedhatrt and a short time later of St. John's at Roxbury. He continued his studies at Boston under Orth in piano, Emery in theory and Chadwick in composition, and in 1881 went to Munich. There for three years he studied at the Royal School of Music, taking conducting from Abel and organ and composition under Rheinberger. At the age of fifteen he had, in two days and without any study in composition, set to music fifty of Kate Greenaway's poems, but his first works of importance were written at Munich. In 1885 he returned home, and was immediately appointed organist and director of music at St. Paul's and St. Mary's Cathedral Schools at Garden City, Long Island. In 1886 he became choirmaster and organist at St. Andrew's at Harlem, near New York, and two years later was given the same position at Holy Trinity, New York City. He also taught counterpoint at the New York National Conservatory for some time. In 1893, however, he went back to Boston to take the organ and directorship of Trinity Church there, which he held until 1901. Then, however, he found the journey from New Haven, which has been his home since 1894, when he became Battle Professor of Music at Yale University, too irksome, and, giving up that post, he took a position at New York, which incurred less traveling. Dr. Parker's work at Yale is on the order of that established by Paine at Harvard. He teaches harmony, counterpoint, composition and orchestral scoring; gives lectures on musical history, and conducts six orchestral concerts a year, at one of which the compositions of the students are played. Each concert is prefaced by a lecture in which the director analyzes the program, thus adding to their educational value. To facilitate this work Woolsey Hall was built. This hall has a seating capacity of two thousand and a magnificent organ with eighty stops.


In 1899 Dr. Parker's wonderful cantata, Hora Novissima, was sung at the Worcester Festival, the first American composition to receive such an honor. He himself conducted, as he did in 1900, when his Wanderer's Psalm, written for the Hereford Festival, was produced. On his visit to England in 1902 the third part of The Legend of St. Christopher was sung at the Worcester Festival and the whole oratorio at the Bristol Festival, both under his own direction, and he was further honored by having the degree of Doctor of Music conferred upon him by Cambridge University. The same year his cantata, A Star Song, was sung at the Norwich Festival, and at the Gloucester Festival of 1907 his new organ concerto, withorchestral accompaniment, was played. Dr. Parker's greatest work, so far, is Hora Novissima, for which his mother translated about two hundred lines of Bernard de Morlaix's famous poem, Rhythm of the Celestial Country. Like his other church-music this oratorio has been criticized as too dramatic, but it has received the highest praise from many able critics. One writer says, " It has a cappella chorus which is one of the finest specimens of pure church polyphony that has been produced in recent years. The orchestration is extraordinarily rich, and as a whole the composition may be set down as one of the finest achievements of the present day." The dramatic oratorio, The Legend of St. Christopher, was written in 1896, and two years later had its first per- formance at the twenty-fifth anniversary jubilee of the New York Oratorio Society. His other large vocal works are Ballad of a Knight and His Daughter; King Trojan, a ballad for chorus and orchestra; Ballad of the Normans, for male chorus and orchestra; Idylle, a cantata, after Goethe; The Kobalds, for chorus and orchestra; Harold Harfager, for chorus and orchestra; The Dream King and His Love, a cantata which took the New York National Conservatory prize in 1893; and The Holy Child, a Christmas cantata. The motet, Adstant Angelorum Chori, won the McCagg prize at the New York Musical Art Society in 1899, and the cantata, A Star Song, took the Paderewski prize in 1901.  Among his other male choruses are The Shepherd Boy, and Blow, Thou Winter Wind. m His church-music includes a Morning and Evening Service in E; a Communion Service in D flat; three sacred songs; three settings to Mediaeval Hymns; anthems; and songs. For the organ he has written four sets of four pieces each; and two concertos, with orchestral accompaniment; besides thirty arrangements and transcriptions of masterpieces. He t has written also a little pianomusic and some secular songs, including Union and Liberty, a song with orchestra for the inauguration of President Roosevelt in 1905. His orchestral works and chamber-music have not been published. They include an overture to Count Robert of Paris; concert overture in E flat; overture, Regulus; symphony in C minor; string quartet in F; Venetian Overture in B flat; scherzo in G minor; and a Northern Ballad.