Daniel Pinkham, composer, organist, harpsichordist, conductor, early
music pioneer and longtime music director at Boston's King's Chapel,
died on December 18 at 83.
Pinkham was also a longtime faculty member at the New England
Conservatory, which announced his death, where he taught composition
Pinkham was born in 1923, in Lynn, Massachusetts to a family engaged in
the manufacture of patent medicines. He studied organ and harmony at
Phillips Academy, Andover, with Carl F. Pfatteicher. "The single
event that changed my life was a concert [at Andover] by the Trapp
Family Singers in 1939, right after they had escaped from Germany,"
Pinkham was quoted in a statement as saying. "Here, suddenly, I was
hearing clarity, simplicity. It shaped my whole outlook."
At Harvard his first composition teacher was Walter Piston; he also
studied with Aaron Copland, Archibald T. Davison and A. Tillman
Merritt. He completed a bachelor's degree in 1943 and a master's in
1944. He also studied harpsichord with Putnam Aldrich and Wanda
Landowska, and organ with E. Power Biggs. At Tanglewood, he studied
composition with Samuel Barber, Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger.
Pinkham was organist of King's Chapel, where he was music director
until a few years ago. Much of his music was written for use in church
services or other ceremonial occasions, such as his Christmas, advent
and wedding cantatas.
He performed regularly with the Boston Symphony Orchestra as an
organist and wrote extensively for the organ, as a solo instrument and
as accompaniment for chorus, solo voices and other instruments. The
remainder of his repertoire included orchestral works, chamber music,
works for piano, harpsichord and other solo instruments, theatrical
works with music, and soundtracks for television films.
He said of his own music, "One of the most important influences on my
music has been my contact with performers, and I am most happy when
writing for a specific performance. This, I suppose, explains why I
have no unperformed music. I have always been interested in making
music technically accessible."
In 1981, former Boston Globe music critic Richard Dyer wrote that
Pinkham's music "doesn't turn up very often on the programs of
societies for new music because it doesn't have to live in that
ghetto-he is among the most-performed American composers, and people
like his music."
Pinkham also wrote for children, most notably with his 2003 Make Way
In 1946 Pinkham was appointed to the faculty of the Boston Conservatory
of Music. He also taught at Simmons College and Boston University and
was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University in 1957-1958. That
year, he joined the faculty of NEC, where he taught harmony and music
history in addition to composition.
Pinkham's scholarship and work were recognized with a Fulbright
Fellowship in 1950 and a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1962. He
received honorary degrees from NEC as well as from Nebraska Wesleyan
University, Adrian College, Westminster Choir College, Ithaca College,
and the Boston Conservatory.
Stephen E. Bacher
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