Composer Daniel Pinkham Dies at Age 83

Classic Arts News   Composer Daniel Pinkham Dies at Age 83
Daniel Pinkham — composer, organist, harpsichordist, conductor, early music pioneer and longtime music director at Boston's King's Chapel — died yesterday of leukemia at age 83.

In addition to all his other trades, Pinkham was a longtime faculty member at New England Conservatory, which announced his death; he had taught composition there since 1959.

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1923, into the family that made Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound and Herb Remedies, Daniel Pinkham 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 [sic]," 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 longtime organist and music director of King's Chapel, where he served until a few years ago. Much of his music was written for use in church services or at other ceremonial occasions.

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 work Make Way for Ducklings.

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.

He was awarded 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.

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