In this Musical Moment, VocalEssence artistic director and founder Philip Brunelle shares insider information and beautiful music by the composer Richard Dirksen.
American composer, Richard Dirksen, was well known for his liturgical pieces and his service as organist and choirmaster at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Awarded a scholarship, he studied organ at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory under Virgil Fox and graduated magna cum laude in June 1942. While still studying at Peabody, Dirksen became assistant organist to Paul Callaway at the Washington National Cathedral in February 1942. In 1969, he was the first layperson in the Anglican Communion to be named a Precentor, meaning he had administrative oversight over all worship services. During his long tenure at the cathedral, he produced nearly 300 works for choir, instruments, and theater for various occasions, such as the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976 and the consecration of the completed cathedral in 1990. Among his compositions were “Chanticleer,” “Welcome All Wonders,” “Vineyard Haven,” “A Child My Choice” and other music often sung at Christmas and Easter. His annotated catalog of music was published by Oxford University Press. He won a Washington Emmy Award for “Six Carols and Lessons,” televised in 1965, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in music for his oratorio “Jonah.” Dirksen was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts by George Washington University, an honorary doctorate of music by Mount Union College, a Distinguished Alumni Award by Peabody, and the Medal of Excellence by the Shenandoah Conservancy.
Suggested Choral Pieces: