William Wallace Gilchrist 1846-1916

william-gilchristM. Wallace Gilchrist was born January 8, 1846, in Jersey City, N. J.

His father was a Canadian of Scottish extraction, and his mother an American descended from Puritan stock. Both the parents had good musical taste, and their son’s first musical inclinations were developed in the home circle.

The family moved to Philadelphia when Gilchrist was nine years old, and there he attended school until the outbreak of the war, at which time the business of Mr. Gilchrist, senior, was ruined, and the son was obliged to work. The possession of a good voice enabled him to sing in choirs and choruses, first as soprano and then, as it developed into a smooth, flexible baritone, he sang the principal parts in the oratorios of the Handel and Haydn Society, where his first real musical life began.

At the age of nineteen he began to study organ, voice, and theory with Prof. H. A. Clarke, gradually concentrating on the latter. At the age of twenty-five he spent one year in Cincinnati as organist and teacher, returning to Philadelphia to take the post of choir-master at St. Clement’s Protestant Episcopal Church.

After that he organized and conducted many choral organizations, and was a conductor of the Mendelssohn Club, Tuesday Club of Wilmington, and Philadelphia Symphony Society, the latter being an amateur orchestra of over 50 players, whose labors were devoted to the best class of work. He did a great deal of choir work, mostly in the Episcopal Church, from which, he retired.

He is best known as a composer. His first success was in taking both of the prizes offered by the Abt Society of Philadelphia for the best choruses for male voices; that was in 1878. Afterwards, in 1881, he took the three prizes offered by the Mendelssohn Glee Club of New York, for choruses of male voices.

In 1884 he took the prize of $1,000 offered by the Cincinnati Festival Association, the judges of which were Saint-Saens, Reinicke, and Theodore Thomas. This work was an elaborate setting of the Forty-Sixth Psalm, and was very enthusiastically received. He afterwards made alterations in it, and it was brought out at the Philadelphia Festival in 1885 with great success.

Some of his choral works were as follows:

  • An Easter Idyll. For double chorus, soli, orchestra, and organ
  • Forty-sixth Psalm. Chorus, solo, orchestra, and organ
  • One Hundred and Third Psalm. Chorus, solo, orchestra, and organ
  • Ninetieth Psalm. Chorus, solo, orchestra, and organ
  • Fifth Psalm. Chorus, solo, orchestra, and organ
  • Prayer and Praise. Cantata. Chorus, soprano solo, orchestra, and organ
  • De Profundis. Cantata. Chorus, soprano solo, orchestra, and organ
  • The Rose. Cantata. Alto solo, chorus, orchestra
  • Ode to the Sun. Male voices, four-hand piano accompaniment

His orchestral works include:

  • Symphony in C
  • Suite Piano and orchestra
  • His chamber music includes:
  • Nonet for piano, strings, and wind
  • Quintet for piano and strings
  • Trio for piano and strings

In addition to the above he wrote a large quantity of church music, several hundred songs, a number of which were successfully issued; a great deal of piano music, choruses, glees, and some uncommonly successful choral arrangements of songs, notably:

  • Gounod’s Nazareth
  • Ring out Will Bells
  • Faure’s Saneta Maria