Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Phil Trier, 1823-2012

Phil Trier, founder of the Old Town School of Music and a major influence in bringing Sacred Harp singing to the Midwest, died June 14. In an email to Chicago singers, Ted Mercer said he "was instrumental in the founding of the Chicago Sacred Harp Singers," when he "presided over a momentous gathering at the Old Town School of Folk Music in November, 1983." He was 89. From Trier's obituary in today's Evanston Review, a subsidiary of the Chicago Sun-Times. The obit appears to have been written by his family. Some excerpts:
Phillip served as Music Director at Lake Forest Academy from 1954 until 1971. He taught courses in music and the humanities and directed the Glee Club, the instrumental ensembles and the beloved annual Carol Service. During his tenure at the Academy he composed five dramatic musical works for his students, including A Walden Fantasia and Young Goodman Brown. He also made numerous arrangements and compositions for his choir including a song cycle of poetry by Robert Frost that brought the poet to Lake Forest for the Academy’s Centennial.

During this time he also began to compose operettas for his own family and friends, especially the folksinging Armstrong Family of Wilmette. These works were performed locally for schools and community centers as well as at the Fox Hollow Folk Festival in upstate New York and included adaptations of well-known folktales such as Rumplestiltskin and The Rootabaga Tales of Carl Sandburg.

Phillip was choirmaster and organist at many churches on the Northshore. He served at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Deerfield for over a decade. He also served at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, St. Timothy’s, The Congregational Church of Winnetka, and The First Baptist Church of Waukegan. In addition to traditional church music Phillip was instrumental in starting a group of “shape note singers” at the Old Town School of Folk Music in 1982, the Chicago Prairie Sacred Harp Singers.

In addition to his academic and church compositions Phillip composed widely in a variety of genres. Among his works are song cycles on poetry of Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost, sonatas for viola, tuba, bassoon, and hammered dulcimer. a string Quartet, a brass Septet, a set of Preludes for piano based on the months, and an organ sonata. His “Crazy Inventions”, based on the Bach Two-Part Inventions and Prelude and Fudge for accordion, based on Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in d minor, were frequently performed by him to much acclaim.

And this ...
To his friends he is best remembered as the founder of the feast, the best party-giver on the Northshore. Phillip called these gatherings “musical soirees” and anyone who played an instrument was expected to bring it along and share in the musical festivities. There was also the summer solstice to look forward to when Phillip with his accordian, the Armstrong family with the bagpipes, and assorted neighbors with drums and whistles would arrive at the Gilson Park lakefront to sing up the sun at dawn. (A belated note of thanks to the Wilmette police who kindly looked the other way during this strange once-a-year ritual.)

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