Even as a teen-ager Thomas Dunn was involved in church music. He began as an assistant organist in Third Lutheran Church in Baltimore at the age of 11. When he was 16 he moved to the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation first as organist and then Organist and Choirmaster. There he presided over a professional choir of men and women. He studied organ and conducting at the Peabody Conservatory with Charles Courboin, E. Power Biggs, Virgin Fox, Ernest White, and Ifor Jones, while earning a Bachelor's degree at Johns Hopkins University. After graduation he matriculated at Harvard University, taking a Master's degree, with courses in choral arranging with Archibald Davison and Fugue with Walter Piston. While at Harvard he organized an orchestra and chorus to sing Bach Cantatas.
In 1957 he became Music Director at New York City's Church of the Incarnation. He organized a series of Incarnation Concerts at the church. These concerts were so successful that the church choir and the accompanying orchestra became the Festival Orchestra and Chorus, giving concert seasons in Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. He was made Conductor of the Cantata Singers, an amateur chorus with an interst in performance practice. With this group he organized the first series of summer concerts in Avery Fisher -- which became the Mostly Mozart concerts.
Dunn became the Artistic Director of the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston in 1967, a post he held for 19 years. He continued to teach in New York until he became Editor-in-chief of E.C. Schirmer Music Publishers. Academic positions included Boston University, Stanford University, and Indiana University. In 1985 he was awarded an honorary degree Doctor of Music by Providence College.
One of Dunn's recent interests is in composing music for small and inexperienced church choirs - along the lines of "Gebrauchsmusik", which is adaptable to the exigencies and emergencies that are apt to befall Sunday mornings.
OPEN YE THE GATES (SATB, organ, optional trumpets I/II) Duration: 3:15 Easy CAN 1026 $1.50
A majestic anthem that begins with optional trumpet fanfares -- effective and easy choral lines.
Three Herbert Settings:
The great seventeenth-century English poet George Herbert has long been a favorite for church composers. In this collection Thomas Dunn has chosen three of the poet's best-loved texts and set them for SATB choir and organ.
BITTER-SWEET (SATB, organ) Duration: 3 min. Medium CAN 1013 $1.50
Bitter-sweet owes its musical atmosphere to a French style. The choral writing is quite simple and expressive. The organ part is an impassioned and bitter litany, pervading the choir's sweetness.
PRAISE (SATB, organ) Duration: 2:15 Medium CAN 1012 $1.50
The great 17th century English poet George Herbert has long been a favorite for church composers. Praise is in the typical Edwardian style with some modern harmonies giving a flavor of the Mixolydian mode. The organ accompaniment puntuates the choral writing with flashes of color, generating an exciting climax.
LET ALL THE WORLD (SA, SAB or SATB, organ) Duration: 2 min. Easy CAN 1025 $1.50
Let all the World, using the George Herbert poem, is as American as Scott Joplin - a rollicking and playful setting, infectious in rhythm. It can be sung in a variety of ways: SATB, SA alone or SA with unison men's parts.
These settings are written for small choirs with organ accompaniment. They convey a certain Anglican nostalgia both in the literary as well as the musical language.
O GOD, THE KING ETERNAL (Unison or 2-part, organ) Duration: 2:30 Easy CAN 1028 $1.50
O God, the King Eternal may be sung by a unison or 2-part choir. Beginning quietly, it builds to a climax by means of a walking bass in the organ part reminiscent of Vaughan Williams' hymntune "Sine nomine". It closes with a setting of "amen" suggesting the ringing of bells.
LORD, WE PRAY THEE (SATB, organ) Duration: 3 min. Easy CAN 1027 $1.50
This setting of the Collect for the 17th Sunday after Trinity preserves the archaic word "prevent" (meaning "go before"). It calls for an optional soprano or baritone soloist, or it may be sung in unison throughout. Like O Lord, Support Us, the "Amen" section may be sung as an unaccompanied choral response.
O LORD, SUPPORT US (U/ opt. SATB, organ) Duration: 2:15 Easy CAN 1029 $1.50
Cardinal Newman's beloved prayer is set for unison voices and organ, with an optional SATB setting of "Amen," useable by itself as an a cappella choral response. Particular care has been taken with the prosody of the text.
Three Spanish Christmas Carols:
These arrangements for unaccompanied voices of authentic Spanish folksongs suggests castanets and Flamenco guitars, and the atmosphere of old Castile.
THE VIRGIN IS WASHING SWADDLING CLOTHES / La Virgen lava pañales (SATB a cappella; keyboard reduction) Duration: 1:20 [M] CAN 1014 $1.50
This Spanish Christmas carol is a Seguidilla, merrily picturing the Virgin and St. Joseph with the Child Jesus going about their homely activities. A singable English text and an International Phonetic Alphabet rendering of the Spanish text are included.
"[This] arrangement by Thomas Dunn is published in a good edition that provides a translation, pronunciation guide, and background information...Dunn presents the popular song in a good key and vocal range..." Lynne Ransom CHORAL JOURNAL (March 98)
JOSEPH DOES THE WASHING / San José lavaba (SATB div., Mezzo-soprano, Male voice solos, a cappella) Duration: 4 min. [M] CAN 1015 $1.50
This Villancico for Soria captures the exuberant spirit of Spanish dance melodies. A singable English text and an International Phonetic Alphabet rendering of the Spanish text are included.
"Thomas Dunn brings his great expertise to three Spanish carols...all with fine editorial and pronunciation guides, all a cappella, and all highly recommended....San José lavaba is a slice-of-life from the Holy Family after the excitement of Christmas Eve. These are great settings!" John L. Hooker THE JOURNAL OF THE ASSOCIATION OF ANGLICAN MUSICIANS (Sept. 97)
O THIS NIGHT IS CHRISTMAS EVEN / Esta Noche es Noche Buena (SATB a cappella; keyboard reduction) Duration: 2:30 [M] CAN 1016 $1.50
Esta Noche is a typical Villancico, or Christmas carol, in which the refrain is political commentary. The verse paints the Spanish Christmas custom of rolling fruit and fresh chestnuts down a staircase. A lively and humorous setting from one of America's most respected and beloved conductor/teachers. Spanish and English texts are provided along with a guide to pronouncing the text.
"Esta noche is a rollicking 6/8 dance of great good fun; soem care will have to be exercised about the text, which has no kind word for mothers-in-law. You'll have to see for yourself." John L. Hooker THE JOURNAL OF THE ASSOCIATION OF ANGLICAN MUSICIANS (September 97)
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