Speaker, Albert Adcock (BS 1967, MA 1969)
2015 School of Music Honors Convocation
Good afternoon and thank you to all who have been party to the creation of the Dr. Wilbur C. Held Endowed Music Scholarship Fund. I am a local presenter at today’s program substituting for Linda Hoover who, as the initiator of this scholarship project, was unable to be here today due to responsibilities in Virginia.
You may browse the internet to find out many of the particulars regarding Dr. Held’s career due to efforts by, among others, Morningstar and Augsburg music publishers as well as individual contributors James Hildreth, May Schwarz and Nancy Raabe. My remarks, borrowing from these sources and my own experience from knowing him personally, will focus on Wilbur’s nature and persona.
Dr. Held’s life spanned just short of 101 years, beginning August 20, 1914 until his recent passing on March 24, 2015. During that life, his influence - especially in the area of church music - was with few peers. During his 30-plus years at The Ohio State University which began in 1946, Wilbur was beloved by his students as a teacher who was patient, kind, thorough and detailed. He was also regarded as a person of warmth, great hospitality and genuine humility. Students and colleagues were often invited to his home for potlucks and the opportunity to play the pipe organ in the living room. Some have described him as being gentle and humble in heart.
He had delightful ways of expressing simple things. As a correspondent (especially with a Christmas newsletter for years), he would always sign off with the expression, Fondlies, Wilbur. My wife Cindy and I had the chance to take Wilbur to lunch on two California trips. During one of those, he mentioned receiving a letter from The American Guild of Organists (AGO) stating that we had made a contribution in his honor to one of their endowment funds. His response was, "It made my nose run."
Wilbur’s compositional efforts began in earnest around 1959. He wrote little pieces for his students to learn that would be both useful when they went home to play at their local churches and instructive in the art of organ registration – the art of knowing when to use which stops. Eventually, he wrote more difficult compositions, some of which have been used in concerts and recitals. Scheduled for publication later this year in a set of hymn-based pieces by various composers, Wilbur’s last published composition is to be one based on the hymn tune Old Hundredth.
Northwest Christian Church in Upper Arlington (where I am organist) invited Wilbur to play a recital on October 15, 2006. He was 92 at the time. As a visible example of how beloved he was to all in Central Ohio, Wilbur is the only concert artist I have ever experienced who received a standing ovation for simply entering the room. Of course, he received another at the end of his performance.
The Columbus Chapter of the AGO has honored Wilbur on at least two fairly recent occasions. First was at our 2007 AGO Regional Convention. One afternoon was spent at Trinity Episcopal Church where he had played during most of his tenure at Ohio State. It was a sanctuary packed with convention-goers from 24 states and two foreign countries listening to a program of his music played by former students, and ending with him playing one of his more difficult compositions. At that time he was 93.
Second, in honor of his 100th birthday, our chapter took out a full-page ad last August in The American Organist magazine distributed to about 17,000 nationwide AGO members. In it we invited organists to play his music on the Sundays last summer surrounding his birth date and to send to me, from around the country, copies of service bulletins and birthday wishes to be forwarded to Wilbur in California. Between those I received (resulting in two full boxes) and those sent directly to Wilbur, the ad generated around 300 responses from about 40 states. In a phone call with him last September, he shared with me that he read all of the correspondences over two days and three evenings with time off for a few naps.
In the ad, our Chapter Dean wrote the following:
Dear Dr. Held,
The members of the Columbus Chapter of The American Guild of Organists offer warm regards and congratulations to you as colleague, teacher, fellow church musician, composer, twice past dean and treasured friend on the occasion of your one hundredth birthday, August 20, 2014.
It ended with, Most sincerely. In retrospect, we should have closed with Fondlies.
Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts with you today.