At the 2007 American Choral Directors Association Southwestern Convention, I presented an Interest Session lecture titled “John Finley Williamson’s influence on America’s choral singing.” The session was well attended and the question-and-answer period was spirited. The participants were most interested in the recordings, photographs and articles that I presented, and wished there had been more. Subsequently, I began enlarge my lecture into a PowerPoint presentation that included newly found newspaper articles and historical photographs of many of the foreign concerts tours by the Westminster Choir. These various new items are included in the present edition, plus an article by Mrs. Williamson about the first European tour. I also have included some background information about my personal experiences with Dr. Williamson when I was a student at the Westminster Choir College and as a participant in his legendary summer school workshops.
“All of art must come from the heart. This must be true because the quality that makes art endure is the spiritual value that must be in art. The art that comes most quickly from the heart and speaks most readily to the heart is the art of music – in particular the art of solo and choral singing.” J. F. Williamson, Lecture, Summer, 1959
The life and work of John Finley Williamson (1887 – 1964) is so complex and interesting that one volume could not possibly do him justice. He was the founder of the Westminster Choir and the college that bears its name, and was one of America’s choral pioneers in the early twentieth century. His charismatic teaching of choral and vocal techniques helped revive singing in America’s churches and schools at a time when it was in decline. I knew John Finley Williamson for a mere ten years from the time I was a teenager until his untimely death, when I was twenty-eight. During that time I think I was able to know him as well as any of his many students. 2014 marks fifty years since the passing of John Finley Williamson. This volume describes both pictorially and through his lectures his worldwide influence on the choral and vocal arts.