Posted on Dec 20, 2010

Prof. Hugh Allen Wilson

Hugh Allen Wilson, professor of music emeritus and an internationally known organist, harpsichordist and conductor, died Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010 at his home, Allenhurst, on Lake George in Bolton Landing. He was 85.

Wilson taught at Union from 1962 to 1996. He began as a part-time associate professor of music and organist-in-residence, and later became a full professor, director of the Union College Choir and the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs, and Chairman of the Department of Arts.

On June 28, 1977, he conducted the Men’s Glee Club in a performance at the White House for Jimmy Carter’s first State Dinner, honoring Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez. Earlier that year, the group had toured Venezuela to much acclaim. He also brought the Union College Choir on a tour to Greece and Crete in 1989.

He received the Faculty Meritorious Service Award from the Alumni Council in 1974.

Throughout his career, he gave more than 1,000 public performances as organist, harpsichordist and conductor.

Besides his work at Union, he was music director emeritus of the First Presbyterian Church in Glens Falls, conductor emeritus of the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra, and past president of the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum in Bolton Landing.

He was founder and co-conductor of the Bolton Festival of Music in 1948, founder and first dean of the Adirondack chapter of the American Guild of Organists; co-founder of the Adirondack Studio of Song in 1951 (which later became the Lake George Opera Festival). He was a member of the Kraeuter Trio, the Festival Orchestra, the Princeton Chamber Orchestra, the Paschler-Wilson duo, and concertized with violinist/composer George Green. He performed as harpsichord soloist and continuo player with several principal chamber orchestras including the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra with Karl Munchinger, the Princeton Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Classical Orchestra and the Soviet Emigre Orchestra.

Other performances included the dedicatory recital of the Loening Organ at St. Thomas Church in New York City in 1971, and a recording for the Ford Foundation of 17th and 18th century music on the Loening Organ that same year; the inaugural Connoisseur Concerts series at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in 1972; Honneger’s King David Symphony at Alice Tully Hall in New York with narrator John Houseman in 1975, and at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., in 1983; the debut of an organ concerto written for him by Union Professor Edgar Curtis in 1966; a series of concerts with members of the National Symphony Orchestra and flautist David Barg in 1982; and the Mozart Requiem and Coronation Mass with the Glens Falls Symphony in 1990.

Born on Feb. 17, 1925, he was the only son of Clarence Edway Wilson and Anna Allen Wilson. His mother was an accomplished pianist; Wilson said he grew up thinking everyone’s mother played all the Brandenburg concerti from memory. Through her, he became involved in the musical community of Bolton Landing and Lake George. His first professional position was as choir director-organist for the St. James’ Episcopal church in Lake George when he was just 14.

He attended Yale College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude in 1946. At Yale, he studied organ with H. Frank Boyzan, theory with Paul Hindemith and musicology with Leo Schrade. He attended Yale Graduate School, where he studied musicology from 1947 to 1949. He also studied organ with Marcel Dupre in France and harpsichord with Gustav Leonhardt in Holland.

Besides his musical pursuits, he enjoyed gardening at his lifelong home on Lake George.

He is survived by many loving friends, colleagues in the musical world, and his longtime companion Marshall Ford of Bolton Landing.

Memorial donations may be sent to the Hugh Allen Wilson Choral Music Endowment Fund at Union College, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, N.Y. 12308.

A spring memorial service is being planned.