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Vernon DeTar (Composer)

Born: May 6, 1905 - Detroit, Michigan, USA
Died: October 7, 1999 - Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, USA

The American organist and composer, Vernon DeTar [deTar, De Tar, de Tar], was the son of John A. and Bertha Sherrod DeTar. Vernon was educated in the Detroit public schools, attended Wayne State University for one year prior to attending Syracuse University where he earned a Bachelor of Music Degree in 1927. Following graduation he studied privately in New York City with Franklin Cannon (piano), David McK. Williams (organ), and Fernando Germani (organ). He then returned to Michigan to earn his doctorate in music at Albion College. He also received a doctorate in sacred music at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.

In 19311 (or 19322), soon after he returned to New York City, Vernon DeTar was appointed organist and choirmaster at the Calvary Episcopal Church, on Gramercy Park, where he worked until taking up the same positions at the Church of the Ascension in 1939. While there he oversaw the design and installation of a Holtkamp organ and established a performance program that brought the church its reputation as a place for varied programs of sacred music from the Renaissance to the present. He was the organist and choirmaster at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, 5th Avenue at 10th Street, New York City for 42 years (1939 until 1981). He also established a series of art-song recitals at the church. During the Iranian hostage crisis Mr. de Tar played a daily program on the church's carillon. He was the organist for the Bethlehem Bach Festival, Pennsylvania from 1950 to 1970. He performed recitals, lead master-classes, workshops and conferences in all parts of the country for the American Guild of Organists chapters and conventions, at colleges and universities. While at Ascension, Vernon performed numerous concerts and services of music. He directed Honegger's 'King David' 26 years consecutively.

Vernon DeTar was a member ot the faculty at the Juilliard School in New York City (organ and church music) from 1947 to 1982, Union Theological Seminary, New York City, from 1945 until its closing in 19711 (or 19722), and at the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, New Haven, Connecticut (organ) from 19711 (or 19752) to 1982. He was a member of the National Council of the American Guild of Organists, the Association of Anglican Musicians, the Hymn Society of America, the Board of Episcopal Music Commission, the Board of College of Church Musicians, and the Board of the Washington Cathedral. He was an important figure in American church music, having taught several generations of organists and having made a forceful case for replacing lugubrious 19th-century hymns with more contemporary settings as well as works from the 16th century that had fallen out of use. Among his pupils are the harpsichordist Elizabeth Farr and the organist George Ritchie. While at the Church of the Ascension he commissioned and performed several new works.

Albion College, Albion, Michigan, awarded Vernon DeTar an Honorary Doctor of Music in 1965, and he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Sacred Music by the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, California, in 1965. He received Associate and Fellowship Certificates from the American Guild of Organists, and the Syracuse University George Arents Award for Outstanding Alumni in 1959, the Alumni Award from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, in 1955.

At his retirement concert in 1981, Vernon DeTar led a program of works for choir, brass, timpani, harp and organ that included the premieres of Louie White's 'Sursum cofrda' and Alan Fletcher's setting of Psalm 26. DeTar's 'O'er the Cradle' is occasionally heard in Christmas programs. Following his retirement, DeTar continued to play as substitute organist for local churches, and to conduct private teaching and workshops. He also directed the Kendal Singers at Kendal at Longwood, and was chairman of the Kendal Music concert series from 1981 to 1991.

Vernon DeTar died in October 1999 in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, aat age 94. He had been a resident at Kendal at Longwood for the past 18 years. He was pre-deceased by his wife, Irene Stern deTar, his brother, Dr. John S. (Jack) DeTar, and his sisters, Annabelle Johnson and Sister Leila Margaret. He was survived by his daughter, Neenah A. Kromer, grandson Charles M. Taggart, II (Candor, New York), granddaughters Bethany Renee Taggart (Syracuse, New York) and Wendy Gail Taggart (Candor, New York), and his great-grandchildren, Chelsea Leigh Taggart and Jacob L. Copeland (Candor, NY) and Kaley Lynn Taggart (Syracuse, NY); and numerous nieces and nephews.

Robert. Vernon de Tar at console of Skinner Organ, Op. 860 (1931); renovated Skinner console (Photo by Robert Lockridge, Courtesy Aeolian-Skinner Archives web site) [02]

Vernon de Tar (Photo by Yousuf Karsh) [01]

1. Obituary in Country Graphics Website (Photo 01 by Yousuf Karsh)
2. Obituary in New York Times (October 18, 1999)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (November 2011)

Vernon DeTar: Short Biography | Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Vernon deTar (Country Graphics)

Vernon de Tar, 94, Organist Influential in Church Music (NY Times)



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