Allen Jay Sever – Celebrating Fifty Years at West End Collegiate
Allen Jay Sever (photo: Bruce Gilbert)
A short man with bushy "archbishop's eyebrows", brilliant blue eyes and a perennial sparkling smile, Allen Sever is a fixture of the New York City organ world.
This year Allen marks a rarely attained milestone: April 30th has been set aside to honor him for fifty years of continuous service as organist/choirmaster of the West End Collegiate Church. In grateful recognition, West End Church has commissioned a new work by Robert Convery, Three Sacred Songs for mixed choir and organ with brass quartet. The world premiere performance will take place at West End Collegiate, West End Avenue at 77th Street, on April 30th, at 2:00 pm.
Allen Jay Sever was born in June of 1929 in Kansas City, Kansas. After a year at the then University of Kansas City, he transferred to Northestern University, graduating in 1951 with a double major in piano and organ. Among his classmates was Frederick Swann. Allen studied organ with Barrett Spach and Thomas Matthews.
After two years in the U.S. Airforce during the Korean conflict, Allen began graduate study at Union Theological Seminary. Hugh Porter was the head of the School of Sacred music at this time. Allen studied organ with Clarence Dickinson and Ernest White. He accompanied the mid-week choir rehearsals under Dr. Dickinson at Brick Presbyterian, and served as Organist/Choirmaster of All Saints Church, Leonia, NJ.
Having attained the MSM degree in 1955, Allen spent the next year on a Fulbright Scholarship studying in England at the Royal School of Church Music, Addington Palace, Croydon. Organ lessons were with Sir William McKie at the organ of Westminster Abbey, and at the school with Sir William Henry Harris, organist of St. George's Chapel, Windsor.
Shorty after returning from England in 1956, a recommedation from Hugh Porter brought the offer of the position of Organist/Choirmaster at West End Collegiate Church. During his first year there, Allen also became assistant organist to Harold Friedell at St. Bartholomew's, Park Avenue at 50th, where he played for the Tuesday and Friday choir rehearsals, accompanied the oratorios at Sunday Evensongs, and shared in the playing of the weekday organ recitals. When Friedell died suddenly on February 16, 1958, it was Allen Sever who was chosen to play the funeral service. He stayed on as Jack Ossewaarde's assistant for an additional year. During this period Allen accompanied performances by the John Harms Chorus, both in the New York City area and during the summers at Mount Desert Island in Maine.
It was during his earlier Master's studies at Union that Allen met Abraham W. Binder, then Director of Music at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue on 68th Street. Binder was impressed with Allen's keyboard abilities, and when the synagogue's organist John Huston moved to Temple Emanuel, Binder at once offered the job at Stephen Wise to Allen. A. W. Binder died in 1966. Several years later, Allen succeeded Binder as Director of Music. 2005 marked his 42nd year with this congregation, and saw the publication and a second performance of Ben Steinberg's cantata The Covenant, commissioned in 1987 by the synagogue in honor of Allen's twenty-fifth year at Stephen Wise.
In the early 1970's, Allen accompanied the Messiah Sing-In under Martin Josman on the 100-rank Aeolian-Skinner organ in Philharmonic (Avery Fisher) Hall. He also made recordings of Franck's Mass in A and Dubois' Seven Last Words at the West End Church with the Welch Chorale under the Lyrichord label, with James Welch conducting.
The early '70's was also the time when Allen met the anesthesiologist Dr. Kathryn Cozine. They were married in July of 1974, living together happily until Kathryn's death in December of 2001.
Allen Sever is a member of the organ faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, and also an accompanist at Hebrew Union College. He is a member of the New York City Chapter of the AGO, the Saint Wilfrid Club and the Bohemians of New York City.
- submitted by Sheldon F. Eldridge, Jr.
From the Registrar
By now, all New York City Chapter members should have received the new
2006 directory, which was mailed out the week of March 6. If you have
not received your directory please contact me, (the registrar) Eric
Birk at 212-932-0551 or via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is
the first directory for which I've provided the information, and a few
errors have come to my attention. Thanks to all who have alerted me to
them, and the rest of us may want to note the following changes in our
Jan-Piet Knijff -- add DMA, AAGO degrees after name
Larry J. Long -- new address:
254 W. 104th St., Apt. 7A
New York, NY 10025
Liya Petrides-- add DMA degree after name
John Scott-- is of course, no longer at St. Paul's London, but is O/DM
at St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue
Mark Victor Smith-- is no longer at Salem Lutheran
As of March 15, the New York City Chapter has 480 (309
Regular/Partner/Special, 13 Student, 132 Dual, 9 Student-Dual, 15
Honorary and 2 Chapter Friend) members. These figures include two new
members who have joined since the last issue of Double Open:
Michael Xavier Lundy (Dual member-Brooklyn Chapter), DM/O at Siloam
Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn
Allison Torpey (Student member), student at Wesleyan