Gerre Hancock

Categories: IPYA Winners

Gerre Hancock (1934–2012), one of America’s most highly acclaimed concert organists and choral directors, was best known for serving as Organist and Master of Choristers at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City from 1971-2004 where he set a new standard for church music in America. Previous to his time at Saint Thomas Church, he held positions as Organist and Choirmaster of Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, where he also served on the Artist Faculty of the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, and as Assistant Organist at St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City. After leaving St. Thomas Church, he was named Professor of Organ and Sacred Music at The University of Texas at Austin, where he and his wife, Dr. Judith Hancock, directed the Organ Performance and Sacred Music Center programs

Dr. Hancock received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Texas and his Master of Sacred Music degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York from which he received the Unitas Distinguished Alumnus Award. A recipient of a Rotary Foundation Fellowship, he also studied in Paris and during this time was a finalist at the Munich International Music Competitions. His organ study was with E. William Doty, Robert Baker, Jean Langlais and Marie-Claire Alain.

A Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, Gerre Hancock was a member of its National Council and a founder and past president of the Association of Anglican Musicians. He served on the faculty of The Juilliard School in New York City and taught improvisation on a visiting basis at the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. In 1981 he was appointed a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music and in 1995 was appointed a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. Gerre Hancock received honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the Nashotah House Seminary, and The University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn. In May 2004 he was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree (honoris causa) from The General Theological Seminary in New York. He is listed in “Who’s Who in America,” and his biography appears in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition. In 2004 he was honored in a ceremony at Lambeth Palace in London where he was presented the Medal of the Cross of St. Augustine by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr. Hancock’s consummate skill was clearly apparent in his concert appearances. He was a featured recitalist and lecturer at numerous regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists and at their national conventions in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, Washington D.C., Detroit, Houston and New York City, and also represented the AGO as recitalist at the Centenary Anniversary of the Royal College of Organists in London. Considered the finest organ improviser in America, Dr. Hancock was heard in recital in many cities throughout the United States, Europe, South Africa, and Japan. On occasion he performed in duo recitals with his wife, Judith Hancock.

Compositions by Dr. Hancock are published by Oxford University Press. His compositions for organ and chorus are widely performed and his textbook, Improvising: How to Master the Art, is used by musicians throughout the country. He recorded for Gothic Records, Decca/Argo, Koch International and Priory Records, both as a conductor of The St. Thomas Choir and as a soloist.

Dr. Hancock received the International Performer of the Year Award at a Chapter meeting held in St. Paul’s Chapel – Trinity Parish on Monday, 7 June 2010. The Trinity Choir, conducted by Steven Fox (Acting Director of Music), presented a program of choral works including Dr. Hancock’s setting of the spiritual “Deep River.” Rob Ridgell, organist of Trinity Church, accompanied the choir in John Ireland’s “Greater love hath no man” and performed a solo work by Bruhns on the 1964 Schlicker organ, silenced on September 11, 2001, that had been recently cleaned and made playable by Larry Trupiano.

Gerre Hancock died on January 21, 2012.

Click here to listen to performances by Gerre and Judith Hancock and conversation with Michael Barone on Pipedreams.