Nunc Dimittis

November 3, 2014

Christopher Hogwood—English conductor, musicologist, and harpsichordist—died September 24 at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 73. Born in Nottingham, England, on September 10, 1941, he received piano lessons as a child and enrolled at Cambridge University, where he switched from studying Greek and Latin to music, and went on to pursue keyboard studies with such talents as Rafael Puyana, Mary Potts, and Gustav Leonhardt.

Early in his career, he performed on the harpsichord with the Academy of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields and was a founder, with David Munrow, of the Early Music Consort of London. He founded the Academy of Ancient Music in 1973, with help from the Decca recording label, and created approximately 200 albums with its musicians.

Hogwood stepped down as the ensemble’s music director in 2006 and assumed the title of emeritus director. Even when he was leading the Academy of Ancient Music, he found time to appear with other ensembles, landing jobs as principal guest conductor with groups in Europe and the U.S., including a long association with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

His conducting projects were closely connected to his research and editing work. He was in the process of a completing a new edition of Mendelssohn’s orchestral works for Bärenreiter and sat on the board of the Martinů Complete Edition and the C.P.E. Bach Complete Works Edition. In 2010, he launched his latest project as general editor of the new Geminiani Opera Omnia for Ut Orpheus Edizioni in Bologna.
He wrote extensively on George Frideric Handel and gave lectures as well as master classes in Europe. As a conductor, Hogwood received the most acclaim for his renditions of well-known Baroque pieces, particularly Handel’s Messiah and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. He sometimes made forays into 19th and early 20th-century music, and led performances of music by Schubert, Stravinsky, and Britten.

Hogwood was on the music faculty at Cambridge for many years and recently served as a professor of music at Gresham College in London. He was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1982 and a Commander of the British Empire in 1989.

Christopher Hogwood is survived by his sisters, Frances, Kate, and Charlotte, and his brother, Jeremy.


Carl B. Staplin died July 12 in Des Moines, Iowa, at the age of 79. Professor emeritus of organ and church music and former chair for the keyboard music department at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Staplin was also minister of music and organist emeritus at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines. He served as a member of the faculty at the University of Evansville, Evansville, Indiana, from 1963 to 1967.

Born December 5, 1934, Carl Staplin was a choirboy and acolyte at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buffalo, New York. He received organ training with Roberta Bitgood, followed by four years of study under Arthur A. Poister at Syracuse University. His private composition study was with Ernst Bacon. Following military service with the United States Army as the chaplain’s assistant in Frankfurt, Germany, Staplin studied at the Yale University School of Music, under the guidance of Charles Krigbaum and Finn Viderø; he earned his master’s degree in 1963. Private composition study was pursued with Richard Donovan. 

Appointed to the music faculty at the University of Evansville, he took a leave of absence to further his scholarly pursuits in 1965, and returned to graduate studies at Washington University, St. Louis, where he received an appointment as a graduate research fellow and received Phi Beta Kappa Honors while earning his Ph.D. in performance practice, following which were studies in organ performance and musicology with Anton Heiller, Howard Kelsey, and Paul A. Pisk. He received coaching in improvisation in Paris, France, during a 1984 sabbatical with Jean Guillou and premiered Guillou’s La Chapelle des Abîmes. His 1997 recording of Bach’s Clavierübung III was performed with the Chancel Choir of Faith Lutheran Church (Eric Knapp, conductor) on a Dobson mechanical-action organ (Opus 61) at Faith Church, Clive, Iowa, and was released by Calcante Recordings Ltd.  An earlier recording of other Bach works (1975) was made on a Holtkamp tracker instrument (First United Methodist Church, Perry, Iowa), and selections from both recordings have been heard on Pipedreams.

On a 1972 sabbatical, Staplin resided in Paris, France, where he studied with Marie-Claire Alain and André Marchal, studying French organ literature. While working in the Washington University library as part of his 1991 sabbatical research, he located a previously unidentified manuscript composed by J.S. Bach. In 1999, he received coaching by Harold Vogel while surveying Baroque-era German instruments. While in Europe he traveled extensively and recorded more than 35 organs in seven countries. He studied the English choir tradition in a number of English cathedrals and completed a series of five recitals devoted to Bach’s organ masterpieces, a total of 44 works. These recitals were performed in Des Moines, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Freeport, Illinois, and Perry, Iowa.

Staplin’s publications include his doctoral dissertation on the chorale preludes of J.S. Bach, and more than 20 organ, choral, and instrumental compositions released by eight national publishing firms. He presented over 200 concerts and workshops throughout the United States and Europe, appearing at conventions of the American Guild of Organists, and the Music Teachers National Association.

Staplin concertized under Phyllis Stringham Concert Management and was also a touring artist for the Iowa Arts Council. He also performed in Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland, consulted for organ installations in numerous churches and institutions, and served as organist for the Des Moines Symphony directed by Joseph Giunta and Yuri Krasnapolsky. A member of the Iowa Composers Forum, recent performances of his works were featured at Drake University, Iowa State University, Coe College, the University of Northern Iowa, and the Iowa Composers Forum Festival. 

Staplin’s former organ students, more than 300 total, occupy leading positions in churches and universities; many have been winners and ranked finalists in organ competitions, and have received grants for postgraduate study abroad.

Carl B. Staplin is survived by his wife of 53 years, Phyllis M. Staplin; two children, Elizabeth Tausner (Eric) and William Staplin (Ruth); and his five grandchildren, Mena, Benjamin, and Samuel Tausner, and Mary and Esther Staplin. 


David K. Witt, 72, died August 27. He had fallen and shattered his ankle August 23, and suffered a stroke during surgery from which he did not awake.

Witt graduated from Vanderbilt University cum laude with a bachelor of arts in mathematics, physics, and music. His career in software development, which began with GE and continued for more than 30 years at IBM, encompassed various programs, such as those related to retail store systems, antiballistic missile systems, and the NASA Gemini Space program.

Witt served as an organist in churches throughout the Southeast, Texas, and New Jersey for over 50 years and was integral in the design of new pipe organs in many of those churches. He served 39 years in the Raleigh area at Hillyer Memorial Disciples of Christ Church, Edenton Street United Methodist Church, and most recently at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church. He made recordings of his original hymn arrangements to raise money for the Methodist Home for Children, where he served on their board and as interim president and CEO. He was also a founding board member of the N. C. Child Advocacy Institute (now NC Child), and served as the Vice-Chair of Trustees with the Institute for Worship Studies, an institute dedicated to Christian worship renewal and education. Witt was active in the American Guild of Organists and served as dean of the Central North Carolina Chapter.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Patricia Carroll Witt (Pat), his daughter, Susan Craige and husband, Mark, of Raleigh, two grandsons, John Dakota (Koty) and David Paxton, and his nephew, James David (Jim) Nickle, son of his only sister, as well as many other nephews and nieces. ν