Grigg Fountain dead at 97

April 21, 2016

Grigg Thompson Fountain died in Albuquerque on February 14. He was 97 years old. Born in October 1918, in Bishopville, South Carolina, he attended Wake Forest College for a year and received a B.A. in music from Furman University in 1939. He earned B.M. and M.M. degrees in church music and organ from Yale University (1943), studying with Luther Noss, and studied organ privately with Arthur Poister (1945) and Marcel Dupré (1946). Drafted into the army in 1943, he received an honorable discharge within a year (due to poor eyesight). His training company was one of the first to land on Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. He studied Baroque organ literature with Helmut Walcha in Germany on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1953–54. From 1946–1961 he taught at Oberlin Conservatory of Music during which time he worked with Robert Shaw. While at Oberlin, he met, taught, and then married Helen Erday in 1949.

In 1961 he was appointed professor of organ and church music in the School of Music at Northwestern University. He also served as organist and choirmaster at Northwestern’s Alice Millar Chapel. Fountain retired as emeritus in August 1986; within five months of retiring he was asked to come out of retirement and serve as interim organist, choir director, and consultant. He served there from 1987–89. (See Marilyn Biery’s compilation of 90th-birthday tributes to Grigg Fountain in the July 2010 issue of The Diapason.)

Grigg and Helen Erday Fountain celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on April 2, 2009. Helen passed away on October 12, 2009. Grigg Fountain is survived by his children Bruce Fountain (Min Jung), John Fountain, Drew Fountain, and Suzanne Fountain Phillips; eight grandchildren, and one great grandchild.

(Photo courtesy Northwestern University Archives)