James H. Litton dead at 87

November 7, 2022
James H. Litton
James H. Litton

James H. Litton, 87, died November 1, 2022, in Florham Park, New Jersey. He was born December 31, 1934, in Charleston, West Virginia. Recognizing his talent and passion for music, his parents purchased a piano and provided piano lessons at the Mason College of Music and Fine Arts in Charleston. His piano teacher encouraged him to progress to the organ, finding him a position as his assistant organist at a local church to get access to a practice instrument. That teacher later convinced him to pursue his college studies at Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey, studying with Alexander McCurdy. He earned bachelors and masters degrees in music and continued postgraduate studies at Canterbury Cathedral in England with Allan Wicks.

Litton’s choral music career spanned more than 60 years, serving as organist, choirmaster, and music director at the American Boychoir School, Princeton, New Jersey; Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC; St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City; Trinity Episcopal Church, Princeton; Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, Indiana; and Trinity Episcopal Church, Southport, Connecticut. He also served as organist at several churches during his graduate and undergraduate studies at Westminster Choir College (now Rider University) and while in high school.

Litton toured with his various choirs and led choral festivals worldwide. He prepared his choirs for performances of major works with many of the world’s orchestras and for several dozen recordings, including a track with the American Boychoir on a platinum album by Michael W. Smith, Go West Young Man. As organist, Litton played organ recitals throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa, and Asia.

Litton was assistant professor of organ and head of the church music department at Westminster Choir College and the C. F. Seabrook Director of Music at Princeton Theological Seminary. He also served as visiting lecturer at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, and at Sewanee: The University of the South.

A Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music, Litton was awarded honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the University of Charleston and from Westminster Choir College of Rider University. The Litton-Lodal music directorship of the American Boychoir School was endowed by a gift from Jan and Elizabeth Lodal in honor of his career.

As a member and vice chairman of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Church Music, he participated in the preparation and publication of The Hymnal 1982. He was also the editor of The Plainsong Psalter for the Episcopal Church.

Litton was a co-founder in 1966 and former president of the Association of Anglican Musicians. He also founded choral ensembles in West Virginia, Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, and New York.

James Litton met his late wife, Lou Ann, in the seventh grade in Charleston, West Virginia, brought together by their mutual love of music. They married after graduating from college in 1957.

James H. Litton was predeceased by his wife Lou Ann. He is survived by his son Bruce Litton and daughter-in-law Patricia of Bedminster, New Jersey; daughter Deborah Purdon of Maplewood, New Jersey; son David Litton and daughter-in-law Carol Dingeldey of West Hartford, Connecticut; and son Richard Litton and daughter-in-law Alysia of Wall Township, New Jersey; sister Betty Ray of Charlottesville, Virginia; and several grandchildren. A funeral was held on November 12 at Trinity Church, Princeton. Burial will take place at a later date at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the village of Litton in Somerset County and the Diocese of Bath and Wells in England. Memorial gifts may be made to the Association of Anglican Musicians James Litton Grant for Choral Training (anglicanmusicians.org/litton-gift) and the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org).

 

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