Henry August “Hank” Elling died October 10, 2010, in Catawba, North Carolina, at the age of 85. He was music director and principal organist at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School in Rockford, Illinois for 36 years. Born into a long line of Lutheran pastors, he first played the organ at age 15, for his sister’s wedding. Following service in the Philippines in World War II, he earned a bachelor’s degree in organ and piano from Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, a master’s from Wayne State University, and worked toward a Ph.D. at the University of Southern California. Elling served as choir director at Chicago’s Luther North High School, where the award-winning choirs concertized in Europe and sang at Christmas programs organized by Mayor Richard Daley. He was a longtime member of the Rockford AGO chapter. Henry August Elling is survived by his wife of 50 years, Martha, sons Henry J. (Cathy), Kurt A. (Jennifer), daughter Suzanne (Rev. Gregory) Alms, brother Rev. Norman (Selma) Elling, daughter-in-law Kerry Osley Elling, and grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
Gilbert Mead died November 25, 2010 of complications from congestive heart failure at his home at Windsor Park Manor in Carol Stream, Illinois, at the age of 83. He was well known particularly in the Chicago area for his involvement as a musician on WMBI, the flagship station of the Moody Radio Network.
Born April 4, 1927, Mead began playing as a church organist when just a boy in his hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan. His fascination with pipe organs led him to seeking books on organbuilding from libraries some distance from Battle Creek. He particularly remembered the E. M. Skinner organ (Opus 720, 1928) at the First Presbyterian Church of Battle Creek, where his first piano teacher was the church’s organist. Battle Creek had many E. M. Skinner instruments of this period (1928–1932), with installations at the Kellogg Auditorium, St. Phillip Catholic Church, and St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Mead’s first organ lessons were at St. Thomas. He recalled the impeccable pedal technique of their organist who, according to his memory, played in highly polished white shoes that showed no sign of scuffing between the feet.
Gilbert Mead earned a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance at the American Conservatory, where he studied with Leo Sowerby, Stella Roberts, Irwin Fischer, and Bruno Glade, and a master’s in organ performance from Northwestern University, where his instructors included Barrett Spach, Richard Enright, and Grigg Fountain.
Mead came to Chicago to study at the Moody Bible Institute in 1945 and gradually became involved at WMBI. Upon completion of a course in Biblical studies, he became a full-time staff musician, working in radio from 1950–1962. He logged thousands of hours in varied programming as a solo organist, pianist, accompanist, and director of various choirs. In 1962 Donald Hustad invited him to join the Sacred Music Department of Moody Bible Institute when the trend in radio was away from “live” music toward pre-recorded music. He joined a faculty with some renowned organists—Donald Hustad, Robert Rayfield, Lillian Robinson, Lester Groom, and Preston Rockholt.
Mead was known for his polished performance style at the organ, and was revered by a host of fine students on both piano and organ. He had a passion for providing engaging and sympathetic accompaniment to congregational singing. His approach caused one colleague to quip that Gilbert Mead always “played the words”.
Mead served four churches in the Chicago area over a period of about 55 years: Judson Baptist Church in Oak Park (1950–1968), First Baptist Church of Elmhurst (1968–1973), Wheaton Bible Church (1973–1989), and College Church in Wheaton (1990–1996). He filled the dual role of organist-choirmaster at Judson Baptist and First Baptist Churches. At Judson Baptist, he oversaw a large rebuilding of the church’s original Estey organ (10 ranks) into a much larger 3-manual organ with 31 ranks of new pipework from Aeolian-Skinner (Opus 1466). He finished his church music career as organist for five years at the College Church in Wheaton, where he served as consultant for the installation of the new 3-manual Schantz (1992).
Mead was well respected in the Chicago area for his conscientious work as an organbuilder and restorer. His weekends, apart from Moody Bible Institute and his church work, were filled with service calls to dozens of Chicago-area churches and colleges in tuning and in some rebuilding work. There are a handful of organs in the Chicago region bearing the nameplate “MEAD AND SONS, Elmhurst, Illinois.” His work in maintaining the historic Reuter organ at Moody Memorial Church was well on display when that organ was a featured instrument in the events held by the Romantic Organ Music Symposium in the summer of 1988. In preparation for a recital by Robert Glasgow when the weather had been extremely hot, and in an un-air-conditioned church, Mead managed to keep the organ in tune, to the delight of all.
Gilbert Mead is survived by his wife of 59 years, Martha (Jennison), four sons: Stephen (Marjorie Lamp), Robert (Connie Blaschke), David (Brenda Simms), and Donald (Karen Sarasin); and a sister Beverly (Mead) Todd.
Andrew Seivewright, master of music at Carlisle Cathedral for more than 30 years, died December 10, 2010, at age 84. He served as cathedral master of music from 1960 to 1991. He founded the Abbey Singers in 1962 and took the group on tours throughout Europe and the USA. He was an established composer whose latest choral CD, If Winter Comes, was released last year. He was also a pianist, organist and conductor.
Following his retirement, Seivewright was organist at Crosthwaite Church in Keswick for four years and then, from 1994, at Grasmere. The son of a clergyman, he began playing the organ when he was 10 years old. He studied at Denstone College before going on to read classics at King’s College, Cambridge. In World War II he joined the RAF, training as a navigator in Canada. After the war he returned to Cambridge and studied music. He and his wife Nora lived in Yorkshire, where he had teaching posts, and then, in 1960, they moved to Carlisle. In June 2010 a concert was held to mark Seivewright’s 50 years as a church musician.