James G. Chapman, retired University of Vermont Choral Union conductor and longtime music professor, died February 8. He was 83. Born and raised in Manistee, Michigan, Chapman studied at the University of Michigan, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in music in 1949 and master’s in 1950. He began as a church organist while a teenager, and later taught at Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, North Carolina, but was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951. Though trained in cryptographic work, he was assigned as an organist and assistant choir director for the Far East Command Chapel Center in Tokyo (1951–53). He served from 1953–59 as the organist and choir director at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Forest Hills, New York.
Chapman taught music at Middlebury College from 1959 to 1963 and was one of 40 music teachers selected for a Danforth Teacher Grant in 1963–64. In 1964, he finished his Ph.D. in musicology at New York University. He also served as a guest conductor for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and led tours to Europe.
In 1968, Chapman was the founder and director of the UVM Choral Union. Chapman teamed up with UVM English professor Betty Bandel in February 1973 to release the record album “Vermont Harmony” that featured music by Vermont composers between 1790 and 1810. Three years later, Chapman and Bandel released “Vermont Harmony II” with the works of Hezekiah Moors and Jeremiah Ingalls, and “Vermont Harmony III” appeared in 1986. Chapman—along with Mel Kaplan and Bill Metcalfe—helped create the Vermont Mozart Festival in 1973. Chapman was selected to perform the inaugural recital on the Vedder Van Dyck memorial organ in the new St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Burlington in 1974.
Musician, scholar, and philanthropist Roy Frederic Kehl died at his home in Evanston, Illinois, on February 12 at the age of 75 after a valiant 24-year battle with cancer. A Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, Kehl was a member of the Bishop’s Advisory Commission of Church Music of the Diocese (Episcopal) of Chicago. He also served as a member of the Hymn Music Committee of the Episcopal Church, making many contributions to The Hymnal 1982.
His generosity was extensive, benefiting his chosen interests: the American Guild of Organists and the North Shore University Health System, where he endowed the gastroenterology laboratory. At considerable personal expense, he conducted exhaustive research at the Steinway piano facilities in New York and became the world’s foremost authority on the history of Steinway & Sons piano production. Outside of his musical interests, Kehl was also a train and mass-transit enthusiast, and maintained a significant collection of historical documents and photographs of the mass transit systems of Chicago and St. Louis.
The only child of F. Arthur and Eleanor McFarland Kehl, he was born on November 22, 1935 in St. Louis. He was educated at the St. Louis Country Day School, Oberlin College, and Ohio State University, and he completed advanced musical study at Syracuse and Northwestern universities. His organ teachers included Grigg Fountain, Leo Holden, Wilbur Held, and Arthur Poister. He taught organ at Houghton College (NY), served as director of music at Kenmore Methodist Church (NY) and as organist and choirmaster at the Church of the Ascension in Chicago.
He leaves no immediate survivors, but his gentle spirit was infectious, resulting in a multitude of friendships from all walks of life. As a mentor to young musicians, he became an icon of caring, always offering encouragement and concern. He was a prolific letter-writer, known to friends all over the country for his distinctive prose.
A memorial celebration of his life was held at the Church of the Ascension, Chicago, on March 5. Memorial gifts may be made to the Endowment Fund of the American Guild of Organists, 475 Riverside Dr., Suite 1260, New York, NY 10115, or to North Shore University Health System Foundation, 1033 University Place, Suite 450, Evanston, IL 60201.
Richard Torrence, promoter and manager, died February 6 following a stroke. With his colleague and life-partner Marshall Yeager, Torrence promoted Virgil Fox’s “Heavy Organ” initiative back in the 1960s and 70s. He guided the career of Ted Alan Worth, collaborated with the Rodgers and Ruffatti organ companies, commissioned Fox’s “Black Beauty” touring organ, co-authored the irreverent biography, Virgil Fox: The Dish, shepherded the “Virgil Fox Legacy,” godfathered the ‘virtual organ’, and encouraged Cameron Carpenter.
Richard Torrence earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1958. He moved to New York and established a concert management in 1963, representing Virgil Fox and other leading artists. He worked with Rodgers Organ Company and Fratelli Ruffatti, handling marketing, public relations, advertising, product development, and sales until 1976, when the concert management grew into a production company. By 1983, Torrence was developing high-visibility fund-raising events for such clients as UNICEF, Dance Theatre of Harlem, New York City Opera, and the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR). Celebrities he worked with included Elizabeth Taylor, Leonard Bernstein, Mstislav Rostropovich, Eartha Kitt, Van Cliburn, Madonna, William F. Buckley Jr., Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, and Michael York.
During a trip to Russia in 1992, Richard Torrence became acquainted with Anatoly Sobchak, Mayor of St. Petersburg, and became Advisor to the Mayor of St. Petersburg on International Projects, 1992–96, facilitating cultural projects and investment opportunities in the Petersburg region. During his tenure he helped raise $1.3-million for city dental programs, and attracted the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. to St. Petersburg to build a $70-million factory. Vladimir Putin was Torrence’s immediate superior during this time. Torrence had twice produced the St. Petersburg Festival of American Films, and in 1998 he designed and marketed Le Club, a business and professional complex with two restaurants and special events facilities.