Lindsay Lafford, 101, Educator, Composer, Conductor, Organist, Professor Emeritus of Music
Lindsay A.J. Lafford passed away on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at his home in Phoenix, Arizona, at the age of 101.
Lindsay was born in Gloucester, England, in 1912. From age 9 he was a chorister and organ scholar at the Hereford Anglican Cathedral School, then went on to become the Articled Pupil of the Cathedral Organist, Sir Percy Hull. His studies included musical analysis, forms, styles, compositional devices, organ literature, and performance and conducting. These skills were accredited by an extensive examination process in London, yielding an array of diplomas. In 1935 he won appointment as organist and director of music at St John's Cathedral, Hong Kong. He met Anna Pohl in Dalat, French Indo-China while both were on holiday, she from her position as a translator for a German industrial firm in Shanghai. They married in England in 1939 and emigrated to the U.S. for his teaching positions at Haverford and Swarthmore colleges and as University Organist at Princeton. During World War II service in the U.S. Navy he was a Chaplain’s Assistant and director of music for The Navy Goes to Church, a program broadcast on WOR radio in New York.
Following his honorable discharge he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1946. And took teaching positions at Middlebury College, Vermont, and Washington University, St. Louis. He joined the Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY, faculty in 1948 as Music Department chair and under his direction the Colleges’ music major took shape and the Schola Cantorum began performing such works as Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony,” Handel’s “Messiah” and Orff's "Carmina Burana." He was chapel organist, carillonneur and choir director. While on the faculty, Lindsay also led many U.S. and world premieres of works by leading British composers, including Gustav Holst, Harold Darke, Sir George Dyson and Gordon Jacob. He organized spring tours for Schola Cantorum members throughout the eastern U.S., as well as popular Christmas programs at Trinity Episcopal Church. During a sabbatical year, 1961-62, he served as organist at St. John's Cathedral, Jacksonville, Florida, and as director of the St. John's Opera Company and the Diocesan Choral Society.
In 1979, Lindsay retired and moved to Florida after 31 years at The Colleges. In retirement, he concentrated on composing and performing, spending the next 14 years at St. Philips Episcopal Church in Coral Gables and at the University of Miami. He received the English title, the Lordship of Ridley, in 1988. While in South Florida he served as guest conductor of the Coral Gables Civic Opera and Symphony Society. In 1993 he was invited to Hong Kong to conduct the HK Sinfonietta in a performance of his “In Memoriam” which he had written during World War II to honor the memories of his Hong Kong colleagues, friends, and former students who had been killed in defense of the Colony. In 1989 he moved to Tempe, Arizona, where he continued to compose, perform and drive across the country regularly to conduct concerts on the East Coast. He would also make annual summer pilgrimages to Europe, renting a car to motor around visiting friends and relatives in England and Germany and attend performances of his works.
Lafford has given organ recitals in England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, the Caribbean, Canada, and throughout the U.S. He served as guest organist for the National Choir of the Cayman Islands on several occasions. As a pianist he specialized in chamber music and accompanying, touring with such ensembles as The Hong Kong Trio (with Prue Lewis, violin, and Ettore Pellegatti, cello), The English Duo (Viola Morris, soprano, and Victoria Anderson, alto), the Calingaert-Lafford Piano Duo, and the Berta-Lafford Duo (clarinet and piano). In 1999 he played the Carillion for President Richard H. Hersh’s L.H.D. '99 final Commencement at Hobart and William Smith. At the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik at Darmstadt, Germany, in 1972
his "Orgelprobe I" was hailed as "eine denwürdige Aufführung" -- "a memorable performance."
In 2007 he filled Trinity Church, Phoenix, as he conducted his major work "A Cantata of Psalms" featuring the Cantemus choir, orchestra, organ and soloists. The concert-length work was dedicated to the memory of his wife of nearly 50 years, Anna, and also celebrated his 95th birthday and 85-year career in professional music. The next year he was awarded the Ageless Heroes of Arizona award for Creative Expressions, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and the Arizona Republic.
Lafford's circa 300 compositions include a Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani, a Sinfonia Miniatura,
two Organ Sonatas, a flute sonata, a clarinet sonata,
several chamber pieces; major choral works include A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, A Cantata of Psalms, a Requiem, A Psalm of Praise,
The Seven Last Words, settings of the canticles, etc.
Several have won international competitions.
Lindsay Lafford remained active, composing and performing up until his death. His wife Anna predeceased him in 1988. He is survived by his daughter, Julia Welbon and his sons, Llewellyn and Peter, their spouses and a grandson, Christopher Welbon, who were at his side when he passed peacefully.
Across his lifespan, Lindsay’s commitment to Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the community’s love for him was evident. In 1987, the Colleges awarded him the degree Doctor of Humane Letters. In 2000, he was awarded the Distinguished Faculty Award. In addition, the Lindsay Lafford Scholarship for Musical Performance was established in his honor. His family has requested that any gifts in his memory be directed to the Colleges' Lindsay Lafford Endowment Fund, to benefit the Department of Music. Further details as well as recordings of his published vocal and instrumental works are available on his website Lord-of-Ridley.com