June 21, 2004
NEW YORK CITY—The American Guild of Organists (AGO) announces the death of M. SEARLE WRIGHT, FAGO, its twenty-first president. He died on Thursday, June 3, in Binghamton, N.Y., at the age of 86 following a period of declining health. He is survived by cousins, friends, colleagues, and students around the world. A distinguished composer and performer, Searle Wright will be remembered for his musical compositions, which include works for organ, choir, chamber ensemble, and orchestra, and for his improvisations as a church and theater organist.
Searle Wright was born in Susquehanna, Pa., in 1918. After his family moved to Binghamton, he took an interest in theater organs, and as a teenager earned a wage playing the Wurlitzer organ on weekends at the Capitol Theater before the beginning of each movie. He later studied classical organ and church music with T. Tertius Noble at St. Thomas Church in New York City, and with the French composer and organist, Joseph Bonnet. He attended Columbia University and the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary, where he joined the faculty in 1947. Searle Wright was a Fellow of the AGO, of Trinity College, London, and of the Royal Canadian College of Organists. He was the first American to perform a solo recital at Westminster Abbey in London.
From 1952 to 1971, Searle Wright was director of chapel music at St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University in New York City, and from 1969 to 1971 he was president of the AGO. In 1977, he returned to Binghamton to become the first Link Professor of Organ at Binghamton University and organist for the B.C. Pops Orchestra. In addition, he was the organist and choir director at the First Congregational Church for 20 years.
A memorial service was held on Sunday, June 13, at Trinity Memorial Church in Binghamton. A celebration of the life and music of M. Searle Wright will take place in New York City in the fall.
The AMERICAN GUILD OF ORGANISTS is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. Founded in 1896 as both an educational and service organization, it sets and maintains high musical standards and promotes the understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music. The mission of the AGO is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. The Guild currently serves approximately 19,000 members in more than 300 local chapters throughout the United States and abroad. The American Organist Magazine, the official journal of the AGO and the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America, reaches an audience of more than 20,000 readers each month.
This information is submitted by F. Anthony Thurman, Director of Development and Communications at the National Headquarters of the American Guild of Organists and The American Organist Magazine. For further information, please contact Dr. Thurman by TEL (212) 870-2310, FAX (212) 870-2163 or E-MAIL email@example.com.