West Virginia, United States
|Occupation||Organist, Composer, and
President of the American Guild of Organists (2002–2008)
Frederick L. Swann (born 1931) is a prominent American church and concert organist, recording artist, choral conductor, and former president of the American Guild of Organists (2002–2008). During his career spanning more than a half-century, he has performed on most of the well-known pipe organs in the world and made numerous compact disc recordings. Swann has been called "one of the country's most distinguished organists". He is Organist Emeritus of the Crystal Cathedral and the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.
Early years and education
Frederick Swann was born in West Virginia in 1931. The son of Methodist bishop Theodore M. Swann, he began taking piano lessons as a 5-year old from the organist at Braddock Street United Methodist Church in Winchester, Virginia, where his father was pastor 1937–1943. He told an interviewer in later years that he was "mesmerized when I saw the organ console for the first time" at the church and soon began taking organ lessons. By the age of ten, Swann was playing the church's organ for services when his teacher died suddenly.
The Swanns moved to Staunton Virginia in 1943 and Frederick, known then as "Freddie" continued his organ study with Dr. Carl Broman, professor of music at Mary Baldwin College. Lessons were on the Emmons Howard organ at Trinity Episcopal Church. After graduating from Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton, Virginia, where he played the piano for the school's chorus, Swann attended Northwestern University. He earned degrees in music from Northwestern University and the old School of Sacred Music at the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, both degrees granted "with distinction".
Career as an organist
Swann was associated with the music ministry of the famed Riverside Church in New York City from 1952 through 1982, first as substitute organist (1952–1957), then as organist (1957–1965) joining the legendary Virgil Fox there until the latter's departure in 1964. Between 1966–1982, Swann was organist, choir director, and director of music at Riverside.
Beginning in 1982, Swann was organist and music director at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. During his tenure at the Crystal Cathedral (1982–1998), he was widely regarded as the most visible organist in the world, as millions in every major city in more than 165 countries worldwide saw and heard him on the weekly televised services.
Swann then served as organist of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, California, between 1998 and 2001, playing one of the largest church organs in the world. The gargantuan instrument has more than 20,000 individual pipes.
As an internationally recognized concert organist, he frequently performs at recitals throughout North America, Europe and the Far East. In one recent season, Mr. Swann performed more than 40 recitals throughout North America and in two European tours, including special appearances at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, St. Paul's Cathedral in London; and Passau Cathedral in Germany. Widely known for dedicating new organs, said to exceed 600 in churches, concert halls, and auditoriums during his long career, Swann was chosen to dedicate the new instruments at Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Illinois, with the Chicago Symphony in 1981 and at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, California, with the San Francisco Symphony, in 1984. September 9, 2003 he dedicated the largest church organ in Asia, 104 stops, 119 Ranks, 6820 Pipes, located in YounDong Presbyterian Church, Seoul, Korea. On September 30, 2004, he played the inaugural concert of the 6,125-pipe organ of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The following month, he performed at the largest pipe organ in the island nation of Bermuda, playing the 88-rank organ of St. Paul's Anglican Church there.
The Los Angeles Times called Swann's playing "Splendid, probing, brilliant and entertaining ... As always, Swann is an inspiration". Baltimore Sun music critic Tim Smith has called him "one of the country's most distinguished organists". Swann is currently Artist-in-residence at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, California.
Swann has served on the faculties of New York City's Union Theological Seminary School of Sacred Music, Teacher's College of Columbia University, and chaired the Organ Department of the Manhattan School of Music for ten years. He is currently University Organist and Artist Teacher of Organ at the University of Redlands in California.
President of AGO
In 2002, he was named "International Performer of the Year" by the New York City Chapter of the AGO. On April 13, 2008, the AGO saluted him at an AGO Gala recital at First Congregational Church in Los Angeles as the "Crown Prince of the King of Instruments" for his "dedicated service ... for more than a half century". On July 1, 2008, Swann was succeeded by Eileen Guenther as president of the AGO. At the AGO's July, 2010, national convention in Washington, D.C., Swann was presented the Edward Hansen Award for Outstanding Leadership by the organization's vice president, John Walker.
Swann's published compositions include Let the Whole Creation Cry and Trumpet Tune in D Major (1991), along with organ arrangements of familiar hymns such as Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, Fairest Lord Jesus and O God Our Help in Ages Past. His discography of organ and choral recordings includes:
- At Riverside Church
- Easter — The Way to Emmaus
- Four Organ Masterworks
- Great Organs of 1st Congregational Church
- Hymns on the Crystal Cathedral Organ
- Music from Riverside (4 vols.)
- Mystic Organ
- O Magnify the Lord
- Riverside Revisited
- Sing We Now of Christmas
- Swann at the Organ of the National Shrine
- Swann plays Franck at Riverside Church
- We Sing the Power
- Vivien Schweitzer (August 4, 2006). "Frederick Swann at Riverside Church: A Master of the Organ, With the Curtain Pulled Back". The New York Times. Retrieved April 15, 2008.
- Smith, Tim (May 12, 2009). "Arts Scene". The Baltimore Sun. p. 13.
- The Master Series, Volume III — Frederick Swann (DVD). American Guild of Organists. 2006.
- "The largest pipe organs in the world". Sacred Classics. Retrieved April 14, 2008.
- Craig R. Whitney (May 11, 2004). "Pipes Askew, It Still Needs to Sing". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-26.[dead link]
- Mello, Terri (October 15, 2004). "World famous organist to play in Bermuda". Bermuda Sun. p. 39.
- "Frederick Swann, concert artist". The Desert Friends of Music. 2007–2008. Retrieved April 17, 2008. [dead link]
- Recital and Gala Benefit Reception Honoring Frederick Swann. American Guild of Organists. April 13, 2008.
- "About the AGO". Retrieved September 15, 2007.
- "American Guild of Organists Elects 2008–2010 National Council". June 30, 2008. Retrieved July 16, 2008.
- American Guild of Organists (official website)
- "Swann Song" — Frederick Swann on Pipedreams September 15, 2003 (audio)
- St. Margaret's Episcopal Church