Keith Chapman (organist)
San Mateo, California
|Died||June 29, 1989
The Colorado Rockies
|Known for||Wanamaker Organist, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
Keith Chapman (1945-1989) was an American concert organist known best for his flair at playing in the symphonic style of organ performance, and particularly for his long and distinguished association (1966-1989) with the Wanamaker's Department Stores of Philadelphia as their principal organist of the Wanamaker Organ.
Dr. Chapman was born in San Mateo, California and grew up in San Francisco, California. An organ prodigy, he began formal study at age 5 with S. Leslie Grow, a student of Marcel Dupre. Chapman was the accompanist to the Capuchino High School Concert Choir while it was directed by Otto Mielenz. Then he studied with Richard Purvis organist at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, and eventually worked as an assistant there.
Dr. Chapman came to Philadelphia where he attended the Curtis Institute of Music, from 1964 to 1968 studying organ under Alexander McCurdy who was also Purvis's teacher. He received a master's degree from Temple University in 1971 and an honorary doctor of musical arts degree from Combs College of Music in Philadelphia in 1978. He also had several original compositions published for organ solo.
In addition to his appointment at Wanamaker's, Dr. Chapman performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and served as organist and choirmaster at Philadelphia's First Presbyterian Church and Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel.
Association with Wanamaker
Dr. Chapman was appointed principal organist at Wanamaker's in 1966 at age 20 while he was still a student at Curtis. He would preside over the largest fully playable organ in the World and would remain at that position for the next 23 years until his untimely death in 1989.
At the time of Dr. Chapman's appointment, the Wanamaker Organ had been underused. As one of his first projects Dr. Chapman arranged for the broadcast of Wanamaker radio concerts which were heard over Philadelphia radio station WHYY-FM and included his own commentaries about the performances and the organ.
Chapman regularly welcomed visitors into the loft containing the organ console and permitted them to sit during performances. He also allowed visitors to be photographed with him on the organ bench. In addition to several known instances of Chapman playing practical jokes on customers at the store, he was also known for multitasking while performing by playing chess or having a conversation.
At the time of Dr. Chapman's death it was thought that all copies of his historic broadcasts had been destroyed. Eventually it was discovered that two enthusiasts of the Wanamaker Organ had reproduced digitally remastered recordings of these radio broadcasts of very high quality. The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ organization was able to reissue on compact disk three of the half-hour performances. These recordings are of special significance because shortly after Dr. Chapman's death both the Echo and Ethereal divisions were damaged in separate accidents and not available for many years. Other recordings include:
- The Grand Court Organ (1973)
- Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (1975)
- Airs & Arabesques (1976)
- Chapman/Wanamaker - The Memorial Release - Vantage VCD 6304
- The Complete Chapman/Wanamaker Recordings - Vantage V2CD 69-694-001
- Keith Chapman - The "Lost Radio Broadcasts" - Vantage V2CD-698-002
- Keith Chapman - The "Lost Radio Broadcasts, Vol. 2" - Vantage WanaRadio2
- Keith Chapman - "Karg-Elert Instrumental Works" - Motette CD60351
- Keith Chapman - "The Wanamaker Store Organ", Karg-Elert, Jongen, Alain, Langlais, Daquin... - PCD60351
Diamond Anniversary Concert
In 1986 Dr. Chapman was featured artist the landmark concert at the Wanamaker Grand Court which celebrated Dr. Chapman's 20th anniversary as Wanamaker Organist and the Organ's 75th anniversary. This was the first after-hours concert at Wanamaker's in some 50 years. The tradition has been continued into the present day largely under the auspices of the non-profit organization, Friends of the Wanamaker Organ.
Chapman and his wife, Sally, were killed when their twin-engine Cessna 310 crashed into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of the Colorado Rockies while returning from an organ convention in California. Chapman was succeeded at Wanamaker's later that year by Peter Richard Conte.
- Biswanger, Ray (1999). Music in the Marketplace the story of Philadelphia's historic Wanamaker Organ (First ed.). Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania: The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ. pp. 78–80. ISBN 0-9665552-0-1.
- http://www.wanamakerorgan.com/ The Friends of Wanamaker website, a group dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the Wanamaker organ where Dr. Chapman did some of his greatest work
- http://www.wanamakerorgan.com/details.php?pid=22&class=all&cid= Keith Chapman, the Lost Radio Broadcasts Volume 1
- http://www.wanamakerorgan.com/details.php?pid=226&class=all&cid= Keith Chapman, the Lost Radio Broadcasts Volume 2
- Keith Chapman, Organ Live
- http://www.wanamakerorgan.com/details.php?pid=204&class=all&cid= The Wanamaker Organ Diamond Anniversary Concert DVD
- http://articles.philly.com/1989-07-05/news/26134973_1_organ-concert-twin-engine-plane-richard-purvis Death Notice for Keith Chapman.