Gerre Hancock, one of America’s most highly acclaimed concert organists and choral directors and professor of organ and sacred music at The University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music, passed away on Jan. 21 due to cardiac arrest. He was 77.
Prior to his appointment at the University, Hancock held the position of Organist and Master of Choristers at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City for more than thirty years, and set a new standard for church music in America. Previous to his time at Saint Thomas Church, he held positions as Organist and Choirmaster of Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, where he also served on the Artist Faculty of the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, and as Assistant Organist at St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City.
“Gerre Hancock was a legend in his own time. We are so fortunate to have had him on the faculty in the Butler School of Music for nearly nine years,” said Glenn Chandler, director of the Butler School of Music. “After a 32-year career at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Ave in New York City where he and his wife Judith built what was arguably the finest Anglican church music program in the United States, he came back to his alma mater to pass on to the next generation of organists the knowledge and skills that he had so wonderfully mastered during his lifetime. We will sorely miss him.”
Hancock received his bachelor’s degree in music from The University of Texas at Austin and his master’s degree in sacred music from Union Theological Seminary in New York from which he received the Unitas Distinguished Alumnus Award. A recipient of a Rotary Foundation Fellowship, he also studied in Paris and during this time was a finalist at the Munich International Music Competitions. He studied organ with with E. William Doty, Robert Baker, Jean Langlais and Marie-Claire Alain.
A Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, Gerre Hancock has been a member of its National Council and is a founder and past president of the Association of Anglican Musicians.
He has served on the faculty of The Juilliard School and taught improvisation on a visiting basis at the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale University and The Eastman School of Music. In 1981 he was appointed a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music, and in 1995 was appointed a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. Gerre Hancock has received honorary doctor of music degrees from the Nashotah House Seminary, and The University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. In May 2004 he was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree from The General Theological Seminary in New York.
He is listed in “Who’s Who in America,” and his biography appears in “The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd edition.)” In 2004 he was honored in a ceremony at Lambeth Palace in London where he was presented the Medal of the Cross of St. Augustine by the Archbishop of Canterbury for his extraordinary service to the Anglican Church.
Gerre Hancock’s consummate skill was clearly apparent in his concert appearances. Possessing a masterly interpretive ability, he was an artist of taste, warmth, perception and style. A featured recitalist and lecturer at numerous regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists and at national conventions of the Guild in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Houston and New York City, he also represented the AGO as recitalist at the Centenary Anniversary of the Royal College of Organists in London. Considered the finest organ improviser in America, Hancock has been heard in recital in many cities throughout the United States, Europe, South Africa, and Japan. On occasion he performed in duo recitals with his wife, Judith Hancock.
Watch a video of Hancock playing Bates Recital Hall’s Visser-Rowland Tracker Organ.
Compositions by Dr. Hancock are published by Oxford University Press. His compositions for organ and chorus are widely performed and his textbook, “Improvising: How to Master the Art,” is used by musicians throughout the country. He has recorded for Gothic Records, Decca/Argo, Koch International and Priory Records, both as a conductor of The St. Thomas Choir and as a soloist.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Judith Hancock, and their two daughters, Deborah Hancock and Lisa Hancock.
The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Feb. 4 at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City. For updated information visit: http://www.saintthomaschurch.org/about/news or the Butler School of Music.