Biographies Elinor Remick Warren, 1890-1991

Elinor Remick Warren feeding son
Elinor Remick Warren feeding her son Wayne. Publicity photo taken for the 1940 premiere of "The Passing of King Arthur," later to be retitled by the composer as "The Legend of King Arthur."

Elinor Remick Warren has been described by musicologist Christine Ammer as the "only woman among the group of prominent American neo-Romanticists that includes Howard Hansen, Samuel Barber, and Gian Carlo Menotti." Warren was active up until her death in 1991 at age 91, and created over 200 works throughout her lifetime. Her music is currently enjoying a revival; in 2000, the Elinor Remick Warren Society, in conjunction with the Library of Congress, contributed to the renaissance of her music by sponsoring a Centenary Celebration, featuring a lecture, symposium and recital, as well as the presentation of the Warren Collection to the Library of Congress.

Warren was the only child of well-trained musical parents. Her mother was a pianist whose teacher had studied with Franz Liszt, and her father, who earned a living as a businessman, was a tenor and a choral conductor. By the age of three, Warren was able to plunk out melodies at the piano, and at age five she penned her first composition, the Forget-Me-Not Waltz for piano. After local musical training in her hometown of Los Angeles, and a year of study at Mills College in Oakland, Warren moved to New York in 1920 to study accompaniment and the art song with Frank LaForge and orchestration and counterpoint with Clarence Dickinson. By 1922, Warren's compositions were appearing in the catalogues of several music publishers, including G. Schirmer, Theodore Presser, and Carl Fischer.

At LaForge's suggestion, Warren began working as a touring accompanist for the Metropolitan Opera singers, whom LaForge knew and coached. From 1921 to the early 1940s, Warren toured the country and collaborated primarily with Florence Easton, but also had the opportunity to work with Richard Crooks, Lawrence Tibbett, Lucrezia Bori, Margaret Matzenauer, and Grete Stueckgold, who came to program Warren's songs in their recitals. During one of her summer visits to Los Angeles, Warren met a doctor whom she married in 1925. They had a son, James, born in 1928, but the marriage ended in divorce after the baby's birth.

In 1936, Warren's The Harp Weaver, a large-scale work for women's chorus, orchestra, and baritone soloist, was premiered in New York under the direction of Antonia Brico at Carnegie Hall. The work's successful debut brought Warren critical attention as a composer in the larger orchestral forms. That same year Warren married Z. Wayne Griffin, a radio, film and television producer and businessman. The couple had two children, a son, Wayne, born in 1938, and a daughter, Elayne, born in 1940, and remained together until Griffin's death in 1981.

Inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King, Warren composed a large-scale choral symphony to this text in 1936. Originally titled The Passing of the King, it was renamed as The Legend of King Arthur when Warren later revised the work in 1974. The work was premiered in 1940 by Alfred Coates and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; the successful debut secured Warren's international reputation and The Legend of King Arthur remains her best-known large work, partly due to revivals by important conductors including Pierre Monteux, John Barbirolli, André Kostelanetz, Roger Wagner, Alfred Wallenstein, and Richard Hickox.

Warren produced some of her most important works during the 1940s and 50s, including The Crystal Lake (1946), Singing Earth (1950, revised 1978), and Along the Western Shore (1954), all of which were influenced by the American west where Warren spent most of her life. She also turned to mystical subjects for inspiration, as found in works such as the aforementioned The Harp Weaver and The Legend of King Arthur, as well as The Sleeping Beauty (1941). In 1963, Warren was commissioned by Roger Wagner to write a requiem. After several years of concentrated work on the commission, she completed the Requiem in 1966. The work received much praise from the press, and was considered by Patterson Greene of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner to be a "devout, quietly intense work…a dignified, meditative and distinguished contribution to choral literature."

Warren died in her home on April 27, 1991, survived by her daughter, two sons, and five grandchildren. Shortly after her death, the Elinor Remick Warren Society was founded in 1996 to help perpetuate her legacy and promote her music.

Further reading:

  • Bortin, Virginia. Elinor Remick Warren: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1993.
  • Elinor Remick Warren: Her Life and Music. Composer of North America, No. 5. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1987.

Selected Works at the Library of Congress

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Elinor Remick Warren, 1890-1991
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-  Warren, Elinor Remick, 1900-1991
-  Parlor and Concert Stage
-  Songs and Music
-  Biographies
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