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Biography Harvey Bartlett Gaul (1881-1945)

Harvey B. Gaul, 1881-1945.
Harvey B. Gaul, 1881-1945. From "Department for Organists: Editor for July, Harvey B. Gaul." The Etude 33(July 1913): 512. Music Division, Library of Congress. Call number: ML1.E8

Harvey Bartlett Gaul was born in New York City on April 11, 1881. Best known as an organist and composer, he began his musical studies with George LeJeune and Dudley Buck. He completed his musical training in Great Britain with Alfred R. Gaul and Philip Ames, and in France with Alexandre Guilmant, Charles-Marie Widor, and Vincent d'Indy.

During his studies both at home and abroad, Gaul honed his professional skills as organist and choral director through various church postings. From 1899 to 1901, he was assistant organist at St. John's Chapel in New York, and from 1901 to 1909, he was organist and choirmaster at the Emmanuel Church in Cleveland. While living in Cleveland, Gaul served as music critic for the Cleveland News. In 1910 he accepted the post of organist and choirmaster at Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, where he served until his death in 1945. He worked as music critic and arts editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, conductor of the Pittsburgh Civic String Orchestra and Savoyard Opera Company, and music instructor at the University of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Institute of Technology. In 1920 the newly founded radio station KDKA appointed Gaul as its first Music Director. One year later, he also gained the post of Feature Editor at The Musical Forecast. The periodical focused primarily on Pittsburgh's musical life, its leadership, and organizations.

After settling in Pittsburgh, Gaul became interested in the life and works of Pittsburgh native Stephen Foster. He collected anecdotes about Foster from descendants and friends living in Pittsburgh. After Gaul's death in 1945, Fletcher Hodges edited the Foster manuscript and serialized it in the Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine (1951) as "The Minstrel of the Alleghenies."

A prolific composer, Gaul wrote more than five hundred works. He is most remembered for his organ and church music. His organ works include Chanson du Matin and Chanson du Soir (1906), Lenten Meditation (1909), Christmas Pipes of County Clare (1926), Ancient Hebrew Prayer of Thanksgiving (1935), Moravian Morning Star (1941), and Easter Procession of the Moravian Brethren (1945).

Gaul's choral compositions include both church anthems and secular cantatas. One of his most enduring works for choir is I Hear America Singing (1925), a setting of Walt Whitman poetry published in separate versions for mixed chorus, women's chorus, and men's chorus with soprano soloist. Today Gaul is memorialized through the Harvey Gaul Composition Competition, a biennial contest created by the Friends of Harvey Gaul and currently sponsored by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.