It was sad news to hear that Dr. Gerre Hancock just died just a month or so short of his 78th birthday. He was certainly a giant among organists and Anglican musicians--his 30+ years at St. Thomas Episcopal in NY were an inspiration to many. Last night at Church of the Incarnation we dedicated the Evensong Service to his memory, singing Gerre's setting of the Preces and Responses as part of the service.
The connection with Gerre became a personal one because it was my joy to work with him at our two services of Lessons and Carols at the Church of the Incarnation in December. He did a short organ recital before the service and played all the hymns during the service itself. We had time as he prepared over several weeks when he came up from Austin (where he's been teaching since retiring from St. Thomas) to chat and reminisce, and Keith Franks, our Associate organist, also had a dinner at his house with Gerre, Keith's mother, and Kathryn and me after one of the services. Gerre and I discovered of course, that even though we hadn't met in person, our lives had crossed many times in the ways they tend to in the small world of musicians. When I taught at Mt. Holyoke College (1980-83) the choirs did their Christmas concerts at St. Thomas each year and whenever I visited NY (which was fairly frequent), I tried to take in a service there.
With Seattle Pro Musica (1973-1980) the Evangelist for my first St. John Passion was Greg Carder, who soon after moved to NY and has sung ever since as one of the professional singers in the St. Thomas Choir. Richard Lippold, a former student of mine from PLU, has been a regular soloist at St. Thomas for years. And in the organ world, of course, we shared many friends and colleagues.
It was great fun to discover that Gerre's job before coming to St. Thomas was at Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral in Cincinnati, where I did a short interim in 2006 while a guest professor at CCM/University of Cincinnati. Gerre also told stories of his 6 months in England, shortly after he went to St. Thomas, shadowing David Willcocks to learn more first-hand about the Anglican choral tradition. Gerre spoke of sitting on the floor with Sir David as he was writing and organizing the descants for the first book of Carols for Choirs--the very descants we were singing at the services.
I have to say, Gerre was one of the sweetest men I've known. I've never heard anyone speak in any way but positively and with love of him as as a person, as well as a musician.
Dr. Hancock’s ashes will be interred beneath the floor of the chancel at St. Thomas, where their choir directors stand to lead the choir. I can think of no more fitting place.