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ARTHUR FOOTE  

(1853 - 1937)

Arthur William Foote was born in Salem, Massachusetts on 5 March 1853. From the age of thirteen, lecture series, Glee clubs and even a chapter of the Mozart Society were regular features of his life. In 1867 Foote went to Boston to study harmony with Stephan Emery at the newly founded New England Conservatory of Music where he made his first attempts at composition. In 1870 Foote was accepted by Harvard University, where he continued his musical activities, becoming director of the Harvard Glee Club and in his senior year he began studies with the composer John Knowles Paine.

Following his graduation in 1874, Foote returned to Salem. During that summer he decided to take organ lessons from the local musician and educator Benjamin Johnson Lang, a concert promoter, choir director, and former student of Liszt. Lang encouraged Foote to pursue music as a full-time career. Foote returned to Harvard to continue his study with Paine, receiving the very first Master of Arts degree in Music awarded by an American university.

In August 1875, upon completion of his studies at Harvard, Foote opened a studio for teaching the piano, which was to become his primary vocation for the next fifty years. The following year, he visited Bayreuth to hear a complete performance of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen. The experience was to have a lasting impact upon him, influencing many of his finest choral works including The Farewell of Hiawatha, for men’s voices and orchestra, and The Wreck of the Hesperus, a cantata for mixed voices and orchestra, both based upon poems by Longfellow. In addition to his work as a teacher, Foote was appointed as organist and choirmaster of the First Unitarian Church in Boston, where he was to remain until 1910.

During the 1880s, Foote’s music began to receive wider recognition, finding a regular showcase with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The tone poem, In the Mountains (1886) was so popular with both the orchestra and conductor Wihelm Gericke, that it was featured when the orchestra performed at the Paris Exposition in 1889.

Throughout the remainder of his life, he was active as a teacher and concert promoter in addition to writing several texts on the subject of harmony and piano technique. From 1909 to 1912 he was president of the American Guild of Organists, and served as president for the Cecilia Society of Boston. He received honorary doctorates in music from Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, and Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. In 1913, he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Foote found his musical vocabulary early in his career and stayed his course through out the 1890s into the twentieth century. Though he enjoyed the admiration of Boston’s concert-going public into the 1930s, he was deeply suspicious of jazz and the new musical ideas that were beginning to appear. On 8th April 1937, Arthur Foote passed away quietly in Massachusetts General Hospital as a result of acute pneumonia.

Role: Classical Composer 
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4:10:23 PM, 28 December 2014
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