Russell Woollen: Catalogue and Contextual Examination of the Sacred Music
Russell Woollen (1923-1994) was a musician with skills of an unusually wide breadth. Spending nearly his entire adult life in Washington, DC, he was widely respected as a chamber musician, keyboard artist for the National Symphony Orchestra, teacher, conductor, and especially composer. Though a key figure in the contingent of neoclassical composers known as "The Washington School" with many prestigious commissions, his compositions have fallen into obscurity.At mid-twentieth century, Woollen was among the most visible American Catholic musicians: he was a priest-professor at The Catholic University of America (1948-1962), a widely published composer of skilled liturgical music, and a significant musician in the Washington, DC music scene. Woollen was composing at a unique juncture: as an American composer he was part of the wave of artistic endeavor that posited America as a leading player in art music composition on the world stage; and as a composer for the Church he was writing while the liturgical movement, begun in the late-nineteenth century and reaching its apex at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), brought excitement for the musical opportunities of music in the reformed liturgy. But Woollen's skilled music was not well received in the American implementation of the aggiornamento for the revised liturgy mandated by the Second Vatican Council. Woollen's Kunstmusik, music for skilled musicians, and his experimentations in Gebrauchsmusik, music for the entire assembly, were neglected and fell out of print. The treatise examines Woollen's sacred music in the context of his unique and fertile life. A complete catalogue of the composer's works is given, drawing extensively on the Russell Woollen Archives of the Library of Congress Performing Arts Division. Other archival information as well as interviews with Woollen's family and colleagues flesh out the contextualization.
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