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Ruth M. Wilson

revised by Stephen L. Pinel

(b Philadelphia, PA, Aug 16, 1771; d Brooklyn, NY, Apr 30, 1861). American organist, church musician, teacher, instrument-maker, tunebook compiler, and composer. In addition to serving as the organist of Trinity Church, Peter Erben was a prominent church musician, organ builder, and music teacher in antebellum New York.

Peter was the son of Johann Adam Erben (d c1781), a Philadelphia distiller. By 1791 he was in New York working as a tanner, but turned his attention to music after a bankruptcy in 1796. He was successively the organist of Christ Church (1800), the Middle Dutch Reformed Church (1806), St. George’s Chapel (1808), St. John’s Chapel (1813), and ultimately Trinity Church (1820–39). From about 1800 he was also the founder and director of the Society for Cultivating Church Music and frequently presented public concerts with the charity children. Between ...


Mel R. Wilhoit

(b Duncannon, PA, Feb 27, 1838; d Germantown, PA, Sept 20, 1921). American compiler of Sunday-school and gospel hymnbooks, composer of hymns and teacher. He worked as a music teacher in the Philadelphia area, where he became associated with a number of Methodist churches.

His own musical style reflected the developing gospel hymn, which he helped to establish and popularize. In 1878 he joined forces with John R. Sweney, and the two men compiled about 50 songbooks and collections: ‘Sweney and Kirkpatrick’ became almost a trademark, and sales of their books ran into millions. They collaborated with the leading poets of gospel hymnody, and published nearly 1000 of Fanny Crosby’s hymns alone. Kirkpatrick’s collections – he produced about 50 further items after Sweney’s death – were used in revivals and camp meetings, such as the Methodist gatherings at Ocean Grove, New Jersey, and many of his more animated tunes, for example, that of ...


Harry Eskew

( b Maury County, TN, April 3, 1836; d Atlanta, GA, July 2, 1899). American composer and arranger of Sunday-school and gospel hymns, and hymnbook compiler . He received his musical training under L.C. and Asa B. Everett, with whom he was associated for several years in teaching and publishing. In the 1860s he became music editor for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in Nashville, a position he held for 30 years. In 1875 he joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University, leaving two years later for an appointment at Emory and Henry College, Oxford, Georgia. He established the R.M. McIntosh Publishing Company, publishing at least 20 collections for church and Sunday-school use. McIntosh is best known as the arranger of the camp-meeting tune ‘Promised Land’, which he changed into a major key to fit the gospel hymn style. (L.E. Oswalt: Rigdon McCoy McIntosh: Teacher, Composer, Editor, and Publisher, diss., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, ...