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date: 27 January 2020

Robinson II, McNeilfree

  • Jason A. Wright

(b Birmingham, AL, March 16, 1943; d Manhattan, NY, May 9, 2015). American organist and composer. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Robinson served The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Holy Family Catholic Church, Park Avenue Christian Church, Holy Trinity Catholic Church, and Park Avenue Synagogue, all in New York City. He was chair of the organ department and professor of music (1984–2015) at the Manhattan School of Music. Robinson composed music for organ solo, organ and orchestra, chorus (122 compositions for both the Christian and Jewish traditions), and solo voice with organ and/or orchestral accompaniment. Other compositions include music for a film, 9 Variations on a Dance Theme (1966–7) directed by Hilary Harris, a play by Anne Sexton (1973), and an unfinished opera, Scene from Medea: an Opera in Progress (1979). His works were commissioned by houses of worship and concert halls across the United States. Noted commissions include works for the Archbishop of Canterbury (Ecce Sacerdos, 1967), Group for Contemporary Music (Three Spanish Songs, 1983), San Francisco Symphony (Concerto for Organ and Orchestra, 1984), Musica Sacra (Messe Solennelle, 1987, première given at Lincoln Center on April 24), and The American Guild of Organists (Missa Brevis, 1996). Robinson’s compositional teachers were Vincent Persichetti, Yehudi Wyner, Jacob Druckman, and Allen Forte. Robinson’s compositions can be categorized as post-Neoclassical, serial, and conservative with elements of contemplative and Romantic style-characteristics. His entire musical estate, including both published and unpublished scores are part of The Leupold Archive in North Carolina.


  • F.A. Thurman: McNeil Robinson: his Life and Music (1962–1998) (DMA diss., Manhattan School of Music, 1999)
  • K. Babin: Music at the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, New York City (1868–Present) and its Importance in the History of Sacred and Secular Music (DMA diss., Manhattan School of Music, 2008)
  • A. Yeargin: McNeil Robinson: the Complete Musician (DMA diss., Manhattan School of Music, 2016)
  • J.A. Wright: McNeil Robinson as Choral Musician: a Survey of his Choral Works for the Christian and Jewish Traditions (DMA diss., U. of South Carolina, Columbia, 2017)

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Llanfair: Chorale-Prelude. McNeil Robinson, composer. Kenneth Drake, organ. Organ Recital: Dake, Kenneth (2010). Audio.

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