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date: 23 January 2021

Thomson, Virgillocked

  • Richard Jackson

Extract

(b Kansas City, MO, Nov 25, 1896; d New York, Sept 30, 1989). American composer and critic. He produced a highly original body of diverse music rooted in American speech rhythms and hymnbook harmony, and controlled by exquisite sensibilities. His collaboration with Gertrude Stein resulted in two extraordinary stage works, and his keen ear, his wit and the elegance of his writing established him as one of the sharpest music critics in the USA.

Thomson learned to play the piano at the age of five and began lessons with local teachers when he was 12. He studied the organ from 1909 until 1917 and again in 1919; from the beginning of this period he also worked as organist in the family church (Calvary Baptist) and other churches in Kansas City. He attended Central High School (1908–13) and a local junior college (1915–17, 1919). During the American involvement in World War I he enlisted in the army and was in a field artillery unit; he was also trained in radio telephony at Columbia University and in aviation at a pilots’ ground school in Texas. He was set for embarkation to France when the war ended....

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New Haven (CT), Yale University, Irving S. Gilmore Music Library
New Haven (CT), Yale University, Oral History Archive
Current Biography Yearbook (1955-)
Modern Music
Musical Quarterly
The New Grove Dictionary of American Music