It is with great sadness that I inform our friends and customers of the death of Carrol W. Hassman of Wichita, Kansas, on Friday evening, September 12th. Carrol was a former student of mine at Wichita State University, where he studied advanced music theory, counterpoint, and orchestration in my classroom. A major in organ performance, Carrol was one of my brightest and most gifted students. As just one example of many: while studying with me, Carrol offered to write a composition for recorder ensemble, for performance by my WSU recorder students. I had expected a relatively brief work, but Carrol as usual surpassed all my expectations with an extended six-movement work for recorder sextet. It was a contemporary-styled baroque dance suite for a renaissance consort of recorders on the medieval tune "L'homme armé". I quickly noted that he had managed to incorporate all four major eras of the recorder's repertoire -- middle ages, renaissance, baroque, and 20th century -- into one composition, no mean feat in and of itself.
He and I also worked closely together in the student chapter of the national music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, to which I was the faculty advisor. In my final year at WSU, he and I organized a Vesper program of Mozart's sacred music at a local church performed by WSU music faculty and students. On that occasion, I conducted performances of several of Mozart's Church Sonatas for organ and orchestra with Carrol as organ soloist. It was the first but definitely not the last of many such collaborations over the years and decades that followed.
When I returned to Boston to pursue doctoral studies, Carrol followed in my footsteps and pursued a masters degree and doctoral studies in organ performance. We shared an office together at Boston University, where I was teaching courses in music history and Carrol was teaching theory and ear-training courses as a graduate assistant. He also accompanied me on harpsichord on several of my doctoral recitals. Carrol quickly became a fixture in the church music scene in the greater Boston area and held a number of positions in local churches as music director and/or organist. In 1975, I revived his recorder sextet for a performance at Harvard University with my own early music ensemble, The Aeolian Consort. Never one to rest on his laurels, Carrol decided to update the work for the occasion with an optional percussion part and, still later, an obbligato harpsichord part as well.
Carrol remained active as a church musician and recitalist in Boston for over two decades, but eventually returned home to Kansas in the 1990s. During the past two decades, he held positions as choir director and organist at a number of Wichita-area churches of every conceivable denomination. Carrol was a quick study and was able to adapt his repertoire and performance techniques to the needs of many different religious traditions. During the past few years, he took particular delight in playing gospel piano for services at a predominantly black Catholic parish in northeast Wichita, just a mile from the WSU campus where he began his career almost half a century earlier. During the past four years, Carrol served as Dean of the Wichita Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. He worked indefatigably for the advancement of church music and organ playing, both locally and nationally, giving numerous workshops and demonstrations.
I last visited Carrol in Wichita in May of 2006 for a long overdue reunion. He had thoughtfully organized for my visit an "organ crawl" of churches in central Kansas which had acquired pipe organs that he knew would be of interest to me. He had this uncanny ability to sit down and make himself at home at a strange console, summon up appropriate registrations, and play from his prodigious memory suitable repertoire for each instrument's capabilities. He managed to keep an enormous body of solo organ repertoire under his fingers (and feet) at all times. He performed at his mother's funeral in MacPherson, Kansas, in October of 2010, ending the service with Buxtehude's famously joyous Jig Fugue. He thought that very upbeat piece more suited to his mother's memory than some dreary dirge.
We met for the last time in June of this year, when he traveled to Boston to participate in the AGO's National Convention. Although he was very weak from the effects of cancer treatment and tired easily, he gave a presentation on attracting young keyboard players to the world of organ playing, one of his favorite topics. We spent a day together visiting and critiquing 19th century organs in the Boston area and had dinner together in the old neighborhood where we both lived decades ago. It was a bittersweet occasion, as we both knew that this would be our last meeting.
Carrol bore his final illness with uncommon grace and a good sense of humor. Never one to feel sorry for himself, he kept me and his many other friends well informed via E-mail of the progression of his illness and treatments. He kept performing until he was no longer able to do so. The church music world will be much poorer by the loss of such a dynamic, gifted, and dedicated individual.
David H. Green, director
Antique Sound Workshop, Ltd.
A memorial celebration of the life of Carrol Hassman will be held in Wichita at a date to be announced. A reception for his family, friends, and colleagues will follow.