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Oct 24, 2000

Ars Musica Chicago Concert To Honor Arthur Becker, Founding Dean of DePaul University's School of Music

Event Will Kick-off Major Restoration of 125-Year-Old St. Vincent de Paul Church

Ars Musica Chicago will help commemorate the 125th anniversary of St. Vincent de Paul Church, one of the oldest parishes in the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese, with a concert featuring the works of Arthur Becker, a celebrated organist and composer and the founding dean of the DePaul University School of Music. The benefit performance will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 5 at St. Vincent de Paul Church, 1010 W. Webster Ave. The cost is $25.

Born in 1895 in Louisville, Ky., Becker had an attitude toward teaching and composition that was strongly French. A student of French composer Charles-Marie Widor, Becker was a fluent and extraordinary improviser who wrote exquisite and inspiring church music in the post-Romantic French style.

Becker earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Sherwood Conservatory and later received an honorary doctorate in music from the Chicago Musical College.

In 1918, Becker organized DePaul University’s School of Music, which he started in one room at 2235 N. Sheffield Ave. Four faculty members taught voice, violin, organ and composition. The school began with 32 students but by 1940 it had grown to 350, with curricula in performance, music education, and church music.

Becker served as dean of the music school until his retirement in 1966, and remained active as an instructor and church organist until 1972. He died in 1976.

At the same time Becker was establishing DePaul’s music school he also was the organist and choirmaster at St. Vincent de Paul Church, which had earned the reputation of being a leading Catholic musical institution. For five decades, Becker directed the liturgical music at St. Vincent’s, giving monthly organ recitals that spanned a wide range of repertory. His works typically ended with striking improvisations on liturgical themes.

Ars Musica Chicago, a performance organization devoted to historically informed music of the 12th through 18th centuries, will feature some of Becker’s most famous works at the benefit concert. They will perform his compositions of “Salve Regina” and “Ave Maria,” both short, striking settings of altered harmonies redolent with the French tradition; “Sonus Epulantis,” an organ composition that celebrates the feast of Easter, and “Mass in Honor of St. Vincent de Paul,” a spirited composition and later Becker work that uses the full ranges of voices and an independent organ part with marcato rhythms.

Performing with Ars Musica Chicago will be organists Jerome Butera, Robert Beatty, David Scribner, Gerald Chalupka, and Larry Long.

The concert will mark the culmination of a three-year, $2 million campaign for the complete restoration and renovation of St. Vincent’s Church, one of the largest neo-Romanesque churches in Chicago. The church renovation also will include restoration of the parish’s 99-year-old Lyon & Healy pipe organ.

“This program will bring attention to the accomplishments of one of the leading forces in Chicago Catholic music of the 20th century,” said Enrique Alberto Arias, an associate professor at DePaul’s School for New Learning and president of Ars Musica Chicago. “It is fitting that we recognize Becker’s contributions as part of the anniversary celebration of St. Vincent de Paul Church because his contributions to the church, to DePaul University and to the world of sacred music are extraordinary.”

For more information about the concert, call Ars Musica Chicago at 312/409-7874. For tickets call St. Vincent Church at 773/327-1113.