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Mary Elizabeth Caldwell

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Mary Elizabeth Caldwell (August 1, 1909 - November 15, 2003) was an American classical music composer. A church organist for over fifty years, she wrote extensive choral anthems and cantatas (several of which were recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir), and was later commissioned to write several operas for children.[1]

Life and Career[edit]

Mary Elizabeth Glockler was born in Tacoma, Washington on August 1, 1909, to Ed and Alice Glockler. Her family moved south to Piedmont, California when she was very young, and Glockler spent the remainder of her childhood in Northern California.[1]

By age ten, she had composed several short piano works and was invited to study in San Francisco with acclaimed piano teacher Benjamin Moore, who had previously never taken on adolescent students. Glockler studied with him for 11 years until her graduation from the University of California, Berkeley in 1930, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Music.[2]

After graduating, Glockler studied for a year at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München with Dr. Richard Schrey before returning to the States in 1932 to marry General Electric engineer Philip G Caldwell. The two moved to Schenectady, New York where she journeyed monthly to NYC to study composition with Bernard Wagenaar at the Juilliard School. Glockler (now Caldwell) began her career as an organist during that period, composing and arranging for her small church choir under the name Mary E. Caldwell.[2]

In 1948, they moved to Pasadena, California with their two sons, Donald and Peter. Caldwell continued her music career, becoming the organist at the San Marino Community Church — a position she would hold for 35 years. During her time with the church, Caldwell composed numerous works, including four operas for children, and ran a children's choir for fifth and sixth grade students for 17 years.[1]

Later in life, Caldwell suffered from degenerative osteoarthritis; it forced her to cease playing and composing professionally in 1982. She died on November 15, 2003 at the age of 94.[1]


During her career, Caldwell published 187 works written for youth and adults alike, and joined the ASCAP in 1967[3] Her works have been the subject of several Masters and Doctoral dissertations.[4]

Her first published work came in 1956, with "A Carol of the Little King."[5] The Christmas carol was published by the H.W. Gray Company (later acquired by Alfred Music[6]) in New York; H.W. Gray went on to publish many of her works.

Her work saw an even wider audience in the late-1950s when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir recorded several of her Christmas arrangements for a compilation of holiday music, including "Tell Us Shepherd Maids".[7]

She additionally composed four operas (three for young voices) for Pasadena audiences throughout her career. The first, "Pepito's Golden Flower," premiered in March of 1955 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, in sponsorship with the Junior League of Pasadena, the Board of City Directors, and the Pasadena Symphony Association; after initial acclaim, a repeat performance was commissioned on March 27, 1955.[8]

"A Gift of Song" followed six years later, premiering on December 3, 1961 courtesy the Pasadena Youth Music Council. "The Night of the Star," her third opera, was comissioned by the Junior League of Pasadena, and premiered at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on December 5, 1965. Her final liturgical drama, "In the Fullness of Time," was composed for older voices and performed on December 3, 1978 at San Marino Community Church.[8]

Notable Works[edit]


  • Of Time and Eternity, Easter Cantata, SATB, Organ, Brass
  • The Freedom Song, Patriotic Cantata, written for the bicentennial SATB, Organ
  • The Road to Bethlehem, Christmas Youth Cantata, Organ
  • What the Star Saw, Christmas Youth Cantata, Organ
  • Let Us Follow Him, Easter Youth Cantata, Organ


  • A Festival of Carols (church year) collection
  • All Praise to God (church year) collection
  • A Singing Faith for Junior Choir (church year) collection
  • A Celebration of Melody medium voice collection (9)
  • Music for Contrast, Organ collection (5)


  • Pepito’s Golden Flower, Opera for Children, Orchestra
  • A Gift of Song, Christmas Opera for Children, Orchestra
  • The Night of the Star, Christmas Opera for Children, Orchestra
  • In the Fullness of Time, liturgical Drama, Organ


External links[edit]

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