Chronology

By his son, John Schreiner, April 2009

Year Age
1901 July 31, born at Ackerstrasse 21 in the Steinbühl district of Nürnberg, Germany.
1903 2 Family converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church).
3 He was mesmerized by how a pianist's fingers could produce music, while observing choir practices held in Schreiner home. Refused to go to bed until practice over.
4 Experimented at the piano to find notes that matched the music
heard at choir practices; his mother sang along to encourage his efforts.
5 Began piano lessons, began learning hymns and choir anthems.
1906 5 First public performance, playing German hymn, "Eins ist Not," on piano at church Christmas party. Played the melody line only.
8 Could now play all of the hymns and choir anthems and was appointed organist of the Nürnberg Branch (small parish). Played on a small reed
organ (German: Harmonium). (Years later, some suggested he sat on books to raise him up to reach the keyboard. His response, "Now so, because then my legs could not have reached the pedals to pump the air.")
1911 10 Congregation saved to buy the largest available model of reed organ for him to play. (Ninety-five years later, Georg Steinmeyer of the famous German organ building firm reviewed the specifications of that organ and surmised his family firm had built it.
1912 11 October, family made a momentous decision to immigrate to America to be closer to Church headquarters in Utah. Crossed the ocean on an 8,000 ton vessel, wondering what their fate might be considering that the much larger 45,000 ton S.S. Titanic had gone down just six months earlier on its maiden voyage. Transferred from ship to train in Montreal, Canada.
11 First Sunday in Utah, was drafted as substitute organist, a surprise and relief. Immediately resumed piano lessons.
1913 January, received letter of greetings from Robert Heinlein, former 6th grade classmate in Nürnberg's Melanchthon (elementary) School. Letter was signed by all 41 students in the class, and by their teacher, Herr Fischer. Letter was cherished and carefully preserved over the years.
1914 13 Began piano and organ study with Professor John J. McClellan, Tabernacle organist. Lessons soon increased from one to two per week.
13-15 Devoured with delight the large stock of four-hand arrangements of operas, symphonies and concertos available from the public library, developing sigh reading and improvising skills.
16-17 While in high school, played organ in movie theaters (silent movies, the only kind then in existence!). At the urging of his car-less father, invested part of his earnings in a Model T Ford to avoid waiting for the streetcar after the last movie on frigid winter nights.
18 Chose to defer college in favor or earning opportunities. Accepted organist position at theater in Butte, Montana. Parents were concerned for him to leave home at such a young age.
19 Accepted organist position at theater in Portland, Oregon. Here and in Butte, typically stayed on after the last evening movie to learn Bach preludes and fugues
1921 20 Played first recitals in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City
1921-1924 Missionary in Southern California. Focused on church assignments. Turned down invitations to play in theaters and non-LDS churches except for occasional dedication concerts. One such exception, to play at 5,300-seat Angelus Temple built by evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. Developed speaking and leadership skills.
1924 22 April, appointed Tabernacle Organist, a post he would occupy for 54 years. (Though young, the first Tabernacle organist was even younger! Joseph J. Daynes was appointed in 1867 at age 16, and served 33 years.)
1924-1926 Paris, France. Studied organ and music theory with Henri Libert, Charles-Marie Widor, and Louis Vierne. (McClellan had urged study abroad, saying he had little more to offer as a teacher, but that Schreiner had considerably more potential to be developed.
1925 Early summer. Made short trip from Paris back to his native Germany to resume friendships with cousins in Nürnberg, and in Bubenheim and Kattenhochstatt (small villages near Weissenburg, south of Nürnberg).
1926 On trip home from France to Utah, detoured to Hartford,
Connecticut, to confer with officials of the Austin Organ Company regarding the Tabernacle's Austin.
1926-1930 Resumed work in Salt Lake City, playing at the 8,000-seat Tabernacle and for silent movies; and in Los Angeles, playing at 3,000-seat First Methodist Episcopal Church and at 3,500-seat Metropolitan Theater. (These were transition years when silent movies went out and "talkies" came in. Theater organists would no longer be
needed.)
1927 June 7, married cellist Margaret Lyman, a friend first met in high school, and fellow music student in Paris.
1929 July, first nation-wide radio broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word with the Tabernacle Choir and Organ from Temple Square in Salt Lake City." (This would become, and remain, the longest-running weekly broadcast in the world. Now appears early Sunday mornings on the Hallmark Channel.)
1930-1939 University Organist and Lecturer in Music, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), playing three programs a week, teaching harmony, and composing music. Credential: high-school diploma; albeit with stellar testimonials from Parisian teachers. Spent summers in Salt Lake City, sharing the load of daily organ recitals and weekly broadcasts.
1931 Son Richard born.
1933 Son John born.
1937 January, "Organ Voluntaries" published first of six volumes of organ music that he selected, arranged and-or composed. This first volume would remain in continuous publication for seventy years.
1937 April, soloist with Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Otto Klemperer, performing Guilmant's Concerto in De Minor for Organ and Orchestra.
1937 June, played at National Convention of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1937 Elected Dean (president) of the AGO's Southern California Chapter.
1938 Achieved FAGO, Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, its highest designation for professional attainment.
1939 Daughter Gretchen born.
1939 Returned to Salt Lake City from Los Angeles, to bull-time duty at the Tabernacle. Family moved temporarily into Mayflower Apartments on
East South Temple Street until a suitable home could be found. But none was found, so this became their permanent residence.
1939 38 Entered college, a long deferred, but not forgotten, goal. In spite of years on a university faculty, enrolled as a freshmen at University of Utah, sitting with students half his age in 1942, received B.A. degree and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa honor society.
1943 Began concertizing under management of New York impresario Bernard LaBerge, with (near) annual cross-country tours for the next 30 years. The first such consisted of 15 appearances from California to New York, including at Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Performed under LaBerge auspices nearly 600 times, appearing in nearly all states, and in Canada, europe, and South Africa.
1944 Performed in concert on the largest organ in Montreal, Canada. This was his second visit to Montreal, the first being in 1912, when the family disembarked from their ocean voyage.
1944 First concert in New York City, at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church
1945 Organ builder G. Donald Harrison of the Aeolian-Skinner firm visited Salt Lake City to inspect the Tabernacle organ.
1946 Daughter Julianne born.
1947 Soloist with the Utah Symphony in the Tabernacle, performing the American premiere of French organist Marcel Dupré's Concerto in E Minor. Dupré sent a gracious note of appreciation.
1948 February. As guest organist, played E. Power Biggs' Sunday morning radio broadcast from Harvard University. This was an occasion of professional reciprocity. In two instances, one earlier and one later, Biggs was in Utah and played his broadcast from the Tabernacle. (Biggs was heard on nation-wide radio weekily from 1942 to 1958.)
1948 Major revision of LDS hymnal with several new hymns, ten with music composed by Schreiner.
1948 December. Installation of Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1075 in the Tabernacle completed, a three-year project. Console nameplate personally signed by G. Donald Harrison. The new 188-rank organ replaced the 100-rank Austin installed in 1916.
1952-1970 (about) Wrote a monthly article of instruction and encouragement for LDS musicians that appeared in the church's Instructor magazine.
1954 53 August, awarded Doctor of Philosophy at University of Utah. Dissertation was a composition, Concerto in B Minor for Organ and Orchestra. Had suspended concertizing for three years to achieve this goal. (Later, received four honorary doctorates.)
1955 (about) Began a weekly half-hour radio program of organ music. It was broadcast late Sunday evenings for about twenty
years from Salt Lake City's strong signal station KSL. Fan mail came from western half of the U.S. and some Pacific islands. With theme music he composed but never wrote down. Narrated his won numbers, enabling listeners to get acquainted with his speaking personality.
1955 August-September. The Tabernacle Choir's first European concert tour. Performed mid-concert solos at Royal Albert Hall in London, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and Kursaal (auditorium) in Wiesbaden, Germany.
1955 Late September, spoke and played at services of Nürnberg Branch where he had served as organist years earlier. Had joyous reunion visit with 6th-grade classmate, Robert Heinlein after span of 43 years. To his astonishment, Heinlein brought along their still-living teacher, Herr Fischer! Visited Steinmeyer organ factory in Öttingen, Bavaria, and reunited with cousins in nearby Bubenheim and Kattenhochstatt.
1956 February, world premiere of his Concerto in Be Minor with the Utah Symphony, in the Tabernacle.
1956 June, played at National AGO Convention in New York City.
1959 July. Article, "In Quest of a Subjective (Musical) Scale," published in AGO Quarterly. Also published July 1960 in Piano Technician's Journal
1960 Three of the weekly half-hour broadcast programs were recorded for television and released over the national education (now public) television system. These were among the first televised performances of organ music.
1965 7th and last concert in New York City, at Riverside Church.
1967 October. Article, "The Virtues of Soft Music," published in Clavier magazine.
1968 9th and last concert in Minnesota, at Christ United Methodist Church, Rochester.
1968 December. Article, "My 'One Hundred Best Books' for Building Personal Musicianship," published in the Instructor magazine.
1971 70 While in Europe for church assignments, traveled to Weissenburg, south of Nürnberg, and invited cousins and friends to a 70th birthday party. A happy throng of 70 attended; he performed his stunt of playing the piano seated backwards while telling a corny joke (in German).
1975 Received Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit, First Class, the highest award bestowed on arts professionals by the Federal Republic of Germany.
1977 February, performed Handel and Schreiner organ concertos (one baroque and one modern) with Rockford, Illinois, Symphony, conducted by long-time friend Crawford Gates.
1977 February, brief Sunday morning interview on WCCO Radio, Minneapolis, following the Tabernacle Choir's broadcast.
1977 76 December. Retired, concluding an appointment of nearly 54 years.
1979 77 May, a final concert at UCLA for its fiftieth anniversary.
1983 81 April. On two successive evenings in LDS stake centers in St. Paul and Minneapolis, performed the Schumann piano concerto with amateur-pianist son John, on two pianos. Son played the solo part, father played the orchestra part.
1983 82 Fall, performed short recital in the Tabernacle for a group of Minnesota business leaders, playing his beloved Aeolian-Skinner for the last time.
1984 Autobiography, Alexander Schreiner Reminisces, published; 177 pages, 60 illustrations. Includes reprints of published articles:
  • "In Quest of a Subjective (Musical) Scale," see above, July 1959
  • "The Virtues of Soft Music," see above, October 1967
  • "My 'One Hundred Best Books" ...," see above, December 1968
1985 May 13, wife, Margaret, 81 died. They had been married nearly 58 years. She was born September 15, 1903, in Ithaca, New York.
1980's In his final years, a book of Rachmaninoff preludes was a continuing presence on the music rack of his Steinway grand piano. He played from this book almost daily to great personal delight.
1987 86 September 15, died in Salt Lake City (on wife's birthday).

Notes:

  1. 1999, Alexander Schreiner, the California Years, by Kenneth L. Udy, published by Harmonie Park Press; 188 pages, 20 illustrations. Includes an organist's treasure trove of repertoire and program notes.
  2. 2001, Alexander Schreiner, Mormon Tabernacle Organist, by Daniel F. Berghout, published by Brigham Young University; 297 pages, 77 illustrations. A complete biography. Includes:
    • list of his nearly 600 formal concerts away from the Tabernacle
    • numerous concert tour programs
    • reprint of published article, "My 'One Hundred Best Books' ...," see above, December 1968
  3. 2001, Sepbember 8-9, symposium held on the occasion of his 100th birthday, consisting of:
    • master class led by Professor James Higdon of University of Kansas
    • lectures by his two biographers, Kenneth Udy and Daniel Berghout
    • screening of the three classic videos from 1960 that had been "resurrected" from much earlier technology
    • banquet dinner, with Gretchen Schreiner Jackson speaking on "Life in the Schreiner Home"
    • evening concert in the Tabernacle, with performances by several former Schreiner colleagues and students playing Schreiner-related music
    • Sunday morning Tabernacle Choir television broadcast featuring Schreiner compositions and rrangements. (This broadcast is included on a VHS cassette of the three classic videos from 1960.)

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