Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Music



First Advisor

Larry Wyatt


McNeil Robinson II (1943-2015), internationally renowned organist and composer, was born in Birmingham, Alabama and educated at Birmingham Southern College, Mannes College of Music, and the Juilliard School. Robinson served at several iconic and celebrated churches and at a synagogue in the City of New York including: the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, the Church of the Holy Family (United Nations), Park Avenue Christian Church, Park Avenue Synagogue, and Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church. As an academic, Robinson was chair of the organ department and a professor of music at Manhattan School of Music. Over the course of these appointments, Robinson composed music for organ solo, organ and orchestra, choral, and solo voice with organ and orchestra accompaniment. Other compositions include music for a film, a play, and an unfinished opera. Robinson composed sixty choral compositions along with a wealth of service music for both the Christian and Jewish traditions. These compositions include anthems, Missa brevis, hymns, and psalm responsorials. Although, much of the choral music was written for use in his own parish and synagogue, other works were commissions received from other houses of worship across the United States and abroad, including a commission by the Archbishop of Canterbury in England, and for the concert stage. Robinson’s compositional teachers and influences include: Vincent Persichetti, Yehudi Wyner, and Virgil Thomson, with influences of Igor Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen, and Maurice Duruflé. Robinson’s choral compositions can be categorized as post-Neoclassical, serial, and conservative with elements of contemplativeand Romantic

style-characteristics. This document aims to provide a comprehensive look at composer McNeil Robinson, with an emphasis on his choral composition. Chapter One will provide a biographical sketch of Robinson’s life and career. Chapter Two contains conversations with family, academics, formers students, clergy, singers, and other professionals in the field. Chapter Three introduces Robinson as a choral musician. Chapter Four outlines Robinson’s compositional style. Chapters Five is a survey of Robinson’s choral music for the Christian tradition. Chapter Six discusses Robinson and Park Avenue Synagogue. Chapter Seven is a survey of Robinson’s choral music for the Jewish Tradition. Chapter Eight serves as a conclusion. The appendixes will outline a list of supplemental materials, which includes: a catalogue of works, bulletin from Robinson’s memorial service (containing his musical compositions), a video of his memorial service, a video interview of Robinson with the NYC American Guild of Organists, an audio recording of Robinson speaking about Jewish music and his tenure at Park Avenue Synagogue, and a video of the author’s lecture-recital. The appendix continues with the Leupold Archive inventory list, Robinson’s obituary, submitted themes for improvisation, list of commissions and premieres at Park Avenue Synagogue, and DMA recital programs and brief biographical sketch of the author.

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Music Commons