Henry S. Drinker

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Born: 15 May 1880

Died: 9 March 1965


Henry Sandwith Drinker, Jr., attorney, author, and musicologist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Drinkers were a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family whose roots extended back to colonial times. His mother, Ernesta Beaux Drinker, was musically gifted, and she passed on her love for Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and other composers to her six children. The eldest, Henry Jr., known as Harry, was especially receptive, becoming an accomplished pianist at an early age. Music as well as the law would become twin passions throughout his life.

Drinker's passion for music was nearly as great as his enthusiasm for the law. During his lifetime he was recognized as a leading musicologist and published numerous music-related books. These included translated and annotated scores of most of Bach's choral works and all of Mozart's choral music, Robert Schumann's songs, Franz Schubert's and Hugo Wolf's solo songs, and Johannes Brahms's vocal works. Drinker also published a major study of Brahms's chamber music.

A talented baritone, Drinker was especially interested in choral music, and during the 1920s he organized "singing parties" that gathered regularly at the spacious Drinker home in Merion, a Philadelphia suburb, to sing choral masterworks. Formally named the Accademia dei Dilettanti di Musica (the Academy of Musical Dilettantes) in 1930, the group included as many as 150 singers, gifted amateurs as well as the occasional professional. The Accademia was accompanied by an orchestral ensemble that often included his pianist wife, his sister Catherine (on violin), and other family members. It continued for three decades before disbanding in 1960.

Drinker's reputation as both a musicologist and a music lover won him a wide circle of friends in the world of music, including the Trapp Family Singers, a popular singing ensemble that emigrated from Austria. Their relationship began in 1939, when Georg von Trapp, the patriarch, arrived with his family at Ellis Island and needed assistance with their visas. He called upon Drinker to help them, and a lifelong friendship was born. The von Trapps, along with other noted singers and ensembles, were frequent attendees at the singing parties and other events at the Drinker home. (An extract from American National Biography online).

View the Wikipedia article on Henry S. Drinker.

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