Sally Slade Warner (1932-2009)

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Nomination for Honorary Membership

In early 2009, the Guild received the following letter of nomination:

The theme of this congress has been to promote the accessibility of the carillon.  We can all agree that our instrument’s accessibility is enhanced by the programming of high quality music, played well by the resident carillonneur, and further increased by fostering guest recital series, workshops, regional gatherings and national conferences.  A colleague who has excelled in all these aspects is Sally Slade Warner.

Sally has been carillonneur at St. Stephen’s Church in Cohasset, Massachusetts, since 1985, when she succeeded her first carillon teacher, the late Earl Chamberlain.  In 1973, Sally was employed as the Assistant in the Music Department and as Director of the Record Library at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.  An organist by profession, she was attracted to the carillon by hearing Mr. Chamberlain play for the AGO Chapter meeting in 1974.  In 1977 she was named Academy Carillonneur and Instructor in the Carillon, teaching the Fuller Prize students the art of carillon-playing until the Phillips Tower was closed due to structural hazards in the 1990s.  After four years of study with Mr. Chamberlain, she attended the Jef Denyn Royal Carillon School in Mechelen, Belgium, for one academic year, studying with Piet van den Broek, and earning the final diploma “met grote onderscheiding” (Magna cum laude), in 1979.  She also studied for a short time with Milford Myhre, whom she first met at an AGO convention in Denver in the 1960s.  She faithfully attended the Bok Tower International Festivals, performing there on several occasions.  In 1988 she was awarded the Berkeley Medal of the University of California for “distinguished service to the carillon.”  She is also an “honorary (ornery?) Texan carillonneur.”

A Carillonneur member of the GCNA since 1980, Sally has served on the board of directors and many committees.  She hosted a memorable GCNA congress at Cohasset in 1996 and continues to organize a guest recital series at St. Stephen’s every summer.

Sally holds the Choir Master and Associate degrees of the American Guild of Organists.  She has been a dedicated member of the Boston and Merrimack Valley chapters of the AGO since the 1950s.  She was sub-dean of the New England Choir Directors’ Guild and served as organist at the Church of St. John the Evangelist on Beacon Hill for 30 years.  She continues to be an active substitute organist.  While she is a devoted Episcopalian, she confesses “I love playing for the Unitarians.  You never know what they’re going to do next!”

What sets Sally apart is her superb skill in adapting and arranging music for the carillon.  Her many arrangements of hymns, folksongs and popular melodies are completely idiomatic to the instrument and infused with style and wit.  Her music is published both by the GCNA and ACME, and she is also wonderfully generous in sharing her music collection with her fellow musicians.  Her pieces are performed throughout the carillon world, and many have been recorded.  We have come to depend on Sally for excellence in taste and providing us with marvelous material for recitals of any theme.

Sally has supported our art and made it truly accessible to players and listeners alike.  Therefore, at this congress it is entirely appropriate to nominate and approve Sally Slade Warner for Honorary Membership in the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America.

Enthusiastically submitted,
Andrea McCrady
Dominion Carillonneur, Ottawa, Canada

At its annual Congress in June 2009, the Board of Directors of the Guild recommended approval of this nomination to the general membership, which enthusiastically concurred.

A Tribute, by Andrea McCrady

On 4 December 2009, Sally Slade Warner succumbed to the ravages of breast cancer.  Although her diagnosis had been made nearly a decade earlier, and her health problems had multiplied in the past few years, her end came abruptly, leaving us unprepared for the loss of our dear colleague.

At the June 2009 GCNA congress at Longwood Gardens, Honorary GCNA membership was enthusiastically awarded to Sally.  The nomination letter [see above] was published in Carillon News, No. 82, November 2009, and provides a summary of Sally's fine career and superb musical contributions.

When Mary Kennedy notified me of Sally's acute decline at the end of November, I resolved to travel to Massachusetts to be with her, and sent out an e-mail about her critical situation.  Alas, Sally passed away before I could leave Ottawa.  However, in the weeks surrounding her death, messages of love and gratitude poured in.

Rather than compose a standard obituary, I have excerpted below many of the wonderful tributes to Sally, organizing them “geographically”, beginning in Andover and then radiating outward to North America and the globe.  Please forgive me if your message has been abbreviated or not included.  The expressions of love and respect could fill an entire volume of the Bulletin, if not more.

Farewell to my dear mentor, friend, and carillon conference “Roomie”.  We love and miss you, and your music and soul lives on!

Andrea McCrady

December 4, Andover, Massachusetts, Phillips Academy

At 2:31 pm we tolled the bourdon bell of the Samuel Lester Fuller Carillon at Andover.  We stood outside the Music Department and listened to that bell, which rang before Sally was born, and which Sally rang countless times as the Academy's carillonneur.  Then at about 2:45 some of us thought it would be nice to hear some "real music" from the carillon--a debatable proposition for those of you who know Sally's strong feelings about the computerized action that was installed in 2006.  She unaffectionately called it "RoboKlang".  A secret I can divulge now is that Sally's last time "playing" the Andover carillon was March 31, 2006, when I showed her the sad MIDI keyboard set up as a controller, the building still under re-construction.  She played a few pieces from sheet music, and I recorded the MIDI files for her to listen to afterward (we had no monitors inside the tower at the time).  She laughed and shook her head at the missed repeated notes--not her fault, but the electromagnets!  Still, she loved the sound of the new and expanded range of Eijsbouts bells.  So today we played those files for the campus.  Sally played a Medley of French Tunes, a Notule, and an upbeat March.  Then I, a singer and no pianist to speak of, played Amazing Grace from her music.  Although we know how strongly Sally felt the current carillon to be incomplete, and many of us agree with her, we felt very deeply moved to hear her play.  Her emotion, her expression and musicality still shined through an imperfect instrument--the mark of a truly gifted musician.  She will be sorely missed.

Warner's successor and friend, Music Librarian, Carl Johnson

From the memorial service at Trinity Church, Haverhill, 10 December

We've come here today, some would say ironically, to affirm in the face of Sally's death, this promise of life.  For Sally it was a promise she embraced, and one that she lived.  This faithful woman was a friend of God.  And God's life was lived out in her life in so very many ways.  Her love of beautiful music and the gift of making music that she received from and offered back to God were at the core of her being.  She loved God, and she also loved the church and its sacramental life.  But it was also her gift of friendship and relationship that stand out for so many of us here today.

Now we have to admit before we paint her only in these saintly terms that there was more than a little (what shall we say) impishness in Sally too.  It's what Chris Walter at Phillips Academy hinted at when he said that “she will be vividly remembered as one of the great characters of this institution.”  And what a CHARACTER she was!  That mischievous smile you got when you knew she was about to say something outrageous.  OR the bumper sticker on her car said it all - “old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill."

And opinions, yes, she had opinions!  And she wasn't afraid to let them be known.  I will never forget the lovely summer carillon concerts on the lawn at Phillips Academy back in the 1980s when I first got to know Sally.  Hearing her play that carillon will be for many the thing she is most remembered for.  But it's no secret what Sally thought about the reconstruction of the carillon tower earlier this decade.  “If there's an electrical connection - it's not real music!!”  She loved the intimacy of that connection between her hands and feet and that point of contact where the music was produced, whether on the organ or the carillon or any other instrument.  And with the carillon, I think, frankly, she really loved being part of an instrument that you could hear from 2 miles away.  People had to stop and take note of it!  Most of all, she loved knowing that it was appreciated.

Just think of all the many communities of which Sally has been a part in some significant way - Phillips Academy, St. John's Church on Bowdoin Street, St. Stephen's in Cohasset, the Wednesday morning community at Christ Church, Andover, the Society of Companions of the Holy Cross, and then there are the AGO and the Guild of Carillonneurs, and the Methuen Memorial Music Hall, all of which she was a part - and of course, the community right here at Trinity Church.  There's a sense in which we all feel like Sally is ours.  She belongs to us, because she gave herself to us.

The Rev. Jeffrey Shilling Gill

I have been anointed the organist for Sally's memorial service at Trinity, Haverhill, this Thursday morning.  It is a privilege to have this responsibility and an even greater privilege to have known Salicus.  Thanks to each of you for your contributions to this morning's memorial service.  I'd guesstimate that there were maybe 150 people present, including probably some 30 organists, some of whom are carillonneurs.  The service was a well-done Episcopal Church Rite II liturgy.  I played Sally's variations [Die Alder Soetste Jesus] on the organ, according to Jeff Davis' version with Sally's changes; the piece went over well, I think, as did the Sweelinck transcription that Gordon Slater sent me.

Dan McKinley, Organist & Choirmaster, Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church, Danvers, MA

A bunch of us were at Sally's funeral, and you've probably heard from some of the other participants already.  Thought I'd pass on that it was just the sort of service that she would have enjoyed, even the bits where the homilist offered a kind but candid assessment of Sally's - shall we say - tastes and opinions.  It's the first sermon where I've heard a priest say "RoboClang!"  Your performance to her on that Friday was also mentioned, and all present were gratified to hear of the connections she had with all the bell-ringers around the world.  We listened to her carillon arrangement on the organ, along with other selections she truly enjoyed, and all played lovingly by Dan McKinley.  The choir sang some of her favorite Advent anthems, and we the congregation sang over a half a dozen hymns - we all sang our hearts out, and I'm sure that would have been just what she wanted.  At the reception afterwards, Dan Kehoe remarked that there were so many different facets to Sally's life, and they were all represented there.  People were introducing themselves to each other by how they knew her, and you'd hear people say - Oh, Sally from Andover?  I knew her from Methuen!  Oh, I knew her from the organists' guild!  Another great tribute to a great woman.

Margaret Angelini

I attended Sally's service today and was moved to see and be part of the packed church full of friends from all of her many circles.  It was a beautiful service, ending with Londonderry Air on the bagpipes, which really got me, since her carillon arrangement of it was one of the first pieces I really bonded with as a carillonneur.  Though I haven't been in the carillon world for very long, I was truly privileged to get to know her and to be taken under her wing so enthusiastically when I moved to the Boston area.

Claire Halpert

The whole service turned out magnificently and the hymn-singing of all the musicians present was hair-raising!  Some non-musicians there commented that they had never experienced such a service before!

Carolyn Skelton

It goes without saying that she was a joy in my heart as much as with many of her friends and that she and her music will be greatly missed.  During this holiday season I have included many of her wonderful arrangements whenever I play the Bells of Norwood.  I feel so blessed to have known her both as a teacher and a friend.

Lee B. Leach

Recollections from New England and beyond

During her three decades as music librarian in the William B. Clift Music Library, Warner transformed a small collection — consisting in large part of “78s” — into one of the most extensive collections of its kind at any high school in the world.  “Sally embodied everything one could wish for in a music librarian: a passion for the subject; encyclopedic knowledge that ranged from early medieval chant to George Crumb; and perhaps above all, a piercing eye for exact detail,” says Chris Walter.  “Anyone who has looked at the old card catalog in Graves Hall will know that there is not a semicolon out of place.”

Phillips Academy obituary

I have known Sally for a good number of years during my 11 year tenure at Tower Records Music before they closed down for good on 12/31/2006.  As Music Dept. Sales Manager, I came to know Sally, then head of the music library at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.  Sally purchased most of the music CD's from our store, and always called ahead with a list to check on availability before she came to purchase.  We had long chats and conversations in music, and she gave me some samples of her carillon performances.  When she called she always greeted me with a big HELLO ALEX, where I would not confuse her with anyone else.  She also refused to talk to anyone else in the business, as they would not know what she is asking for.  She was great fun.

Alex Ghattas

Sally was a wonderful, supportive, kindly colleague at Phillips Academy, and an inspiring musician.  She was, believe it or not, a fun-loving competitive speller: every year the town of Andover runs an Adult Spelling Bee, with teams from local companies and schools, and Sally was our team captain.  It was a blast for everyone.  Early in my career I found her a gracious, solicitous housemate at a faculty residence called Kellogg House  The extraordinary collection of recorded music at Graves Hall is a testament to her curiosity and energy.  We'll miss those extended hours when she opened the Clift Collection to us after final faculty meetings and chatted so amiably with us about this and that, giving us suggestions about what music had just arrived.  If carillon music is, par excellence, music that carries over distances, hers will continue to travel marvelously, as her students and colleagues continue to go out into the world.

Greg Wilkin

Dear Sally — years ago you gave a carillon class at The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston which helped us to appreciate our new chime.  Afterwards you gave me a tremendous lesson at Philips Academy; you opened my thought about the role of the carillon in music, as performance art, and for public communication.  Your generous spirit has been an inspiration.  Thank you so much for everything.

Eliz Crowley

We met at the Ann Arbor Congress in 1978, literally 24 hours after I got my PhD and shortly after I had gotten the job at Fitchburg State.  You graciously invited me to play at Phillips Academy whenever I wanted.  I really appreciated your warmth and generosity very much.  It was nice we shared the "living in Fitchburg experience", as well.  So we have a long history together.  You have given us all a priceless gift of your musical ability and wisdom.  Your arrangements, recordings, wit and wisdom will live on.  I wonder what will happen when you join Marilyn Clark, Jim Smith, and other carillonneurs in heaven.  Since you won't have bodily limitations--do you get to do quartet carillon pieces instead of duets?  Even more than that, will we now have a heavenly carillon host?  You should think about organizing one when you get there, if Marilyn hasn't beaten you to it.

Lucy Duchéne

Do you remember sitting in the front seat of your Mercedes listening to my GCNA advancement tape and telling me to play this slower or that faster?  I don't think anyone else ever learned to play the carillon in the front seat of a Mercedes.  This explains my propensity to play with a German flair, finely tuned.

Dan and Allyson Kehoe

Sally and I passed our GCNA Exam the same year (1981ish?) -- playing at Ames, Iowa.  It was pouring down rain and gawd-awful hot, and the playing cabin was infested with wasps, but we both managed to fool the judges.  While Sally and I don't cross each other's paths all that often, whenever we do a good chuckle is enjoyed as we recall that day.

Steve Lawson

I play her arrangements all the time, especially Laura.  She's been such a great friend, advocate, and mentor to so many of us.  I fondly recall playing at Cohasset the summer before I left for my studies with Jacques Lannoy.  Sally was a gracious and welcoming host.

Robin Austin

Her Christmas arrangements continue to be the most often requested music in my repertoire.  I suspect about 1500 people heard her music last Saturday during the holiday ice skating show.  The Longwood Christmas CD, which contains so many of her wonderful arrangements, continues to be a popular item in the gift shop at the Gardens.

Lisa Lonie

Each year I perform at a Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie, Texas which is officially called "Scarborough Faire".  While most of my show is about playing the carillon with other instruments, I never fail to end that show with Sally's arrangement of Scarborough Faire which is always a highlight for many people at the festival.

Frank Della Penna

Sally is amongst my favorite people in the carillon world.  It was in her tower that I passed my exam.  It was she who invited me back to play a paid recital the next year.  It was she who took me and my wife and kids out to eat.  I model how I treat my guest recitalists on what she did for me.  I love her arrangements, and they please the people of Frederick often, and I hear about it.  "Wasn't that Castle on a Cloud from Les Mis that you played?  I loved it".  "Yes it was, and one of my best friends arranged it for carillon and gave me a copy, even though I'm a Yankees fan and she loves the Red Sox.  Isn't that something?"  I try to be like her, but I'm just not that good.  I'll keep trying.

John Widmann

We all hold Sally in highest esteem for her superb musicality, whether at the organ, carillon, or with pen in hand composing or arranging for the carillon.  And she gets the highest possible marks for being a true and loyal friend ... even one blessed with a delicious sense of humor!  God bless her!

Claire Halpert

I have so many happy memories of congresses with her, of the recitals she arranged for me through the years and the wonderful bells, good meals and great people I encountered as a result.  Hauling the music up in a bucket at Andover is unforgettable.  She taught Ferd and me to eat tiramisu!

Linda & Ferd Pointer, Clearwater, FL

We're remembering back to '83, when we first met at Berkeley, and all of the wonderful times since, especially Sally's congress, NEMLA, Book VII, all of her fine pieces and fine playing.  We felt very lucky to have her as a friend.

Roy and Jan Johnson

Sally, you know that you are one of the most loved persons in the GCNA.  Your high degree of musicianship, your wonderful sense of humor, and your perfectly-arranged pieces for the carillon are some of the reasons for this love and admiration.  It was a privilege of mine to be able to spend a bit of time with you in Oslo after your accident, and after Todd Fair had to leave.  Those memories of the WCF Congress and the many world and national congresses will stay with me and others for the rest of our lives.

John Courter

I met Sally 44 years ago, at one of Marilyn Mason's organ workshops at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  I remember very well a nice luncheon that was arranged for the workshop participants at the Michigan League, and I sat next to Sally.  Lots of good memories.

Rick Watson

To the Carillon Queen, whose enormous musical talent so generously shared has enriched all our lives: much love from your humble admirers!  Your music brightens every month of the year, but especially December, when your Christmastide hymns and carols can be played, and those wonderful arrangements of popular tunes (penned at the Mercedes dealerships) are enjoyed by all.

Jenny King, for myself as well as my "new" boss, Steven Ball

I have long appreciated the experience of serving alongside you on the examination committee years ago.  You've had some rough times, I know, both with your health over the years and some real disappointments regarding the Andover carillon.  Through it all, you've been a great trooper, and one we all respected!  Thank you, Sally, for your friendship, your enthusiasm, and your considerable musical contribution to the carillon field.

John Gouwens, fellow Gillett & Johnston advocate and prep school carillonneur

I first met Sally in 1987 at the Springfield, Illinois, GCNA congress, when she was a member of my advancement exam jury.  I remember well her kindness and encouragement at that time.  Interesting, and no coincidence, I'm sure, that her arrangements for carillon seem to have the same lovely, gentle tone that we all have seen in her interpersonal demeanor.  It is people like Sally who have made the GCNA a truly professional organization.

Claire Halpert

I have carried the glory of the Cohasset Congress, and her command over it, in my mind and heart ever since.  That congress let me know that I'd chosen a good and proper new thing to do.  I am very emotional about that congress and about Cohasset, and she is the foundation and soul of that emotion.  I told Sally in the summer that I left Cohasset in tears.  I felt so warm and amazed.  It was kind of a miracle event.

Dave Johnson

Dear Sally, I think you are the soul of the GCNA.  No matter how much members bickered, you could always pick us up to focus on good music and good cheer.  You brought us so much good music, concert after concert.  And you gave me one of the nicest compliments I've ever received:  “You made that carillon SING!” after I played a concert at Gloucester - your words, and your enthusiastic tone of your voice, will resonate with me forever.

Matthew Buechner

She has always been a hugely important part of my carillon life.  Not just in her wonderful music, but in her spirit and the example she always set.  She is the epitome of what a professional carillonneur should be!

Carol Jickling Lens

Sally, you will remain always in our hearts and in our musical expressions.  I will continue to play your many arrangements, with fond memories of all the times we were together.  You have been a pillar of our guild and an inspiration for generations to follow.  From your Stardust arrangement:

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we're apart
You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by.

Dennis Curry

When I first met Ron Barnes, he had a list of people I absolutely must meet.  And Sally was at the top of the list.  Ronald had a world of respect for Sally, her music, and her standards - and to know her as a friend and as a musician was a must and a very good thing.  I have always enjoyed her music, and was delighted to hear Milford play the Die Alder Soetste Jesus at the Texas regional.  That was one of the first pieces I learned at Berkeley, and it has over the years become affectionately known as "Sally's Piece" to some of us.  Much of the rest of her music has been a treasure, and will be forever appreciated.

John Agraz

What a profound influence you have had on me!  You served on my jury for the exams, and even passed me.  I found your playing so sensitive I wanted to know how you did it.  I love playing your arrangements and compositions, especially Die Alder Soetste Jesus.  I admire your in-depth knowledge of other music.  And I so much enjoy your company--your good humor, honesty, openness and faith.

Jeff Davis

She figures centrally in some of the best moments of my career, including my carillon recital trips to New England, the duet we played at Lake Wales, my three organ recitals at Methuen, and I could rave on.  She is on my mind constantly.

David R. Hunsberger

I haven't seen her for years and years ... probably not since the congresses of the late 70's, early 80's.  I met her through Bill DeTurk, my teacher.  I love playing Sally's arrangements of Handel's Chorus and March (from Judas Maccabaeus), La Palmoa, and some others.  Sally has a wonderful hand with arranging, and I always feel some inspiration when I play her music.

Rick Breitenbecher, Crystal Cathedral

Dear Sal, one of God's rare angels while on this planet with us.

Bud Slater

In some old correspondence we discovered a list of ribald anagrams that she created from the names of carillonneurs.  So expert was she at word games that the anagrams doubtless flowed from her pen in a torrent.  But when we tried the same thing we had to resort to using Scrabble letters to make our anagrams.  With love,

Stella Arse & Dale R. Frogsnot
(Elsa Slater & Gordon F. Slater)

She was a special person to me and I love her passion and her generosity.  Seeing her last summer was ever so special, as it had been so long since we had been together.

Daphne Price McCree

We often think of her as we play her lovely arrangements on our carillons, especially at Sydney University.  I remember well our first meeting at Lake Wales in 1978, and then again at Oslo.

Jill Forrest

The three of us down under are thinking of you and remembering some lovely times spent with you.  The first time we met was at North Andover, where you came to pick us up for our recital at Methuen.  We remember sitting down with you in the Friendly restaurant across the road and having ice cream together.  Then there were the fun GCNA times, and the wonderful time we had at Cohasset a few years ago.  What hilarity you've brought to each occasion!  I will always think of you and your "Rattle Ma Battle Ax" joke, especially whenever I hear or see those musicians!  You will never be forgotten.

Amy Johansen, Robert Ampt and Emily Ampt

She helped us move to another house in Bruges in that time (I think it was 1984).  Also at her historic concert in Izegem she had to deal with a staircase so difficult and small!  Here those memories are not forgotten!  And, of course: her arrangements are also standard repertoire here in Bruges.

Frank Deleu

We will always remember her warm heart towards the carillon world in Belgium and especially Mechelen, where we met her as young carillon students early ‘80ies.  She managed to brighten our visit in Cohasset on the rainy days, not so many years ago.  She will be always in our heart when bells are ringing.

Marc Van Eyck

We had the pleasure of getting to know Sally for the first time when she stayed with us at the Belfry while visiting Bruges and its famous carillon.  She and our parents seemed to get along with each other very much.  We have vivid memories of her lively discussions with our father about all kinds of aspects with regard to the carillon and its music, but she also showed great interest in what we did and could easily turn to our level of experience as teenagers and adolescents.  She stimulated us in what we did and when she could, she even tried to help us, especially in our interest in music; and the (correct use of the) English language got her approval.  When she came to Bruges some years later when father had retired, we had been married in the mean time.  But she insisted on seeing us again and even visited my sister in hospital who had just given birth to a son.  We will always remember her as a lively, enthusiastic and warm-hearted personality.

Bruno, Marleen and Herlinde Uten, children of
Eugeen Uten, chief carillonneur of Bruges, 1949 - 1984

Obituary and other tributes

Full obituary from Phillips Academy
Tributes compiled by the Merrimack Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (AGO).