Wilbur Held, 100 years old

Organist Wilbur Held is 100 years old.

Organist Wilbur Held is 100 years old.

Chances are, most people in the pew have not heard the name Wilbur Held (b. 1914) but if anyone has come to any services I’ve played, the odds are pretty good that he or she has heard his music. That’s because as a composer, he has written a ton of organ music which is used widely in churches all over the country. I especially cannot remember a Christmas season in which I didn’t play his music.

Members of the Los Angeles Chapter American Guild of Organists honored Wilbur Held last weekend.

Members of the Los Angeles Chapter American Guild of Organists honored Wilbur Held last weekend.

Plaque given to Wilbur Held on his 100th birthday.

Plaque given to Wilbur Held on his 100th birthday.

Wilbur Held did indeed have his 100th birthday on August 20th, and people are still celebrating. His mother was an accomplished violinist and he apparently took piano lessons, but didn’t get serious about music until after he graduated from high school. He received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, and became Professor of Organ and Church Music at Ohio State University for over 30 years, and organist-choirmaster of Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus, OH for most of that time.

I just went back and re-read my post, “Performing in the golden years”  and you’ll read that Wilbur Held even made it to Hawaii, where we had a lovely dinner with him and his wife, Virginia (who is now deceased). You’ll read that my Maui organ student, Clay Logue, played some of Wilbur Held’s music in the service at Holy Innocents Episcopal and it happened that last April 2013 one of the church’s visitors was in fact a parishioner in the church in which Wilbur Held still plays! He was thrilled to learn that Wilbur Held’s music was played in Maui!

I remember Carl and I took the Helds to see the Beckerath organ at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu when they visited Hawaii. I had a lot of nerve in those days (well, don’t I still!) and I remember I played a lot of music (mostly Bach) for them which I had not practiced in years! Egad!

On FaceBook, Agnes Armstrong commented that she loves his music and will always remembering telling him that, to which he coyly replied, “Well, I guess you don’t like to practice much, do you?” Somewhere I read that he wrote mostly easy organ music because there was a dearth of it when he started composing, and he wanted to give his adult students something easy to play. In fact, just now I recall that one of Wilbur Held’s students was Cancy Hanley! (She was also one of Carl Crosier’s organ students.)

UPDATE: The death of Wilbur Held was announced on March 24, 2015. Please see his obituary on the MorningstarMusic website:



About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
This entry was posted in Carl Crosier and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Wilbur Held, 100 years old

  1. Is Wilbur Held from Columbus OH?

    There was a Wilbur Held that lived a few houses up from me was I was young – they had a son (John) my age

    • Yes, Wilbur Held lived in Columbus, OH where in 1964 he joined the faculty at Ohio State University, where he became Professor of Organ and Church Music and head of the keyboard department. He remained in this position for over 30 years, and for most of that time was also organist-choirmaster at Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus, OH.

      • Wow Thank you!

        I have a LOT of great memories of my friend John Held. (I lost touch with him ages ago)

        And the Pipe Organ they had in their house must have been one of the largest private ones I have ever seen or heard of.

        I loved to listen to it.

        If anyone here still sees him Please tell Him Charlie Alexander said hello
        My Folks knew him well also – Frank and Martha Alexander.

        Not sure if he will remember that long ago though!

        • Tom Cook says:


          That organ that was in Dr. Held’s house on Oakland Park is now the echo antiphonal organ in the balcony of Broad Street United Methodist Church in downtown Columbus.

      • Tom Cook says:

        I studied with Dr. Held (1968-1972). He was on the faculty at OSU from 1946-1977.

  2. Please read this link from the Morningstar Music website on the death of Wilbur Held: http://www.morningstarmusic.com/composers/h/held/remembering-wilbur-held

  3. Charlie Alexander says:

    Thank you (again) for that info.

    As I mentioned I have a lot of fond memories of Wilbur (And John his son) – He also had a daughter – but been to long I forget her name.

  4. Richard Heller says:

    Before going to Ohio, Wilbur Held lived in Des Plaines, IL. He was the same age and good friends with my mother. He remained good friends with both of my parents until they died about 10 years ago. He often returned to Des Plaines to visit and play at the First Congregational Church there.

  5. Miriam Hamilton says:

    I am Wilbur’s sister. I passed on information to Jon Held last Sunday at the memorial. I also knew the Hellers, Bill and Doris. They visited me in Palm Springs a few years ago. They used to come over on Sundays in Des Plaines when I was a young girl and play trios with my mother and Wilbur on Sunday afternoons.

  6. Patricia Preston Berger says:

    I’ve enjoyed everyone’s comments! I studied organ with Wilbur at OSU 1960-64, played my senior recital at Trinity Episcopal Church, and have continued for 51 years to serve as a church organist. He was always so encouraging and positive with his students — thank you, dear Wilbur, for being such a special person! Our earthly loss is heaven’s gain; can you imagine him at the console directing a choir of angels?!

  7. Jonathan Held says:

    He was a wonderful father to me and my sister Linda. Tom, nice to know that the organ is now being played at Broad Street United Methodist Church in downtown Columbus. Directing a choir of angels including my mother Virginia and still composing would be good. Jonathan Held

  8. Joanna McGinn says:

    Loved your tribute to Wilbur Held. Our organist, Dr. Paul Hesselink was, I believe a student of his and then a life-long friend.

    At Christ Church Episcopal, Las Vegas, there isn’t a month that goes by that we don’t hear a Wilbur Held melody. The dates closest to his birthdate and now his birth in Heaven, Dr. Hesselink plays an ‘all Held’ ‘program’, i.e. prelude, postlude and offertory while the choir takes Communion… and program notes are included in the order of worship.

    If you find and post Held’s NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD, it would be deeply appreciated. I can’t persuade Paul to record it much less post it…. perhaps one day but it hasn’t happened yet. The only one of Dr. Hesselink on our fairly new Schantz 54 rank is this YouTube that some visitor managed to get.
    and Ty Woodward

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *