Charles Dodsley Walker
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1920 - 2015

Charles Dodsley Walker (March 16,1920 - January 17, 2015)

Charles Dodsley Walker's musical talent was clear early on: as a youngster in New York City, he sang in the boys choir at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine where he also studied organ. After his first performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion when he was ten, he decided to be a church musician. He never wavered from this decision.

At age seventeen, when a freshman at Trinity College in Connecticut, he secured his first job as a choir director in a nearby church. After serving with distinction in the U. S. Navy in World War II, Walker received his Masters degree in music from Harvard University in 1947. Soon thereafter, Walker was made organist at the American Cathedral in Paris where he met and married American soprano Janet Hayes.

Back in New York City by 1950, Walker became organist and choir master at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, remaining there until 1988. In 1952, Walker founded the Canterbury Choral Society, initially an offshoot of the Heavenly Rest music program; Canterbury's unprecedented purpose was to present sacred choral music as originally scored for orchestra with a full volunteer chorus, professional soloists and orchestra, and children's choruses. Over sixty-three years, Canterbury has performed major as well as less well known works by more than ninety composers from the fourteenth through the twentieth centuries; Canterbury established for New York audiences high standards of excellence in a new form of choral performance.

With his wife Janet, who founded the York Theatre Company in 1969, Walker was at the center of overlapping circles of American musical and cultural life. For thirty-five years, Walker was musical director of the Blue Hill Troupe, conducting all thirteen Gilbert and Sullivan operettas many times over. In addition, in 1982, Walker co-founded the Berkshire Choral Festival and remained associated with it for eighteen years.

An influential educator, Walker chaired the Music Department at The Chapin School for twenty-four years and served as Organist at the Lake Delaware Boys' Camp from 1940 to 1990. He taught organ and choral conducting at New York University, Manhattan College of Music, S.U.N.Y.-Queens College and Union Theological Seminary. In many leadership roles, including the presidency, in the American Guild of Organists, Walker significantly expanded the organization's national influence and effectiveness; he had been a member since 1937.

After Janet Walker's death in 1997, Walker married Elizabeth Phillips in 2001. Throughout, he continued his demanding work as a church musician, at Trinity Church in Southport, Connecticut and then at St. Luke's Parish in Darien, as well as his vigorous leadership of the Canterbury Choral Society.

Survived by his wife Lise Phillips Walker, daughter Susan Starr Walker, son Peter Hayes Walker and three grandchildren, Charles Dodsley Walker is remembered not just for his wide-ranging professional accomplishments but for his elegant energy, gracious optimism and generous intellect, his convivial, quick wit, and his capacity to enable us all to find the best within ourselves.

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Published in New York Times from Jan. 22 to Jan. 23, 2015.
Memories & Condolences
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63 entries
July 13, 2015
"Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontem..."
I was so sorry to learn quite belatedly! of Charlie's death. His influence on my growth as a church singer was profound; he knew so much about liturgical music tradition. I'll fondly remember Charlie's brilliant improvisations and especially his outrageous rendition of "Onward, Christian Soldiers" (in which he jumped from one tonality to another and included every kind of cadence and musical cliché possible). Such a combination of personality, warmth, talent, humor, and intelligence wrapped up in one man is unlikely to be surpassed! My heart goes out to Charlie's children and to his dear Lise. I will always treasure my memories of Charlie!
Jan (Mrs. Buck) Northcutt
May 21, 2015
Rest in Peace
Steven Schrager
March 30, 2015
Charlie was probably the most kind, professional, and dedicated conductors I've had the pleasure of singing for. I was a ringer in his choir since 2006 and the repertoire he selected was a singer's joy. His wry sense of humor and joy in what he did was infectious and made choir a happy experience.
Thomas Mooney
March 27, 2015
I didn't know Charlie for too long, since I only had the time to sing one term with Canterbury, but his energy and passion really shown through and touched how I've approached music and life since. I'm thankful to have experienced his joy for the short time I did and am saddened that that time has passed and others will not get to first hand, as well.
Liz Denys
March 21, 2015
I first met Charlie in 1970 and, over the years, not only did we become great friends but he also served as GrandGodfather to my daughter Laura.

Charlie was the hardest-working person I knew; yet was always upbeat. His daily schedule was full from morning 'til night but, when you were with him, you felt he had all the time in the world just for you.

Charlie was always modest about his musical abilities even though he was a world-class master of improvisation at an organ console. At our annual caroling party, I was always impressed by his ability to play any carol in any key best suited to our vocal range. A virtuoso on any keyboard, if no piano were available, he'd dazzle you with his accordion.

While Charlie is best remembered for conducting great choral masterpieces, he had a wonderful aense of humor. At rehearsals, he always had amusing anecdotes about the great composers. He also loved bawdy limericks and, if coaxed, would play an hysterical off-key version of "Onward, Christian soldiers".

In sum, I remember Charlie as a most kind and humble man whose charm and outgoing nature brought joy to the lives of all those he touched. I miss him terribly but the angels are lucky to have him.
Cyrus Brown
March 20, 2015
As I anticipate attending Charlie Walker's memorial service in NYC tomorrow with my family, I am filled with gratitude and awe for the huge positive impact that he had on my children and our family at Trinity Church, Southport, CT. He is directly responsible for fostering my children's (Grant and Hanna) deep love of music from the ages of six and four until they left for college. He was an elegant, kind and gracious man and taught them much beyond the music that they so love still and always will.
Susan Glidden
March 16, 2015
Today would have been Charlie's 95th Birthday. I will miss the email exchange we would have enjoyed today. I am sure the occasion will be appropriately celebrated with him conducting a heavenly choir performing his favorite works.
Bruce Morgan Casner
February 21, 2015
Like so many others, my introduction to singing was at Chapin with Mr Walker and his gift to me was a life long love and appreciation of choral music. How thankful we are to have spent those years with him, to have been influenced by his energy and passion. Thank you!
Mary Bell
February 17, 2015
Captain Charles Dodsley Walker. I am an alumni of Lake Delaware Boys Camp (LDBC) and he was our choir director every summer. The memories I have of this kind gentleman sharing his weekends with 100 boys to prepare us for Sunday worship music have lasted a lifetime. I learned to appreciate music and to continue to seek out choral opportunities. Thank Captain for inspiring so many young men. We were blessed to learn from such an extraordinary person. My thoughts and prayers to out to his family.
February 15, 2015
Not a single Thanksgiving goes by without remembering how Mr. Walker taught us to enunciate the "d" in mind and kind when singing "Let us with a gladsome mind...". Mr. Walker was part of something really special about Chapin.
Pia Vartiainen Gundersen
February 11, 2015
I have such wonderful memories of Mr. Walker. He and Mr. Schrade are integral parts of every memory I have of beautiful Chapin celebrations and traditions. I am so sorry for your loss and please know that he is one of those people who really left a mark on so many. I will miss him.
Jenny Gottlieb Shevick
February 8, 2015
The Schrade family mourns with you and sends love, dear family of Charles Dodsley Walker, beloved choral leader and colleague of my father Robert Schrade for decades. The choirs in heaven are going to sound wonderful indeed. With love, Rorianne
Rorianne Schrade
February 8, 2015
A wonderful teacher. He only lost his temper with us occasionally, and then memorably and effectively. Great memories.
Hildy McCarthy
February 7, 2015
Requiescat in pacem Mr. Walker, while your legacy lives on. You blessed us all with your dignity and passion. Now I can picture you conducting a choir of angels.

As you taught us to sing (in harmony, of course!),

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious unto you.

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.

Many thanks for touching all our lives so graciously.
Amity Hume Grimes (Chapin '78)
February 7, 2015
I remember Mr. Walker with such love and gratitude. singing at Chapin was one of my greatest joys. I was Samuel the pirate in the Pirates of Penzance, a favorite memory, and without his support and guidance, I would not have followed music into Smith College and eventually to meeting my husband of now 37 years who sang with Smith's Glee Club at Lehigh. Mr. Walker was just wonderful. My condolences.
Abigail Marsters
February 6, 2015
Mr. Walker was a legend at Chapin. His passion for music and teaching was a tour de force. Even those of us who weren't as serious about music at the time could never walk away from singing with his conducting without have a deep reverence for the songs and their meaning. In fact he was instrumental in imprinting the music of my soul. I'm sure the choirs of Heaven were awaiting his entry to join in. Thank you Mr. Walker.
Cynthia Burr Larson Chapin 1973
February 6, 2015
Mr Walker brought visions of La Traviata to the small music room. I love that opera and always think of him.
Katherine King
February 6, 2015
i will always remember Mr Walker and his bringing to life music for me - Susan and family my thoughts are with you in this difficult time - Mr Walker will be remembered and loved by many forever
vivienne halpern
February 5, 2015
I will never forget Mr. Walker's positive energy and encouragement even when directing tone-deaf students like me at Chapin. Many regards to the family for sharing him with us.
Stacey Ingram
February 5, 2015
To this day I can't sing the hymn "Let us with a gladsome mind" without thinking of Mr. Walker. He exhorted us as we rehearsed for the Chapin Thanksgiving Prayers that it was Let Us not Lettuce!! We were not singing about a salad he would exclaim. What a wonderful man and what an impact he had even on those of us who were not overly musically gifted! With sympathy,
Elizabeth Paxton (Chapin '73)
February 5, 2015
One of my strongest and fondest memories of my twelve years at Chapin was the brilliant music Charles Walker helped create. What a gift he gave Chapin and each one of us who studied under him. God Bless you and thank you Charles! You will remain in our hearts forever. My condolences to the family.
Courtney Pyles Kahn
February 5, 2015
Mr Walker was a beloved teacher at Chapin. Even the least musical among us (me), recognized from the earliest grades how extraordinarily fortunate we were to have him begin our day with Brahms during prayers, develop our taste with beautifully chosen choral pieces, and infect us all with his enormous enthusiasm for music. Gaudeamus!
Katie Cliff
February 5, 2015
I was SO sorry to hear about Mr Walker. He was a great inspiration, musical director and teacher. He made me hear music in a completely different way and taught me to be passionate about all genres of music. I sang in so many different famous venues under Mr Walker. He was an amazing musician and a superb influence. He will be greatly missed. I and my family would like to extend our sympathies to the Walker family. In sympathy and with best regards, Julie Webster Barclay (Chapin '76)
JHW Barclay
February 5, 2015
I sang in the Heavenly Rest children's choir starting at age 6 and in Madrigals at Chapin as a teenager; my aunt was a member of "his sisters and his cousins and his aunts" with the Blue Hill Troupe. I think I saw Mr. Walker seven days a week for most of my childhood. He was an indefatigable and immensely kind teacher--the kind whom you think of as a friend decades after you move away. Even when we made him lose his temper, he didn't lose his sense of humor. Having seen what passed for music instruction as my children grew up, I started to realize how fortunate those of us who were exposed to music by Mr. Walker were. "Old man Noah knew a thing or two--he was a grand old man." Mr. Walker slipped in exposure to syncopation, harmony, Schubert songs, you name it, without our even realizing what hit us.
February 5, 2015
Whether he was asking us to close our eyes and listen to Stravinsky's Petroushka inside one of the small music rooms at Chapin, begging us not to get into shenanigans on one of our many choral club journeys to a boys' school somewhere in the area, or helping us learn all the parts to every Gilbert and Sullivan opera, Mr. Walker was encouraging us to sing, lift our hearts, and make music a dear part of our lives. He was a great gift as a teacher and friend. Without him I doubt I would have enjoyed singing as much as I still do to this day. We were--so many of us--touched by his legacy whether at Chapin, where he taught for a time; at Church of the Heavenly Rest (and a concert or two at Avery Fisher Hall to boot); or via the Blue Hill Troupe. He was a master with a wonderful laugh (and scowl) and together he and his wife Janet (my drama teacher) touched me deeply. I miss him and cherish his memory.
February 5, 2015
Mr. Walker inspired me so much at Chapin School, where I sang in the Choral Club, a Gilbert and Sullivan production, and a madrigal group. I even joined the Choir at Heavenly Rest, my senior year, at his encouragement. His warmth and passion for music, his humor and joie de vivre were infectious!
We remained friends over all these years and I would return to NYC to hear the Canterbury Choral Society perform, sing in the "Messiah." I saw him last when he recently conducted a large orchestra and multiple choral groups at Carnegie Hall in his 90's!! Ah, he aged with such good grace!! At Christmas, I sent him a card and long note about how much I appreciated and loved him. What an amazing man! I imagine him laughing, playing music, conducting and teaching others too, so excited to see what is beyond! Farewell and thank you!!!!!!
Olivia Henry
February 5, 2015
Mr. Walker was my most consistent teacher at Chapin as he was always part of my curriculum. Music was a relief from the academic day and he exuded certain impish happiness as he beckoned your attention with his talking hands, feet lifting off the floor. From the lower school Christmas pageant; middle school small part in a Gilbert and Sullivan to upper school Choral Club; performances at Carnegie Hall and morning prayers on the stage dressed in our boleros; it was Mr. Walker that was the constant thread of encouragement. All you needed was the willingness to show up. I read with awe his amazing accomplishments and send his family my condolences for loosing such a musical wizard who touched so many lives.
Helen Frech Kippax
February 5, 2015
Mr. Walker was my most consistent teacher at Chapin as he was always part of my curriculum. Music was a relief from the academic day and he exuded certain impish happiness as he beckoned your attention with his talking hands, feet lifting off the floor. From the lower school Christmas pageant; middle school small part in a Gilbert and Sullivan to upper school Choral Club; performances at Carnegie Hall and morning prayers on the stage dressed in our boleros; it was Mr. Walker that was the constant thread of encouragement. All you needed was the willingness to show up. I read with awe his amazing accomplishments and send his family my condolences for loosing such a musical wizard who touched so many lives.
Helen Frech Kippax'72
February 5, 2015
Mr Walker was a superb influence, an excellent teacher, mentor and musician and taught me so very much about music when I was at Chapin. I loved singing for him. He made it such a joy. I wish Mr Walker's family our deepest sympathies and hope they know he will always be in the hearts of the people who sang for him.
With sympathy, Julie Webster Barclay '76
February 5, 2015
I fondly remember Mr. Walker from my days as a student at The Chapin School. A smile comes to mind each time I remember the drills and musical pieces he taught our class. As my children have begun their own musical journey, I have shared with them some of what he taught me as a child. He will not soon be forgotten.
Markita Rogers
February 5, 2015
michael hom
February 5, 2015
A wonderful teacher of music who made a tremendous impact on his students.
Darcy Kelley
February 4, 2015
Charles Walker was a critical influence and inspiration in Lindsey's life from childhood when she sang with him at Trinity Church in Southport to young adulthood. Our gratitude goes to him, and our sympathy to the family.
Marcia, Bill and Lindsey Eckerd
February 2, 2015
Charlie was our incredible Choral Group leader when I and legions of other singers over the years sang with him at Chapin, and later in Canterbury. He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered always, and I send my deepest condolences to Lisa, a dear personal friend over many years, as well as to his entire family at this time. Heidi Kesseler
Heidi Kesseler
January 30, 2015
Mr. Walker was my music teacher when I was a primary school student at the Kew-Forest School during the 1950s. I remember him very fondly.
Terry Assael
January 29, 2015
I was fortunate to have had Mr. Walker as my music teacher during the time he was on the Faculty of the Kew-Forest School in Forest Hills. While patiently putting up with my antics and those of my classmates, he gently inculcated in each of us a genuine appreciation of music and its elments.
When he left K-F at in 1961, it was clear that no one could even begin to fill his shoes.
I was honored to reconnect with him when he returned to the school to be honored as a member of the faculty Hall of Fame in 2005. He was genuinely flattered when I asked him to sign my score of "The Gondoliers" and told him that he was responsible for my love of Gilbert & Sullivan, started by him in Third Grade, that had persisted into my adulthood.
From that time forward, I enjoyed an annual Birthday correspondence with him, in which he insisted that I call him "Charlie." I did so, but only with great difficulty.
The musical world has lost a titan. He was scholar, teacher, performer, and conductor of the highest order; and an inspiration to all who were fortunate enough to have been touched by his considerable gifts and winning petrsonality. I am honored to have known him.
Go to your well-deserved rest, Charlie!
Bruce Morgan Casner
January 28, 2015
My son Nathaniel was lucky enough to be in the Trinity Church (Southport)children's choir under Charlie, and the experience was instrumental in developing his character and life purpose. He loved singing at Carnegie Hall with the Canterbury group under Charlie's direction. To this day, Nathaniel counts Charlie among his biggest -- and most ennobling -- influences. How blessed we are.
John Morgan
January 28, 2015
As a member of The Canterbury Choral Society, I will always remember Charlie for superb direction, his kindness, & his integrity. I will miss you Charlie.
Gail Baker
January 28, 2015
I will always fondly remember your effervescent personality, your love of music and your gift for teaching Charles Dodsley Walker ! Trinity Church was blessed with your presence ~
Lois Anne Santariga
January 28, 2015
One of the greatest joys of my life was singing in Canterbury Choral Society. Charlie was a warm loving man and a musical genius. My condolences to the Walker family. He will be sorely missed by all.
Bobbie Munger
January 26, 2015
Two days before I heard of his passing, I was reminiscing about him to a dear friend. I said "I must write him a letter to say, again, how important he is to me, musically, and as a generous man; a man whose genius is how he acknowledged us, and our voices with which he debuted a piece by Randall Thomson (and other composers), channeled J.S.Bach, it seemed, and wove us through Purcell, Mozart, and the entire history of western choral music."
Some of us would not have made it through high school, at Chapin in NYC had it not been for Mr Walker, our Music Director.

Of so many cherished examples of the musical magic he gave to us, his voice raw material, his instant composing every morning, of a choral 'Amen' to be sung by whomever showed up on the stage ten minutes before prayers- about a dozen of us, sometimes fewer- gave me more than the perspective I needed to face my Latin translation, it was a musical initiation unlike any other. I think he said he made up these mini compositions in his head while driving to school. First he played the lovely few stanzas on the piano, then sang us our individual parts, which we sang back to him, then all together once, and the entire student body would enter the Auditorium. Mrs Berendsen would arrive at the podium in the middle of the singers and address the school. About 15 minutes later, after the Lord's Prayer, we sang. To this day I can remember anything!

I wanted to tell Mr. Walker about my Ancestor John Blow, who was organist at Westminster Abbey; Henry Purcell was his student in the 1670's. To me, Mr. Walker embodied such resonance, he had to have been there at that time and place. Why not? I think he would have given me a wink; though I had tears rolling from my eyes as I told these things to my dear friend. The next day one of my sister 'Amen' singers from Chapin messaged me on facebook that Mr. Walker had died.

I know I share my grief and joy with thousands of others whose lives were blessed by Mr Walker. I send my condolences and thanks to His wife and daughter and to friends, colleagues, musicians and members of the chorus wherever you are.

Adele Alsop
Castle Valley, Utah
Adele Alsop
January 26, 2015
What a man. What a loss. What a gift to have known and worked with him at Canterbury!
Bob Jones
January 25, 2015
When I was 12, he taught us "dancing in the dappled shade" then Mozart and Handel and G&S and Pergolesi and lieder and so much more. More than 50 years later, the music still dances in my head every day. Thank you CDW, for such an immeasurable gift.
January 25, 2015
A truly genuine person and consummate professional. Enriched the lives of those who knew him.
January 24, 2015
The passing of a true legend! Somehow, I look back fondly on the three-hour Saturday morning choir rehearsals at Lake Delaware Boys Camp; still smelling Brasso and wood polish in St. Joseph's Chapel while we rehearsed scales, arpeggios, fugues, and descants. During my eight years at camp and throughout the years since graduating in 1980, hymns resound in my head. I was also fortunate to sing with the Canterbury Choral Society from 1980-1987. I am so grateful to have reunited with "Captain" Walker at LDBC's 100th Anniversary in 2009. RIP Charles Dodsley Walker.
January 24, 2015
Truly one of the greats of our profession.
Rick Garven
January 24, 2015

Man, that's gonna be SOME choir up in Heaven!


Martha Magee
January 23, 2015
CCS meant so much for so long. It is hard to walk around the Upper East Side, where I rehearsed with Charlie and the group so many, many times, over so many years, and try to believe that he is really no longer with us. How much he gave to so many of us.
Dorothy Hughes
January 23, 2015
I met Mr Walker when I was 10 years old, many years ago at Lake Delaware Boys Camp, he was a great choir director and role model for many people. My prayers go out to his family and may he rest in peace.
james smith
January 23, 2015
RIP Charlie. One of the greats.
Holly Wheeler
January 23, 2015
There simply are no words to express the loss of this great person. I will keep him in my mind and dedicate all musical endeavors to his memory.
Mark Rubin
January 23, 2015
I have known Charlie Walker since 1966, when I joined the Canterbury Choral Society. Still a singing member, I have never known anyone to surpass Charlie's sensitivity, integrity, humor, and energy. I am happy to know that his legacy will be preserved for years to come.
Barbara Higgins
January 23, 2015
Rehearsing and performing with CDW would uplift me and give me strength for the week, even when I was grieving for the loss of loved ones!!!! I am so grateful to have been a singer in Canterbury, and am only sorry that I didn't join even earlier in my life. Judith Ackerman
January 23, 2015
I studied organ with Mr. Walker in the late 70's as a graduate student at NYU. I was incredibly moved by his generosity, his kind loving spirit and his wide ranging musical intellect. I've often thought of Charles as I have worked with my own students over the years.
Ron Berresford
January 22, 2015
He was such a vibrant and energetic soul with such a love of music and people. I will always have fond memories of him at Trinity,
phyllis kaschub
January 22, 2015
I first met Charles Dodsley Walker when he came back to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to conduct the Alumni Choir at the annual service. I was myself a choirboy then, and he remained a friend and mentor for 50 years or more. New York's musical community is poorer for his loss.
January 22, 2015
My Uncle Charlie was a wonderfully brilliant and talented man. I enjoyed the times we spent together and he will be remembered with love.
Jo Toscano
January 22, 2015
His work with children was simply one of the many little-recognized parts of his life, but it inspired my grandchildren to further their musical dreams.
Bill Bosies
January 22, 2015
Such great influence in my later life. Charlie was living proof of true dedication, and unwavering faith. His infectious personality, and personal connection brought out the best of everyone with whom he came in contact. He will be a beacon of bright light wherever I go, to my final days.
Rob currier
January 22, 2015
His Life and dedication and talents were an inspiration to all and especially Canterbury .He will be missed and especially I will miss him for his goodness to us as a great leader and Conductor.Christina Lyon
Christina Lyon Soprano 1
christina Lyon
January 22, 2015
Our thoughts and Prayers are with Lisa and Family. Charlie was such a wonderful person.
Sarah Moden-Allistin
January 22, 2015
Such a gracious and wonderful gentleman and always an impeccable musician and conductor. I will miss him.
Thomas Mooney
January 22, 2015
The photo of C har;ie Walker exemplifies his joyful spirit and keen appreciation of all performers, even those easily unnoticed by audiences, as he energetically points to a balcony soprano at the conclusion of Mahler's 8th Symphony at Carnegie Hall. How iconic. His passing creates an eternal void void
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