A study of the organ solo and ensemble works of Curtis Curtis-Smith

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Performance

First Committee Member

Kenon Renfrow - Committee Chair


This study documents the life of C. Curtis-Smith and examines his contributions as a composer to both the solo and chamber music literature for the organ. Four major compositions by Curtis-Smith (b. 1941) are examined: Masquerades for solo organ (commissioned by William Albright, who premiered the work at the 1978 Seattle AGO National Convention); Variations on "Amazing Grace" (1983) for solo organ; The Mystic Trumpeter (1991), a setting of the poem of the same title by Walt Whitman for baritone, men's chorus, trumpet, chimes, glockenspiel, and organ; and Masques d'Afrique (commissioned for the 1998 Denver AGO National Convention) for organ, trumpet, and two percussionists. In addition, two miscellaneous works for solo organ, Gargoyles (1978) and On a Ground by Henry Purcell (1978), are also examined.The essay opens with an introductory chapter that briefly documents the substantial accomplishments of Curtis-Smith as a composer, and presents the significance of these four major compositions that employ the organ. A second chapter is devoted to chronicling his life and musical career thus far. Separate chapters are devoted to a formal analysis of each of the four major compositions, and one chapter to the two miscellaneous works. A final chapter examines pedagogical concerns and performance challenges of the six compositions for the organist. The methodology includes written interviews of the composer and of organist Karel Paukert, who premiered The Mystic Trumpeter. These interviews are included as appendices to the essay. Another appendix provides a selected listing of the compositions of Curtis-Smith. Two additional appendices present two essays by Curtis-Smith: a collection of thoughts about his compositional process and philosophy, and a second that is a collection of quotes by various writers about composition and musical expression that he references in his responses to the interview questions.The author performed Masquerades on November 19, 2000, and performed a recital of Curtis-Smith works including Variations on 'Amazing Grace,' On a Ground by Henry Purcell, Masques d'Afrique , and The Mystic Trumpeter on April 1, 2001.


Biography; Music

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