“Music – a profession, or possession? No, it is not a profession. You cannot ‘profess’ music any more than you can “profess” sunlight, or gold, for music is a great and moving power, which in its own time and under its own laws takes possession of you.” – Rollin M. Pease
Sixty years ago to the date, we lost Brother Rollin Malbone Pease, the “Father” of our Ritual.
Brother Pease was a nationally acclaimed bass-baritone soloist in oratorios and opera. He appeared as a soloist with the principal symphony orchestras and all of the major choral societies throughout the United States, including the New York, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Saint Louis Symphonies, and the Washington D. C. Opera Company. He created the dramatic portrayal of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, which brought him wide acclaim through more than four hundred performances. He also appeared in over three hundred performances of Handel’s Messiah.
Rollin was one of the great voice teachers of the United States. He taught at Fort Worth University (now Texas Wesleyan) and Southwestern Normal School at Weatherford, and from 1913 to 1917, he was a member of the voice faculty at the University of Minnesota. He held a similar position at Northwestern University from 1917 to 1924. After his most active period of performing (1921-1931), he became head of the University of Arizona voice department from 1931 to 1956, where he had much to do with the development of the School of Music and the entire College of Fine Arts. He was also a director of many church choirs and had many compositions published throughout his life.
Brother Pease was an active leader of the Sinfonia Fraternity for many years. He was initiated in 1917 by Iota Chapter at Northwestern University. As President of Iota Chapter, Pease delivered the welcome address to the 1919 Sinfonia National Convention in Evanston. Pease was Supreme Historian from 1922 to 1932 and was a leading force in the Fraternity into the 1950s.
Pease was known in Fraternity circles as the “Father of the Ritual.” He was the primary author of the significant Ritual revision of 1926 and was involved in the subsequent two Ritual revisions of 1938 and 1947. He took on this work at the behest of Supreme Secretary Lutton and Supreme President Peter William Dykema. His poetic and historically-informed work of literary art is an enduring monument to his poetic talent, his vast intellect, and his love of Sinfonia.
Rollin Pease exemplified, “the Manly Musician and the Musicianly Man.” As a teacher, he inspired his students to develop their capacities to the fullest. This was accomplished not only by his thorough and complete knowledge of vocal techniques but by a rare understanding of people. Over the years – in his many hundreds of individual students, the many thousand in his choral groups and choirs, the tens of thousands in his congregations and public meetings, and the hundreds of thousands in his concert and oratorio audiences – he brought friendship, instruction, entertainment, good feeling, spiritual comfort, inspiration, and moments of true joy, literally to millions of people.
In December 1959, at age 80, Rollin Pease passed away on the trip home after visiting his daughter in Texas for Christmas.
Today, we take a moment to honor and remember a great man who gave himself to music, to others, and to Sinfonia.