Tag Archives: Daniel Pinkham

“Fundamentalists in reverse”

Currently, I’m reading Sacred Song in America by Stephen Marini (Urbana/Chicago: University of Illinois, 2003). Marini is a religious historian who is probably best known for his studies of Revolutionary-era religion in North America (Marini has also founded a well-respected group that sings 18th century American choral music and Sacred Harp music, has composed music in the singing school tradition, and has edited a collection of such music).

One of the chapters in Sacred Song in America covers the conservatory tradition of sacred music. Half of this chapter consists of an interview with Daniel Pinkham (1923-2006), long-time music director and composer-in-residence at King’s Chapel, a Unitarian Universalist church in Boston. There are many delightful moments in the interview, inculding Pinkham’s revelation that he was an atheist, and his story about how he got the New England Conservatory to stop having a prayer at commencement, and his comments on the singability of choral music, but I found this exchange particularly delightful:

Stephen Marini: The Unitarian tradition seem especially right for you, given your sense of things, because they are not going to push you on beliefs and doctrines and dogmas.

Daniel Pinkham: But Unitarian churches, they are fundamentalists in reverse!