Lee Pritchard, our music director since 1998, is a man of many talents and many interests.
During this time we have not been able to gather in the sanctuary, Lee’s Wednesday hymn-a-longs have been a treat. Lee decided to have the Wednesday hymn-a-longs to offer something to supplement our streaming Sunday morning worship. On many occasions, I have loved hearing Lee practice while I am doing something in the church building. When I shared this appreciation with Lee, he said, growing up he loved to hear his mother play hymns and hymn playing is a form of meditation for him,
Lee grew up in Cato, NY, a small town in central New York; he can share many stories about growing up in a very small town.
The Wyandotte chicken story is one of my favorites. Lee and his brother decided they needed to do something, to be involved in something in their town. 4-H was a logical choice. To be part of 4-H, they needed to grow something—animals, vegetables, something. Lee’s brother chose rabbits; Lee decided on chickens. Thinking this through, Lee decided the goal was to win ribbons, awards for his chickens. Since most county fair chicken entries were the usual chickens that people raise, Lee decided he needed an unusual chicken to get the judge’s attention and have a chance at winning. Lee decided to raise Wyandotte chickens—they have white feathers, each feather outlined in black, and a flat comb. He ordered the chickens, raised them and entered them in the county fair. The judges immediately recognized Lee’s unique entry and he went on to win many, many blue ribbons at local and NY State fairs. Being a collector, Lee has all the ribbons and awards in albums.
Lee’s mother was his first piano teacher. She played in their church, for local theatre and, Lee recently learned, for the local radio station. She could be working in the kitchen, cooking or cleaning, while Lee was practicing in another room, with a wall between them, and she would call to him, “Lee, I think that was a b#”, and she would be right and Lee would make the correction.
Growing up in central NY, the site of many tent meeting camp revivals starting in the 1800s, Lee fell in love with old hymns, gospel hymns, hymns that are based on a gospel text and arranged for easy singing. These are his favorites. We are now the ones blessed by this passion.
Somewhere along the line, Lee taught himself how to play the pipe organ. To hear him explain it, pipe organ playing is a logical, natural development,
Lee studied music and graduated from SUNY Fredonia and then earned a Master’s degree at Indiana University. He was a professor of music and theatre at SUNY New Paltz for 40 years. During this tenure, in addition to teaching, he was in charge of all the musicals presented by SUNY students. While this may sound like enough to keep anyone busy, look at this partial list of community music work:
1963—the Camerata Chorale was formed
1966– Lee became director of Camerata Chorale and continues in this role today
1978– Lee started the Chorale Society, in conjunction with some clergy in Kingston. This group disbanded in 2013, after 35 years. Several members joined the Camerata Chorale
1978 Lee, in conjunction with Paul Cooper and Peggy Clapp, founded the Hudson Valley Gilbert and Sullivan Society. He was part of the group for over 20 years; the group has changed its name and currently is not producing.
Back to the first sentence—a man of many interests—Lee has an interest and passion for glassware, especially pressed glass water pitchers. He has a collection of over 300, from 1850 to the present. Over the years, and in several locations around the county, Lee has been involved in antique glassware collection and sales.
Music, theatre, teaching, glassware, did I mention dancing….I am sure there is more to be discovered about this Renaissance man who blesses us with music each week and monthly with a Taize service.
In 1978, Margaret Howe joined Lee’s life. They have been a dynamic duo in New Paltz ever since.