Next Sunday night the men of the Compline Choir will gather at St. Mark’s Cathedral, as they do every Sunday, for the recital of the monastic Compline service. But the songs, which stir contemplation of death and mortality, will resonate with with special poignancy from the western precipice of Capitol Hill.
Dr. Peter Hallock, the longtime St. Mark’s choirmaster, director of music, and founder of the church’s famed Compline program passed away Sunday. He was 89-years-old.
Hallock, an immensely prolific composer and Seattle-area native, was an institution among Episcopal church choirs and musicians. In addition to bringing the Compline service to St. Marks in the 1950s, Hallock was also responsible for acquiring the church’s renowned Flentrop organ.
In a interview uploaded on YouTube, Hallock recalled being attracted to the musical instrument at an early age when he was growing bored with the piano. It was around that time when he fell in love with St. Mark’s Cathedral.
“I was practically blown away by the acoustics of the building when I was about 9-years-old when it first opened,” he said. “I thought I had gone to heaven.”
Over the years Hallock’s Compline service grew in popularity as did his choir compositions. The service is broadcast weekly from the 10th Ave E church on 98.1 KING-FM.
While Hallock left his regular job with St. Mark’s in the 1990s, he continued to direct the Compline Choir until 2009. Hallock also directed music at St. Clement of Rome Episcopal Church in Mt. Baker until last year.
Jason Anderson, who wrote a doctoral dissertation on Hallock’s works, took over directing the Compline program at St. Marks in 2009. In an email to CHS he said he was not yet ready to talk about his mentor’s passing.
Bill Turnipseed, who sings bass for Compline, met Hallock in 1994 and said the man had been a mentor to him ever since.
“He just had an enormous impact on my life,” Turnipseed said. “Just being influenced by his music and his love of others people’s music.”
Turnipseed said Hallock’s health had been deteriorating in recent years. He said Hallock never married and had no children. And while Hallock dedicated much of his life to church music, Turnipseed said his interests were wide and varied.
Hallock completed many choir compositions over the years, some with an organ accompaniment and some without. But Turnipseed said there’s nothing quite like hearing one of Hallock’s works from the house where it was born.
“You can hear his work performed with other organs, and it’s nice, but when you hear it with the Flentrop you say ‘Oh, I get it,’” he said.