(Last updated 10/29/01)

Virgil Keel Fox • 1912-1980
May 3, 1912   He is born in Princeton, Illinois.
1926   He makes his concert debut at Withrow High School in Cincinnati before an audience of 2,500.
1926-1929   He studies in Chicago with Wilhelm Middelschulte, who was then Organist of the Chicago Symphony.
1929   He is selected unanimously by the National Federation of Music Clubs as winner of its Biennial Contest in Boston—the first organist to win this honor.
1930   He graduates Salutatorian from Princeton Township High School.
1931   He becomes the first organist to win a full scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where he studies with Louis Robert. During the school year, he plays five recitals from memory and performs with the school’s symphony orchestra.
May 1932   He receives the “Artist Diploma”—Peabody’s highest award. He has the distinction of being the fourteenth organist, and the first one-year student ever, to receive the award. He is also the first student ever to receive the “Church Organist’s Certificate”
Fall 1932   He goes to Paris for a year to study with Marcel Dupré at St. Sulpice (where he also took lessons from Joseph Bonnet, for which he got into trouble with Dupré).
Apr 26, 1933   He makes his European debut at London’s Kingway Hall before an audience of 1,100.
Fall 1933   He makes his New York debut at the Wanamaker Store’s 200-rank organ, and joins the management of Bernard LaBerge, a major organ impresario.
Jan 1934   He makes his first American concert tour. The Episcopal church on Capitol Square in Madison, Wisconsin declines to book him for a fee of $50!
May 1, 1934   He is appointed Organist of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (where he plays a four-manual E.M. Skinner with an Echo division) in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Richard Weagly is appointed choir director.
1935   He is appointed Organist at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, which also has a four-manual E.M. Skinner organ. Richard Weagly follows as choir director.
May 8, 1936   He becomes the first organist to play a paid-admission concert at Carnegie Hall, New York. He is presented by his first concert management, Bernard R. LaBerge Mgt., Inc.
May, 1936   He is appointed head of the organ department at the Peabody Conservatory.
Aug/Sep 1938   He plays in Great Britain at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge; Lincoln Minster; Durham Cathedral; and in Germany at the Thomaskirche, Leipzig (Bach’s church—where he becomes the first American organist ever to perform publicly there); Marienkirche, Lübeck
Summer 1939   He plays “Come, Sweet Death” at the AGO National Convention in the Wanamaker store, Philadelphia.
1941   His arrangement of “Come, Sweet Death” is published by H.W. Gray.
1942   He enlists in the Army Air Force and takes a leave of absence from Brown Memorial Church and the Peabody Conservatory. He enters as a Private and is promoted to Staff Sergeant. While stationed at Bolling Field, he plays three recitals and five services we
Apr 29, 1945   Staff Sergeant Fox plays a recital at Cadet Chapel, West Point, New York, on a 206-rank organ.
1946   After having played more than 600 concerts while on duty, he is discharged from the Army Air Force.
1946   He accepts the position of Organist of the Riverside Church, New York, with Richard Weagly as choir director.
Feb 1946   He plays 44 major works (in three concerts) from memory at the Library of Congress under the auspices of the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation.
1948   The Riverside Church acquires a new five-manual Æolian-Skinner console for the Hook and Hastings organ.
Jul 1949   He meets Albert Schweitzer in New York.
Sep 1950   He plays in England at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Canterbury; and in Paris at the Salle Pleyel.
1952   He is voted “America’s Most Popular Organist” by 17,000 subscribers of Choral and Organ Guide.
Aug 1952   He plays in England at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Canterbury.
1953   He is chosen by the State Department to represent the United States at the First International Conference on Sacred Music, in Bern, Switzerland.
Jul 1, 1954   He plays for the first time with the Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler conducting, at Boston Symphony Hall.
Mar 25, 1955   He gives a solo dedicatory recital on the new organ at the Riverside Church.
Mar 30, 1955   He gives an orchestral dedicatory recital at the Riverside Church with the New York Philharmonic, Dimitri Mitropoulis conducting. The program includes Bach’s Concerto in D Minor and Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante.
Dec 1955   He plays for the AGO Midwinter Conclave at the Wanamaker Store, Philadelphia.
Jun 1956   He plays the Guild Service for the AGO National Convention at Riverside Church: American première of Ralph Vaughn-William’s Dona Nobis Pacem with the Riverside Choir, Richard Weagly conductor; American première of Maurice Duruflé’s Suite (Opus 5). He play
1957   He shares with Frederick Swann the title and duties of Organist of The Riverside Church, New York.
Sep/Oct 1959   He plays in Europe at the American Church in Paris, St. Matthäuskirche (Munich), St. George’s Hall (Liverpool), Colston Hall (Bristol), the Royal Air Force Church of St. Clement Danes, and Birmingham Town Hall.
May/Jun 1960   He and Frederick Swann dedicate the Austin organ in Christ Chapel, Riverside Church, New York.
    He records six albums for Capital Records.
Jun 1960   He plays the Jongen Symphonie Concertante for organ and orchestra with the Detroit Symphony at Ford Auditorium during the AGO National Convention.
Jun 1961   He records Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante with George Prêtre and the Paris Opera Orchestra at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris.
Sep 1961   He plays in England at St. Mary Abbots, Kensington, and at Birmingham Town Hall.
1961-1962   He is presented in several all-Bach concerts at Riverside, organized at his request by E. Paul Fitz Gerald. He decides that playing all-Bach recitals should be a main theme of his career from this point on.
Jun 1962   He hires Richard Torrence as his secretary and personal representative.
Jun 1962   He plays at Richard Simonton’s home for a private concert during the National Convention of the AGO in Los Angeles, California.
Dec 15, 1962   With Catherine Crozier and E. Power Biggs, he dedicates the new Æolian-Skinner organ in Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York.
Jan 7, 1963   He performs the first solo organ recital at Philharmonic Hall (and later that month makes the first recording on the new organ for Command Records).
Apr 1963   He informs Roberta Bailey that, effective in June, Richard Torrence will be his concert manager.
Jun 1963   He becomes (and often insists on being called) “Dr. Fox” after being awarded an honorary degree from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He claims that the honorific helps him get better service from hotels and airlines.
Fall 1963   He records an all-Bach album for Command (his first was for RCA Victor in the 1950’s, also at Riverside).
Sep/Oct 1963   He plays in England at Bolton Parish Church and Birmingham Town Hall.
1964   He records on the Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia in the spring; records the organ at Royal Albert Hall in London for Readers Digest Records in the fall; and records “The Christmas Album” for Command at St. Paul the Apostle, New York.
1964   He receives the “Distinguished Alumni Award” from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.
Jun 1964   He plays a morning concert at the Wanamaker Store during the AGO National Convention in Philadelphia, and celebrates the release of his Wanamaker Command album.
Sep 1964   He begins his “sabbatical” from the Riverside Church.
1965   He makes two final records for Command, both at Boston Symphony Hall.
Jun 1965   He resigns from the Riverside Church.
Jun 1966   He plays at “The Temple,” Atlanta, Georgia, for the AGO National Convention.
Spring 1967   He plays his first recital on the Rodgers Touring Organ (“Black Beauty”) in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Apr 23, 1967   He plays a Philharmonic Hall recital (Mendelssohn, Duruflé).
Dec 24, 1967   He performs on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
1968   He hires Alix Williamson to publicize his career at the urging of Richard Torrence and Marshall Yaeger. Williamson requires that he perform a four-concert series in New York that she can publicize.
1969   He records an album of hymns on the Rodgers Touring Organ for Kapp Records (“Songs of Inspiration”).
Oct 21, 1969   He performs “The Bach Gamut” on the first of the Fanfare for Organ series at Philharmonic Hall.
Nov 25, 1969   He performs “The Gallic Greats” on the second of the series.
Jan 18, 1970   He performs “La Belle Époch” on the third of the series.
Feb 24, 1970   He performs “The Contemporary Concerto” on the fourth of the series with the Symphony of the New World (Joseph Jongen Symphonie Concertante, Jan Hanus Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Tympani) and the Francis Poulenc “Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Tymp
Dec 1, 1970   He performs the first “Heavy Organ” concert with Joe’s Lights at the Fillmore East, New York, recorded by Decca Records, a Division of MCA Inc.
Dec 14, 1970   He performs the second Heavy Organ concert at the Fillmore East.
Apr 27, 1971   He dedicates the four-manual Saville #100 (172 equivalent ranks; the largest electronic organ at that time) in the Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, Illinois with chamber orchestra, Victor Allessandro conducting.
1971-1974   His four Heavy Organ “live” recordings are listed among Billboard Magazine’s best-selling classical albums during most of this period.
Summer 1971   He begins his first national Heavy Organ tour with Pablo Lights, playing in Washington, D.C. at Constitution Hall, and as far West as the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Oct 14, 1971   He plays his first West Coast performance of Heavy Organ with Pablo’s Lights at Winterland, San Francisco. Decca records the concert.
Summer 1972   He tours Heavy Organ with concerts at Wolf Trap Farm Park in Washington, D.C. and at Temple University Music Festival, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Oct 14, 1972   He plays his final Heavy Organ concert with Pablo Lights in Beckman Auditorium at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
Oct 17, 1972   He plays his first Heavy Organ concert with Revelation Lights at San Diego College.
Nov 9, 1972   He appears on the “Mike Douglas Show” to promote an album of wedding music for Decca Records.
Dec 20, 1972   He plays Heavy Organ in Carnegie Hall, recorded by RCA.
May 2, 1973   He appears again on the “Mike Douglas Show.”
Jun 15, 1973   He plays “Tea for Two” with Liberace on the “Mike Douglas Show.”
Summer 1973   He tours Heavy Organ with concerts at Wolf Trap Farm Park in Washington, D.C. and at the Meadowbrook Festival near Detroit, Michigan. According to Wolf Trap Farm Park (seating capacity 6,000), the two largest “draws” in the facility’s history are Heavy Or
Oct 5, 1973   He plays for the first time (as a “Founding Artist”) at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Martin Feinstein, head of Kennedy Center, calls two weeks before to schedule an after-concert party for Virgil, expressing surprise that the concert is already sold
Dec 1973   He records a second Heavy Organ concert in Carnegie Hall, also released by RCA. Audience sings “Adeste Fideles.”
Jan 7, 1974   Heavy Organ receives a positive review in Time Magazine.
May 3, 1974   He plays with the Boston Pops, Arthur Fiedler conducting. The concert is later televised on PBS. Friends wish him “Happy Birthday” from the audience.
Oct 1, 1974   He dedicates the new five-manual Rodgers organ (the largest electronic organ ever built at that time) in Carnegie Hall, New York. The concert is recorded by RCA but never released (the organ sounded awful). Time Magazine gives a positive review to Virgil
Jan 14, 1975   He plays for Albert Schweitzer’s 100th Anniversary celebration in Carnegie Hall with the American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Richard Westenberg. The all-Bach concert also features pianist Eugene Istomin, a spoken message by Marta Casals (who later be
Feb 1975   He plays a 20-minute showcase of Heavy Organ at the National Entertainment Conference (a rock’n’roll booking conference for the university market) in Kansas City. He plays the only encore in the history of the NEC showcases (strictly verboten!), the “Perp
Jun 1975   He acquires the rights to operate the Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The medieval castle has a four-manual, 135-rank pipe organ on which he had previously made 78-RPM recordings.
Sep 17, 1975   He plays the world première of the five-manual Rodgers touring organ (the “Royal V”) at the Concord Pavilion near San Francisco.
Sep 1976   Organ Arts, Ltd. presents “The Bach Gamut” in two concerts at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco as part of “A Triumphant Blaze of Sound and Light” (advertised as a “Festival of Organ Virtuosos and Illumination”).
Sep 1976   Dr. Armstrong detects a cancerous lump on his prostate gland. He cancels November and December concerts. His prostate gland is surgically removed.
Apr 1, 1977   He dedicates the new Fratelli Ruffatti organ at Garden Grove Community Church in Garden Grove, California.
Apr 1977   He plays “The Bach Gamut” in two concerts at St. Ignatius Loyola, New York, which includes his playing his first public concert on a harpsichord (as well as the organ) for non-organ Bach pieces required to comprise the complete musical scale.
May 1977   He celebrates his official gala jubilee (his 50th consecutive season on the concert stage) in a sold-out recital at Kennedy Center (a single-concert “Bach Gamut”).
Jun 1977   He plays a solo recital (“The Bach Gamut” with organ and harpsichord) in NHK Hall in Tokyo, and performs the Jongen Symphonie Concertante with the NHK Symphony on NHK Television.
Aug 28,1977   He makes two direct-to-disk recordings (and the first American commercial digital recording ever) at the Garden Grove Community Church for Crystal Clear Records.
Oct 1, 1977   He inaugurates his own four-manual Allen touring organ in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Nov 1977   His management (Richard Torrence and Robert Fry) appoint Marilyn Brennan to form The Virgil Fox Society and to publish the first issue of the Society’s Clarion. He receives a Certificate of Honor from Delta Omicron, the International Music Fraternity.
Jan 17, 1978   He plays a full concert program on a two-manual, 22-rank Holtkamp baroque organ with no expression boxes at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The program defiantly includes Reubke’s Romantic “Sonata on the 94th Psalm.”
Jun 1978   He announces his change of managers from Torrence Associates to Kolmar-Luth, effective for the 1979-80 season.
Mar 1979   He appears on the cover of Keyboard Magazine.
May 6, 1979   He performs and records his last concert at the Riverside Church (the Bainbridge recording of the concert is called “Soli Deo Gloria”). He receives a Certificate of Merit from Glassboro State College, New Jersey.
Jun 1979   He begins his last full season, touring under the management of Kolmar-Luth.
Jul 12, 1980   He performs his last solo recital in Ocean Grove, New Jersey.
Sep 26, 1980   He performs for the last time with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as the soloist in the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony and the Poulenc Organ Concerto.
Oct 25, 1980   He dies of cancer in Palm Beach, Florida.
Oct 28, 1980   Many friends attend his funeral at his home (Casa Lagomar) in Palm Beach, Florida.
Nov 9, 1980   Hundreds attend his funeral at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.
1981-1999   His birthday and the anniversary of his death are observed every year by the Virgil Fox Society and other organizations throughout the United States. The Society places flowers on his official grave in Princeton, Illinois four times a year.
Oct 8, 2000   The Virgil Fox Society presents a 20th anniversary memorial concert at the Riverside Church, raising money for scholarships, and making possible the publication of this book.