By Carla Caldwell
The new music director at The Cathedral of St. Philip in Buckhead did not initially warm to playing the organ, a music staple in the Episcopal Church.
Dr. Dale Adelmann, the Canon for Music at the historic Episcopal cathedral, said that at age 13 he was dragged by his mother to a Lutheran church for lessons. He had suffered since age 5 through the innumerable piano lessons required of all children in the family’s Evangelical Minnesota household, he said, and now found he was doomed to play the organ.
He felt differently the minute his fingers hit the keys. Music filled the church from floor to ceiling. The walls seemed to vibrate.
“It was like nothing I had heard,” said Adelmann. “I fell in love.”
His passion was reinforced just after high school during a visit to the National Convention of American Guild of Organists, held that year near his home in Minneapolis. He heard the Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral of London, and discovered another interest – classical choral worship.
“I had never heard anything so beautiful,” he said. “I sat in this huge marble building on the fifth row taking it all in. It was transformative.”
Adelmann often talks of his faith and of the power of music to touch and change lives. He says he was called by God to the Episcopal Church although members of his family were Evangelical church leaders. He is being led, he says, to share God through music.
The week before Easter is a particularly busy time at St. Philip and other Christian places of worship throughout Atlanta. Adelmann has planned 10 services with choral music between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. All of the services have significant amounts of music and each day the music is different, he explained.
Among his favorite services is the 4 p.m. Palm Sunday [March 28] service “A Meditation on the Passion of Christ with Carols.” The program includes songs that are more than a thousand years old interspersed with carols about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are also African-American spirituals and Appalachian hymns.
“It is a marathon. A wonderful marathon,” Adelmann said of planning Holy Week music. “Lots of work and extra stress. But the services are powerful and beautiful. You can work an 80-hour week if you love what you do.”
He calls The Cathedral of St. Philip is “one of the greatest parishes in the [Episcopal] church.”
“I’ve known since 1991 when I left Cambridge [England] that there were only five or six places in the country where I could be happy and be able to use my skills, and this is one of those places,” said Adelmann, who as a Fulbright Scholar attended the University of Cambridge, England (St. John’s College), where he earned a Ph.D in 19th Century Choral Worship. “I feel so fortunate to be a part of these people’s lives.”
The Cathedral of St. Philip, with more than 7,000 members is among the largest Episcopal congregations in the United States. The church is part of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
Adelman says his interest in both organ and classical choral music along with his spiritual conviction shaped his career path.
Adelmann graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, earned a Master’s degree from the Yale University School of Music and the Institute of Sacred Music, and then was on to Cambridge, where in addition to earning a Ph.D was the first North American to sing in the Choir of St. John’s College.
He most recently served at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he conducted several choirs. He was previously the Organist-Choirmaster at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, New York and Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. While leading choirs in Buffalo, he took groups to England six times where they sang at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey among several other cathedrals and churches.
Since coming to Atlanta about six months ago, there has been little time to get settled in. He’s in the midst of finally moving into a permanent office at the cathedral and is searching for a permanent home, preferably in a Midtown high-rise, he said. He’s never lived in a “walkable” neighborhood with access to shopping and groceries, he said, so he is looking forward to trying it out.
For more information about services at The Cathedral of St. Philip, go to www.stphilipscathedral.org, or call The Cathedral’s information desk at 404-367-1000. To call the music department for information or to schedule an audition, call 404-365-1051.