1846–1916
portrait

January 8, 1846, Jersey City, New Jersey.

December 20, 1916, Easton, Pennsylvania.

Saint Thomas’ Episcopal Church Cemetery, Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania.

Gilchrist’s family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when he was nine years old. He attended school there until the outbreak of the American civil war, when his father’s business failed and William had to seek other work.

Having a good voice, he sang in choirs and choruses, first as a soprano, and later a smooth, flexible baritone. He began singing some of the principal parts in the Han­del and Haydn Society, where his first real musical life began.

At age 19, Gilchrist began studying organ and voice with Professor H. A. Clarke, gradually concentrating on theory.

At age 25, he spent a year in Cin­cin­na­ti, Ohio, as organist and teacher, returning to Phil­a­del­phia to take post of choir master at St. Cle­ment’s Protestant Episcopal Church. He later became conductor of the Men­dels­sohn Club, Tuesday Club of Wilm­ing­ton, and Philadelphia Symphony Society.

Gilchrist was best known as a composer. His first success was in 1878, winning two prizes from the Abt Society of Philadelphia for best choruses for male voices. In 1881, he won three similar prizes from the Men­dels­sohn Glee Club of New York.

In 1884, he took a $1,000 prize from the Cin­cin­na­ti Festival Association; the judges included Saint-Saëns, Rein­e­cke, and The­o­dore Thomas. This work was an elaborate setting of the Forty-Sixth Psalm, and was enthusiastically received. Gil­christ afterwards modified it and brought it out at the Phil­a­del­phia Festival in 1885.

Gilchrist also served as editor of the 1895 Pres­by­ter­i­an hymnal, as musical editor of The Mag­ni­fi­cat in 1910, and wrote symphonies, chamber and choral music.

His works include:

  1. Aspiration
  2. Belfield
  3. Festum Dei
  4. Glad Day
  5. Light of the World
  6. O Wonder Amazing
  7. Pilgrim Host, The
  8. Schubert
  9. Wakefield
  10. Wavertree