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 the 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 for 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. Tamaulipas
  10. Wakefield
  11. Wavertree