Phillip Trier, former music director at Lake Forest Academy, dies at 89
Updated: June 20, 2012 12:14PM
Phillip Trier, longtime resident of Wilmette, passed away June 14 at Highland Park Hospital at the age of 89. He is survived by his two children, Melissa Trier Kirk of Evanston and Collins Trier of Glenview, and four grandchildren, Eleanor, Isabelle, Cynthia and Owen.
Born in 1923 and raised in Chicago and Barrington Hills, he attended Dartmouth College (41-43) Trinity College of Music, London (’45) and received his BA in Music from Harvard in (’46-48). He received his Masters in Music Composition from the American Conservatory of Music where he studied composition and performance with the eminent musicians, Leo Sowerby and Edward Collins. He followed up with a degree in Music Education from the University of Chicago in 1954.
During the war he worked with an attached medical unit with the U.S. Army (rank T5) from 1943-‘45. While in the army he taught music appreciation and German to his colleagues.
However, his battalion also fought in the Battle of the Bulge where many of his comrades were lost. After the war he worked at Swift & Co. in Chicago. He was an active member of the Service League at St. Chrysostom’s Church where he met his future wife, Marilyn Robb, whom he married in 1953.
Phillip served as Music Director at Lake Forest Academy from 1954 until 1971. He taught courses in music and the humanities and directed the Glee Club, the instrumental ensembles and the beloved annual Carol Service. During his tenure at the Academy he composed five dramatic musical works for his students, including A Walden Fantasia and Young Goodman Brown. He also made numerous arrangements and compositions for his choir including a song cycle of poetry by Robert Frost that brought the poet to Lake Forest for the Academy’s Centennial.
During this time he also began to compose operettas for his own family and friends, especially the folksinging Armstrong Family of Wilmette. These works were performed locally for schools and community centers as well as at the Fox Hollow Folk Festival in upstate New York and included adaptations of well-known folktales such as Rumplestiltskin and The Rootabaga Tales of Carl Sandburg.
Phillip was choirmaster and organist at many churches on the Northshore. He served at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Deerfield for over a decade. He also served at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, St. Timothy’s, The Congregational Church of Winnetka, and The First Baptist Church of Waukegan. In addition to traditional church music Phillip was instrumental in starting a group of “shape note singers” at the Old Town School of Folk Music in 1982, the Chicago Prairie Sacred Harp Singers.
In addition to his academic and church compositions Phillip composed widely in a variety of genres. Among his works are song cycles on poetry of Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost, sonatas for viola, tuba, bassoon, and hammered dulcimer. a string Quartet, a brass Septet, a set of Preludes for piano based on the months, and an organ sonata. His “Crazy Inventions”, based on the Bach Two-Part Inventions and Prelude and Fudge for accordion, based on Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in d minor, were frequently performed by him to much acclaim.
An avid collector of early American glass and antiques, Phillip opened his own business, Upstairs, Downstairs Antiques in 1973. Phillip met many fellow antique lovers who would remain friends, including former Gov. James Thompson. Anyone who has visited his home in Wilmette could not fail to be impressed by the extraordinary displays of paintings, glassware and earthenware that were his favorite acquisitions.
Phillip was a lifelong gardener -- as a junior high school student he sold his stamp collection to purchase 300 daffodil bulbs. His Wilmette garden was well known for roses and his own, prize-winning daylily hybrids. He was also a passionate horseman, creating and maintaining trails around Lake Forest and trailering his American saddle-bred stallion to and from Florida yearly.
To his friends he is best remembered as the founder of the feast, the best party-giver on the Northshore. Phillip called these gatherings “musical soirees” and anyone who played an instrument was expected to bring it along and share in the musical festivities. There was also the summer solstice to look forward to when Phillip with his accordian, the Armstrong family with the bagpipes, and assorted neighbors with drums and whistles would arrive at the Gilson Park lakefront to sing up the sun at dawn. (A belated note of thanks to the Wilmette police who kindly looked the other way during this strange once-a-year ritual.)
Phillip took great pride in his children who carried on the musical tradition. Both Melissa and Collins are accomplished classical musicians who have played with the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra for many years.
A service commemorating the life of A. Phillip Trier will be held at the Unitarian Church, 1330 Ridge Ave., Evanston on Saturday, June 23 at 11 AM. A burial at Evergreen Cemetery in Barrington will follow.
In lieu of flowers we ask that you make a donation to the charity of your choice in honor of Phillip Trier.