S. Drummond Wolff

S. (Stanley) Drummond Wolff. Organist, choirmaster, teacher, composer, b London, England, 4 Feb 1916, d San Diego, California, 9 Apr 2004; B MUS, ARCM (London) 1937, FRCO (London) 1944, D MUS (Toronto) 1948.

Wolff, S. Drummond

S. (Stanley) Drummond Wolff. Organist, choirmaster, teacher, composer, b London, England, 4 Feb 1916, d San Diego, California, 9 Apr 2004; B MUS, ARCM (London) 1937, FRCO (London) 1944, D MUS (Toronto) 1948. A choir soloist with His Majesty's Chapel Royal of the Savoy at age six and an organist at 13, Wolff began his career as assistant organist at St Matthew's Oakley Square (London). He was a Kent Scholar at the Royal College of Music (London) where he studied organ with Sir Walter Alcock and Dr. Ernest Bullock and composition with C.H. Kitson, and was awarded the prestigious Limpus prize by the Royal College of Organists.

Early Years in England

Wolff's career in England progressed rapidly. He was appointed a senior instructor by the London County Council, and director and conductor of the Clapham Operatic and Orchestral Society as well as of a local Gilbert and Sullivan society. In 1938 he became organist and Master of the Music at St Martin-in-the-Fields, a position he held until 1946.

Appointments in Canada

After serving as a member of the Grenadier Guards and as conductor of the Canadian Military Headquarters Choir during World War II, in 1946 Wolff emigrated to Canada. He was appointed to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto where he taught organ and theory, and became organist and choirmaster at the Metropolitan United Church (1946-52). In 1948, he became a member of the faculty of the University of Toronto under Sir Ernest MacMillan and alongside Healey Willan; his students included F.R.C. Clarke.

Wolff was also an important figure in the choral societies of both Toronto and Montreal. With John Cozens, Wolff co-founded the Orpheus Choir in Toronto (1951), which lasted until 1955; and in Montreal, where he was the organist at Christ Church Cathedral (1952-6), he formed The Cathedral Singers, conducted the Bank of Montreal Choral Society, and premiered Elijah with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

In addition, Wolff was an active composer and arranger, predominantly of anthems for choir and works for solo organ, including 12 anthems for his Metropolitan Series of Choral Music, dedicated to the Metropolitan United Church (composed from 1946); Prelude on Greensleeves (1946); and Festival Fanfare (1950) for solo organ. In the 1980s, Wolff completed four volumes of hymns, and had many works published by Concordia Publishing House and MorningStar Music Publishers.

Years Spent Abroad

After time spent in the UK, Wolff continued his career in Bermuda (1959-61) as organist of the Bermuda Cathedral, founder and conductor of the Bermuda Choral Society, and host of a classical music radio program. He later taught and worked in several other locations, including the College of Marin, California (1962-72), Eastbourne, England (1972-81), and Seattle, Washington (1981-94). Upon retirement, Wolff relocated to San Diego, California.


Further Reading

  • O'Connell, Deirdre. "S. Drummond Wolff: Eminent Organist," Canadian Review of Music and Art vol 4, no 5, Oct/Nov 1946