The Clearfield Progress
Clearfield, Pennsylvania; Monday Evening, April 10, 1933
Local Musicians Saddened By The News of Becker’s Death
Clearfield was saddened yesterday when news was received here of the death of Karl Frederick Becker, former director of the American Legion Band here, who died at the home of his sister, Mrs. Edward Heyn at 2238 S Irvington Ave, Chicago, on Saturday night, April 8 at 8:00.
Death was caused by cancer of the throat which developed while Mr. Becker was actively engaged here as director of the champion band of Pennsylvania. Mr. Becker became afflicted with his illness shortly before Christmas of last year. At the time he directed the band when it played at the Lyric Theatre on Christmas and New Years nights, he was then suffering what was believed to have been a sever case of laryngitis. Shortly after that he was removed to the home of his sister in Chicago.
Attending physicians reported that the cancer that resulted in Mr. Becker’s death was one of the most rapidly developing cases ever to be reported at the local hospital. In less than four months after the disease was first reported it proved to be fatal for its victim.
The death of Professor Karl F. Becker was a serious blow to the musical world and removed one of the most highly accomplished musicians in the United States. A close student from the time he was a little boy in Germany, barely large enough to hold his violin, Mr. Becker devoted his entire life to the development along musical lines and his versatility placed him in the first rank of musicians in this county.
Some of the background to Mr. Becker’s musical education and accomplishments can be gained in a brief resume of his work at the height of his career. He was associated with only the best organizations in the country and when connected with them he was looked upon as one of their most prominent members.
At one time he was a charter member of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. Later he became a member of the Chicago, New York and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras. He was also with that famous musical Victor Herbert for a short while and later spent two seasons with Walter Damcursh. After leaving Mr. Damcursh’s orchestra he became a member of the English Grand Opera Company.
Although most of his life was spent in concert work, Mr. Becker also devoted a great deal of time to recording, radio broadcasting and theater work. He selected many orchestras for the Columbia Recording Company and when playing in theaters he directed most of the organizations in which he was a member.
Mr. Becker also gained national fame as a teacher of music, many of his pupils becoming members of the countries orchestras and bands.
Mr. Becker was born in Rhineland, Germany 52 years ago and came to this country with his father when he was six years of age. His father was also a great musician and came to America to become a clarinet soloist of the Pat Gilmore Band.
The older Mr. Becker gave much time to the development of his son’s musical education and at the age of 15 the youth became the leader of a number of the widely-known orchestras in the middle west.
Clearfield was considered indeed fortunate in securing Mr. Becker to direct the local band. After Mr. Schaeffer died the business leaders of the band looked around with the intent on the securing the best possible leader. Contact with made with Mr. Becker, who at that time was recovering from the effects of a broken hip received when struck by a car in New York. He accepted the offer and came to Clearfield on August 13, 1931. Immediately after taking directorship of the local band great improvement was shown. His great achievement here was recovering the championship of Pennsylvania at the Legion Convention in Pittsburgh last fall.
Although Mr. Becker was handicapped from the effects of his broken hip for several months after he came to Clearfield, he always managed to give his very best attention to the local band. His last appearance with the organization as director was on New Year’s night.
On February 26, Arthur Pryor, director of America’s leading band today, paid his respects to his old friend, Mr. Becker, by coming to Clearfield and directing the local band in a concert that was a special tribute to the director. Mr. Becker was unable to leave the hospital on that date but heard the concert over a broadcasting system. Mr. Pryor’s visit was a typical example of the kid of contacts Mr. Becker had made in the musical world. Mr. Becker was taken to Chicago on April 1.
Clearfield feels a special loss to Mr. Becker’s death. During the time he was here he made hundreds of warm friends and he was dearly beloved by all members of the band. Nobody who had not heard of Mr. Becker before would have guessed he had attained such heights in the musical world by the man’s manner. He was always a quiet, unassuming man and at all times was considerate for those who were associated with him. Never at any time did Mr. Becker give more than passing thought to the money he made at his work. A man of his accomplishments could have possibly made a fortune out of his work, but outside of the money he necessarily needed to live, he gave it no other thought and devoted all his time to music.
He was married late in life and leaves to mourn his passing one daughter, aged 10. His wife died several years ago. The daughter has been living with Mrs. Heyn in Chicago.
According to word received here today, funeral services will be held at the home of Mrs. Heyn on Wednesday afternoon, April 12, at 2 o’clock. Internment in Chicago. It will be impossible for any of the band members to attend the funeral of their beloved dead chief, but a huge floral wreath, a tribute of the band’s respect, has been sent to the Heyn home along with more than a score of messages of condolences.
Names mentioned in this article:
Victor August Herbert (February 1, 1859 – May 26, 1924) was an American composer, cellist and conductor of Irish ancestry and German training. Although Herbert enjoyed important careers as a cello soloist and conductor, he is best known for composing many successful operettas that premiered on Broadway from the 1890s to World War I. He was also prominent among the tin pan alley composers and was later a founder of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). A prolific composer, Herbert produced two operas, a cantata, 43 operettas, incidental music to 10 plays, 31 compositions for orchestra, nine band compositions, nine cello compositions, five violin compositions with piano or orchestra, 22 piano compositions and numerous songs, choral compositions and orchestrations of works by other composers, among other music.
In the early 1880s, Herbert began a career as a cellist in Vienna, Austria, and Stuttgart, Germany, during which he began to compose orchestral music. Herbert and his opera singer wife, Therese Förster, moved to the U.S. in 1886 when both were engaged by the Metropolitan Opera. In the U.S., Herbert continued his performing career, while also teaching at the National Conservatory of Music, conducting and composing. His most notable instrumental compositions were his Cello Concerto No. 2 in E minor, Op. 30 (1894), which entered the standard repertoire, and his Auditorium Festival March (1901). He led the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1898 to 1904 and then founded the Victor Herbert Orchestra, which he conducted throughout the rest of his life.
Walter Johannes Damrosch (January 30, 1862 – December 22, 1950) was a German-born American conductor and composer. He is best remembered today as long-time director of the New York Symphony Orchestra and for conducting the world premiere performances of George Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F (1925) and An American in Paris (1928). Damrosch was also instrumental in the founding of Carnegie Hall. He also conducted the first performance of Rachmaninov's third piano concerto with Rachmaninov himself as a soloist.
Arthur Willard Pryor (September 22, 1869 – June 18, 1942) was a trombone virtuoso, bandleader, and soloist with the Sousa Band. He was a prolific composer of band music, his best-known composition being "The Whistler and His Dog". In later life, he became a Democratic Party politician from New Jersey, who served on the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders during the 1930s.
Pryor composed some 300 works, including marches, novelties, tone poems and three light operas, Jinga Boo, Uncle Tom's Cabin and On the Eve of Her Wedding Day. Among his best-known numbers were "On Jersey Shore", "Queen Titania" and "The Whistler and His Dog". He set to work on an opera titled Peter and Paul, with a libretto by L. Frank Baum; the libretto has been lost. It was intended to star Fred Stone and David Montgomery in several roles in several time periods.
During his career, Pryor wrote some of today's most well-known trombone literature, including an arrangement of the heralded "Bluebells of Scotland", as well as band novelty works such as "The Whistler and His Dog", with its piccolo solo, his best-known composition. Much of this literature has been recorded by Ian Bousfield on his CD Pryor Engagement (Doyen DOY CD212).
In 1985, thousands of early Pryor scores were discovered by conductor Rick Benjamin. He has played many of Pryor's compositions with his Paragon Ragtime Orchestra.