May 15 farewell reception to honor Dr. James Callahan

May 15 farewell reception to honor Dr. James Callahan

A farewell reception for Dr. James Callahan, a longtime professor of music at the University of St. Thomas, will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday, May 15, in the Fireside Room on the second floor of Murray-Herrick Campus Center.

Callahan is retiring after 38 years at St. Thomas. All are welcome to celebrate his service to the university and his contributions as a teacher, musician and composer.

A few days later, Callahan will give his last piano recital as a St. Thomas faculty member. He’ll perform two Beethoven sonatas, and retired UST music professor Dr. Merritt Nequette will offer “verbal program notes.” Everyone's welcome at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, in Brady Educational Center auditorium.

James Callahan

A feature story about Callahan, “Professor’s passion will be missed by many,” appeared on Page 4 of the April 28 issue of The Aquin.

Born in Fargo, N.D., and raised in Albany, Minn., Callahan earned his bachelor’s degree in music from St. John’s University in Collegeville in 1964 and went on to study at the Vienna Academy of Music; he earned a master of fine arts and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He pursued additional studies at the Salzburg Mozarteum. He joined the St. Thomas faculty in 1968 and was named a full professor in 1983. At least two generations of St. Thomas student composers, pianists and organists have benefited from his tutelage.

Callahan has written more than 150 works in many genres: operas, concertos, symphonies, chamber music and orchestral and organ works. He has performed throughout the Upper Midwest and in Austria and New York. His compositions have been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and many St. Thomas ensembles and other groups. Minnesota Public Radio listeners have heard many of his recitals and compositions.

Some of Callahan’s compositions include “Tetraptych,” composed for the College of St. Thomas centennial in 1985; “Metamorphosis,” an overture written for the Pueblo (Ariz.) Symphony Orchestra’s 1973 Mozart Festival; and two operas premiered at St. Thomas’ Sacred Arts Festival – “Processions” in 1996 and “Sanctuary” in 2003.

Callahan's “Symphony No. 2” was premiered by the Minneapolis Civic Orchestra in 1976. That work, for orchestra, chorus and baritone solo, was derived from portions of Markings, the posthumously published diary of reflections by 1961 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dag Hammarskjöld, the Swedish diplomat who was secretary general of the United Nations from 1953 until his death in a plane crash in 1961. Callahan’s symphony was one of the first pieces of music to be placed in the UN’s Dag Hammarskjöld Library.

Callahan’s “Cantata” for two choirs, brass, percussion and organ premiered at St. John’s Abbey Church and was performed at the Cathedral of St. Paul in 1975. His “Requiem” premiered in 1990 in St. Thomas’ guest organist series, played by Leonard Raver, who then was organist for the New York Philharmonic.

Callahan himself performed often with his first cousin, Katherine Faricy, who also teaches at St. Thomas, as a two-piano team and also has been a frequent recitalist on the Gabriel Kney organ in the St. Thomas chapel. His affinity for the organ is well known, and his organ recitals have been heard frequently on American Public Media’s nationally broadcast “Pipedreams” program, hosted by Minnesota Public Radio’s classical music host, Michael Barone.