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Composer Highlight: Randall Thompson

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

Randall Thompson (1899-1984) was an American composer from Boston, Massachusetts that was most known for his choral music. He studied at Harvard University, and later went on to be a professor at Princeton. We are singing a couple pieces of his, including The Last Words of David, and Choose Something Like a Star from is Frostiana Suite.

History (via

Thompson’s early musical pursuits began at an old reed organ on the family summer farm in Vienna, Maine. His first attempts at composition began around 1915 with a piano sonata and a Christmas partsong. In 1916 he entered Harvard University he auditioned for the chorus but was turned down by its conductor, Archibald T. Davison, who eventually became his mentor.

His early works varied considerably in style, but in 1922, he began studies at the American Academy in Rome where, inspired by the master composers of the Renaissance, he developed the musical style which led him to the forefront of American choral composers. During his career he intermingled both teaching and composing, having been director of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music as well as a professor at his alma mater, Harvard University. Though he composed symphonies, songs, operas and instrumental works, he is best known for his choral compositions.

The Last Words of David

Commissioned in 1949 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Last Words of David was first performed on August 12th, 1949 at Lenox, Massachusetts by the Berkshire Music Center Chorus and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

To all ye who are present where you may hear, I perceive the coming of Jesus. In the song of my psalms, I say unto ye, that on earth shall be conceived the Truth of God. His good Son, born of a virgin unknown by man, and she shall be well beloved of God through love, and shall be called the gate of Zion.

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