IDENTIFICATION AND BIO:
Composer, Singer, Vocal Accompanist and Coach
Carter "Toby" Hall led a musical life, primarily as an accompanist and vocal coach in New York, but flowered into a composer during his last years in Hartford, Connecticut.
Hall briefly studied music at the University of Hartford before dropping out and moving to Boston where he got his start as a lounge performer. He moved to New York in the early 1970s and became a coach at the Metropolitan Opera Studio, then advanced to playing final piano-rehearsal for the main-house productions, accompanying major singers. He also performed at the Public Theater.
In 1989, already aware of his diagnosis with HIV/AIDS, Hall moved back to Hartford. He quickly took a teaching post at the Hartford Camerata Conservatory but later joined the faculty of the Hartt School at the University of Hartford, where he taught piano and voice. He also became involved in the music program of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, first as a choir member, later as the de facto composer-in-residence. For the church he wrote a series of seven church anthems, several written for feast days and other occasions, and also the full-length liturgical drama The Eighth Day. Hall also co-founded the Connecticut Concert Opera as a vehicle to showcase local vocal talent serving "formally as the company's artistic director and pianist and informally as its tireless publicist and promoter," according to the obituary by Steve Metcalf in the Hartford Courant.
In addition to his compositions in the early 1990s, Hall made arrangements of folk songs and standards throughout his career. Many of these were never notated, and many of those that do exist in his archive only have the vocal lines his accompaniment was improvised. With his friends and collaborators, especially tenor Wayne Rivera, tenor Peter Harvey and mezzo-soprano Mary Fox, he frequently performed at fundraising events in Hartford, including for AIDS causes and for the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen.
In 1993 Hall wrote a letter to composer John Corigliano, after having been moved by hearing his Symphony No. 1. Hall wrote of his newfound joy in life and enthusiasm in composing music for the Asylum Hill Church:
"When I composed my very first piece of music (the Psalms 125), the response was overwhelming and deeply moving. Every step of the way I've been very candid about myself and my ‘situation.' Rather than going on and on: suffice it to say that I am the luckiest and happiest man I know."
Hall is vividly remembered by friends for his fiery personality as well as his musical talent. Metcalf wrote: "A wiry, intense man with a biting wit, Mr. Hall made no secret of his lack of formal training. Indeed, he spoke with pride about having learned his craft as a performer by simply going out and doing it, in a string of supper clubs and nightspots, not all of them, by his own account, genteel."
Toby Hall died of complications from AIDS in Hartford at the age of 43 on November 2, 1993.
All The King's Horses
for: voice (lead sheet only)
note: written for Hall to perform
Love So Alike
for: two voices and piano
text: poem by John Donne
II One Life
III I Carry You
for: voice and piano
text: poetry by Nancy Evans Bush
note: dedicated to Wayne Rivera
for: soprano, alto and tenor soloists, SATB chorus, piano, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, timpani
text: poetry by Nancy Busch
note: written for soloists Iva Petersen, Nancy Kirchmyer and Wayne Rivera
for: SATB chorus
note: liturgical work, seven measures long
note: written for Asylum Hill Congregational Church, Hartford, CT
1. The Upward Call
for: SATBchorus, trumpet, organ
text: Philippians 4:8-9, 11-13; 3:3, 12
note: "To Alessandro"
2. The Word
for: SATB chorus and organ
text: "In the beginning" (John)
3. The Dawn
for: SATB chorus, trumpet, organ
text: poem by Grace Nell
4. The Greatest of These
for: tenor, baritone, bass, organ
text: 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
note: "for performance on June 17, 1990 Father's Day"
5. The Dwelling of God
for: bass soloist, SATB chorus, brass ensemble, timpani, organ
text: Revelations 21:1-5
note: Composed for the installation of Rev. Dr. David Y. Hirano as Minister
of the Connecticut Conference of United Church of Christ. "With genuine
respect and affection I give this anthem to the AHCC, its ministers, its
choir and Richard Einsel."
6. Psalm 150
for: SATB chorus, handbells, 2 trumpets, timpani, piano
note: Includes a setting of the hymn All Praise To Thee for Though,
O Lord Divine
(music: C. Stanford, text: F. Bland Tucker).
7. Psalms 125
for: soprano, alto and tenor soloists, SATB chorus, organ, with congregation
on the hymn finale
note: "The dedication may be longer than the anthem but: This was
composed in honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Asylum Hill
Congregational Church; for Richard Einsel and the wonderful choir of
AHCC with great affection and respect; and, finally, in loving
memory of Dory Hall and Dori Rivera T.H. 2/7/90"
This is the Day the Lord Has Made
for: mezzo-soprano, tenor, organ, clarinet, trumpet, flute
note: for the wedding of Allison Hild; non-traditional text
The Eighth Day: A Mystery Play in Music
Book and lyrics by Nancy Evans Bush
note: "A Christian drama to be performed in a church sanctuary." Commissoned for the 25th anniversary of the music series at Asylum Hill Congregational Church, Hartford, CT.
One Step At A Time
Looking In The Mirror
Isn't It Nice For The Children
Something Is Happening
How Can You Tell A Miracle
Who Am I
The Eighth Day
Whose Baby Are You?
He's Got The Whole World In His Hands (medley on traditional spirituals)
My Lord What A Morning
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
Ride On King Jesus
There Is A Balm In Gilead
Oh When I Come To Die Give Me Jesus
He's Got The Whole World In His Hands
for: SSATB soloists and piano
note: written for 9/14/90 performance for the benefit concert "Opera for AIDS Project Hartford"
Trio (Irving Berlin songs)
What'll I Do / They Say It's Wonderful / Always
for: alto, tenor and bass (piano accompaniment presumed but not notated)
They Were You
Music by Tom Jones, lyrics by Harvey Schmidt (from the musical The Fantasticks)
for: three-part voices (piano accompaniment presumed but not notated)
Home! Sweet Home!
Music by Sir Henry Bishop, words by John Howard Payne
for: voice and piano
note: "for Wayne Rivera"
Home on the Range
Music by Daniel Kelley, lyrics by Brewster Higley
for: voice and piano
note: "for Jim Murray"
How Deep Is The Ocean / Always (Irving Berlin)
for: voice and piano
note: for Wayne Rivera
Just As I Am...Toby Hall & Living & Dying & Grace, ed. Candace Hall. Collection of excerpts from Hall's diary, with comments from colleagues and friends. Andrew Mountain Press (1992). ISBN: 0916897184
Handwritten letter to composer John Corigliano, dated June 24, 1993.
no professionally released recordings
- "Toby Hall, Area Composer, Dies At 43" by Steve Metcalf, Hartford Courant, November 8, 1993.
- "Director Of Concert Opera Carves A Niche In City: Toby Hall Breathes Life Into Music Community" by Steve Metcalf, Hartford Courant, January 19, 1992.
- "Conservatory Honors A Friend Of The City's Arts: Camerata Honors A Friend Of The Arts" by Constance Neyer, Hartford Courant, May 3, 1993.
PERFORMING RIGHTS AFFILIATION:
Mildred P. Allen Memorial Library
The Hartt School
University of Hartford
West Hartford, CT 06117
Linda Blotner, Head Librarian
58 Goodrich Lane
Portland, CT 06480
Candace Hall (sister)
140 Bassett Street Apt. 304
New Britain, CT 06051-3045
Pledged to the Allen Memorial Library, The Hartt School (see Resources).
Estate Project Music Archive has copy of Toby Hall's June 24, 1993 letter to composer John Corigliano.