April 17: James Remington Fairlamb (1908)
A native of Philadelphia, James Remington Fairlamb received his first musical instruction at the hands of his mother. Although he was exceedingly fond of his music, while very young he was more fond of “dreaming” than of “practicing” at the piano. But at the age of twelve the boy came across a copy of Spohr’s oratorio ”The Last Judgment,” which seems to have satisfied his craving and shaped his career. When fourteen years of age he obtained a position as organist of the Western Methodist Church, the first of its denomination in Philadelphia to obtain an organ. He afterwards filled the same position in the Tabernacle Baptist Church and succeeded one of the best church musicians of that city as organist and choirmaster of the Clinton Street Presbyterian Church. At age 20 Mr. Fairlamb went to Europe and studied first in Paris and later continued his studies in Florence Italy.
Returning to America at the outbreak of the Civil War, and being incapacitated for military service by defective eyesight, Mr. Fairlamb accepted the position of Musical Director at the Church of the Epiphany in Washington, D.C. While there, he met and married Marian Kerr Higgins, the daughter of Epiphany’s senior warden. One of the Fairlamb’s children, Louis, was baptized at Epiphany in 1877. Fairlamb enjoyed the acquaintance of many notable people, including President and Mrs. Lincoln. Being appointed United States consul at Zurich in Switzerland by Mr. Lincoln, he returned to Europe and remained there four years. His compositions number about two hundred in all. His music is distinguishable by dramatic intensity and orchestral ideas.