William Ferris, organist, choral conductor and composer, b. Feb. 26, 1937, Chicago, IL, d. May 16, 2000, Chicago, IL. Received musical training in Chicago and studied composition with Alexander Tcherepnin, at the DePaul University School of Music (1955-1960) and took private lessons with Leo Sowerby (1957-1962). His other teachers included Paul Stassevitch, James Welch, and Arthur Becker.
He was organist at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago from 1954 to 1958, and again from 1962 to 1964. In 1966 he became Director of Music at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester, New York, where he remained until 1971 when he returned to Chicago to become Director of Music and Composer-in-Residence at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. In 1971 he founded the William Ferris Chorale which specialized in performances of works from the Renaissance and from the 20th century. In 1973 he joined the faculty of the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. Although a large number of his works were sacred liturgical pieces, he also composed three operas, numerous orchestral and chamber works and many songs. His Acclamations for organ and orchestra was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and first performed by the CSO in 1983. His music was also presented at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1986 and broadcast on the BBC. In 1980 his Snowcarols, for soloists, chorus and chamber ensemble, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Ferris received numerous awards and honors for his outstanding contributions to the musical arts and was the first American composer to teach at the Vatican. Pope John Paul II conferred a Papal knighthood upon him in 1989.
From the guide to the William Ferris scores, 1952-1998, (Music Library)