Features

Archiving Mormon composer Crawford Gates

Michael De Groote

Mormon Times | Tuesday, March 31, 2009

PROVO, Utah — For the last few years Darcy Whetten has been helping 87-year-old Crawford Gates clean out his garage.
Well, not exactly.

Gates is one of the best-known Mormon composers of classical music — the source of beloved musical works such as \"Promised Valley\" and the Hill Cumorah Pageant. He began composing 79 years ago and has completed 867 compositions.

Gates is also organized. His personal correspondence, starting at age 16, is kept neatly bound in 124 binders. Each performance by this composer/conductor has been documented in folders, including newspaper clippings and programs.

The 867 compositions are also identified and cataloged in indexes with opus numbers, version numbers and variation numbers.

It is a huge body of work and a huge body of documents. And much of it was in his garage until Brigham Young University offered to archive the manuscripts, photographs, letters and recordings of what is now called the Crawford Gates Archive.

\"I had no idea they would even be interested,\" Gates said at an interview during the sixth annual A. Dean Larsen Book Collecting Conference on Friday, March 27 at BYU. \"And these wonderful people did it.\"

Whetten, a senior majoring in music at BYU, was one of those \"wonderful people.\" Whetten has been working closely with Gates to organize and catalogue the archive materials. She told a class at the conference about Gates and about the ongoing work of archiving his life and work.

Although archiving is difficult, Gates had made it easier by his numbering systems. \"It's marvelously detailed and organized,\" Whetten said.

It is an open-ended process, however.

\"The way it kind of works for us is that every now and then he'll call me on my cell phone and say, 'Darcy, I've found another box in my garage of things that probably belong in the archive. When can I meet with you?'\" Whetten said. \"He brings something down and I usually have something that he's requested (from the archive) — a copy of music or something like that.\"

But not everything was in Gates' garage. At one point, after his three decades at the Beloit (Wisc.) Janesville Symphony Orchestra and at Beloit College, Gates had donated 34 years' worth of documents to a historical society. The society was grateful for the gift but declined to transfer them to the BYU archive. They did, however, say that Gates could come and copy what he wanted. Gates went in and spent a total of 24 hours at a copy machine duplicating every scrap of paper.

\"I've been through every page of those,\" Whetten said.

There are advantages and disadvantages to working with a living archive donor, according to Whetten.

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