PERKINS, Theodore E.

Theodore E. Perkins

Transcribed from: Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers by J.H. Hall (1914)

The subject of this sketch was born at Poughkeepsie, on the Hudson, K Y., July 21, 1831. His father was a Baptist clergyman. The family of ten brothers and sisters sang and played various instruments, forming among themselves both choir and orchestra. His musical education began at the early age of three years. During his father’s pastorate at Hamilton, IS^. Y., the choir rehearsals were often held at the parsonage, and the leader used to place the three-year-old on a small stool, on the table around which the choir was assembled, giving him a chance to both see and hear. Later on he played the violincello in church, standing on a stool in order to finger the instrument.

The home gatherings — especially on Thanksgiving Day, are the recollections among the happiest of his childhood. His father became pastor of the Berean Baptist Church in Xew York City, in 1839, giving him the opportunity of studying the pianoforte, of which he became a proficient player. His fine alto voice soon gave him notoriety. At the age of nineteen while filling a position as clerk in Kew York, all his spare time was given to the study of voice and piano. In 1851 he Avent to Hamilton, N. Y., taught music in Madison University (now Colgate), and in the Female Seminary.

In 1854 he went to Port Jervis, N. Y., where he taught singing school, and April 30, 1855, married Mary Frances Caskey, Avho was for years his soprano soloist in many musical Festivals and Conventions. Soon after marriage he removed to Salem, N. J., where his life work as singing school teacher really began, including Bridgeton and prominent towns in southern New Jersey. During the summer of 1856 he and his wife were pupils of the Normal Academy of Music at North Reading, Mass., conducted by Drs. Lowell Mason and Geo. F. Root. During 185Y-1858 he was given the position of assistant teacher and manager. His association with these two great men gave an inspiration to all his future work.

In 1859 he was co-principal Avith Wm. B. Bradbury at the Normal Academy of Music, Geneseo, N. Y. He remained at Geneseo until 1863. Professor Perkins also held very successful schools in North Pelham Province of Ontario, Canada, and in 1864-1868 was principal in schools at Tunkhannock and Meadville, Pa.

In 1860, “The Olive Branch,” his first book of church music, was published by F. J. Huntington, New York City, the sales reaching 100,000. Next was “Oriental,” which sold over 30,000. “The Union,” ” Glees and Anthems,” and ” Sabbath Anthems,” followed ; then ” The Sacred Lute,” which sold over 300,000. His Sunday-school books commenced with ” The Evergreen,” followed by the ” Shining Star ” and ” New Shining Star.” Then came ” Psalm King,” which was the last of the books published by Mr. Huntington. ” Hallowed Songs ” was published by Philip Phillips ; ” The Sunday School Banner ” was published by Wm. B. Bradbury. ” The Royal Standard ” was published in Toronto, Canada. ‘^ The Golden Promise,” ” Sabbath Carols,” ” The Mount Zion Collection ” were published under his own supervision. His ” Free Sunday School Songs ” several times numbered over 500,000 a month. ” Coronation Songs ” with Rev. Dr. Deems as hymn editor was published by A. S. Barnes

Mr. Perkins was musical director in the following churches in Brooklyn : The Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, Rev. Dr. Cuyler ; Strong Place Baptist Church, Rev. E. E. L. Taylor, D. D. ; Madison Avenue Baptist Church, Rev. H. G. Weston, D. D., L. L. D. ;Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Rev. Dr. Rice, followed by Dr. John Hall ; The Memorial Presbyterian Church, Rev. Dr. C. S. Robinson, who was his close friend; The Church of the Holy Trinity, Rev. Dr. Tyng, Jr. ; Trinity Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. J. B. Simmons, and Washington Square M. E. Church.

In Philadelphia : The Fifth Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. Chase ; The Eleventh Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. Colman ; The Tabernacle M. E. Church, Rev. George Gaul, D. D. He was leader and singer in Evangelistic Services, at the Rink, The Old Madison Square Garden and Cooper Union, all of New York City. The music of the first great meeting of the world’s Evangelical Alliance, held for ten days in New York City, was under his direction, as was the first National Sunday School convention, held in Newark, N. J. He was also conductor at the Golden Anniversary of the Female Guardian Society, leading a chorus of forty-two hundred children. In the opening ciiorus, *’ Great is the Lord,” by Dr. Calcott, the word “Great” was given with so much decision and power that the clergymen on the platform sprang to their feet and remained standing until the chorus was finished.

He taught voice culture in Princeton and Lafayette Universities, The Union Theological Seminary, New York City; Crozer Seminary, Chester, Pa., and organized the music department of Temple University, Philadelphia, continuing in charge four years. He had charge of the children’s choir of Howard Mission, New York City, for twenty-five years, and thinks that some of the happiest and most restful of the working hours were spent in teaching the poor children of the fourth and sixth wards to sing the Gospel. Mr. Sankey said to Mr. Perkins that ” ‘ Jesus of Nazareth ‘ was my banner song for eight years.” ” Jesus is Mine ” has been sung at the Christian’s death-bed, the grave, and once as the convict was going to the scaffold.

His ” Christmas Carol Sweetly Carol ” had a very large sale in this country, and was republished in England, France, Italy, and Germany.

For a period of foi^ty years he has made the study of the voice special work. The most thorough investigations of the voice and its possibilities were made with the assistance of the late John Howard, extending over a period of twenty-five years, during which he has had the care of over two thousand voices. He published a work entitled, “Physiological Yoice Culture,” edited by his son, the late T. Edward Perkins, M. D., physician and throat specialist of Philadelphia. Mr. Perkins at this writing has just completed a method of voice culture based on the principles of John Howard’s ” Physiology of Artistic Singing.”

During these years of work he has found time to edit thirty-four books of church, Sunday-school, day-school, and glee music, the larger portion having been previously mentioned. Also songs and ballads in sheet form, and a cantata entitled, ” The Excursion,” libretto by Fanny Crosby, with whom there has existed an unbroken friendship for over forty years. Mr. and Mrs. Perkins celebrated their golden wedding anniversary April 30, 1905.

Prof. T. E. Perkins will be remembered many years hence by his sweet, inspiring gospel songs.