Music Minister John Riddle

From the Music Office


(first in a series)

From the earliest days of Christianity, the singing of “hymns and spiritual songs” has been a vital part of our worship of the Creator and Giver of all things. A quick glance at the Hymnal 1982 opens up a treasury that reaches back to the earliest centuries and circles the globe. Over the coming months, we will explore some of these traditions and how they have contributed to the glorious panorama of congregational song we enjoy today. These segments are in no particular order, and are by no means intended to be an in-depth historical course, so sit back and enjoy.

Of the many genres contained in the hymnal, the tunes (and texts) of early 19th-century America are among the most fascinating. Simple, unpretentious, and direct, they convey an infectious buoyancy and energy well-suited to their Appalachian and Southern origins. Such favorites as “Amazing Grace” (671), “What Wondrous Love Is This? (439)” and “Simple Gifts” (554) are the tip of the tip of the iceberg. During the course of the season, we will be experiencing a number of these delightful hymns both congregationally and as choral anthems and organ settings.

As a recent anthem proclaimed, “Sing to the Lord a new song!”
Peace, John

John’s Bio:
A native of Western Pennsylvania, John Riddle moved to Bennington with his family when he was seven, and became a piano pupil of the late Geneva Montle Moore. At the age of twelve he began organ study with Robert Barrow of Williams College, and was active in local musical circles throughout high school. He then went to Cornell University, where he studied organ with Donald Paterson, conducting with Thomas Sokol and Karel Husa, and composition with Prof. Husa, earning a BA in Music. For three years he was Assistant Organist of the University Chapel, the first undergraduate to hold this position. He also holds the Fellowship and ChoirMaster certifications of the American Guild of Organists. Further studies include improvisation with Andrew Clarke, handbells with Donald Allured, and numerous workshops and seminars with Sir David Willcocks, John Rutter, and other notables in the world of church music.

Following his graduation from Cornell, he returned to Bennington and served for twelve years as Organist and Choirmaster of St. Peter’s, directing adult and children’s choirs and founding the St. Peter’s Cantata Choir. Subsequent positions took him to Manchester, Glens Falls, Fairfield, CT, and Muskegon, MI, where he served for five years at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and for another five at Samuel Lutheran Church. During this time he was also active as a recitalist and accompanist, and recorded two CDs with the Camerata Singers under the direction of Floyd Farmer.

In the fall of 1999 he returned to Vermont as the Interim Minister of Music at Grace Congregational UCC in Rutland. In November of 2000 he was appointed Organist and Director of Music at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic parish in Rutland, where he remained until his appointment at St. Peter’s in Bennington this past March.

In February 1975 he married the former Cynthia Thompson Klitsch here in St. Peter’s, and they shared almost 39 wonderful years together before her passing in November 2013. Four wonderful daughters, 15 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren are an enduring legacy of the love they shared.