Dr. Christoph Tietze, GTF Professor of Sacred Music, celebrated his 25th anniversary at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, San Francisco. The anniversary recital and reception took place on Sunday, April 2, and the program consisted of Dr. Tietze’s favorite repertoire, the Trois Chorals by Cesar Franck. Following is a short bio of Dr. Tietze and pictures from the event.
Christoph Tietze grew up in Cologne and Sindelfingen, Germany, and began playing the organ at age 10. When he was 12, he was appointed organist at Auferstehungskirche in Sindelfingen (Christmas Day 2018 will mark his 50th anniversary as church organist), but two years later, his father was transferred by IBM to San Jose, and the whole family put down roots in California. While in high school, he was organist at Holy Spirit Church and St. Mary’s Church in San Jose, followed by positions at Holy Cross Church in San Jose and Grace Lutheran Church in Palo Alto while he attended San Jose State University. His organ teachers in college were Philip Simpson and John Walker. During his college years, Tietze spear-headed a project to maintain the historic 1886 Odell organ at St. Joseph’s Church in San Jose (now St. Joseph’s Cathedral Basilica); he organized a high profile recital series which earned the necessary funds for the project. During that time, he performed several local recitals each year, and a Summer tour to Europe in 1977 saw him play several recitals in Germany. During his senior year at San Jose State, he also received his private pilot license.
After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Music in 1978, Tietze spent a year of private study with Jean Langlais in Paris, concentrating on the complete organ works of Cesar Franck and improvisation. The following Summer, he won the Tournemire Prize in Improvisation at the St. Alban’s International Organ Competition.
In 1979, Tietze began graduate study at the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, studying organ with Robert Baker, Gerre Hancock, and Thomas Murray. During that time, he was music director at Ascenscion Church in Hamden, CT, and St. Rose of Lima Church in New York City. He received a Master of Music in 1981 and Master of Musical Arts in 1982, and his dissertation on Sigfrid Karg-Elert is still used as a reference work by many researchers.
From 1982 to 1988, Tietze served on the musicianship and organ faculty of the New York School of Liturgical Music, being promoted to head of the musicianship department in 1984. The same year, he was appointed Music Director/Organist at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, NY, where he built up a comprehensive music program encompassing a boys choir of 50, a girls choir of 40, and an adult choir of 70, together with his full-time assistant, Michael Bower. Annual singing tours saw the boys choir perform along the East Coast, at the White House, and twice in Europe, where they performed at a papal audience in front of Pope John Paul II.
On March 1, 1992, Tietze was appointed Music Director/Organist at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. He expanded the tradition of chant at the cathedral and continued the recital series, the longest continuously running weekly organ recital series in the City. He also developed a children’s choir program which performed alongside the Cathedral Choir, a semi-professional group of 20 singers, and the Cathedral Schola Cantorum, a semi-professional group of 8 men specializing in Gregorian Chant. He met his wife Jeanette in 1994, and they were married in October of the same year.
In 2002, the whole family, now including 3 children, went on a half year sabbatical to Oxford, England, where Tietze was a visiting scholar at St. Benet’s Hall, the Benedictine college of the University, to fulfill the coursework for a doctoral program at GTF. During that time, he began work on a book researching the origin and early development of the introits, and a set of metrical introits that could be sung to familiar tunes by a congregation. He took organ lessons from Robert Fielding in Salisbury, private study with Emma Hornby of Christ Church College on the introits, and private study with Dom Henry Wansbrough, master of St. Benet’s Hall and editor of the New Jerusalem Bible, on the psalms. His daughter Helena attended the Oratory School, his son Karl went to what he called the Brontasauri School, and Betsy learned to walk.
He received a Doctor of Sacred Music degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation in South Bend, IN, in 2003, and his books were published by Liturgy Training Publications and World Library Publications.
In 2009, Tietze was asked by Msgr. John Talesfore, rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral, and Sr. Carmen Santiusti, principal of St. Brigid School, to explore the establishment of a cathedral choir school at St. Brigid. Starting out with a choir of 30, the program is now a comprehensive curriculum in which all students receive music instruction several times a week, culminating in a choir program with 60 children, one quarter of the student body. The choir sings regularly at the cathedral, with the smaller chamber choir taking on some of the higher profile liturgies. On Epiphany 2016, the choir participated in a choir festival which sang at a papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as concerts and Masses in Rome and Assisi.
Some of Tietze’s favorite past-times are sudoku, reading, family history, and traveling. In the Summer of 2015, he and his wife, together with their daughter Betsy, walked the Portuguese Camino de Santiago from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, singing some of their favorite motets at every little chapel or church they passed.