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William Warfield

Weep not; he's not dead;
he's resting in the bosom of Jesus”


by Dennis Speed

William Warfield died early in the morning of August 26, 2002. "Weep not; he's not dead; he's resting in the bosom of Jesus," wrote James Weldon Johnson, in "Go Down, Death!", a favorite poem recited—that is, sung— by Warfield, and introduced by him to his friends at the Schiller Institute. For the last several years, Warfield had demonstrated the art of poetry/music at the twice-yearly Schiller Institute conferences, usually prior to panels addressed by keynote speakers Helga LaRouche, the Institute's founder, and statesman and economist Lyndon LaRouche, a fierce proponent of the idea of the Classical method in poetic recitation.

LaRouche has often remarked, to the anger and dismay of many, that there is virtually no one in the United States who is actually capable of reciting poetry from a Classical perspective. Any confusion about what LaRouche meant, was eradicated by listening to a Warfield performance of Schubert's "Erlkoenig," or of a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem, such as "When Melindy Sings." What did Warfield know, that very few performers, composers, politicians, and clergy, know today? He knew Beauty, and his soul abided in Beauty.

For Warfield, Beauty was not a goal, but a place where he resided. In a Fidelio magazine interview, fall 1995, he stated, "Dr. Thurman once said, 'God created man in his own image, so that in the dead center of God's brain, there is this image of what man is; and at a point at which man reaches the full development of that image, then he will be on a par with the angels.' So that's what evolution is about! Man finally coming into the image of what man is to be. All of us are endowed withthat basic thing, and music is it. That's why we can communicate." Beauty was an Idea, that Warfield could communicate to everyone else, because he recognized that all other human beings whom he addressed with his art, had the same Idea of Beauty in them, as he, without realizing it. The job of the Artist, like that of the statesman, is to make the people see that "the kingdom of God is within them" in the form of this natural response of the human soul, to Beauty.

Educating the Emotions

William Warfield specialized in educating the emotions of his audience, not playing "upon" or "to" their emotions. He was once asked by young participants in one of his many seminars conducted on the West Coast with the Schiller Institute, "How are you able to move us to tears, and yet not cry yourself?" "I do cry," Warfield replied. "I cry alone, as I work through the song, or the poem. Then, and only then, do I know how far I can go in the performance." Warfield knew that, in relation to a work of art, either his own or that of another, no artist can guide an audience through an epiphany that he has not himself attained.

Warfield was not only an artist but a soldier, having served, because of his extraordinary command of the German language from his teens, as an Army Intelligence officer in the Second World War. "There never has been a time like Dec. 7, 1941, in the history of our country—there certainly has never been anything like it since. In a space of an hour on that Sunday afternoon, an entire nation of millions of Americans were united in a single purpose. And it was a unity of purpose that was sustained over the next three and a half years. Families were broken up, educations were interrupted, hundreds of thousands of people left home, many of them never to return. But somehow the personal problems all merged into a larger mission, with a feeling for God, flag, and country that is probably beyond the ken of people who weren't there. If it can't be comprehended emotionally, it can't be comprehended at all," Warfield wrote in his autobiography.

A Singular Unity of Idea

The subordination of artistic craft, and of his own physical infirmities, to the purpose of creating a singular, unforgettable unity of Idea in the mind of his audience—that Warfield did. You always knew exactly "what he was talking about," even if you were not very familiar with German, or Italian, or with the Classical repertoire. This dedication to Truth-telling was exactly the effect that Warfield sought to deliver in his art, and in his teaching, which was also for him a practice of art. He was a fierce combatant for the truth, a soldier who refused to slow down, who was always on the move, always on the offensive, finding something NEW to say every time he sang and recited, or told one of the hundreds of jokes and stories that gave him a way of practicing his craft every hour of the day.

LaRouche, of the same World War II generation as Warfield, has often spoken to his younger colleagues, and to the generation of youth now in motion around his campaign, of the "Pearl Harbor effect," of a sudden, complete change of outlook and behavior, of a "revolutionization" that can happen in a moment. Many other veterans of that conflict, share the same quality, though perhaps not the same depth of commitment to action based on it, as LaRouche and Warfield. The willed success to achieve a noble mission, was what makes Warfield, and LaRouche, great warriors on behalf of the dignity of man, and was the quality that caused them to join together on the board of the Schiller Institute.

When, in 1988, LaRouche and his associates began a campaign to lower the absurdly high, and distorted, concert hall and operatic stage singing pitch, from A=440 and higher, to the original "Verdi tuning" at A=430 (middle C=256), Warfield was one of only three artists to answer the call for the campaign. "I mailed letters to several dozen leading American singers, offering to send a copy of the Schiller Institute's just-published 'Manual On The Elements of Tuning And Registration,' to endorsers of LaRouche's C=256 petition campaign," writes "Manual" co-author Kathy Wolfe. "Dr. Warfield was one of only three people who took the trouble to write back. Bill's enthusiastic letter, which Marianna Wertz may still have ... said how important he thought it was, for the future of young musicians, to prevent the pitch from rising further. It is also important to note that Bill Warfield's work first came to the ICLC's attention in the early 1980s, due entirely to LaRouche's urging that we study multiple settings of Lieder (German poems), by many Classical composers, inclusively those by 'lesser' composers such as Karl Loewe. A 1983 search for recordings of Loewe songs, turned up an old LP by William Warfield, and little else. Bill was thus distinguished as one of America's most scholarly Lieder singers."

Warfield was central to the work of the Schiller Institute in founding the National Conservatory of Music Movement, started in 1993 in memory of singer Marian Anderson, who died that year. From that time, increasingly, Warfield had identified himself with the Institute's work, and had also endorsed his friend Lyndon LaRouche in his campaigns for the Presidency of the United States.

Immortal Discoveries

LaRouche and Warfield had been scheduled to work together with a group of students in California during mid-August. These were not simply "music students," but recruits that are working on the LaRouche Presidential campaign's mission to reverse the descent into Hell of the U.S. and of the rest of the world. LaRouche wrote:

"You and I, like Amelia Boynton Robinson, refuse to be retiring people. Let us speak of such matters as musicians who teach their instruments to sing, rather than merely being played. Let us speak of that art which never says, 'look at me on stage,' but, instead, creates a living idea and drama within the imagination of its audiences.

"We must make such matters clearer to those who, being of the post-war generation, who, because of the circumstances in which they lived until now, tend to be foolish. For their sake, let us, according to our mission in life, turn our attention to Brahms' Vier Ernste Gesaenge, which has been, for me, during most of the past half-century, as, I believe, for you, his virtual last will and testament. When properly done, Brahms' living soul so occupies our imagination, that we are astonished, after that, to see a singer and accompanist standing on stage.

"Those discoveries of universal principle which uplift the human condition, are immortal, since the original act of discovery lives afresh in the imagination of each person who recreates that act of discovery in his, or her own, sovereign creative powers of mind. By bringing the greatest discoveries of science and art to life today, we hear the joy expressed by those long past, whose immortal dreams reach us, and move us today.

"We must persuade those assembled on this occasion, and others as far as we can reach, to learn this lesson. It is important to master the art, but it is sublime to inform and enlighten the soul."

For more about William Warfield, please Visit:

Click for More Tributes to William Warfield

More Tributes and Photo Memories

William Warfield Biography

"Sing The Music!"

The Fight for Verdi's Tuning

William Warfield, Poet and Teacher

Dialogue on The Spiritual with Sylvia Olden Lee

"Live it, Baby!"

Warfield's 1998 Letter Calling for a Committee on Excellence in Education

Hear William Warfield in Concert, Los Angeles, October, 2000 (New)

Lyndon LaRouche's August 2002 Message to his Friend William Warfield

Revolution in Music Page

Schiller Institute Concerts With Bill Warfield

Audio Video of Dr. Warfield Performing at Schiller Institue Events
(It's at the beginning of Panel 5)