M. Searle Wright, the former music director at St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia, died June 3 in Binghamton, N.Y. He was 86.
Born in Susquehanna, Pa. , in 1918, he took up organ music when his family moved to Binghamton, where he performed at a movie theater before the feature began. Wright later moved to New York City, and studied the organ with T. Tertius Noble at St. Thomas Church. He later attended Columbia between 1937 and 1947, but never earned a degree. In 1947, he taught at the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary.
Wright became director of music at St. Paul's Chapel in 1952 and remained there for nearly two decades, until 1971. He was president of the American Guild of Organists from 1969-71.
Wright also was a noted composer of organ and choral music, including such works as The Green Blade Riseth, a choral symphony about Christ's resurrection, which he wrote in 1950. Many of his works are still sung in churches today.
Wright, a deeply religious person, once told the Des Moines Tribune: "I think of the church as a living organism. It will never die." His career and his music were a tribute to his spiritual convictions.