Thomas Wikman (1942-2023) is the primary featured artist in the Richard and Judith Mintel Archive of Recordings. He has had an extensive career as a choral and orchestral conductor, leading hundreds of concerts in repertoire from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Specializing in the large choral/orchestral works of the 17th through 19th centuries, his discography includes numerous CDs, including a critically acclaimed Monteverdi Vespers of 1610.
Mr. Wikman is the founder and Conductor Laureate of Chicago’s Music of the Baroque — a professional choral and orchestral ensemble that, during his tenure, gave dozens of concerts annually. He served as its Music Director for 30 years, from 1971 to 2001. In December 1987, Mr. Wikman led the ensemble in its critically acclaimed New York debut, where he presented a sold-out performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. He also conducted the group at The Ravinia Festival and in two command performances at the White House. Mr. Wikman was featured as organist and conductor at the inauguration of the newly restored Library of Congress, opening the Vatican’s “Rome Revisited” exhibit there; his musical offerings were presented before an audience of cardinals and other church dignitaries. He debuted with the Houston Symphony in December 1999, conducting four performances of Handel’s Messiah.
From 1974 to 1991, he performed large-scale Romantic and 20th-century repertoire with two groups: the Elgin Choral Union and the New Oratorio Singers, which he founded. He explored Renaissance repertoire with his two small professional ensembles, the New Court Singers and the Tudor Singers. He has appeared as conductor, organist, and harpsichordist with The Ravinia and Grand Teton Music Festivals.
Mr. Wikman maintained a voice studio, producing vocalists who have performed roles at the Metropolitan and Chicago Lyric Operas, San Franciso Opera, New York City Opera, and the major European Houses, including LaScala, Bayreuth, Vienna, and Berlin. As a pianist, Mr. Wikman regularly accompanied singers in recitals, including Isola Jones, Frank Guarrera, Simon Estes, Judith Nelson, Tamara Matthews, Patrice Michaels, Richard Versalle, and Gloria Banditelli.
An active organist who has played over 600 recitals, Wikman was the Artistic Director of the Paul Manz Organ series for the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and he was the organist and Artist-in-Residence at the Chicago Theological Seminary, where he played weekly recitals. He has toured Europe seven times as an organist, playing recitals in France, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Denmark, and Italy. Highlights include recitals at The Friars’ Basilica in Venice, Saint-Sulpice, Paris, and The Royal Castle at Hillerod, Denmark. He has made numerous appearances on the Flentrop organ at the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University.
In May 2002, he was awarded the Doctor of Fine Arts (Honoris Causa)degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago for “making an incomparable contribution to the musical life of Chicago.”
As Choirmaster of the Church of the Ascension, Mr. Wikman conducted the professional choir there in more than 1700 worship services replete with masterpieces from the year 1000 AD to the present, including pieces by Orlando di Lasso, de Victoria, Palestrina, Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, Liszt, Brahms, Herbert Howells, Leo Sowerby, and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Born in Muskegon, Michigan, Mr. Wikman was given a rigorous musical education from an early age. At age five, he began composing and playing the piano, soon performing frequently in public. At age seven, he began formal training with composer Carl Borgeson, studying composition, harmony, form, analysis, counterpoint, and orchestration. Throughout his early years in Michigan, he was active in both amateur and professional circles as a composer, pianist, trombonist, organist, and church choir director. As a young man, he continued his musical studies in Chicago, primarily with Leo Sowerby, Stella Roberts, Jeanne Boyd, and Irwin Fischer. He studied organ and Gregorian chant with Benjamin Hadley and others; he studied voice with Don Murray and Norman Gulbrandsen.