PROVO, Utah — For the last few years Darcy Whetten has been helping 87-year-old Crawford Gates clean out his garage.Well, not exactly.Gates is one of the best-known Mormon composers of classical music — the source of beloved musical works such as "Promised Valley" and the Hill Cumorah Pageant. He began composing 79 years ago and has completed 867 compositions.Gates is also organized. His personal correspondence, starting at age 16, is kept neatly bound in 124 binders. Each performance by this composer/conductor has been documented in folders, including newspaper clippings and programs.The 867 compositions are also identified and cataloged in indexes with opus numbers, version numbers and variation numbers.It is a huge body of work and a huge body of documents. And much of it was in his garage until Brigham Young University offered to archive the manuscripts, photographs, letters and recordings of what is now called the Crawford Gates Archive."I had no idea they would even be interested," Gates said at an interview during the sixth annual A. Dean Larsen Book Collecting Conference on Friday, March 27 at BYU. "And these wonderful people did it."Whetten, a senior majoring in music at BYU, was one of those "wonderful people." Whetten has been working closely with Gates to organize and catalogue the archive materials. She told a class at the conference about Gates and about the ongoing work of archiving his life and work.Although archiving is difficult, Gates had made it easier by his numbering systems. "It's marvelously detailed and organized," Whetten said. It is an open-ended process, however. "The way it kind of works for us is that every now and then he'll call me on my cell phone and say, 'Darcy, I've found another box in my garage of things that probably belong in the archive. When can I meet with you?'" Whetten said. "He brings something down and I usually have something that he's requested (from the archive) — a copy of music or something like that."But not everything was in Gates' garage. At one point, after his three decades at the Beloit (Wisc.) Janesville Symphony Orchestra and at Beloit College, Gates had donated 34 years' worth of documents to a historical society. The society was grateful for the gift but declined to transfer them to the BYU archive. They did, however, say that Gates could come and copy what he wanted. Gates went in and spent a total of 24 hours at a copy machine duplicating every scrap of paper."I've been through every page of those," Whetten said.There are advantages and disadvantages to working with a living archive donor, according to Whetten.The disadvantages, from a technical archivist standpoint, are that materials keep coming in and require shifting contents in boxes and on shelves to make room. Of course, since the donor is alive, the archive is never finalized. Compromises also need to be made with the donor to meet their expectations."I'd like to emphasize that all these disadvantages are really minor. These are small things that will be different depending on the donor and they can be worked around quite well," Whetten said.One of the greatest advantages is the ability of the donor to identify items. One time Whetten had a piece of music, an "interlude for orchestra," that had no opus number. "So I brought (it) to him and I still remember he just opened it up and said, 'Oh, this is opus 19 number 22. This is "The Wind is the Lion" for orchestra, which is part of "Promised Valley,"'" Whetten said. "And he said, 'No opus number. Shame on me!'" Whenever Whetten has an identification problem — such as identifying music in an audio reel-to-reel tape, Gates is there to ask — and he usually has a story to go along with the item that expands the archive's record.Another advantage is that the archivist can interview the donor and create an oral history for the archive."Not every donor is quite as giving as Crawford has been as far as personal history goes," Whetten said. "But with Crawford it has been wonderful, a wonderful opportunity for us. . . . I quite honestly find the man very inspiring and just to be around him and to be able to work with him has been a very positive influence in my own life."Gates' positive influence continues as he currently works on composition number 868.Whetten happily waits to archive it — and anything else Gates finds in his garage.
Archiving Mormon composer Crawford Gates
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