Phone: (317) 925-3800(317) 925-3800
Mr. Thomas Aldridge
July 30, 1937 - March 29, 2017
In Loving Memory of Thomas Aldridge
Tom Aldridge, Indianapolis Classical Music Critic, Dies at 79;
An Engineer with a Passion for Well-played Music
by Rita Kohn
Tom Aldridge, whose classical music criticism has appeared in NUVO Newsweekly since the early 1990s and who set a standard for straightforward assessment of conductors and players within the context of the program in its entirety, died March 29, 2017. He was 79.
His death was confirmed by Doris and Fred Chandler, his Co-Executors. Mr. Aldridge had been in poor health for some time; nevertheless, he continued to post reviews on-line at NUVO.net up to the time of his death.
The Oct. 1, 2016 of the opening of the 2016-17 Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Season is typical of what we learned to expect in a Tom Aldridge review [always triple-spaced for ease in reading, he would inform anyone who asked, “Why triple-spacing?”].
“Programming three starring works in Beethoven's musical firmament guarantees a large Circle Theatre turnout. And so it was on Friday's opening, with few vacant seats seen from my first mezzanine vantage point. Perhaps pianistic giant André Watts -- featured in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 58 -- sealed the high attendance.”
Mr. Aldridge continued, “Does anyone take issue with the notion that the Fourth Piano Concerto is Beethoven's finest in that genre? Its pianistic virtuosity overlain with a lyric glow compares it only with Mozart's best. Watts and [music director Krzysztof] Urbański's tempo in the first movement was a bit too slow for my taste. The pianist also tended to overemphasize the legato by somewhat over-pedaling in his scale runs, passage runs and chordal work. Watts' dynamic nuances helped make the movement more of a success. The short, sublime second movement in E minor, a dialogue between punctuated unison strings and a chorale-like keyboard response, fared much better, much better. Urbański had his strings playing more staccato than what is usually heard, and it worked, heightening the contrasting lyricism from the piano. From Watts's single and double trilling in the movement's coda to his final single E cadence, I would not favor any other performance beyond Friday's. The finale, filled with exuberance, also worked well. Our pianist seemed to have caught his virtuosic stride by this time, and we experienced the Watts we've heard here so many times in the past.” [see: http://www.nuvo.net/arts/classical_music/iso-opens-with-three-beethovens/article_6212c536-9052-5e02-905b-c5105f94cba1.html]
Arts writer Lou Harry, in a survey of Indianapolis’ arts reviewing, in the September 1999 Indianapolis Monthly wrote, “There is regard for the intelligence of Tom Aldridge’s music commentary.”
Mr. Aldridge staked out the best reviewer seats in every Indianapolis concert hall so he could have the optimal listening experience. He arrived prepared to compare the program at hand with what he considered the historically accepted finest rendering of a classical work. Mr. Aldridge regarded Indianapolis Star’s music critic Charles Staff as his mentor, and followed in his footsteps. Now, it is generally agreed Mr. Aldridge leaves a tradition to uphold.
Marianne Williams Tobias, ISO Annotator, speaks of Tom Aldridge as “A careful, honest, and reliable reviewer.”
“If I was sitting with him at the ISO, I remember his constant note taking and tiny clicks from his pen as he took copious notes,” said Ms Tobias. “He was always well informed about the repertoire, and had a keen ear for performance. Sometimes he would say to me, "Wasn't that just awful?" After his wife Mary passed away, music became central to his life. He was a gracious personality, always ready with a hug, a smile, and quiet enthusiasm. Like many others, I will miss his presence among us.”
Jessica R. DiSanto, now director of communications at United Way Indiana, had a long tenure with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and developed a mutually respectful friendship with Mr. Aldridge. “Hearing of Tom Aldridge’s death stopped my breath. In my former life at the ISO, Tom and I became fast friends, regardless of our vast differences in age, classical music expertise, and cuisine (we always had to compromise when picking pre-concert restaurant locations). Although it’s unusual for a PR practitioner and a journalist/critic to spend time together past work hours, I relished in visits to his home, where he would blast Tchaikovsky from his floor-to-ceiling speakers, and our yearly Thanksgiving-eve ritual of meeting for a late lunch at the Aristocrat (where, of course, we could add a glass of wine to the meal and toast to the holidays).
“Most of all, I enjoyed seeing Tom every Friday night in the Hilbert Circle Theatre, and having a beverage at intermission with him. His perspective on the concert was invaluable to me, to the musicians, and I believe, to our community.
“Tom and I touched based often, even after my arrival at United Way. I had dinner with him in late November – at the Aristocrat – and, although his medical issues slowed him down a bit, it didn’t stop him from ordering his favorite pre-dinner cocktail.”
“Dear, sweet Tom Aldridge,” recalled Geoffrey S. Lapin, retired Indianapolis Symphony cellist, “Years ago, I really got to know him well when we, along with Dr. John Gates, were asked by WFYI’s classical music guru, Douglas Dillon, to be panelists on his new radio show, “The Listening Room.” We would do “blind” listening of newly-released CDs, and then give our thoughts, only finding out the performers’ names after we had made our comments. Tom was always spot-on, which was amazing and wonderful, since he was not schooled in classical music, as were Gates and I. And Tom was so kind to repeatedly mention in his NUVO column my being host of the ISO’s Words On Music series, which I had co-created with Music Director, John Nelson, in 1980. Tom always had supportive and complimentary comments. He was such a wonderful man to know and to work with. I will miss him more than I can possibly say.”
"Tom Aldridge was an unparalleled member of both the musical and journalistic circles of Indianapolis. A true friend to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and an incredibly knowledgeable patron of classical music, Tom was committed to giving readers a musician's take on the orchestra. We appreciate the decades of support Tom provided for the ISO, and know his loss will be felt in our community for years to come." said Gary Ginstling, Chief Executive Officer, ISO.
In an email from Paris, Glen Kwok, International Violin Competition of Indianapolis [IVCI] executive director wrote, “I am deeply saddened to learn of Tom's passing. Tom was an extraordinarily dedicated music critic who worked tirelessly to cover the Indianapolis music scene. We are grateful for the enormous time that he dedicated to covering the quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis and to his annual coverage of our Laureate Series concerts. The arts community has lost a tremendous asset and he will be truly missed.”
Former NUVO Newsweekly Arts Editor Lisa Gautier Mitchison recalls, “By the time I started working at NUVO in 1998, Tom Aldridge was already an established NUVO critic covering the classical music scene as a freelancer. Here I was, a naïve 23-year-old copy editor, but Tom never treated me like a kid. While he acknowledged that he was (much) older and wiser, he saw me as a coworker, equal in his eyes. No matter that he was a senior writer, both in age and seniority; he always treated me with kindness and respect.
“While I rarely had any idea what he was saying in his reviews (to this day, I don’t know squat about classical music), I can still remember his consistent …use of the em dash (—)…, used in a way that reflected his own speech’s cadence: a slight pause to let you know that he was actually thinking about what he was saying instead of making mindless chitchat. He had a calm, slow speaking manner, even if he got a little mad, which never lasted long. He was naturally prone to laughter.”
Mr. Aldridge was a private, gentle person with a strict passion for music as he believed it should be interpreted. He never swerved from his set bar of excellence derived from careful listening to those he considered as artistic masters. He upheld the classics and never got used to the inevitable changes wrought by ‘modern’ composers, yet he easily adapted to posting his reviews on the net. An engineer by training and vocation, Mr. Aldridge turned classical music criticism into a viable avocation.
When Jay Harvey retired from the Indianapolis STAR in May 2013, Mr. Aldridge added a response to Mr. Harvey’s blog notice: “Jay, I am sorry that you’re leaving the Star, leaving myself—not a trained journalist—as the sole classical music reviewer for any in-town print journal. I think the public deserves more than one viewpoint in the concert events we both used to cover as a comparative and contrasting twosome…as for the jazz, theater and the other arts you may cover [in your blog], I won’t be offering any competition, as I haven’t been.”
“To this day, I am convinced that the Indianapolis classic music realm would not be what it is without Tom,” wrote current NUVO Arts Editor Emily Taylor. “He was not only an amazing friend and writer, he pushed Indy to be better through his reviews, and his writing was not for the faint of heart. Reviewing is something we take seriously at NUVO. After all, how can anything get better without critique? Tom was the embodiment of exactly that; his praise was not given lightly and the musicians he covered thanked him for that.”
“Besides his obvious love for classical music, Tom was a 40+ year patron of the Indiana Repertory Theatre [IRT],” offered the Chandlers. “He was a fan of the movie serials which were popular in the 1940s, especially, Flash Gordon and Superman. His classical record collection exceeds 400. He loved the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra [ISO]. It may surprise some people that he was once a part-owner of a table tennis club at the Dearborn Hotel. He also enjoyed snow skiing in his younger days.”
An engineer by training and vocation, Mr. Aldridge turned classical music criticism into a viable avocation.
Mr. Aldridge was born in Los Angeles, Calif., July 30, 1937, to Willam O. Aldridge and Betty M. Williams Aldridge, who preceded him in death. The family spent some time in Columbus, Ohio before moving to Jeffersonville, Ind. where he graduated from Jeffersonville High School. He earned both B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Engineering from the University of Louisville and joined Indianapolis-based Naval Avionics and then Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services (IIS) Engineering organization after Naval Avionics was closed. He received a 35-year pin for his service, according to the Chandlers.
Mr. Aldridge married Mary Florence Ellis Aldridge on November 27, 1971. She preceded him in death in 2010, as did his nephew Mike in 2011, and his sister Anne Hagenau, in 2015.
Surviving are his nieces: Laurie and Linda; great nieces: Amber, Tara, Kristen, Courtney, Sarah, Lindsey and Kayla; cousins: Don, Walt and Alan.
Mr. Aldridge’s memorial charities are the St. Thomas Aquinas Haiti Fund, 4625 N. Kenwood Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46208, and the Friends of Belle-Rivière, Haiti, 2418 Windmill Dr., Longmont, CO 80504.