James H. Litton, 87, of Lawrenceville died Tuesday, November 1, 2022 at Brighten Gardens of Florham Park in Florham Park, New Jersey due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Born in Charleston, West Virginia he resided most of his life in Lawrenceville, NJ. James was an internationally acclaimed choral conductor and educator, renowned for teaching young people how to sing. Recognizing his talent and passion for music, his parents found a way to buy him a piano and to pay for piano lessons at the Mason College of Music and Fine Arts in Charleston. His piano teacher encouraged him to progress to the organ, finding him a position as his assistant organist at a local church to get him access to an instrument for practice. That teacher later convinced him to pursue his college studies at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, to study under Dr. Alexander McCurdy. He earned a bachelors and masters degree in music, and continued postgraduate studies at Canterbury Cathedral in England with Dr. Allan Wicks.
His choral music career spanned over 60 years, serving as organist, choirmaster, and music director at the American Boychoir School, Washington National Cathedral, St. Bartholomew’s Church (New York), Trinity Church (Princeton), Christ Church Cathedral (Indianapolis), and Trinity Episcopal Church (Southport, CT). He also served as organist at several churches during his graduate and undergraduate studies at Westminster Choir College (now of Rider University) and while in high school. James toured with his various choirs and led choral festivals worldwide. He prepared his choirs for performances of major works with many of the world’s outstanding orchestras, and for several dozens of recordings, including a track with the American Boychoir on a platinum album by Michael W. Smith, “Go West Young Man”. An accomplished organist, James played organ concerts throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa, and Asia.
He was an assistant professor of organ and head of the church music department at Westminster Choir College and the C. F. Seabrook Director of Music at Princeton Theological Seminary. He also served as visiting lecturer at Virginia Theological Seminary and at Sewanee: The University of the South.
A Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music, James was awarded honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the University of Charleston and from the Westminster Choir College of Rider University. The Litton- Lodal music directorship of the American Boychoir School was endowed by a gift from Jan and Elizabeth Lodal in honor of his career.
As a member and vice chairman of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Church Music, he participated in the preparation and publication of the Episcopal Hymnal, 1982. He was also the editor of the Plainsong Psalter for the Episcopal Church.
James was a co-founder and former president of the Association of Anglican Musicians, which was founded in 1966 and continues to thrive today. He also founded many choral ensembles in West Virginia, Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey and New York.
James met his beloved late wife, Lou Ann, in the seventh grade in Charleston, West Virginia, brought together by their mutual love of music. They married after graduating from college in 1957. Married for almost 55 years, Jim and Lou Ann enjoyed vacations and tours with the many choral groups he led throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. Their four children were born in Southport, CT and Indianapolis, IN, and grew up in Lawrenceville, NJ. Cherished family memories include long drives to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the family station wagon and a trip to Maine and the maritime provinces of Canada in a rented RV. Family trips often included stops to see organs in churches miles out of the way of the stated destination. James was a resident of Lawrenceville for more than 50 years, before moving to Hightstown, NJ, and then to Florham Park, NJ.
Son of the late J. Howard and Bessie Blue (Binford) Litton, he is predeceased by his beloved wife Lou Ann. He was a very devoted caregiver for Lou Ann as she fought her own battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He is also predeceased by his son-in-law James Purdon, and his brother-in-law William Ray. James is survived by his son Bruce Litton and his daughter-in-law Patricia of Bedminster, NJ; his daughter Deborah Purdon of Maplewood, NJ; his son David Litton and his daughter-in-law Carol Dingeldey of West Hartford, CT; and his son Richard Litton and daughter-in-law Alysia of Wall Township, NJ; sister Betty Ray of Charlottesville, VA; and grandchildren Matthew Litton of Costa Mesa, CA, Kiersten Litton of Asbury Park, NJ and Kyle Litton of Hoboken, NJ.
A Visitation will be held on Friday, November 11, 2022 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm at the Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, Princeton.
The Funeral will be held 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 12, 2022 at the Trinity Church 33 Mercer Street, Princeton. A reception in the church social hall will follow the service.
The committal will take place at a later date at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the village of Litton in Somerset County and the Diocese of Bath and Wells in England.
The family would like to thank his excellent caregivers and the staff at Meadow Lakes, Always Best Care and especially Brighton Gardens of Florham Park for their attentive and loving care of Jim.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Association of Anglican Musicians James Litton Grant for Choral Training (http://www.anglicanmusicians.org/litton-gift/) and the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org).