AN ALMOST ICONIC MAN OF FAITH
Death came yesterday morning to William T. Tapp. For more than twenty-five years, Bill Tapp was Director of Music and organist at the Cathedral of St. Jude in St. Petersburg and after his retirement and following the death of a dear friend, he took on the responsibilities of directing the choir and organist at the same city’s St. Paul Church for an additional ten years. Every priest of this diocese ordained prior to 1998 has good memories of working with “Mr. Tapp” on the music for their ordination and many married couples will remember him for his presence at their weddings. Born, raised and educated in Philadelphia, Mr. Tapp served in the army during World War II and was wounded in the invasion which followed D-Day. He loved his regiment and faithfully attended annual reunions until he was no longer able to do so. Returning from the War, he pursued his love of music, particularly Church music in Philadelphia and while being the organist and director of music for Our Lady of Ransom parish, he taught and assisted throughout the archdiocese including occasionally even St. Charles Borromeo seminary and Villanova University. He was that good!
Responding to an invitation to audition for the Cathedral of St. Jude position and being given it, Mr. Tapp moved his wife and family of eight children (Kathy, Terri, Bill, John, Jim, Christopher, Mike and Mary Elizabeth) to St. Petersburg which would be his and their adopted home for the rest of his long life. I came to know him very well and wish to share with you one of the many things which I so admired about him. After the War when Mr. Tapp began to pursue his love of Church music, our musical idiom, liturgy, and worship were more a part of the rich patrimony of a Church which had undergone reform at the Council of Trent and invited the great artists of the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods (Mozart, Hayden, Bach, Palestrina, etc.) to compose a rich library of beautiful church music to be “performed” at Masses throughout Europe and parts of the New World. We listened as they sang and there is no doubt that our thoughts and prayers were enriched by the musical tradition of our Church. Mr. Tapp loved the library of sacred music which was his as he began his life working for the Church through the sharing of his musical and voice gifts. Then, with the Second Vatican Council and the changes in the liturgy which placed a new emphasis on the “full and active participation of the faithful at Mass,” this good man watched the patrimony give ground to some pretty awful post-Council music. It was like the Church he loved had taken away from him something other than his family that he loved just as much. He adjusted, and this is the point I wish to make. His love for the Church, its bishops and priests, allowed him however sadly to make the change and he seldom if ever complained. He did not always “cotton” to what he thought was masquerading as the new music of the Church, but he gave his best to making it work. That is why today, one day after his death yesterday, I wish to pay him public thanks for his selfless and sometimes sacrificial service to our Church. I am not sure that we fully realize and/or appreciate the sacrifices we asked gifted people like Bill Tapp to make in the late sixties and seventies.
No one whoever sang for him had any feelings other than love and admiration for Bill. He was a very classy man. I remember how difficult it was for him to sit in the front row of the Cathedral with his wife Mary Ann and his growing family of children, their spouses and children (when he died I think I counted twenty-nine grandchildren and one great grandchild) while the choir out of love for their director sang their hearts out for him during his son John’s first mass following ordination the previous day (which found Bill, of course, in the choir loft). He lived a long life, even after losing his beloved wife Mary Ann some fourteen years ago but the last few were spent in that darkness which is the tragedy of Alzheimer’s. In life, Bill Tapp certainly paid his dues to his Lord and on Wednesday morning, I trust those angels came to greet him as he so often sang at funerals to lead him into paradise. What faith!