Dr. Fred Tulan

This page is a stub for Dr. Fred Tulan, and will be expanded as research goes on. Please, get in touch if you would like to add information based on articles, recordings, photos or first hand experience with Fred himself. (Rudi A. Blondia)

When Liz Schuler pointed out in her response to one of the “San Francisco, Dec 1947” blog post, that the organist was the famous Stocktonian Fred Tulan, I tried to find a Wiki Page to no avail. One day ! (I have now submitted a Frederick Tulan Wiki draft page for review.)

Frederick Thomas Tulan was born September 5, 1930 in Stockton, son and only child of Frederick Thomas Tulan (1892-1955) and Loretta Larkin (1892-1953). At that time they lived at 401 E Noble Street. Fred Senior worked his way up at the Stockton Fire Department and is listed in the 1927 Stockton City Directory as Lieutenant, and in 1935 Stockton City Directory we find Fred senior as Captain SFD.

Around 1933, the Tulans move to 528 W Walnut Street, Stockton. Joel Dardis and his mother Clara M. Pahl would move to 524 W Walnut Street, Stockton some time later, after Joel’s father, Thomas Lawrence Dardis, passed away in 1933.

Fred Sr., Fred Jr. and Loretta Tulan-Larkin, approximately 1935
Image courtesy of Dennis Dougherty

And so, Fred Tulan and Joel Dardis become neighbors, they would be lifelong friends, till Fred Tulan’s untimely death March 15, 1998, of cardiac arrest at age 68.

Joel Dardis photographed Fred Tulan on few occasions. First documented organist portraits were produced on Dec 26, 1947 at a 3 manual organ M.P. Möller organ, OPUS 5213, somewhere in a San Francisco auditorium or concert hall.

Fred Tulan, Dec 26, 1947, on a 3 manual + pedal M.P. Möller organ from 1928, location in San Francisco is still unknown. (Photographer Joel Pahl Dardis)

Fred Tulan studied at the College of the Pacific and his many excellent editorial contributions can be found in the Pacific Weekly from 1951 on. Fred graduated from COP in 1954, and while he would become a world famous globe-trotting organ recitalist, playing all the mayor pipe organs in the world, there is no mention of Fred anywhere at COP/UOP as a notable alumni.

The name of FRED TULAN ’55 will be included in “Who’s Who, Choral and
Organ World”, published in New York. Fred is a past president of the Central
California Chapter, American Guild of Organists and is organist for the
Stockton Symphony Orchestra and the Unity Church.

He will leave in June to study in Paris at the National Conservatoire with Marcel Dupre, dean of European organists. His paper, “Music of the Early California Mission Period”, won the annual award of the Kirkbride History Foundation.

From Pacific Review May 1955, page 38

Fred Tulan, an acclaimed international organ recitalist, organ consultant and organ music composer, was a champion of new music and had many works dedicated to him. He was honored twice by the San Francisco Arts commission for his contributions to the musical life of the city.

In 1966, Fred was appointed curator of music at the Haggin Museum, Stockton, California, where he has been playing an extensive series of programs with instruments. His recitals were commended in the museum director’s annual report to the trustees on Feb 15, for bringing in large audiences and a gift of $125,000 to be used for a new organ. (From DIAPASON, April 15, 1966.)

Dr. Fred Tulan was consultant to the San Francisco Symphony on the 5 manual Ruffatti Organ installation and the divided manual 7 stop Noack baroque continuo. in the Davies Symphony Hall. He presented a special organ lecture and recital on Monday, April 16, 1984. He was joined by organists Eileen Coggin, Ralph Hooper and Eric Stevens.

From “The Amica News Bulletin”, Volume 14, Number 1, January/February 1977, we learn following:

“World-famous Dr. Fred Tulan from Stockton, California, has played concerts on major pipe organs here and abroad, including Notre Dame, Paris; St-Paul’s, London; St-John-the-Divine, New York. National Cathedral, Washington D.C.; and St-Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. His St-Mary’s concert won highest critical acclaim and was chosen as the outstanding musical event of the year by the combined San Francisco critics.”

Virgil Thomson, American composer and friend of Fred simply wrote, “This terrific musician-organist, virtuoso extraordinaire, does everything well, a man of artistic genius.”

Fred Tulan was invited as opening-day soloist for the 1972 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists in Dalla, and performed on the opening day for the 1984 AGO National Convention in San Francisco.

In Paris, for more than fifty (sic) years, he has played frequently in Notre Dame, Sainte-Clotilde, Saint-Eustache, Saint-Sulpice, Sacre-Coeur and La Madeleine.

Nunc Dimittis

Fred Tulan died on March 15 in Stockton, California.

A native Stocktonian, he had an international career as an organ consultant and concert artist. Born on September 5, 1930, he performed Schoenberg’s unfinished Organ Sonata for the composer in 1941 at the age of 11.

A 1954 graduate of the University of the Pacific, he continued his education and earned a doctorate in music. Included was six years of European study of organ in Paris and of pedal harpsichord in Heidelberg, Germany.

Further organ study was with Charles Courboin at New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He performed recitals in 17 countries, including such venues as Notre-Dame in Paris, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, Washington National Cathedral, and the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.

He performed eight times at Davies Symphony Hall and several concerts at Grace Cathedral and St. Mary’s Cathedral, all in San Francisco. He was engaged by the San Francisco Symphony and Davies Symphony Hall as consultant for the new Ruffatti and Noack organs.

He served for six years on the executive board of the San Francisco AGO chapter, and was a member of the program committee and Chairman of the Commissioned Works committee for the 1984 AGO national convention in San Francisco. He was honored twice by the Stockton Arts Commission, in 1976 “For outstanding contributions to the cultural life of the city,” and in 1985 “For lifetime career achievement.”

Dozens of internationally prominent organists wrote works especially for him, including such names as Guillou, Newman, Pinkham, Peeters, Cochereau, and many others. He premiered works by many noted composers, among them Shostakovich, Khachaturian, Schoenberg, and Virgil Thomson, and played private recitals for such notables as Francis Cardinal Spellman and T.S. Eliot.

From “The Diapason”, July 11, 2003.”

The above article in “The Diapason” doesn’t mention the year of death for Fred and makes the reader believe Fred passed in 2003. (They were 5 years late.)

Dr. Fred Tulan, 1930-1998, Stockton Catholic Cemetery.

Funny Stories

After finishing the Poulenc concerto and acknowledging the applause of his
classic-minded audience, organist Fred Tulan decided on a novel encore – Leroy Anderson’s “The Typewriter,” a bit of rhythmic froth which calls for the sound of a bell and carriage return at the end of each phrase.

In the following day’s press Fred read his review.

While the critic approved of his Poulenc, “The Typewriter” must have confused him. The reviewer complained about the “strident” bell, but added that
“apparently Dr. Tulan made no errors for we did not observe him using
the eraser !”

From Theatre Organ, August 1970, Page 17.

DR. FREDERICK TULAN (personally) opposes pop music in religious services but sees nothing wrong in playing from “Love Is Blue” to rock in concerts after church. He calls his program “In Sanity and Madness” which can range from “Let The Sunshine In” to a Ray Brubeck composition. He has performed with major symphonies in 16 countries. Fred owns a 2/ 10 “Wurlikim b skinner” and is no stranger to theatre organ.

From Theatre Organ, August 1970, Page 37.

There’s never a dull moment when Stockton (Calif.) cathedral organist Fred Tulan is on the scene. The hip wind merchant, known for way-out addenda to liturgical music, recently returned from a symphony tour in time to add his digital and pedal bit (at the huge Cathedral organ) to an interfaith ecumenical service. He arrived at the church to find it peopled by a Catholic bishop, a rabbi, several ministers, nuns and a black “Soul Music” choir.

Fred left the console for a moment to aid a TV cameraman, unaware he’d left the Sforzando button ( full organ) “on.”

Fate’s fickle finger materialized in the form of an apparently religious stray cat – which jumped to the organ bench and then to the great manual, where it stretched out to rest, unmoved by the din generated by circa two octaves of full organ blasting forth.

Fred froze – transfixed. The cameraman was stupefied. The cacophony was enormous.

Then the cat saw Fred bearing down on the console and jumped to the pedals – only to wedge a paw between two pedals. The din was now thunderously low pitched, except for the cat’s wails. In a moment Fred had released the cat, but the sforzando was stuck in “on” position and the organ roared with all its ranks in action throughout the service. Unable to provide quiet music for the offertory, Fred switched on the tremeloes and beat out “Kitten on the Keys.”

The TV producer shook his head and was heard to mutter, “Man, do we have a lot of editing to do on this tape!”

Who says church is dull these days?

From “Theater Organ, June 1971, Page 11.”

Fred Tulan at the Cathedral of the Annunciation Organ, Stockton, CA, 1967. (Courtesy Dennis Dougherty)

That wonderful zany of the classical organ, Fred Tulan, is still cooking up novel ways of presenting music, usually by blending old (organ) and new (synthesizer) methods of tone production.

His latest is a lulu.

The fact is, Fred used adversity to his advantage. Troubled by a palpitating “ticker,” Fred’s doctor decided his patient needed more heart, so he installed a Starr-Edwards artificial heart valve in Fred’s pump.

Fred perked up immediately, one might say “heartened” by the now steady “boom-boom” of his pulse. So, when he needed a novel piece of music for his Stanford University concert, he had a friend, Jay Wright, record his new heartbeat in quadraphonic sound. This was used as a basis for the composition,
“That Splendiferous Starr.”

Electronic mutations of the beat were taped and combined with an organ part written mostly for pedals. Came concert time and tucked in among the Bartok, Poulenc, Krenek and Schoenberg music was “Starr,” which ended up being presented via 12 tape playbacks (mostly Fred’s “boom-boom”), two pretaped organs plus Fred playing the vintage (1901) Murray-Harris. (April 1969)

Reports seeping back to us indicate Fred’s heart valve earned a ringing round of applause. “In fact” admits Fred modestly, “It brought down the house.”

From “Theater Organ, Aug-Sep 1975, Page 41.”

Concerts and Recitals

Limited list of organ and other musical concerts of Dr. Fred Tulan. Compiled through checking organ magazines, calendars and recital programs.

This list has its own page as it became unwieldy and too long to fit on this introductory page of Dr. Fred Tulan.

concerts and Recital page

Fred Tulan at the organ, unknown location (Photo courtesy Dennis Dougherty)

Other Topic Links

The topics below have been growing in leaps and bounds, as such they deserve their own page. (These pages will be invisible while in upgrade mode. Please reach out when there are specific questions that are urgent.)

Music dedicated to fred TUlan
Compositions and Arrangements
Book References
Notable friends and correspondents


List of music recordings of Dr. Fred Tulan

Sonic Fireworks Volume 1

Richard Morris/Atlanta Brass Ensemble – Crystal Clear Records – CCS-7010 Released 1979

The Power of the Organ – Melanie Barney – 2012

Symphony No 3 in C Minor, Opus 78, “Organ”, Adagio (Arrangement F. Tulan)

Pipe Dreams #8606 … From Davies Symphony Hall

Some performances on the recent Ruffatti organ in San Francisco, featuring digital recordings by Michael Murray, Marilyn Mason, John Weaver and Fred Tulan. Fred Tulan plays “Pastorale” from Darius Milhaud on this digital recording.

(Fred was a sponsored ambassador for Hammond for a while.)

Hammond, Model X-66 (1965-1972)

© Rudi A. Blondia 2022 – All Rights Reserved.