Blanche Moerschel is one of Wisconsin's musical treasures - teacher, piano and organ performer, accompanist and composer. "I started composing before I took my first piano lessons. It was like late 20th century music: wherever my fingers fell on the keyboard, there was my music." Moerschel, born December 2, 1915 into a musical family, began taking piano lessons at the age of 5. Her tastes were influenced by the classical music of the late 19th and 20th centuries she listened to on the family Victrola, winding it up to hear beautiful music, eg. Rachmaninoff's "Prelude in G minor" or the "Miserere" from one of Verdi's operas on 78's.
In the 1930's, Moerschel attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music to study organ, music theory and piano, but due to the Depression, she had to return to her parents' home in Chicago after one year. Blanche began her life of service as organist in 1936. A ministry she continued till 1973, having served four churches in the Wesern suburbs of Chicago in that period. She continued her studies at the Cosmopolitan School of Music in Chicago completing degrees in composition (1940) and piano (1941). Then she joined the faculty of Cosmopolitan School of Music teaching collegiate level piano and music theory from 1941-1943. Graduate piano work was pursued with Mollie Margolies, understudy for Rudoph Ganz, at Chicago Musical College. She studied composition privately for three years under Dr. Rosetter G. Cole of Chicago.
While working at a war plant in the Chicago area, Moerschel met her husband, Eugene Moerschel, a German immigrant who shared Blanche's love of music, art and culture. He played clarinet in the Moerschel family orchestra. After their marriage, she lived with her in-laws in the Ozarks where they shared much music while she awaited her husband's return from the army and a return to Chicago where most of her time was devoted to raising five sons to whom she taught piano: Richard, a violist; Paul; Eugene, who became a baritone with the Lyric Opera but now is owner of a construction business in Waupaca, Wisconsin; Joel, a professional cellist with the Boston Symphony; and Daniel.
For 14 years, 1958-1972, Blanche faithfully served as a music teacher to the Timothy Christian Grade School in Cicero, Illinois. From 1974 to 2001, she had been a private piano, organ and music theory teacher in the Waupaca, Wisconsin, area.
A life-long learner, Blanche pursued graduate piano work at the University of Wisconsin/ Stevens Point under Michael Keller and served as accompanist in the University from 1979 to 1983. During these years, she toured the state with the Central Wisconsin Composers Forum, playing several of her compositions. Blanche, a founding member of the Wisconsin Alliance for Composers, has been sponsored in WAC recitals playing her compositions — 1997 (Green Bay), 1998 (DePere), 1999 (Green Bay), and 2001 (Madison). She also performed as Piano Soloist in recitals throughout Wisconsin and Illinois as well as in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.
While studying at the Cosmopolitan School of Music in Chicago, Moerschel became taken with the music of the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. “There were groups of new national composers like Delius and Vaughan Williams in England, and Prokofiev and Shostakovich in Russia, and listening to their music was like going to a different country.” She also liked the music of Stravinsky and reveled in the memory of meeting him in Chicago in the late 1930s. “Our eyes met as we passed. I looked at him. He looked at me. Then he went into Orchestra Hall.”
She used traditional musical idioms in her compositions, but continued to grow and learn as a composer. She liked to work with progressions and the whole-tone scale of Debussy. She reveled in chromaticism. “It’s very rich harmonically because you’re able to get through all the keys quickly. It’s based on half steps and in the strings, it can even be quarter tones. Chromaticism can take you into atonality because you can begin in one key and end in another key.”
“I can’t take credit for my music. I’m just using what the Lord has given me.” Her repertoire includes 3 cello sonatas, ensemble chamber works, piano pieces, songs and hymns. Blanche Moerschel died after living a full life on November 30, 2004.