The Choir Loses a Friend: Former Tabernacle Organist Robert Cundick
On January 7, 2016 the Mormon Tabernacle Choir lost a wonderful friend, organist, and composer. Robert (Bob) Cundick passed away January 7, 2016, at the age of 89. He served as Tabernacle organist for nearly 27 years where from 1965 through 1991 he accompanied the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, played solos during Music & the Spoken Word, and performed hundreds of organ recitals and concerts.
Born in 1926 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Cundick was influenced early on by music. Growing up, he played in bands and orchestras and was called to be the organist for his church congregation at the age of 12. Later in life, he would become a student of Tabernacle organist Alexander Schreiner, with whom he would eventually work. Under the guidance of Leroy Robertson, he received a Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Utah where he went on to teach. He later taught at Brigham Young University.
Prior to his calling as Tabernacle organist, Cundick and his family were called in 1962 on a mission to the new Hyde Park Chapel in London, England. While there, he played daily recitals and performed as a guest organist at venues such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, Kings College Cambridge, and the BBC Radio Concert Series. After his retirement as Tabernacle organist, he and his wife received a call to Israel, where they served as directors of hosting at the BYU Jerusalem Center, Bob gave organ recitals, and helped to create the Jerusalem Center Concert series which continues today.
Cundick also wrote two hymns which are in the current hymnbook for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “That Easter Morn” and “Thy Holy Word.” He was a published composer of numerous organ and choral works, but his family has said he felt that his greatest musical legacy was his masterpiece, the oratorio The Redeemer, which has been widely performed. Cundick was hesitant to claim credit for the composition, they explained, feeling that his part was more scribe for the inspiration from above. The Redeemer, was presented by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at an Easter concert in 2008, and made available as a DVD.
Roger Miller, emeritus professor of musicology at the University of Utah and past member of the LDS Church’s General Music Committee, stated that “Bob Cundick was certainly one of the most important and influential Latter-day musicians of his generation.” He cited Cundick’s contributions as a composer, organist, teacher, and as the organizing force behind major projects such as the rehabilitation of the Assembly Hall on Temple Square; the acquisition of organs there, in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and at the University of Utah’s Libby Gardner Concert Hall; a significant upgrade of the Tabernacle organ; and concert series in Salt Lake City and Jerusalem.”
“He was kind of a Renaissance man. …He leaves a huge, huge void in the organ scene and the LDS music scene,” said principal Tabernacle organist Richard Elliott, one of the many younger musicians whom Cundick mentored.
We will all miss this man for many reasons, but most of all for his devotion and years of service to each of us through his talent and the power of his beautiful music.