Published on the American Guild of Organists Pittsburgh Chapter Web Site and September Newsletter

Nunc Dimittis - Dr. Robert Sutherland Lord, AAGO (1930-2014)

Dr.  Robert  Sutherland Lord

Dr. Robert Sutherland Lord, teacher, scholar and organist, passed away Thursday July 24th, 2014, at the age of 84.

French organ music of the 19th and 20th centuries were the center of Dr. Lord’s interests. He was a recognized authority on the music of Charles Tournemire, a student of César Franck and teacher of Jean Langlais. Dr. Lord studied improvisation with Langlais in Paris and enjoyed a close friendship for over 30 years.

These important Parisian masters were titular organists at the Basilica of Sainte Clotilde in Paris – the site of several of Dr. Lord’s organ concerts. He also played four concerts at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and received critical acclaim in the press for his interpretation of French music after his concert at the Cathedral of Chartres. The music of Charles Tournemire was requested for his concert at King’s College, Cambridge University.

Dr. Lord was Professor Emeritus of Music and University Organist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Heinz Chapel. His course on the history of Western music attracted nearly 800 students each year. Upon his retirement in 1999, Dr. Lord’s students honored him as an outstanding teacher. Over 45 years, he performed more than 160 organ concerts and played for more than 4,000 weddings at the Chapel. During his tenure at the University he frequently spoke with heiress Helen Frick and was invited to play their home organ at their Prides Crossing residence. In later years he perform for Miss Frick at the Frick Fine Arts building when that instrument was installed there in memory of Miss Frick's mother. He also performed for Heinz family members on the organ at Heinz Chapel.

RSL Heinz
Dr. Lord, at the original Heinz Chapel Aeolin Skinner
organ console circa 1962-3. He was instrumental in the
installation of the current organ and its movable
console which made the organ more flexible for ensemble
as well as solo performance with the organist in view.

In March, 2006, he performed a musical "transplant" of themes from a Mozart opera to the organ at Heinz Chapel in honor of famed University of Pittsburgh transplant surgeon, Thomas Starzl's 80th birthday. A few months later he performed at the famous Piccolo Spoleto music festival in Charleston, S.C., where he received a standing ovation.

Dr. Lord also maintained a close friendship with Mme. Alice Tournemire, the widow of the composer Charles Tournemire. Grateful for Lord’s efforts to make her late husband’s legacy better known in both Anglophone and Francophone musical circles, she entrusted him with valuable research materials from her personal collection. Mme. Tournemire’s assistance eventually made possible the publication of Lord’s ground-breaking essay in 1984: “Liturgy and Gregorian Chant in L’Orgue Mystique of Charles Tournemire,” a study that remains essential reading today for any Tournemire scholar. One month before Lord’s death, this essay was reprinted in a volume dedicated to Tournemire studies, preceded by this dedication: “In recognition of its seminal importance, this classic contribution to Tournemire studies is reprinted here three decades after its initial appearance.”

During the last year of his life, Dr. Lord returned to a project which he had left behind two decades earlier. In 1989, Lord had been contacted by the director of the music library at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. He asked whether Lord might consider undertaking the analysis of a musical manuscript of Tournemire (spanning nearly 1300 pages) that had been recently donated to the national library. Dr. Lord accepted the offer and spent the next three years on this monumental task. In 2012, after a twenty-year hiatus, Dr. Lord returned to this study and undertook the painstaking work of preparing the complex text for publication. It appeared in print exactly one month before his death: “Catalogue of Charles Tournemire’s ‘Brouillon’ [Rough Sketches] for L’Orgue Mystique, BNF., Mus., Ms. 19929.”

Dr.  Robert  Sutherland Lord Dr. Lord seated center at the organ console in concert with orchestra at Heinz Chapel in 2003.

Dr. Lord was also organist and choirmaster at Christ Episcopal Church in the North Hills for 22 years and served as the first Chairman of the Board of the Northland Public Library. During the 1970s, he annotated a weekly program of organ music for WQED-FM called “Lord on Bach,” a series that was rebroadcast over other PBS stations. Dr. Lord was invited to give a recital at the Cathedral of Blackburn in Lancashire, England, where his great-grandfather Daniel W. Lord, who emigrated to the United States in 1864, was a church organist

He received an AB in music from Dartmouth College and was the first music major to be named a senior fellow. Later, Dartmouth honored him with a Reynolds Fellowship for International Study. He earned his MA and PhD degrees in music history under the supervision of Leo Schrade at Yale University. Other organ teachers included Maurice F. Longhurst (Dartmouth College), Clarence Watters (Trinity College), Heinz Wunderlich, and André Marchal.

Dr. Lord is survived by his wife Martha W. Lord; four children: Ben Lord, Wendy Vlahakis, Beth Esmont, and Holly Lord; seven grandchildren: Elynor Wilson, Sarah Brennan, Joseph Esmont, Mark Esmont, Emilie Esmont, Martha Vlahakis, and Michael Vlahakis; and great granddaughter Margaret Wilson. Dr. Lord is also survived by many dedicated and faithful students who will miss him dearly.

In lieu of flowers and to honor Dr. Lord, we ask that you make a donation to the following organizations:

Christ Episcopal Church
5910 Babcock Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15237-2548
Payable to:
Christ Episcopal Church
Endowment Fund

Memo: Dr. Lord


Historic Organ Restoration Fund
P.O. Box 840
Urbana, Ohio 43078-0840
Roberts Historic Organ Restoration Fund,
The first tracker organ donated by Andrew Carnegie and in need of restoration.


Animal Friends
562 Camp Horne Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15237-1109
Animal Friends Web Site



Simons Funeral Home
7720 Perry Highway
Pittsburgh, PA 15237-2003

There is no visitation.


Thursday 14-Aug-2015 at 11AM at:

Christ Episcopal Church
5910 Babcock Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15237-2548
Condolences may be sent to the family at:

126 Carriage Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15237-2054

Dr.  Robert  Sutherland Lord Dr. Lord seated at the updated
Heinz Chapel organ.

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. -- Johann Sebastian Bach

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