Published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Dr. Robert Sutherland Lord, teacher, scholar and organist, passed away Thursday, July 24, 2014, at the age of 84. French organ music of the 19th and 20th centuries was the center of Dr. Lord's interests. He was a recognized authority on the music of Charles Tournemire who had been a student of César Franck; Tournemire in turn had taught Jean Langlais. Dr. Lord studied improvisation with Langlais in Paris and enjoyed a close friendship with him for over 30 years.
Dr. Lord also maintained a close friendship with Mme. Alice Tournemire, the composer's widow. 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 20 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."
These important Parisian masters - Franck, Tournemire, and Langlais - had been the titular organists at the Basilica of Sainte-Clotilde in Paris, the site of several of Dr. Lord's organ concerts. He also played several concerts at the Cathedrals of Notre-Dame in Paris and in Chartres, where his interpretations of French music received critical acclaim in the press. For his concert at King's College, Cambridge University, Dr. Lord was asked to play the music of Tournemire.
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. 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, had been a church organist.
Dr. Lord received a Bachelor of Arts degree 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 Ph.D. 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, Benjamin Webster Lord, Wendy Lord Vlahakis (John), Beth Lord Esmont (Jeff) and Holly Sutherland Lord (Rich); seven grandchildren, Elynor Wilson, Sarah Brennan, Joseph Esmont, Mark Esmont, Emilie Esmont, Martha Vlahakis, and Michael Vlahakis; and great- granddaughter Margaret Wilson.
There will be a Memorial Funeral Service for Dr. Lord on August 14, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. (a music prelude will begin at 10:30 a.m.) at Christ Episcopal Church located at 5910 Babcock Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15237. In lieu of flowers and to honor Dr. Lord, we ask that you make a donation to the following organizations: Christ Episcopal Church Endowment, Attn: Treasurer, note in memo: Dr. Lord; for the first tracker organ donated by Andrew Carnegie and in need of restoration, Historic Roberts Organ Restoration Fund, P.O. Box 840, Urbana, Ohio 43078, www.weddingchapel-urbana.com; or Animal Friends, 562 Camp Horne Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15237.
Arrangements by SIMONS FUNERAL HOME, INC., Pittsburgh, PA.
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