John Obetz, of Leawood, Kansas, died February 12, 2015. He was 81. Obetz, known for his “The Auditorium Organ” radio program, broadcast from the Community of Christ (previously RLDS) Auditorium, taught for more than 30 years at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and was a key figure in the installation of the Casavant organ in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Active in the American Guild of Organists, he served as a chapter dean, regional chairman, and on the AGO National Council for two decades.
A full obituary will appear in a future issue of The Diapason.
Almut Rössler died February 14, 2015, in Düsseldorf, Germany, after a long illness. Born on June 12, 1932, in Beveringen (Ostprignitz), in 1977, Rössler was appointed honorary professor of organ at the Robert-Schumann-Hochschule; she also served as church musician at St. John’s Church, both in Düsseldorf.
She was an acknowledged expert on the organ music of Messiaen, whose complete works for organ she recorded. (See Marijim Thoene and Alan Knight, “The University of Michigan 51st Conference on Organ Music,” The Diapason, December 2011.) In 1972 Rössler played the European premiere of Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinite; in 1986 she played the world premiere of Messiaen’s last major organ cycle, the Livre du Saint Sacrement.
John Jay Tyrrell, 94, of St. Petersburg, Florida, architect, organ builder, and church musician, died January 19, 2015, following a brief illness. Born in Delavan, Wisconsin, on January 3, 1921, he graduated from Beloit College with a degree in music in 1938. He was drafted into the U.S. Navy from 1942 until 1946, reaching the rank of lieutenant and serving as a gunnery officer on the destroyer USS Henley. The ship was on its way to Japan, just prior to Hiroshima, when it was torpedoed and sank within ten minutes. The crew was in the water for ten hours, with John clinging to a lifeboat after having given his life jacket to a fellow crewman who had lost his.
Following the war, he entered Washington University in St. Louis, where he met and married his wife, Penny, in 1948. He subsequently graduated from the University of Illinois in 1949, with a degree in architecture.
John started his organ-building career at the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, in 1951, first as a draftsman working in the engineering department, under the tutelage of G. Donald Harrison. Following Harrison’s death, he was made vice president of the firm in 1956, president in 1960, and chairman of the board in 1966, working with tonal director Joseph Whiteford. During his tenure there he was involved with instruments at Lincoln Center, the Mormon Tabernacle, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Boston, among many.
I first remember John from his visits to Knoxville, Tennessee, in connection with the sale and design of the organs at Church Street United Methodist and Broadway Baptist Churches, in the mid 1960s. At a time when many organbuilding firms employed high-pressure salesmen, he was a congenial person, always pleasant, always a gentleman in every way—someone who left a good impression on this college student.
After the decline of Aeolian-Skinner, he worked with a number of firms, retiring in 1988. During his lifetime, while living in various parts of the country, he held church music positions too numerous to mention.
In his retirement years, it was our distinct pleasure to have him associated with our firm from about 1992, during which time he made architectural renderings and sold several organs, including the large rebuilds at Rollins College and First United Methodist in Orlando. He had originally sold the latter organ, for which he also did the mechanical layout.
John Jay Tyrrell is survived by Penny, two children, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Following interment in the church’s columbarium, a memorial service, which he had planned, was held for family and friends at Maximo Presbyterian Church, in St. Petersburg, on February 9.
John Tyrrell was a prince of a fellow, who lived a long and full life. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.