Organist and musicologist Walker Evans Cunningham died unexpectedly at his home in San Francisco on May 14. He was 65. Cunningham grew up in Blackstone, Virginia, where his mother encouraged him to pursue his love of music. He won a scholarship to Oberlin, where in 1970 he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance from the Conservatory and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and German from the College.
Cunningham then taught at Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, where he was awarded an Andrew Mellon Foundation faculty grant to study with Marie-Claire Alain at the Haarlem Summer Organ Academy, and to do research in France. He spent 1973–74 as a research and performance fellow at the Institut de Musicologie, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, where he studied organ with Luigi Tagliavini. He earned both an M.A. and Ph.D. in musicology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was awarded multiple fellowships.
Walker Cunningham performed many organ concerts in the United States, including a keynote concert for the Columbia Bach Symposium in New York City, and in Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Austria. He took second prize at the Hofhaimer Competition in Innsbruck, Austria. Also a harpsichordist, he was a continuo player and accompanist with chamber, choral, and symphonic organizations such as the Berkeley Pro Musica Chorus, California Bach Society, and San Francisco Symphony. He served as organist and music director for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley, organist and choirmaster for St. John the Evangelist Episcopal in San Francisco, and at other churches in the U.S. and Europe. He authored The Keyboard Music of John Bull (UMI Research Press, 1984). In 1992, he co-edited with Charles McDermott Canzoni d’intavolatura d’organo, a collection of Claudio Merulo organ intabulations. He recorded and produced the CD The Historic San Francisco Organ of the Church of St. John the Evangelist (Arkay Records, 1993), and was a reviewer for The Diapason.
Thanks to his own research and the help of his doctors, he survived two bouts with AIDS and 29 years of HIV. When AIDS brought an end to his performing career, Cunningham became a technical editor and writer at Cisco Systems, and later a consultant. Walker Evans Cunningham is survived by his sister Joy Cunningham of Austin, Texas.
Contributions in Walker Cunningham’s memory may be made to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music Scholarship Fund, either online at https://new.oberlin.edu/office/development/donate or by check to Oberlin College, Department of Development, Room 005, 50 West Lorain Street, Oberlin, OH 44074.
Carol Newton Hawk died March 5 at age 64. Born into a family of teachers and musicians, she began piano study at age five, and organ study, with her older brother, the late Robert Newton, at age 12. She later studied with Roger Nyquist. After attending DeAnza College in Cupertino, California, she married John Hawk and they moved to the Sacramento area. She served as organist at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church in Fair Oaks, California for 29 years, and as an accompanist for music programs of local elementary schools. Carol Hawk served the Sacramento AGO chapter in many capacities, including as dean for six years, and was a member of Mu Phi Epsilon International Music Fraternity and the Sacramento Choral Society. Carol Newton Hawk is survived by her husband, two daughters, four grandchildren, her mother, and a brother.
Douglas L. Rafter, Portland’s longest-lived municipal organist, died July 3 in Portland, Maine. He was 97. A native of Wilmington, Vermont, Rafter moved to Portland in 1971. A concert organist, he had a repertoire of about 275 pieces of organ music memorized. He also taught music at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, at the University of Southern Maine, and privately. Rafter served as organist and choir director at Immanuel Baptist Church for 13 years, and then worked at other Portland-area churches until his retirement in 2005.
Over the years, he gave 1,700 concerts throughout the United States, playing his first concert in Portland in 1936, right after earning his associate’s certification from the American Guild of Organists. In March 2010, he was honored by the AGO for 75 years of consecutive membership, all but the last five of which had been in uninterrupted service as a church organist and concert performer.
Douglas Rafter was Portland’s municipal organist from 1976 until 1981, playing both classical and popular works. He played summer series concerts for 68 years, and was also noted for his Christmas preludes before the annual Magic of Christmas concert.
Musician and organbuilder John A. Schantz, 93 years old, passed away at his home in Orrville, Ohio, on July 4. Born on June 14, 1920, he was the youngest child of Victor and Bess Schantz. His studies in piano and organ at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music were interrupted by service in the U. S. Army during World War II. Upon completion of his undergraduate degree in 1947, he joined the staff of Schantz Organ Company. With his brother Bruce and cousin Paul, John Schantz was part of the third generation of the family business. During his tenure, the Schantz Organ Company rose in prominence from a regional concern to an organbuilding firm of national (and later international) standing. He served as tonal director of the firm for many years, and as corporate secretary/treasurer, and chairman of the board of directors.
Beyond work with the organ company, he was a lifelong, active member of Christ United Church of Christ in Orrville, an officer with the Orrville Chamber of Commerce, Orrville United Way, and the Orrville Public Library Board. He was a long-time member and officer of the MacDowell Club of Wooster, Ohio. John A. Schantz is survived by his spouse of 60 years, Marilyn, a son Timothy, daughters Molly, Melanie, and Suzanne, and ten grandchildren.