Nunc dimittis

December 23, 2020

Bryan Keith Gray, 72, died October 24, 2020. He was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, March 2, 1948. He started piano lessons before he was age ten and was accepted into the Governor’s Program for Gifted Children early in its formation, later returning to teach in the program. He graduated from Lake Charles High School in 1966 having been a member and captain of the school’s band. At McNeese State University, Lake Charles, he was a member of the marching band and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity. During this time, Gray was awarded a Rotary Foundation Undergraduate Fellowship to study in Strasbourg, France, for a year. Upon his return he graduated from McNeese with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in organ performance and in music theory and composition.

While in France Gray converted to Catholicism. He would later enter Notre Dame Graduate School in New Orleans, Louisiana, studying for ordination. In 1979 he was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. A few years later he was chosen to study canon law at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., then returning to Baton Rouge as a canon lawyer and judge.

Due to health problems Gray decided to leave the priesthood. He moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, to work for Nichols & Simpson, Inc., Organbuilders, where he remained for 28 years until his death. He was a member of the Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Throughout his life he played organ at various churches in Lake Charles, including the Christian Science Church, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, and McNeese State University Catholic Student Center. He served as organist for his home church, First Christian Church of Lake Charles, under the direction of his father. 

Bryan Keith Gray is survived by his sister Patty G. Boyd (husband Mike) of Colbert, Georgia; sister-in-law Lynn H. Gray of Lake Charles, Louisiana; and several nieces and nephews.


William “Will” O. Headlee, 90, died November 9, 2020, in Syracuse, New York. He was Professor Emeritus of Organ and University Organist Emeritus at Syracuse University. He came to Syracuse to study with Arthur Poister and earned the Master of Music degree in 1953, following undergraduate work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Jan Philip Schinhan. Hobart Whitman was his first organ teacher. Headlee held the associate certificate of the American Guild of Organists.

Headlee retired from Syracuse University in 1992 after 36 years of varied academic responsibilities and continuous choir directing activity, including six seasons with the Hendricks Chapel Choir. He served as organist at Park Central Presbyterian Church from 1992 until his death. During his retirement years he was the coordinator of the Arthur Poister Competition in Organ Playing.

Active in both the AGO and the Organ Historical Society, he served often on convention planning committees for both groups and was a member of the Historic Organs Citations Committee and the E. Power Biggs Fellowship Committee of the OHS. In 2016, he was awarded the OHS Distinguished Service Award.

A recording, 100 Years of Organ Music at Syracuse University (Raven OAR-440) was released in 1999 of the program he played for the Crouse College Centennial in 1989, performing on the 1950 Holtkamp Organ in Crouse Auditorium and the School of Music’s one-manual 1968 Schwenkedel organ. Another recording is forthcoming from the 2004 OHS convention where he presented a program on the W. W. Kimball organ at Saint Louis Catholic Church, Buffalo, New York.

William Headlee was buried next to his long-time partner, Richard C. Pitifer. A celebration of his life will be held at a later time.


Harold “Hal” Rutz, 90, died November 17, 2020. He was born March 20, 1930, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from Concordia University (then Concordia Teachers College), River Forest, Illinois, in 1952, and completed a Master of Music degree at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, in 1960. In 1975 he studied further at Cambridge University, England, and in 1985 at the Royal School of Church Music, London.

In June 1954, Rutz married Viola Larkin of Tampa, Florida, whom he met while they were college students. They were married for 62 years.

Rutz taught in elementary school and was a parish musician in Detroit, Michigan, from 1954 to 1956 and in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1956 to 1964, during which time children Faith, Paul, and Hope were born. The Rutz family moved to Austin, Texas, in summer 1964 when he accepted a position as head of the music department at Concordia University (then Concordia Lutheran College). He taught music theory, music history, hymnology, piano and organ lessons, and conducted the college choir until retiring in 1996, receiving Concordia’s Martin J. Neeb Teaching Excellence Award by vote of the student body that year. His choirs toured annually in the southern United States, and in 1985 he was co-leader of a tour to Martin Luther and J. S. Bach sites in what was then East Germany.

Rutz frequently performed organ recitals and, on occasion, he and son Paul performed together. Among his organ teachers were Hugo Gehrke, Paul Bunjes, Thomas Matthews, Peter Hurford, and Michael Radulescu. Rutz composed organ and choral music, and many of his compositions are published by Wayne Leupold Editions. Upon his retirement, he was named Professor Emeritus at Concordia University. 

He was active in the American Guild of Organists, the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, and Hope Lutheran Church in Austin. In retirement he served on the board of La Follia Austin Baroque and volunteered for classical music station KMFA, Drive a Senior, and the Windsor Park Neighborhood Association. 

Harold Rutz was preceded in death by his wife, Viola; brother Carl; grandson Matthew Kelley; and daughter-in-law Sandra Henry. He is survived by daughter Faith Kelley and husband David; son Paul; daughter Hope Bartolotta and husband Peter; four Bartolotta grandchildren, Joy, Pierce, Eden, and Asher; niece Patricia Wiedenhoeft; and nephew Gerald Rutz. Memorial contributions may be made to the Professor Harold and Viola Rutz Music Department Endowment on the website of Concordia University, Austin (, entering the name of the endowment in the Other Gift Designation box.