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Nunc dimittis: David Barnett, James Litton, Wayne Riddell, Ned Rorem, Frederick Swann

December 22, 2022
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David Martin Barnett

David Martin Barnett, 75, of Richmond, Virginia, died November 8, 2022. Born on December 6, 1946, he led a varied career in advertising, broadcasting, computers, welfare agencies, and administration of churches and non-profit organizations, including positions as building administrator of Second Presbyterian Church, Richmond, 2009–2014; and as facilities manager of St. James’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, 2010–2013.

Barnett served as treasurer of the Organ Historical Society from 1983 until 2010 and managed the OHS catalog between 2007 and 2010. He was vice president and operations manager of Duboy Advertising, 1974–1999, a Richmond firm specializing in advertising via broadcast media for automobile dealers nationwide. There, he wrote and produced more than 10,000 radio and television commercials for hundreds of clients. Barnett also operated DMB & Co., 1988–2011, designing and building computers and networks for small businesses and homes.

From 1965 until 1986, Barnett was weekend news anchor at radio station WLEE in Richmond and from 1965 until 1970 was announcer, studio engineer, traffic manager, and sales manager at radio station WFMV, Richmond’s classical music FM station. In 1964 and 1965, he worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch as a newsroom copy boy. 

As an audio components salesman, Barnett was employed between 1969 and 1975 by Audio Fidelity Corporation, a central Virginia audio salon. Between 1970 and 1974, he worked for the City of Richmond as a welfare eligibility technician, supervisor, and child welfare eligibility supervisor, and in a similar role in 1972 for the state. He attended the University of Richmond following graduation from George Wythe High School in 1964.

Barnett served as an officer or member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Theatre Historical Society of America, American Theatre Organ Society (several chapters), Organ Historical Society, Cinema Organ Society (UK), Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. He volunteered extensively for the Mosque Theater (now the Landmark Theatre) and the Byrd Theatre, where he served as announcer beginning in 1982. 

With friends, Barnett installed a nine-rank Wurlitzer organ in his Richmond home. Following closure of Monumental Episcopal Church, Richmond, he helped renovate the 1926 Skinner Organ Company Opus 574 before it was relocated in 1975 to St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, Richmond, and subsequently was incorporated into the organ completed in 2014 by Kegg Pipe Organ Builders at the Cathedral of the General Church of the New Jerusalem, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania.

James H. Litton

James H. Litton, 87, died November 1, 2022, in Florham Park, New Jersey. He was born December 31, 1934, in Charleston, West Virginia. Recognizing his talent and passion for music, his parents purchased a piano and provided piano lessons at the Mason College of Music and Fine Arts in Charleston. His piano teacher encouraged him to progress to the organ, securing him a position as his assistant organist at a local church to get access to a practice instrument. That teacher later convinced him to pursue his college education at Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey, studying with Alexander McCurdy. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music and continued postgraduate studies at Canterbury Cathedral in England with Allan Wicks.

Litton’s choral music career spanned more than 60 years, serving as organist, choirmaster, and music director at the American Boychoir School, Princeton, New Jersey; Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC; St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City; Trinity Episcopal Church, Princeton; Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, Indiana; and Trinity Episcopal Church, Southport, Connecticut. He also served as organist at several churches during his graduate and undergraduate studies at Westminster Choir College (now Rider University) and while in high school.

Litton toured with his various choirs and led choral festivals worldwide. He prepared his choirs for performances of major works with many of the world’s orchestras and for several dozen recordings, including a track with the American Boychoir on a platinum album by Michael W. Smith, Go West Young Man. As organist, Litton played organ recitals throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa, and Asia.

Litton was assistant professor of organ and head of the church music department at Westminster Choir College and the C. F. Seabrook Director of Music at Princeton Theological Seminary. He also served as visiting lecturer at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, and at Sewanee: The University of the South.

A Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music, Litton was awarded honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the University of Charleston and from Westminster Choir College of Rider University. The Litton-Lodal music directorship of the American Boychoir School was endowed by a gift from Jan and Elizabeth Lodal in honor of his career.

As a member and vice chairman of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Church Music, he participated in the preparation and publication of The Hymnal 1982. He was also the editor of The Plainsong Psalter for the Episcopal Church. Litton was a co-founder in 1966 and former president of the Association of Anglican Musicians. He also founded choral ensembles in West Virginia, Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, and New York.

James Litton met his late wife, Lou Ann, in seventh grade in Charleston, West Virginia, brought together by their mutual love of music. They married after graduating from college in 1957. 

James H. Litton was predeceased by his wife Lou Ann. He is survived by his son Bruce Litton and daughter-in-law Patricia of Bedminster, New Jersey; daughter Deborah Purdon of Maplewood, New Jersey; son David Litton and daughter-in-law Carol Dingeldey of West Hartford, Connecticut; and son Richard Litton and daughter-in-law Alysia of Wall Township, New Jersey; sister Betty Ray of Charlottesville, Virginia; and three grandchildren. A funeral was held on November 12 at Trinity Church, Princeton. Burial will take place at a later date at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the village of Litton in Somerset County and the Diocese of Bath and Wells in England. Memorial gifts may be made to the Association of Anglican Musicians James Litton Grant for Choral Training (anglicanmusicians.org/litton-gift) and the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org).

Wayne Kerr Riddell

Wayne Kerr Riddell, 86, died November 6, 2022. Born September 10, 1936, in Lachute, Québec, Canada, he began playing organ in the local United Church when he was 14. Graduating in 1960 from McGill University, Montréal, he taught music and singing in the public school system. In 1968 he joined McGill’s faculty, where he taught keyboard harmony, ear training, and choral conducting, and was head of choral studies. At the same time, he worked in church music for congregations including Westmount Park Church, Erskine United Church, and American United Church. For 14 years he was director of music at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul. In 1976, he founded The Tudor Singers, a professional choir that toured the United States, Canada, and Europe. McGill University awarded him a Doctor of Music degree in 2014. He would serve as competition adjudicator, choral workshop clinician, guest conductor, mentor, and philanthropist. 

Wayne Kerr Riddell was predeceased by his life partner, Norman Beckow. A memorial service was held at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul on November 22. Memorial gifts may be given to the Wayne Riddell Choral Scholarship Fund, McGill University (mcgill.ca), or to the music program, the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, Montréal (standrewstpaul.com).

Ned Rorem

Ned Rorem, 99, died November 18, 2022, in New York, New York. He was born in Richmond, Indiana, on October 23, 1923. The family would move to Chicago where Rorem was educated at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and the American Conservatory of Music. He studied at Northwestern University before attending the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, and The Juilliard School, New York City. Rorem was raised a Quaker, and this influenced the composition of his organ work, A Quaker Reader, based on Quaker texts.

In 1966 he published The Paris Diary of Ned Rorem. This was followed by Later Diaries 1951–1972 in 1974 and The Nantucket Diary of Ned Rorem, 1973–1985 in 1987. Rorem wrote essays collected in the anthologies Music from Inside Out (1967), Music and People (1968), Pure Contraption (1974), Setting the Tone (1983), Settling the Score (1988), and Other Entertainment (1996). He was the subject of a 2005 film, Ned Rorem: Word & Music. He composed in a wide variety of genres, including operas, orchestral, and chamber music. He also wrote extensively for organ and organ with choral and orchestral forces.

Ned Rorem was predeceased by his life partner, organist James Roland Holmes, in 1999.

Frederick Lewis Swann

Frederick Lewis Swann, 91, died November 13, 2022. Born July 30, 1931, in Lewisburg, West Virginia, he was the son of a Methodist pastor (and later bishop). He began taking piano lessons at age five from the organist at Market Street Methodist Church, Winchester, Virginia, and soon thereafter began taking organ lessons. He began playing his first church services at age ten at Braddock Street Methodist Church, Winchester, where his father was pastor.

Swann’s family moved to Staunton, Virginia, in 1943, and Frederick continued organ study with Carl Broman. After graduating from high school, Swann entered the School of Music at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, studying with Thomas Matthews and John Christensen. Upon graduation, he attended the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, studying with Hugh Porter and Charles M. Courboin. After serving as interim organist at Brick Presbyterian Church during the illness of Clarence Dickinson and serving as Harold Friedell’s assistant at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Swann entered the United States Army for two years.

From 1952 until 1982, Swann worked for The Riverside Church, New York City, first as a substitute organist for Virgil Fox and then appointed organist in 1957. With the retirement of Richard Weagly as choir director in 1966, Swann became director of music and organist through 1982.

At that time, Swann was appointed director of music and organist at the Crystal Cathedral (now Christ Cathedral), Garden Grove, California, where he conducted the choir and presided over the five-manual, 265-rank Hazel Wright organ, appearing weekly on the internationally televised Hour of Power worship services. In 1988, Swann became organist of First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, which houses the largest church organ in the world, serving there until 2001.

Frederick Swann performed recitals throughout North America, Europe, South America, and Asia, including such venues as Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris; St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, London; and the cathedrals of Cologne and Passau in Germany. His accomplishments include more than 3,000 recitals in all 50 of the United States and 12 other countries, including events dedicating new, rebuilt, and restored instruments. He performed with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony. Swann announced his retirement as a concert organist with a series of programs beginning in August 2016 at age 85. He would continue to serve as artist-in-residence at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Palm Desert, California. For decades he was represented in North America by Karen McFarlane Artists, Inc.

Swann served on the adjunct faculties of the Guilmant Organ School, Union Theological Seminary School of Sacred Music, and Teacher’s College of Columbia University, all in New York City. He also served on the faculty of Manhattan School of Music and was the school’s organ department chair. From 2007 until 2018, he was university organist and artist teacher of organ at University of Redlands in California.

Swann was active in the American Guild of Organists, serving in various capacities including the organization’s president from 2002 until 2008. Also in 2002, he was named International Performer of the Year by the New York City AGO Chapter. At the 2010 AGO national convention in Washington, DC, he was presented the Edward A. Hansen Leadership Award. In 2015, the Royal Canadian College of Organists named Swann a Fellow, honoris causa, and in 2018 the AGO honored him as the organization’s first honoris causa recipient of its Fellow certificate (FAGO). Swann received the honorary Doctor of Music degree from University of Redlands upon his retirement in 2018.

Frederick Swann published more than three dozen anthems for choir, as well as organ works based on hymntunes. Perhaps his best-known composition is his Trumpet Tune in D Major. Swann’s discography of organ and choral recordings includes albums featuring the organs of The Riverside Church, Crystal Cathedral, First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

For more information, see Steven Egler’s interview, “A conversation with Frederick Swann, Crown Prince of the King of Instruments,” in the November 2014 issue, pages 20–24.

A memorial service for Frederick Lewis Swann will take place January 25, 10:30 a.m., at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Palm Desert, California. Memorial gifts may be made to The American Guild of Organists Frederick Swann Scholarship, The American Guild of Organists Herrmann/Swann Fund (agohq.org), or to the Fred Swann Music Endowment, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Palm Desert, California (stmargarets.org).

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