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Nunc dimittis: David Bartlett, Byron Lloyd Blackmore, Robert Charles Shone

February 20, 2024

David Bartlett

David Bartlett, 76, born August 5, 1947, died December 18, 2023, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His musical career began as a young chorister in the local family church in Folkestone, Kent, England. He attended the Royal College of Music, London, where he was an organ student of Ralph Downes, and then moved to Salzburg where he studied at the Mozarteum with Michael Schneider. He participated many times in the International Summer Organ Academy in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Bartlett moved to the United States in 1975 as a graduate student in musicology at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists.

David Bartlett served churches in London and in St. Louis before his appointment in 1982 as the ninth organist and choirmaster of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Detroit, Michigan. In 2000 he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he directed the music at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral and then at St. Helena’s Catholic Church, St. Paul, Minnesota, retiring in 2022. He presented organ recitals in the United States, England, and France. In addition to his work as an organist and choral conductor, he composed several hymntunes, anthems, and carol settings, many of which are still in use at the cathedral in Detroit.

David Bartlett is survived by his sister Janet and her family. A memorial service will be held in Minneapolis at a date yet to be determined, as well as a service at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit.

Byron Lloyd Blackmore

Byron Lloyd Blackmore died January 1 in Sun City West, Arizona. He was born March 24, 1935, in Flint, Michigan. In 1953 he graduated from Flushing High School, Flushing, Michigan, where he was valedictorian of his senior class. He was an active high school musician and piano accompanist for several choral groups, becoming a church organist in 1950, when he was a freshman.

Blackmore attended Michigan State University, East Lansing, earning a Bachelor of Music degree in 1957 and a Master of Music degree in 1958. His graduate work in organ performance and church music continued at Syracuse University, the University of Illinois, and Northwestern University.

Following his graduation from Michigan State, Blackmore taught vocal music in the Flint, Michigan, public schools for a brief time before being drafted into the United States Army. He became a chaplain assistant at Fort Meade, Maryland, where he played the organ and directed army chapel choirs. In 1959 while at Fort Meade, he married Mary Lou Watchorn of Flint. In the fall of 1960 they moved to Decatur, Illinois, where Byron became full-time organist and director of music at Grace United Methodist Church.

In 1965 the Blackmores moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, where Byron was organist and director of music at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church for 32 years and taught organ at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse for 25 years. He was a champion of the organ music of Jean Langlais. He gave many performances of Marcel Dupré’s Le Chemin de la Croix, a work he studied in depth with his mentor, Arthur Poister, who studied the work with Dupré. He gave annual organ recitals at his church in La Crosse and helped establish an annual American Guild of Organists Lenten organ recital series. Blackmore also had a career as a financial planner for several years with American Express Financial Services in La Crosse.

Blackmore became well known as an organ teacher in western Wisconsin and nearby communities in Minnesota. He had many students who became organists and church musicians and served as a role model for many who are active musicians today. Byron and Mary Lou retired in 1997 and moved to Sun City West, Arizona, where Byron became organist at Crown of Life Lutheran Church in 1999 and gave many organ recitals in the greater Phoenix area.

Byron Lloyd Blackmore was preceded in death by his wife Mary Lou. He is survived by their three children: Rachel Lord (Steve), Joel Blackmore (Maria), and Neil Blackmore (Julie), as well as five grandchildren and two brothers. A memorial service will be held in the spring in Sun City West. Memorial gifts may be made to the music department of Crown of Life Lutheran Church, 13131 West Spanish Garden Drive, Sun City West, Arizona 85375 (colchurch.com).

Robert Charles Shone

Robert Charles Shone died January 13. He was born February 16, 1927. For over three decades in the mid-20th century, he established himself as a Gregorian chant and Renaissance and Baroque music performance presenter and scholar in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Assuming the position of organist and choirmaster at Ascension and St. Agnes Episcopal Church in the heart of Washington at the age of 30, he developed a select ensemble of singers whose voices suited the early music and Latin-text Masses and motets that he loved, such as those by Heinrich von Biber, André Campra, and Jean Gilles, and that were embraced by the Anglo-Catholic environment of St. Agnes.

By 1967 Shone had built over the course of two years with volunteer assistance a two-manual, 1,000-pipe organ utilizing pipework saved from the 1875 instrument that was original to the church and dismantled in 1945. His intent was to build a dependable and artistically successful instrument voiced according to the concept of the Baroque sound accepted at that time. He managed to accomplish this while working a 40-plus-hour week at his father-in-law’s custom mattress business in order to support his wife and three children. Upon the organ’s completion, Shone conceived and initiated an annual Bach festival that subsequently continued for the 30 years of his tenure at St. Agnes, making the church a center of musical culture with appearances by prominent organists such as Vernon deTar and others as well as early music instrumental ensembles and choirs from the Washington-Baltimore environs.

Shone earned a Bachelor of Music degree from The Catholic University of America, a Master of Arts degree in music from Columbia University, and the Colleague certificate of the American Guild of Organists. He had been continuously involved in church music from the age of eight when he was a boy soprano chorister in Baltimore. During his high school years, Shone became an assistant organist to his teacher, Sherman Kreuzburg, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C. During his World War II military service, he served as a chaplain’s assistant, ultimately succeeding organist Virgil Fox at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. During this time, Shone commenced organ studies with Paul Callaway at the Washington National Cathedral. University years followed after Shone’s military obligations ended, and concurrent with his studies he held church positions as organist and choir director at a number of churches in the Washington, D.C., and New York areas until accepting the post at St. Agnes.

In addition to the work he was accomplishing at St. Agnes, Shone’s long-standing and intense interest in Gregorian chant led to the development of a select, all-male vocal ensemble, a performance/study group that ultimately sang in Washington monasteries as well as at the National Cathedral, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and St. Matthew’s Catholic Cathedral, among other venues.

In 1989 Shone relocated to Pinellas County, Florida, and served as organist and choir director at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church of Palm Harbor, St. John’s Episcopal Church, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, and finally the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, each time building a choir and developing an expansive music program. He held his final position until retirement in 2017 at the age of 90.

Throughout his career, Shone actively participated as a member of the American Guild of Organists, having served twice as dean of the Clearwater Chapter. Additionally, he was a frequent recitalist throughout the Washington metropolitan and Tampa Bay areas, performing hundreds of concerts encompassing a wide repertoire of music from all periods. Along with his wife Theresa Villani, a solo cellist, the duo offered programs of cello/organ and cello/piano that often included notable but neglected works of merit. In 2003 the pair recorded a disc of their organ/cello repertoire, A Royal Dialogue, at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in south St. Petersburg, Florida, employing the Casavant organ there.

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