Robert Cundick Honored for 50 Years of Service as Tabernacle Organist

Contributed By Valerie Johnson, LDS Church News staff writer

  • 22 May 2015

Robert Cundick acknowledges the audience’s applause at the Robert Cundick Tribute Concert at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 9, 2015.   Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • On the 50th anniversary of his appointment as a Tabernacle organist, Temple Square Performances and the Salt Lake chapter of the American Guild of Organists honored Robert Cundick.

On the 50th anniversary of his appointment as a Tabernacle organist, Temple Square Performances and the Salt Lake chapter of the American Guild of Organists honored Robert Cundick for his many years of service.

On May 9 in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, members of the AGO performed several pieces composed and arranged by Brother Cundick in a musical tribute to the accomplished composer and organist.

Brother Cundick received a doctorate in music composition from the University of Utah in 1955. He received his entire musical training from within the state of Utah, having first earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Utah as well. Brother Cundick then moved to England in 1962 with his wife, Charlotte, and five children.

Alex Oldroyd, dean of the Salt Lake chapter of the AGO, said Brother Cundick gave “three years of service as organist of the Hyde Park Chapel in London, England, where Bob played daily recitals. This time also included concert appearances at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, King’s College in Cambridge, and a broadcast program on BBC.”

Robert Cundick acknowledges the audience’s applause at the Robert Cundick Tribute Concert at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 9, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

Robert Cundick poses with all the organists who performed his music at the Robert Cundick Tribute Concert at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 9, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

The Robert Cundick Tribute Concert at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 9, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

He continued, saying, “After receiving his fellowship certification, or FAGO, Bob was awarded the first ever S. Elmer Lewis Award for obtaining the highest score of any who took that test.” He commended Brother Cundick for his presence and leadership in the Salt Lake AGO chapter, service in the musical community, and prolific work. He also presented Brother Cundick with letters from Miguel Chuaqui, director of the School of Music at the University of Utah; Utah Governor Gary Herbert; Ron Jarrett, president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; and John Walker, president of the American Guild of Organists, as well as a special award with a plaque inscribed, “In grateful recognition of his lifelong commitment to enrich lives through organ and choral music, we honor Dr. Robert Cundick, presented May 9, 2015, by the Salt Lake Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.”

In 1965, Brother Cundick was appointed to the position of Tabernacle organist, a position he held for 26 years. John Longhurst, emeritus Tabernacle organist, recounted much of the work Brother Cundick had done during his time as an organist.

“It is particularly appropriate that tonight’s celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the appointment of Robert Cundick as Tabernacle organist should be held here in the Assembly Hall,” Brother Longhurst said. “If you know where to look, you can find Bob’s fingerprints all over this venerable building.”

In commemoration of the 150th year since the organization of the Church, Brother Cundick proposed the idea of a new organ for the Assembly Hall in 1980. After securing donations from private donors and arranging for Robert Sipe to build the organ, inspectors discovered that the Assembly Hall had a structural problem in the attic trusses. It took three years for the building to be renovated.

During that time, Brother Cundick was instrumental in the creation of four rehearsal rooms in the newly excavated basement, as well as placing three practice organs, two harpsichords built by William Dowd, and three Steinway concert grand pianos in the Assembly Hall. “While it was disappointing to have to wait three years for the installation of the Sipe organ, ultimately the delay was a blessing,” Brother Longhurst said.

Brother Cundick also helped restore and update the Tabernacle organ, lobbied for the inclusion of a pipe organ in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and created a mini-organ designed to demonstrate to visitors how an organ functions, according to Brother Longhurst.