Robert Cundick: Mormon Musician
Robert Milton Cundick Sr. was a Tabernacle organist for 27 years. As Tabernacle organist, he accompanied the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, played solos during Music and the Spoken Word, and performed hundreds of organ recitals and concerts. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Cundick was born on November 26, 1926, in Salt Lake City. He played in bands and orchestras as a youth and by the age of 12 he started playing the organ for his ward. Later, he was a student of Tabernacle organist Alexander Schreiner. He also studied under renowned composer Leroy Robertson. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Fine Arts, and PhD degrees from the University of Utah. He joined the music faculty at Brigham Young University in 1957, and in 1962, he was called to serve a two-year mission as the organist for the new Hyde Park Chapel in London, England, where he served with his family of five children in tow. He performed daily recitals and a BBC broadcast. He also performed in concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral and King’s College, Cambridge. When he concluded his mission, he resumed his teaching and composition at BYU, but set that aside in 1965 when he was called as a Tabernacle organist. He retired in 1991.
After he retired, he and his wife, Charlotte, were called as directors of hosting at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. In 2004 he was presented the lifetime achievement Pearl Award for his work to publicize the works of Utah and Mormon composers. In 2007 he released a CD featuring his compositions over the span of fifty years. His most significant composition is The Redeemer oratorio, with text selected by Ralph Woodward. He also wrote The Song of Nephi cantata and God’s Everlasting Love oratorio, among numerous other works. Cundick composed two hymns that are included in the LDS Church current hymnal (“That Easter Morn” and “Thy Holy Word”) and was instrumental in the collaboration and creation of the Sing with Me children’s songbook.
On May 9, 2015 (the 50th anniversary of his appointment as a Tabernacle organist), the American Guild of Organists honored him for his years of service. He was a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists and won the first S. Elmer Lewis Award for obtaining the highest score of anyone who took the test.
Cundick died on January 7, 2016.