Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Robert Burgess Lynn (1930—2014)

My teacher, valued musical colleague, frequent ensemble conductor, thesis committee member, scholar of international repute, and dear friend, Dr. Robert B. Lynn, died yesterday. He was 83. Though not unexpected, his passing saddens me tremendously.

While I mull over what to say of this most influential person in my life, I'll simply quote the Pastor of the church at which Dr. Lynn directed and conducted performances of the Bach Society choir and orchestra:
Robert Burgess Lynn , born in Colorado Springs on St. Cecilia’s day in 1930, passed away February 11, 2014. A musicologist, organist, and harpsichordist, Robert’s BA degree (Phi Beta Kappa) was from Colorado College, followed by an MA in Organ from the Juilliard School of Music, and a PhD in Musicology from Indiana University. He was a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists. A Danforth Associate and Fulbright Scholar, he studied organ in Denmark with Finn Viderø. His studies in Denmark were postponed for several days when the family’s ship, the Stockholm, collided with the Andrea Doria, which sank.

Robert taught musicology for many years at Allegheny College and at the University of Houston where he also directed the Collegium Musicum, and the Graduate Studies Program. Named Professor Emeritus at the Moores School of Music in 1997, he was also a visiting professor at Rice University, Indiana University, and the University of Siegen. He was involved in the Houston Harpsichord Society. From 1982 to 2004, he was the founding director of the Houston Bach Choir and Orchestra at Christ the King Lutheran Church. Robert served as Director of Music and Organist at St. Francis Episcopal Church for 25 years, and also as interim organist at St. Christopher’s, and many other Episcopal and Lutheran churches which were blessed by his gifts.

Robert was a kind, quiet, brilliant person who loved words. His dry sense of humor lives on in his children. He loved learning, reading books in Danish and German, and traveling in Europe where he leaves many friends.

Robert was preceded in death by his parents, Geraldine and Harold Lynn, and his brother, Harold Lynn. He is survived by his wife, Elaine Steele Lynn, with whom he shared a hospital nursery at birth, and who was his sweetheart since 9th grade, including 62 years of marriage. Their children are Michael Lynn of Wellington, Ohio; Lisa Bailey of Denison, Texas and her spouse, Alvin; William Lynn of Houston and his spouse, Maria; and Sarah Elaine Lynn. Grandchildren who treasure their memories are Jeffrey and Robert E. L. Lynn, Christopher Bailey, Taylor Durr, Rachel Lynn, and Sarah Elizabeth Lynn. Robert always enjoyed the presence of children, including great- grandchildren Eric and Nicky Lynn.

The Rev. Dr. Robert G. Moore, Senior Pastor

Christ the King Lutheran Church
Robert B. Lynn, R.I.P. Those choirs of angels had better be well in tune...

(Try as I might, I cannot find a picture of Dr. Lynn online, or at hand around home. When I find one, I'll post it here.) My thanks to Lisa [Lynn] Bailey for kindly sending me the photo above.


  1. I'm so sorry. Losing good friends and good people is awful. Hugs.

    1. Thanks, ellroon. After his retirement from teaching at UH, Dr. Lynn (despite years of working with him, I still feel a need to call him by his title) was able to travel at least one more time to Germany to fill in some details of his signature studies of north German organ music of earlier centuries, so his was no idle retirement. Just about everything one can reasonably say about the man is positive... and if I know it, I'm happy to say it. It was a privilege to study with him, and especially to perform with him.

  2. Dr. Lynn was my piano teacher at Allegheny in the mid-1960s. I also turned pages for him during organ concerts. He was a much beloved professor who had a profound impact on my life. He was a consummate musician and teacher. The college choir members and I were very sad to see him move, but we understood his desire to earn a doctorate and expand his teaching opportunities. Several of us looked to find him and correspond with him but I don't think any of us was able to. I'm sad to hear he has passed. I'll let the other choir members know. It is a great testament to the quality of a teacher when students over the course of 50 years remember his influence. Robert Lynn was a wonderful person.

  3. Dr. Lynn was my piano teacher at Allegheny College in the mid-1960s. I also turned pages for him during his organ concerts (and pushed or pulled an occasional stop). He left for Indiana before I graduated but not before he had a significant effect on my education and life. Several of us from that era at Allegheny have wondered where he was and how he was doing. They will be sorry to hear he has passed. He and his wife were great fun as we all toured northern Europe performing in several venues. I will always remember his organ concert at the Keiser Willhelm Church in Berlin, German. Amazing. I'll let my classmate and college choir alums know about his passing. Thanks for posting his information.

    1. Welcome, David, and thanks for your remarks. Dr. Lynn influenced a lot of people involved in early music, and thanks in large part to him I had a part-time career performing early baroque literature and steering Houston Baroque Ensemble through several of its ten seasons of concerts. My own career is over now, thanks to medical disabilities that unfortunately affect my ability to play at performance level, but Dr. Lynn is one of my most treasured memories from the "good old days." Thanks again for your comments.



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