Feb 20: In Memoriam Frederick Swann

In Memoriam

Frederick Swann

July 30, 1931 – November 13, 2022

We are saddened to share the news of Frederick Swann’s passing, former organist of the Riverside Church, who died peacefully at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 91. 

Memorial Tribute for Frederick Swann at Riverside Church. Presidents’ Day Monday, February 20th, 2023, 2:45 pm. All are invited to attend. Part of the annual all day conference presented by the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, this part of the day is free and open to the public. More details at: www.nycago.org.

Click here to download the American Guild of Organists program book. See pages 14 and 19 for the Frederick Swann tribute.

From 1953-1982 he served at Riverside in succession as Assistant Organist, Organist, and Director of Music. He was enormously influential to generations of organists and church musicians through his many appointments, which include being Organ Department Chair at Manhattan School of Music; faculty member of the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary; Director of Music at The Crystal Cathedral (now Christ Cathedral) in Garden Grove, California, from 1982-1998; and President of the American Guild of Organists from 2002–2008.

We who hear the magnificent sound of the Riverside Church organ owe a debt of gratitude to his leadership and guidance. Although the organ was originally commissioned under the direction of Virgil Fox, Fred Swann was also on staff at the time of the installation of the organ in the mid-1950’s. In the succeeding years as Director of Music he oversaw a complete redesign of the organ console and supervised the organ’s expansion and tonal development. As such, he and those he worked with are responsible for the renowned instrument we hear today.

His legacy endures with the annual Candlelight Carol Festival which he created and which has become an established tradition of the Riverside Church. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered for his personal warmth and collegial support to all who met him.

The prelude and postlude music for the November 20th Sunday morning Service of Worship is offered in his honor.

Read more about Fred here and on the Frederick Swann Memorial Page on Facebook

The Memorial Service for Dr. Frederick Swann will be held on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 at 10:30 am at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Palm Desert, CA. The service will begin at 10:30 am, with 30-minutes of organ repertoire to honor Dr. Swann’s long career as an organist. Please arrive in time to be seated by 10:30 am. Musicians leading the service will be Dr. Douglas Leightenheimer and the St. Margaret’s Choir, along with organists, David Higgs, Nathan Laube, and Todd Wilson.

The service can be viewed live on YouTube and Facebook.

Gala Organ Concert Announcement, May 3, 1967.