Robert Carwithen, resident of Lafayette Hill, Pa., peacefully entered into Eternal Glory on Wednesday May 11, 2022.
He was born in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1933.His parents were Frances Jones Carwithen and Dr. Frank Carwithen. He is survived by his brother Dr. Edward Carwithen and his friend of 63 years , Christine Dewees. He will be greatly missed by many friends and colleagues who were blessed to have known him. A beloved teacher, mentor, organist / choirmaster and friend to many in the surrounding Philadelphia area. Carwithen lived a rich and full life for the glory of God and to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
After graduating from Sebring High School in Florida, he attended Florida State University, 1951 – 1954. In the Spring of 1954 Virgil Fox , the great impresario of the pipe organ heard him play, and recommended him to Dr. Alexander McCurdy, Head of the Organ Department at the Curtis Institute of Music., Philadelphia, Pa. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Music in 1958, and at Dr. McCurdy’s recommendation, proceeded to study for his Master’s degree at the Westminster Choir College , Princeton, New Jersey. In 1960 he was awarded a Master’s in Conducting. His teachers were Warren Martin, Nicholas Harsanyi, Julius Herford. He was invited, after graduation in 1960, to join the faculty of Westminster Choir College, teaching piano, organ, theory, and conducting. He remained at Westminster until his retirement in 2001. In 1978 he went to Paris, France, and studied the organ with both Maurice and Marie Madeleine-Chevalier DURUFLE, and French Classic Baroque organ music with Andre Isoir. In 1980 he spent the summer in Toulouse, France, studying the organ with Xavier Darasse.
Robert Carwithen was blessed to have had multiple careers as an organist, choral conductor, composer / arranger, church musician and performer. He was also a carillonneur playing the carillon at the Brussels (1958) , Seattle (1962), and New York (1964) World’s Fair .
His studies and concerts led him around the world and into many churches and Universities including Westminster Choir College of Rider University, Princeton, N,J. While on the organ faculty he was George Lynn’s Conducting Associate from 1966 – 1969. When Dr. Lynn retired he was appointed Conductor of Symphonic Choir for two years , 1969-1971. He also served as Head of the Organ Department (1964 – 2003) at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University.) In 1971 he served as Musical Editor for the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) new worship hymnal.
He served as Organist / Choirmaster / Director of Music at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown. At this church he founded the Oratorio Choir of the First Presbyterian Church, Germantown. As well as conducting major concerts each yea r at the church, he took the Oratorio Choir to London, England (1972) to sing the Verdi “Requiem” at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. He also served churches in Wayne Presbyterian Church, Wayne, Pa., First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and Tenth Presbyterian Church , Philadelphia, Pa.
He retired from active church music playing in 1998.
In 2003 he founded the Robert Carwithen Music Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to help musicians prepare for using their musical gifts in the Church, in areas so associated, schools and performance areas. It is the Foundation’s desire that the recipients lives will be freed by scholarship / grants so that they may pursue opportunities of study, education and practice that would not be available without such funds. Also the purpose of the Foundation is to honor Almighty God for His faithfulness in life and gift.
Gifts and donations may be made in the memory of Robert Carwithen to the RCMF at 801 Ridge Pike, Apt.10, Lafayette Hill, Pa., 19444.
A favorite poem – by A. Price Hughes:
“ When I die and leave you here awhile, be not like others, sore undone, who keep vigils by the silent dust and weep. For my sake-turn again to life and smile,
nerving up thy heart and trembling hand to do something to comfort other hearts than thine. Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine and I, perchance, may therein comfort you.”