Robert Twynham passed away on March 23, 2011, peacefully at home. He will be cremated, and a Memorial Mass is being planned for sometime after Easter; it will take place at his home parish, Corpus Christi Catholic Church, in Baltimore.
For almost 40 years, Robert Twynham served as Choirmaster and Director of Music at Cathedral starting in 1961 and was largely responsible for establishing the fine Sacred Music Program and the Cathedral Music Series that have benefited many in some profound and spiritual way. He was a musician of national and international standing, a composer and organ pedagogue.
He was born in Washington, DC. At the age of thirteen, he began his musical career as organist at the Walter Reed Hospital Chapel. His first organ teacher, Katharine Fowler, encouraged her gifted young student to pursue musical study that eventually brought him to the Peabody Conservatory (now known as the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University). A scholarship student, he studied with Paul Callaway and George Karkey, receiving at graduation the Artist Diploma and the Bach "Horstmeier" prize. He later went to Paris to study at the Conservatory with the Catholic Impressionist composer Olivier Messiaen.
Many of the service music settings sung for the past 50 years were written by Bob and are included in the major Catholic hymnals of the US. The choral piece performed by the Cathedral choir at the 50th anniversary concert was Bob's Magnificat. Bob had conducted a number of Magnificats and decided to compose his own. His choral work, originally commissioned for the Baltimore Choral Arts Society in 1980, had its world premiere on May 5, 1980. Since then, it has been performed across the country with rave reviews.
The first five movements are titled after the names for Mary that are found in the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen: Mystical Rose (Rosa Mystica), Morning Star (Stella Matutina), Refuge of Sinners (Refugium Peccatorum), Mirror of Justice (Speculum Justitiae) and Ivory Tower (Turris Eburnea).
Bob's wife Eileen is herself an accomplished musician. She drew poetic inspiration from the Marian images in the walls and windows of the Lady Chapel at the Cathedral. Eileen expanded these metaphors in five poems using historical documents about Mary. Bob set these five poems to music. Her English texts are juxtaposed with the Latin text of the Magnificat in what is termed a macaronic text. The result is amazing.
The sixth and final movement, Gloria Patri, is a joyous explosion of organ and choral mastery that typically leads the audience to a standing ovation.
Dr. Quentin L. Van Meter was a member of Robert Twynham's Choir of Men and Boys at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen while he was a fellow in Pediatric Endocrinology at Johns Hopkins from 1978-1980. Bob's Magnificat so moved Dr. Van Meter that he has spent the subsequent years carrying around the score, giving an original recording to the Choral Directors of symphony orchestras in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, as well as the Directors of the Roger Wagner Chorale, and the Westminster College Choir, in hopes of getting the work performed and perhaps recorded so that a much wider audience could enjoy it.
Tribute prepared by the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Baltimore.