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Conductor, composer Patrick Kavanaugh dies

The former director of the MasterWorks Festival had a vision for Christians in the classical arts

Conductor, composer Patrick Kavanaugh dies

(Handout)

Handout

Patrick Kavanaugh

Patrick Kavanaugh, conductor, composer, author, and co-founder of a Christian performing arts organization, died on Monday after suffering a heart attack. He was 63.

Kavanaugh, a longtime advocate for Christian outreach in the world of classical arts, co-founded the Christian Performing Artists’ Fellowship. The group performed concerts in the United States and internationally and fostered relationships among Christians working in the often-secular world of classical music, dance, opera, and theater. According to its website, CPAF is dedicated to “performing and teaching the classical arts to the glory of God and to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

CPAF runs the annual MasterWorks Festival, a four-week summer gathering where students learn from dozens of Christian professionals working in classical arts. Kavanaugh was the artistic director of the festival, which he hoped would help younger performing artists bring the gospel and a Christian ethic of excellence to their respective fields. Thousands of students from the United States and countries around the world—China, Norway, South Korea, France, Honduras and elsewhere—have attended the festival since its launch in 1997.

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MasterWorks Festival (Handout)

Handout

MasterWorks Festival (Handout)

“We consider this a missionary training ground,” Kavanaugh would say of MasterWorks. It was hosted in its early years at Houghton College in New York, then at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., then at Cedarville University for one year. (The festival is scheduled this year for Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C.)

“He really had a heart for students,” said Karen Hill, a clarinetist with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra who has served on the MasterWorks faculty. Hill, a board member of CPAF, said the festival also impacted faculty members, who cherished the opportunity to build friendships with fellow Christians working in the classical arts.

“We ministered there, but we were ministered to as well,” she said.

Although Kavanaugh retired as festival director in 2016, he continued to be involved in music: Just last month he conducted the New Mexico Philharmonic in performances of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven.

Kavanaugh was born and raised in Nashville, Tenn. His teenage passion was football until, during his high-school years, someone gave him a guitar. He took to the instrument “like a duck in water,” he later said. He went on to earn degrees in musical composition, and authored several books, including The Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers.

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Patrick and Barbara Kavanaugh (Handout)

He founded CPAF in the 1980s along with his wife Barbara, a cellist, and musicians Jim and Mary Jeane Kraft. After organizing a group of dancers, singers, and musicians for a debut performance of Bach’s Cantata No. 140 at a Virginia church in 1984, the group grew and, only three years later, performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. They called themselves the Asaph Ensemble.

The ensemble performed domestically for several years, then had its first international performance in 1993. An entourage of 191 people, including orchestra and dance team, traveled to Moscow for a production of singer Jerome Hines’ opera I Am the Way, about the life of Jesus. According to CPAF, nearly 1,000 Russians made professions of faith as a result of two concerts, which were broadcast on Russian television. In 1993, the Asaph Ensemble traveled to Bethlehem in the West Bank, where it gave a Christmas Eve performance portraying the birth, life, and resurrection of Christ. Thousands of Palestinians attended, including former leader Yasser Arafat, according to CPAF.

The organization launched Masterworks in 1997 as a way of passing on its vision to a younger generation. The festival brought in scores of faculty instructors, typically professional musicians with positions at universities or orchestras such as the National Symphony Orchestra or the Austin Symphony. Festival organizers provided dozens of Steinway pianos for its classes and concerts, which were open to the public.

The group eventually brought its performing arts festivals to China with the blessing of the government there. “There are millions and millions of young Chinese students who love Bach and Beethoven,” Kavanaugh said in 2013. “Think of the performing arts world as a mission field.”

Kavanaugh is survived by his wife and four sons, Christopher, David, John, and Peter.

Daniel James Devine

Daniel James Devine

Daniel is managing editor of WORLD Magazine and lives in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

Comments

  • My Two Cents
    Posted: Wed, 04/11/2018 12:13 pm

    Thank you, World, for reporting this. His book sits on my bookshelf and has greatly impacted my thinking as a Christian musician in a secular world. Mr. Kavanaugh had great wisdom in joining Christianity and the arts together.