January 7 – Garnell Stuart Copeland (1977)

Garnell Copeland was 13 years old when he startled San Francisco’s virtuoso organist Newton Pashley by repeating from memory the Bach toccata that Pashley had just played. Copeland was 26 when he became Epiphany’s organist and choirmaster. Copeland was just 34 when he died in an ambulance after being attacked by three assailants on the steps of his Capitol Hill home. His attackers were never identified. The night of his death, Copeland was returning from the evening service of the Feast of Lights. Six weeks later, a memorial concert at the Kennedy Center drew 2000 friends and admirers.

In 1968, Copeland gave the dedicatory recital on Epiphany’s new Aeolian-Skinner organ. One of the pieces on the program was his mentor Leo Sowerby’s work, “Pageant.” The elderly Sowerby, in the waning months of his life, came to hear the young prodigy play. Ten years later, Epiphany dedicated in Copeland’s name two particularly fitting memorials. One was a horizontal rank of 49 pipes, for the organ Copeland helped design. The other was one of the new creation-themed stained glass windows incorporating the notation from the Copeland/Romig hymn “Epiphany.” The inspiration was from the Old Testament Book of Job where it states that at creation, “the morning stars sang together.”

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