Our own Bert Landman was honored this month by The Royal School of Church Music for distinguished service in church music and liturgy. At an event at Durham Cathedral which Bert could not attend due to COVID travel restrictions, the following citation was read: “Bert Landman gave distinguished service during his (five) terms as President of RSCM America. Over many years he furthered the work of the RSCM, placing it on firm ground for the future. Under his care he fostered a warm and productive environment, bringing about new initiatives in education and musical composition that have inspired constructive dialogue throughout America.” Bert was further awarded the title Associate of the Royal School of Church Music, in recognition of his strong Board leadership during a pivotal time of transition.
We are all the happy recipients of Bert’s extraordinary work at the organ console. From the quiet voluntary that draws our attention before worship begins, to the thrilling postludes of Widor or J.S. Bach at the end, Bert’s keyboard skills invite us to a place of beauty and solace. It is as a teacher, though, that Bert’s gifts truly shine. “Bert’s a healer,” said one person recently. He guides and supports the adult choir, equips young people through the Choir School of Baltimore, and consistently helps us understand the purpose of music in liturgy. “Music isn’t the point. Giving glory to God is the point,” Bert has told me more than once. “It helps us do what we’ve come to do, but it shouldn’t be the focus.”
Bert’s humility also grounded the RSCM. When a poorly worded agreement from the organization in England threatened to splinter the affiliates in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, Bert worked behind the scenes to craft better language and build consensus. In the process, Bert sought to make the leadership more inclusive and brought strength to the roles of women and people of color. Further, as it became clear that the American headquarters needed to leave their longtime base at Westminster Choir College, Bert facilitated the move to Duke University.
Bert’s award is significant, and so I’d like to propose that we recreate the occasion that he had to miss at Durham Cathedral. This Sunday at the 10:00 service, I will present the RCSM citation. To make it special, and more like we are in England for the event, please bring a hat to church. You can wear it throughout the service or put it on at the time of the celebration. Let’s “tip our hats” to Bert, and give thanks for his leadership, especially over the last 18 months when music has been an especially important balm.