Blog: Van Cliburn's memorial service



Posted on March 3, 2013 at 4:01 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 3 at 10:14 PM

Live updates from the memorial service for famed pianist Van Cliburn at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth.

4:58p The memorial service concludes with the hymn, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." Pallbearers remove Van Cliburn's casket as the choir sings "A Russian Folk Song." Internment will take place in a private ceremony at Greenwood Mausoleum.

4:52p "Throughout his extraordinary life, faith was central to Van Cliburn," said The Rev. Dr. Brent Beasley, senior pastor at Broadway Baptist Church, in his homily. "And so we give beauty... beauty... beauty... back to God."

4:42p Where did stage fright overcome Van Cliburn more than anywhere else? Philanthropist and friend Sid Bass thought he would say "New York." But Cliburn said it was Fort Worth. "I have so many friends in Fort Worth, and I just couldn't stand to let them down," Bass quoted Cliburn as saying.

4:31p "I shall always be grateful to be able to call Van my friend, and for everything that I learned from this great, unassuming, humble and kind human being," said Russian cellist Olga Rostropovich. "For us, he was a symbol of hope for humankind."

Rostropovich, the daughter of famed Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, then read a statement from Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, who called Cliburn "one of the most outstanding musicians of modern times." Putin added: "Over the course of many years, during the most difficult historical times, the art of Van Cliburn brought together people from different countries, different continents and united them ... We shall always remember Van Cliburn as a true and sincere friend of the Russian people. His artistic journey was closely connected to our country."

4:25p The Fort Worth Symphony plays a moving rendition of Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Ops 27: Adagio.

4:10p Van Cliburn was a graduate of The Julliard School of Music. "Far from being a pianist who performed based on intuition alone, Van was an intellectual who used his talent in service to his art," said Joseph W Polisi, Julliard's president.

4:04p Paul Harvey Jr. notes that Van Cliburn aspired to be a taxi driver when he was little. He then reads a poem that Cliburn wrote when he was young:

“Steal not away, O pierced heart
From all life’s mist of treasures,
Of song and dance and worldly pleasures
To escape this fury in silent depart.
Flee though not, thou bleeding heart
From all life’s tribulation,
But on the morrow, take consolation
In the beauty that thou art.
And the empyreal choirs will sing in the empyreal rooms
And their song will be our song.
Just for us — us two.
But, will it be for us only, till there be no tombs
To cover us, and time will ne’er be long
For us — too?

3:52p "He could speak extemporaneously at any time on almost any subject," said Dee J. Kelly, remembering his friend. "Van was never looking to make history as a classical musician. He only wanted to play well enough to beat his mother... and in the process, he did both."

3:49p A statement from President Obama is read to mourners: "Like every President since Harry Truman, I enjoyed the privilege of hearing Mr. Cliburn play, and I am confident that the enduring beauty of his art will sustain his legendary status for years to come. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Mr. Cliburn’s loved ones."

3:39p "He played with an extraordinary amount of joy, and people sensed that joy," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said. "Van did indeed make music among the nations." Perry made note of Cliburn's foundation that was established in 1962. "He brought new talent to life, inspired new artists around the world, he also helped keep Texas firmly on the map and at the center of the fine arts."

"Texas lost a true legend with his passing, and he will never be forgotten," Perry said. "I urge you to draw inspiration from how Van did it — skillfully, and with joy."

3:32p Former President George W. Bush recounted Van Cliburn's role in helping to thaw the Cold War with his historic and unexpected victory at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. "Van did his part to spread peace and love," the president said.

3:28p "He was a world-class citizen. He was the greatest musician born in the 20th century," said Ray Boswell. "While he stood only 8'-4" tall, he cast his shadow on the entire world," he added, generating laughter in the congregation. "He captured hearts of people around the world with his love for music."

3:18p "Van's death is a crater-sized void that is felt around the world," said Thomas L. Smith, Van Cliburn's partner in a brief but moving tribute. "For me, it is a loss of my soulmate, the deepest friendship. My gratitude is boundless. Thank you for being with Van and with me today."

3:13p A 300-member choir is now singing, accompanied by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

3:07p "Van wanted the beauty of music to be fully expressed in this service," said Broadway Baptist Church Senior Pastor Brent Beasley. "We sing today to express our thanksgiving for the life, passion, humility and the prodigious gifts of Van Cliburn."

3:03p The funeral service has started. Pallbearers carrying Van Cliburn's casket into the sanctuary. The casket is covered with a green-and-white flower arrangement.

2:57p Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have arrived for the service. Both are scheduled to speak. - Jonathan Betz

2:56p WFAA digital channel 8.2 is broadcasting exclusive live coverage of Van Cliburn's funeral service. The program will be repeated at 1:05 a.m. Monday on WFAA Channel 8.