Edward Berryman, 88, organist and pianist

  • Article by: TONY KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2008 - 10:37 PM

The Wayzata man was also known for his work as a church music director and for his teaching.

Playing an electronic keyboard for two hours each morning in the basement of his Wayzata home was part of what made Edward Berryman an exceptional musician.

The organist and pianist, who died Friday at 88, made a national name for himself by teaching, directing church music, playing concerts and recording.

He was best known for his improvisations, and his repertoire included "hundreds, if not thousands'' of pieces he committed to memory, said Tom Rowland of Minneapolis, who took lessons from Berryman for more than 35 years.

Berryman's credentials included performances for the syndicated public radio program "Pipedreams," which highlights organ music.

"He was a patient teacher who tried to find artistry in each of his students,'' Rowland said.

"He was gregarious, very friendly, easy-going and warm-hearted,'' said Karen Sandness of Minneapolis, Berryman's stepdaughter. "Many of his students just adored him.''

Besides continuous work as a private tutor, Berryman, who moved to the Twin Cities from Omaha in the 1940s, taught organ and piano at Macalester College in St. Paul, Northwestern College in Roseville and the University of Minnesota, where he was the university's organist in the mid-1950s.

Rowland said Berryman's father, Cecil, and mother, Alice, were concert pianists who studied in Paris. Berryman's two brothers also were professional musicians, Rowland said.

From 1950 to 1959 Berryman was music director at Cathedral Church of St. Mark in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis.

He left Minnesota to study church music at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He returned with a doctorate in sacred music and worked as organist and choirmaster from 1962 to 1987 at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis.

"He was an organ virtuoso of the highest order,'' said Charles Scarborough, another student of Berryman's.

After retiring from Westminster, Berryman focused more on teaching and had many private pupils in organ and piano, Sandness said.

He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease during the last couple years of his life, but he retained his musical ability, she said.

A memorial service for Berryman is scheduled for Sept. 6 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1200 Marquette Av., Minneapolis.

He is survived by his wife, Maria; three stepchildren; a brother, Warren, of Denver, and four grandchildren.

Tony Kennedy • 651-298-1543

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