Monday, August 4, 2014

Francis Church (1927-2014)

Francis Church, the longtime music critic of The Richmond News Leader, has died at 87. He had suffered a severe stroke earlier this year.

A Harvard University alumnus and cellist, Francis played in the Louisville Orchestra and the former Norfolk Symphony (now the Virginia Symphony) while working at newspapers. While serving as a critic and editor at The News Leader, he performed with the Richmond Philharmonic, Lynchburg Symphony and other orchestras, as well as chamber ensembles.

Francis and I were the classical-music critics of The News Leader and Richmond Times-Dispatch, respectively, during the 1980s and early ’90s, and as such were competitors. Sometimes we heard performances differently, but our differences were always respectful and cordial. On the most important issues – artistic integrity, developing and sustaining a substantive and thriving classical-music scene in Richmond – we agreed. Over time, competitors became good friends.

Francis retired when The News Leader ceased publication in 1992, but subsequently wrote reviews and commentaries for The Times-Dispatch and then for Letter V. He continued to play the cello until he was disabled by the stroke. He sang in the choir and was an active congregant at Bon Air Presbyterian Church.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 8 at Bon Air Presbyterian, 9201 W. Huguenot Road.

UPDATE (Aug. 7): An obituary by Ellen Robertson in The Times Dispatch: