GW, Rick Perry to eulogize Cliburn

Texas Gov. Rick Perry will join George W. Bush and other dignitaries at Sunday's service.

By Jeff Brumley

Former President George W. Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are among those scheduled to speak at the funeral of Van Cliburn Sunday in Fort Worth, Texas. A Russian cellist will also speak at the 3 p.m. service at Broadway Baptist Church, Pastor Brent Beasley said.

VanCliburn performing 4

Cliburn, an internationally celebrated classical pianist and life-long Baptist who worshiped at Broadway, died Wednesday from bone cancer. He was 78.

Others speaking are Beasley, Cliburn friends Sid Bass and Dee Kelley, Russian cellist Olga Rostropovich and Joseph Polisi, president of the Julliard School. Music will be provided by a 300-voice choir and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

brent beasley

Al Travis, Broadway’s music director and organist, said musical selections will include several of the great old hymns that Cliburn loved, including “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” and “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” 

“Those are three from his Baptist roots,” Travis said. “There will be some Russian music by the choir, as well.”

al travis

The presence of Russian dignitaries and music stem from Cliburn’s winning of the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. The achievement made the pianist an overnight sensation, and was credited for helping ease tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Organizers expect Broadway’s 1,300-seat sanctuary to be filled on Sunday, with another 400 or so watching on closed-circuit television in an adjacent church hall. Beasley said the service will not be live streamed on the web because the orchestra’s contract prohibits it.

A public viewing will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Broadway Baptist, Beasley said.

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