Christopher Adam Putnam, 51, of Berkeley, CA, passed away on September 15, 2018. Born in San Diego, the son of Judith Putnam, Christopher attended St. Augustine High School, University of Redlands (Bachelor of Music), and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Masters of Theological Studies).
Christopher was an extraordinarily talented, creative, and versatile musician who worked as a conductor, organist, pianist, accompanist, teacher, and improviser. He was also a gifted liturgist, working closely with clergy in a series of church musician positions.
His teachers included Edgar Billups, Samuel John Swartz, Audrey Jacobson, and Leslie P. Spelman. For many years, he was a member of the Association of Anglican Musicians (AAM) and was one of a select few to attain the prestigious diploma of Fellow of the American Guild of Organists.
After positions at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul (San Diego) and All Saints Episcopal Church (Beverly Hills), Christopher accepted the position of Associate Canon for Music at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, serving under Dr. John Fenstermaker from 1994-2000, and then as Canon for Music from 2000-2003. Performing duties as organist and choir director, he also established the mixed-voice Cathedral Singers, and appeared several times on recordings from the Gothic label as accompanist.
Most recently Christopher was the Associate for Liturgy and Music at All Souls Episcopal Parish (Berkeley). Starting in 2004, he grew its vibrant and eclectic music program over a span of 12 years, including directing the Parish Choir and playing the organ, piano, and keyboards; playing the washtub bass and melodica to accompany the Angel Band; and leading and accompanying the Hearts on Fire Gospel Choir and band. He retired for health reasons in 2016.
In addition to church music work, Christopher played with the San Francisco Symphony, performed at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and improvised scores to silent movies at both Grace Cathedral and All Souls Parish. He also taught as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Notre Dame (Belmont) and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Berkeley).
Christopher served his local Masonic lodge, Oakland-Durant-Rockridge (ODR), as Master in 2013, and the California Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons as Grand Organist / Assistant Grand Organist since 2010. He traveled throughout California, playing the old parlor organs of historic lodges, and electronic keyboards, pianos, and organs of other lodges, in Masonic rituals and public ceremonies.
Christopher met Caroline, his wife of eighteen years, at The Bishop’s Ranch, when both were on retreat for the Grace Cathedral Inquirers’ Class. He maintained a strong ongoing connection with the Ranch, playing for hymn sings, salon concerts for Ranch events, parish retreats, and Board retreats. He also led program retreats with fellow musician Ana Hernández, and composed a work honoring Ranch staff.
Christopher is survived by his wife Caroline De Catur Putnam, mother Judith Ann Putnam, and former wife Annette Rossi.
Donations are being accepted in memory of Christopher to Berkeley Emergency Services. For more information, please contact Jocelyn Bergen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christopher Putnam, accompanying the Berkeley Symphony and Chorus for Britten’s War Requiem in Hertz Hall