Raymond R. Repp
1942 - 2020
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Repp, Raymond R. Ray Repp, the celebrated singer-songwriter considered 'the father of the guitar mass,' whose 'Mass for Young Americans' sold millions of copies in the 1960s and '70s, died April 26, 2020, after battling both lymphoma and metastatic melanoma, the latter the cause of his death. He was 77. His twelve albums of Christian folk music and concerts worldwide through the '70s and '80s gave rise to a following in the millions, primarily youth re-energized in their faith and commitment to promote social justice. Raymond Robert Repp was born in St. Louis Sept. 17, 1942, to Walter and Rita Kempf Repp, the eldest of their nine children. Ray was educated early on in Catholic schools: Seven Holy Founders Elementary School, the St. Louis Preparatory Seminary, Cardinal Glennon College, and Kendrick Seminary. His graduate studies continued at St. Paul's Seminary, Ottawa, Canada. He became an Extension Volunteer in Salt Lake City followed by an assignment as Campus Minister at Oklahoma State University. For three years Ray studied music and languages in Vienna, Austria. While there he was invited by Cornell University to be a resident artist, working with various faith communities. Composing music, recording and performing it had been simultaneously taking place over these years, gradually but steadily. After Cornell, Ray became the Director of the Head Start Program in Ithaca, N.Y., where he oversaw five Head Start Centers. Soon after, he started his own music publishing and recording company, which included the works of several other musicians. According to the historical theologian David Haas, 'Ray Repp was the very first to employ the influence of popular folk music of the 1960s. His hugely popular 'Mass for Young Americans' is now translated into 28 languages. Most American bishops initially banned the guitar from the liturgy. This only fanned the spread and inclusion of his recordings, which have been re-issued in a 'Best of Ray Repp' series. Ray is quoted as saying in the Haas profile, 'Latin philosophy and theology textbooks could hardly hold my attention from the books of my new heroes - Deikmann, Davis, Jungman. I was writing music at the same time, usually secretly in my small seminary room. But liturgical music? The thought never crossed my mind. If my music hadn't been officially banned in dozens of U.S. dioceses, it probably would never have caught on. My songs were written out of my frustrations then at seeing little concern for the neglected Hispanics and Blacks in Utah, not only by Mormons but my own affluent Catholics.' He witnessed both unity and hatred in Selma, urging him further to make music of relevance. His recordings, beginning in 1965, include 'Allelu,' 'Hear the Cryin',' 'By Love Are We All Bound' and 'Ever Bless.' Sadly, in 1997 Ray was entangled in a ten-year, bitter lawsuit with Andrew Lloyd Webber over the purported, highly publicized plagiarism of Ray's 'Till You' for the theme song of 'Phantom of the Opera.' Adds Hass,'It's impossible to deny Ray his tremendous contributions to the beginning of church music in the vernacular … catchy not churchy, he got us singing!' And he quotes Ray:, 'If our music is to praise god, it can only do so by helping to change us and our communities into more sensitive, loving, and just human beings.' Ray Repp is survived by his devoted husband of 20 years, the novelist and painter Richard Alther. They made their homes on Lake Champlain, Ferrisburgh, Vt., and Palm Springs. Ray and Richard have two grandsons, Zachary Richard Bostwick and Oliver Reed Bostwick, along with their parents Sara Alther Bostwick and Brett Bostwick of South Burlington, Vt. Ray's surviving siblings are Larry Repp and James Repp of St. Louis; Donald Repp of San Antonio, Texas, Cindy Repp Toler of Chicago, Ill.; and Lynn Repp Derrick, Stephen Repp and Kenneth Repp, also of St. Louis. Ray was pre-deceased by his youngest brother Terry Repp. Included in Ray's large and loving Repp family are numerous brothers- and sisters-in-law, plus nieces and nephews and cousins, with all of whom Ray kept in contact. Throughout their marriage, Ray and Richard were active supporters of several charitable and cultural organizations. If donations are desired, consider in Vermont: Vermont Cares, 187 Saint Paul Street, Burlington, VT 05401; The Gay and Lesbian Fund of Vermont, PO Box 42, Randolph, VT 05060; and Women of Wisdom, 151 Main Street, Vergennes, VT 05491. In Palm Springs: The Center, 1301 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262; Desert AIDS Project, 1695 North Sunrise Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262; and AIDS Assistance Program, 1276 North Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 108, Palm Springs, CA 92262. In 2018, Ray published 'Table Tales: Do Ahead Dinner Party Menus That Whet Appetites, Loosen Tongues, and Make Memories.' Richard provided the tales and desserts, but the book, apart from sharing Ray's imaginative skills as a chef, is a capstone of his forever reaching out to others, with joy, festivity, compassion, and love.

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Published in Post - Dispatch on Apr. 28, 2020.
MEMORIES & CONDOLENCES
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30 entries
May 14, 2020
Ray's beautiful music and words so profoundly transformed our spiritual lives for an entire generation. It is hard to understand how one person can have such a profound effect on the world. I'm thrilled to find out that he was part of the Cornell Catholic Community! I was there in the late 70s and missed his time there. I wonder what new songs he is creating now in the next world.
Martin Lo
May 7, 2020
Michael and I met Ray and Father Bill Kelly in Ithaca, NY. Michael had introduced me to his music years before when were dating, as non-Catholic I was never exposed to his liturgical music. Mike was enamored by all things Ray Repp. Imagine our joy when actually met him in person! But then sang with him, saw his faith and talent weekly. I know friends reached out to Ray when Mike passed of melanoma almost 2 years ago, he died listening to his favorite Ray Repp hymns in his final hours. Blessings on his soul, and prayers for his family, friends and the countless number who were inspired by his presence and talents.
Joyce Billing
Friend
May 6, 2020
What a shock to have learned Ray Repp passed away. May his soul be at peace with his Savior. And may our dear God give comfort to those left behind: Richard, Ray's family, and his many friends.

Although I never met Mr. Repp, I believe this email I sent him a few years ago sums up my feelings, as well as those of so many others.

"I imagine you often receive emails from fans, past and present. Consider this just one more. I think back to my grammar school days, which were truly some of my happiest. In my memories, your music forms an integral part. At Mass, your music was there, we sang along, and through the years, they remained with me. Some of the words, of course, were forgotten, but a little research brought them back. I recently downloaded some of your best via iTunes. The simplicity and earnest pleading, for example, in 'Hear, O Lord,' can bring tears. I wanted to remind you how important you are, and how much you have given to so many through your music. Thank you, Ray, and may God bless you always."

Terry W.
Terry W
May 1, 2020
What a beautiful man and soul! I never met Ray, but heard many incredible stories from his sister, Lynn. She adored her big brother and loved talking about his life, his accomplishments and his love of music, travel and the arts. She also spoke about his wonderful marriage and how lucky he was to find his soul mate. Praying for you at this very sad time.
Jean OBrien
Friend
May 1, 2020
Ray was such a good, kind genuine man. We would have great conversations about life & family. I will miss this very special friend so very much. I Love you Ray & you will hold a special place in my heart forever ❤
Elizabeth
Friend
May 1, 2020
Ray Repp was titan of Church music. He was everything that I wanted to be in a pastoral musician. Hundreds of children were taught his songs by rote method in my Church because most of our members were too young to read when they joined our choir. He will be sadly missed and also greatly appreciated by all of the present pastoral musicians who got their start after he blazed their trail.
John Tobias
May 1, 2020
You always made me proud to be from St. Louis! Your music enriched our lives.
Joseph Foy
Acquaintance
April 30, 2020
I new Ray in His seminary days and was inspired by his music to compose church music myself. I was privileged to sing in the chorus of his early record, "I Am The Resurrection" and this music I still hold in my heart. We introduced it to many churches in St Louis in the early days of new church music. I will hold my memories of Ray in my heart, and wish him joy and peace that will never end. In the words of a special song he wrote, " Peace, I Leave with YOU, my friend"
Myrt Rollins
Myrt Rollins
April 29, 2020
In my childhood in the early 1970's in the Philippines, I started singing Ray's hymns at church. Some of them, like "Sons of God," "Here We Are," and "Into Your Hands," are markers of significant events for me in my memory. Today, I get a lump in my throat hearing them or sometimes even singing them at church here in southern California. The simplicity, purity and beauty of Ray's compositions truly reflect the glory of God. His songs somehow connect the decades of my life with faith and the church. Ray, thank God, thank you for the music.
Noel
April 29, 2020
I was in Seventh Grade at St. Jude School in New York City and Sr. Mary Patrick PBVM played your music on the Catholic Educational Television. She told me a had to learn the guitar to play your Music, and I said yes Sister and I did! So became my journey as a Pastoral Musician and Liturgist. I have played your music and of course others at Liturgy since 1969, running folk groups and choirs along the way. YOU gave our Church a great jump start in Catholic English Lyric Music, and there are millions have you to thank! May you enjoy living with our Lord and may songs of Angels welcome you!!!
Michael Lyons
April 29, 2020
I met Ray in the seminary, in August of 1963 when he was a senior at Cardinal Glennon College and I was an incoming freshman. I was impressed with his musical and singing talent and asked him if he could help me learn the guitar. He was most gracious (even though I was a lowly freshman) and encouraged and supported my efforts to learn folk music. He inspired me to learn the new music that, thanks to his talent and spirit, was sweeping the country in the mid 60's. It is because of his passion for social justice and efforts to reach out to those who have been marginalized in our society, that I have been involved in liturgical music since those days in the seminary. I was able to re-connect with him and renew our friendship about two years ago. We shared stories about our struggles with disease -- we both suffered with leukemia. But, he was ever positive and upbeat about his life. He was a gentle, sensitive and caring man. His music was, and remains, an inspiration in my life, and I told him that many times. He will be remembered and missed by everyone that his life touched. And, Rich, may you be at peace.
Ron Payton
Friend
April 29, 2020
My sincere and deepest sympathy to you Richard and to Rays family. It was a pleasure knowing Ray for the short time I knew him. Helping with his parties the last year with Ken Muraco was a great pleasure.
Chef Doran
Friend
April 29, 2020
I met Ray through his music and over time was able to enjoy his friendship, sense of humor, and gentle grace. He strongly influenced my thinking to expand from my norm and that changed my life forever. I am grateful to have known him. Peace dear friend.
Roz Ryll
April 29, 2020
Barbara Wisbey
April 28, 2020
My sincere condolences to all in the family. I will always remember his great music! I was a beginning catholic school teacher and always used his music. I am sure many people were greatly influenced by his songs. I was part of a parish folk mass! May he Rest In Peace with Jesus!
Dorothy Sanning
Teacher
April 28, 2020
Ray and I were neighbors during our early childhood In Affton. We spent our childhood summers together. Ray was a gentle soul and we have maintained contact all these years. He will always remain in my heart. Lana Trumbull Renetzky.
Lana Renetzky
April 28, 2020
I lost track of Ray after Kenrick, but reestablished contact after my career as a health exec ended and my wife and I returned to St. Louis. The obit 'says' it all, but if you didn't experience Ray's love, gentleness and generosity, you missed half the story and half the man. We have lost a good man. Help others step in to fill the void
Harry Whitney
Friend
April 28, 2020
Ray opened up our eyes to new ways of honoring the Lord. We felt so special singing those songs in church, knowing one of our very own had written them. At the time we had no idea what a groundbreaking movement he was creating. Todays contemporary worship services owe a great deal to Ray Repp. Richard and Rays families will be in my prayers. Allelu, Ray!
Mike Budde
Friend
April 28, 2020
I was sad to learn of Mr. Repp's passing. I grew up in our church (Immanuel Lutheran, Chicago, IL) singing his music etc.... Still my most favorite! May he sing with the angels and be well and at peace!
Alma-Lynn Kamps, formerly Chicago, IL,
Retired in Fort Myers, FL.
Alma Lynn Kamps
April 28, 2020
Sara Bostwick
April 28, 2020
Sara Bostwick
April 27, 2020
Ray and his music inspired me in the '80s to be a pastoral musician, which I am this day. I copied his guitar style, and we still use his music in our Masses.

I met him personally at one of his concerts in NY state. I was fortunate to maintain [infrequent] personal contact with him via email until as recently as February of this year.

I miss him.
Dave Tomer
April 27, 2020
One of the nicest guys ever to live , laugh and love in this beautiful town of Palm Springs, Ca. We have truly lost a gem. We will remember Ray and his Annual New Years Day Paella Party with Rich for all their fortunate friends forever. Rest In Peace kind friend.
Ken
Friend
April 27, 2020
You can now sing Gods praises in his presence. Thank you.
Madeline
Friend
April 27, 2020
Ray and Richard and I were the best of buds during our high school yeats at Prep south seminary.
Rev. Schneider
Classmate
April 26, 2020
A true gentleman who was the epitome of kindness, grace, style, fun - a great chef and musician - and such a loving, caring individual! You Did the most that any of us can hope to do, you made an impression and a difference in so many lives. What a great loss for us all. Rich, my prayers go out to you.
Joy Jacot
Friend
April 26, 2020
I wanted to express my heartfelt condolences to Rich and the entire family. Ray was a long-time regular guest at the restaurant where I host. Over the many years of knowing him, he became a part of our family. He had a heart of gold and if you knew Ray, you knew his kind and gentle soul, which came through as soon as you met him. He will be missed greatly by all those who knew him.
George
Friend
April 26, 2020
Ray always greeted you AND the day with a warm smile. A man who made a difference on this earth. He will be greatly missed.
Caryl olins
Friend
April 26, 2020
A kind, talented, generous soul has left this earth. He leaves behind so many friends and family who adored him. Marv and I wish we had spent even more time together. Sending our love to Rich and family.
Eileen Stern
Friend
April 26, 2020
I am hart broken hearing about the loss of Ray. My prayers are with his family and Richard. His music and kindness will always inspire and comfort the world.
Anthony Seeker
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