David D. Crandall, a musician and technical designer active in the independent theaters in Baltimore and Washington, died July 16 following a swimming accident while vacationing with his family at Kure Beach, North Carolina.
His sister, Cora Wise, said he was caught by a wave and knocked out. He was taken to Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center in nearby Wilmington on July 15. His death, the following day, was classified as a drowning.
Mr. Crandall was 70 and formerly lived in the CopyCat building before moving to the City Arts Building on East Oliver Street near Green Mount Cemetery.
“David was a polymath. He was a very good saxophone player and mainstay on the technical side of the Baltimore’s theater and music scene,” said Louis Linden, a friend who is the Cork Factory’s manager. “He ran sound at the Creative Alliance and could help hang the lights at a performance at An die Musik. He was a bright guy and was very proud that the Station North Arts and Entertainment District was designed and created by artists.”
Born in Mobile, Alabama, David Dennon Crandall was the son of Dorothy Dennon, a teacher and National Council of Churches worker, and Mace Crandall, a Congregational minister and World War II Navy chaplain. The family moved to Iowa for several years before settling in Berea, Kentucky.
His sister said he began his musical explorations, including taking up French horn, at 12.
“He was also introduced to the Appalachian music and culture that continued to infuse his work for the rest of his life,” she said.
Mr. Crandall graduated from Berea College and earned a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky.
He moved to Baltimore in 1994 after residing in Washington, D.C.
Richard Henrich, artistic director of Spooky Action Theater in Washington, said: “David was a wonderful, energetic man of the theater. He was a composer in many different styles and for many different instruments. He was a sound designer and engineer and a projections designer as well as an actor. He was a presence for 30 years in the Baltimore-Washington area.”
Mr. Crandall worked at the Baltimore Theater Project, Le Mondo on Howard Street and at Towson University. He did lighting for a Gilman School production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” and created projections for Everyman Theatre’s version of “Murder on the Orient Express.”
He earned a master of fine arts degree in imaging, media and digital arts from University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
George Frazier, a friend, said: “He practiced his saxophone every day and had an agreement with his neighbors to do so. He was a news junkie and got his news from diverse sources. He had a soft spot for science fiction. He had an inquisitive mind.”
“I knew David from the jazz community. He was a welcome participant in the Django jazz jam sessions,” Liz Fixsen, a friend, said. “He was genial and fun to talk to. He was an interesting guy. He wrote great articles for the Baltimore Jazz Alliance newsletter.”
Mr. Crandall became a figure in the Washington and Baltimore theater and arts community, and was a creator of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, where he resided until his death.
“He was one who got the Station North district created. There were other people involved with David, but he was the engine behind it all,” said Stephen Estes, a friend and retired artist. “The basis of the district was the local, indigenous arts scene that lives around North Avenue. He carried the proposal and delivered it.”
Nancy Sue Linden, an artist and theatrical designer, recalled, “He was good at projections, and lighting and sound.”
Everyman Theatre’s assistant production manager, Rick Gerriets, said: “He was passionate about music as a composer and instrumentalist. He took it seriously but was playful and liked working with others. He did an orchestration for ‘The Magic Flute’ for the Annex Theater years ago. It was very successful.”
“He stayed on top of the newest technologies,” Mr. Gerriets added.
Mr. Crandall, who also had worked at the Maryland Institute College of Art with computers, had been the co-editor of Radar, a Baltimore arts review.
His sister, Cora Wise, described him as a Renaissance man, gifted musician, multi-instrumentalist, composer, computer whiz, voracious reader and innovative cook.
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She also said: “He would put together dishes like savory oatmeal. He’d add a fried egg and leftover collard greens. He made his own kombucha, or fermented tea.
Friends recalled his Hoppin’ John, a black-eyed pea dish he prepared for New Year’s Day.
He kept his 1992 Ford Festiva running for nearly three decades.
She said he was known for his wry sense of humor and was a loving brother, uncle and great-uncle and a ”proud liberal.”
“Dave was a diplomat. He could talk on any subject. If you had a get-together, he could make it work. He was intelligent and knew a lot of people. He could connect to whatever was going on,” Mr. Estes said. “He never lost his temper. He never held a grudge.”
Survivors include his sister, Cora Wise of Greensboro, North Carolina; two brothers, Ross Blount of Allerton, Iowa, and Bill Blount of Prescott, Arizona; six nieces; and seven nephews.
Plans for a life celebration in Baltimore are pending.