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Lloyd Bowers, church musician and entertainer, dies

Lloyd Bowers was organist and choir director for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Franklin Square in West Baltimore and played regular recitals around Baltimore.
Lloyd Bowers was organist and choir director for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Franklin Square in West Baltimore and played regular recitals around Baltimore.

Lloyd Bowers, a church musician and harpsichordist recalled as being a Renaissance man, died of dementia complications May 27 at the Parry Home in Silver Spring. The longtime Bolton Hill resident was 80.

Born in Newport News, Virginia, and raised in Hampton, Virginia, he was the son of Thomas Oscar Bowers, a naval architect, and Goldie Williams, a sixth grade teacher and president of the Virginia Education Association.

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As a young man he enjoyed going to a neighborhood movie house, the Paramount Theatre in Newport News, to hear an organist, Gladys Lysle, play the pipe organ during intermissions.

“Lloyd did not go to the theater for the films. He went for the intermissions to hear the organ and the music. This may be where his love of music began,” said a friend, Andrew O’Bar, who lives in Washington, D.C.

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During high school he played at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Newport News.

He graduated from Hampton High School in 1957 and moved to Baltimore to study the organ at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

“He preferred, though, to study the harpsichord with Sylvia Marlowe, an well-known New York City musician,” Mr. O’Bar said.

Mr. Bowers became organist and choir director for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Franklin Square in West Baltimore. He worked closely with its longtime rector, Father Stanley Schwind, who was also chaplain for the Baltimore City Fire Department.

He later played occasionally at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Timonium.

Friends said Mr. Bowers considered himself a harpsichordist, and played regular recitals around Baltimore, including in the Concert Series at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and during the annual Holly Tour in Mount Vernon.

He also played with the Rococo Company, a baroque chamber music group.

Mr. Bowers lived in a Bolton Street home with a large kitchen on the second floor. Most every other room had keyboard musical instruments, including a grand piano, clavichord, organ and pianoforte.

“He held court in his huge kitchen. He was charming and a good storyteller. He had an almost hypnotic quality with his good looks. There was an aura about him. He was like a cat with a touch of mystery,” said Juan Bastos, a close friend who lives in Los Angeles. “He had many guests and he would charm Maryland Institute [College of Art] students he would invite in for a dinner.”

Mr. Bastos also said: “Lloyd was a Renaissance man. There was so much he could do. He was a fine musician. He had a loom for weaving. He was an avid bridge player and loved his three dogs, all Salukis.

“He knitted and was a photographer with his own darkroom. He could prepare a dinner in no time at all. He had a passion for trying to master a craft,” said Mr. Bastos, a portrait artist and Maryland Institute graduate.

Mr. Bastos said Mr. Bowers had entertained Raymond Leppard, a British harpsichordist, and Virgil Thomson, a composer, who gave him a recipe for maple syrup ice cream. He prepared dinner one night for composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, who was appearing in Baltimore.

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Mr. Bowers was photographed with the pianist Liberace in the entertainer’s limousine. He accompanied Baltimore television personality Cal Schumann at actress Tallulah Bankhead’s 1968 funeral in Chestertown. At that event he was mistaken for French actor Louis Jourdan.

“Lloyd was drawn to the pageantry of the Episcopal church,” Mr. Bastos said. “He liked the robes, the incense and the theatricality of it all.”

Mr. Bowers also worked in several Baltimore shops. He sold cooking wares at Kathy Matava’s The Cook’s Cupboard in The Rotunda. He also worked at The Weaver’s Place in Dickeyville and with John and Emily Kolasa’s Stitches, Etc. in Baltimore County.

“He was known for his custom picture frames, elaborate matting, bookbinding, gold leaf, calligraphy, custom clothes, weaving, and knitting,” Mr. O’Bar said. “It seemed that he could do anything. Several of his friends have recounted a story of Lloyd taking a break as he prepared dinner to go outside and fix the carburetor on a Rolls-Royce owned by his friend Cal Schumann.”

Barbara White, who lived in Bolton Hill for many years, said: “Lloyd had a round table and he tried to mix his guests up. He was a marvelous cook and made everything from scratch.”

Mr. Bowers once made a gold lame outfit worn by Divine, who appeared in John Waters’ films.

Survivors include a sister, Dianna Shoemaker of Chesapeake Beach. His partner of many years, Dr. Joseph Stephens, a Johns Hopkins psychiatrist and fellow harpsichord player, died in 2008.

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