April 26, 1938 – January 27, 2024
Canon Thomas Charles Foster, 85, former organist and music director at All Saints’ Church, Beverly Hills, teacher, composer, member of the diocesan Commission on Liturgy & Church Music and director of music for diocesan and churchwide events, died Jan. 27 in Plano, Texas.
Foster served most recently at Epiphany Parish, Seattle, Washington, beginning in 2007 and retiring in 2017. In mid-2023 he and his wife moved to Plano to be close to family.
Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Carol Morey Foster – also a distinguished church musician and former music director at St. Paul’s Cathedral (for four years before it was demolished in 1980); St. John’s Church (now cathedral), Los Angeles; St. Mark’s Church, Upland; and Church of the Epiphany, Oak Park – their sons, James Morey Foster (Anne Marie) of Southlake, Texas, and Thomas Hunter Foster of Newport Beach, California; and grandsons Nicholas Foster of Dallas and Christopher Foster of Southlake, as well as Lizzie, Foster’s faithful canine friend of 14 years.
A memorial service was held at Epiphany, Seattle, on Feb. 17. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 16 at All Saints’ Church, 504 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills 90210. A reception will follow the service. Memorial donations to the All Saints’ Music Guild, which Foster founded during his tenure, will be gratefully received.
Tom Foster began his ministry at the Beverly Hills parish in 1976 after serving at St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville, Florida, and Calvary Church in Williamsville (Buffalo), New York. Under his direction, the choir of All Saints’ Church recorded four compact-disc albums of sacred music for the Gothic Records label, one of which featured the music of Foster’s colleague and successor, composer and organist Canon Craig Phillips.
During his tenure at All Saints’ Foster worked with church leaders on renovation projects that improved the acoustics and made the church an excellent venue for choral performances in addition to worship. All Saints, located amidst the filmmaking community, was replete with talented performers, and in addition to directing the parish’s two choirs, Foster began the tradition of Choir Shows, held in the lower parish hall. “Great fun!” he wrote in a reflection in 2003 as he retired after a 27-year ministry at the parish.
As a member of the Commission on Liturgy and Church Music Foster directed music for many diocesan services. He was coordinator of music for the 1985 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held at the Anaheim Convention Center, and also coordinated music for the Diocese of Los Angeles’ centennial celebration, culminating in a service of Eucharist at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Pentecost 1996, at which he conducted a choir of 1,000 voices in the presence of then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey.
Foster taught organ performance at California State University Northridge and Jacksonville University and conducting at the University of North Florida. He was a faculty member of summer conferences at Sewanee, Evergreen, the Mississippi Conference on Church Music and Liturgy, and the University of Wisconsin, and was a featured speaker for the dioceses of Atlanta, South Carolina, and Utah and for Virginia Theological Seminary and the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University. He was an active choral workshop leader and consultant throughout the country and led sessions on alternative musical styles and worship in the style of Taizé.
He contributed the tune “Fisk of Gloucester” (“Lift your voice rejoicing, Mary” – Hymn 190) to the Episcopal Church’s Hymnal 1982, and served a term as president of the Association of Anglican Musicians. In recognition of Foster’s services, Bishop Frederick H. Borsch named him an honorary canon of the diocese in 1999.
Thomas Foster was born in Durham, North Carolina, on April 26, 1938, son of the late Charles Thomas Foster and Mary Manning Smith Foster. He earned a bachelor’s degree in organ performance at Syracuse University and a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory, Boston.
The Foster family asks that any memorial gifts be made to All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 504 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210; or Epiphany Parish of Seattle, 1805 38th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122
Updated Feb. 28 with local funeral information.