Robert Francis McKendree, a popular musician in the Episcopal Church and beyond, died of cancer June 10 at 74.
He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in May 1947. McKendree began his professional career playing at coffee houses around Auburn, New York, and Syracuse University. Moving to Glens Falls, New York, he formed McKendree Spring, a rock ensemble that the legendary manager Bill Graham called “one of the best unknown bands in the world.”
According to his website, while he was walking around his New York City neighborhood one day, looking for inspiration, McKendree discovered a small Episcopal church. The next Sunday he and his wife, Diana, attended services and found an engaging, faithful, mission-focused, and artistic gathering of seekers. It was a breakthrough for McKendree, opening a new spiritual path that led him to take time for reflection.
He and his wife moved to Cape Cod, where, setting aside his music, he began to work with youth, build houses, and make furniture, eventually feeling a deep longing to make music again. Emerging from this soul-searching period, he began to work under the aegis of the Episcopal Church.
He continued to broaden his calling with concerts, as music and worship leader, designer and coordinator of conferences, keynote presenter, mentor, and workshop leader. He released six CDs of his work, as well as producing recordings for other artists at his studio in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
In 2012, with friend and colleague Ann Holtz, he formed AwakeningSoul, a partnership hosting an annual conference embodying “Sustenance, Sanctuary and Inspiration.”
“AwakeningSoul is a coming together of all the things I care most about — relationships, trust, soul-searching, inspiring conversation, beautiful music and art, laughter, and a palpable awareness of the presence and nearness of God,” he said.
A celebration of his life and ministry is planned for 2 p.m. September 11, 2021, at Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina.