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Richard Moryl, composer and painter, dies at 89

Richard Moryl

Richard Moryl, composer, painter, writer and teacher, died Sunday. he was 89. (Brad Nettles/Staff)

Richard Moryl, a composer and visual artist whose long career has been studded with successes and honors, died Sunday. He was 89.

Moryl had been coping with health issues for years, but in recent months took a turn for the worse, according to his wife Ellen Dressler Moryl, founding director of the Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs.

“He died at home in a room filled with his artwork and his music and his dogs,” she said.

A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. April 21 at Mepkin Abbey. Musicians, including the Charleston Symphony’s principal oboist Zack Hammond and the Ensemble of St. Claire, will perform.

Moryl was born in Newark, N.J., in 1929, attended Columbia and Brandeis universities and the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin.

He has been recognized for his musical contributions with two National Endowment for the Arts awards, grants from the Ford and Martha Baird Rockefeller foundations and more. In 1963, he traveled to Germany as a Fulbright Scholar.

Moryl co-founded with his former wife Joanne the Charles Ives Center for American Music at the Canterbury School, in New Milford, Conn., in 1979. The center, which organized a summer performance series, long provided a venue for patrons to hear works by contemporary American composers. He also founded and directed the New England Contemporary Music Ensemble.

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Moryl’s own compositions have been performed hundreds of times throughout the U.S., Europe and South America. Over the years, about 40 of his works have been published and 10 recorded.

A CD of his piece, “Das Lied” (sung by Jan De Gaetani and conducted by Gerald Schwartz) was released in 2000 on the Opus 1 label.

In October 2013, “Das Lied” — along with another piece, “Salvos,” for solo trumpet — was performed at the Magnetic South concert presented by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and College of Charleston music department. Though in fragile health, Moryl attended the concert.

His music often is complex, informed by the avant-garde experimentation of the middle 20th century, but not without a certain romantic lyricism.

Dressler Moryl said her husband was an inspirational force in her life.

“What gave him the light that made him the musician, thinker and poet that he was was his inner child,” she said. “And the inner child was there until the very end.”

Contact Adam Parker at or 843-937-5902.

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