Obituary: Roland Tabell

PASADENA, CA (March 21, 2016) — A memorial service for Roland Tabell, who had a major impact on Covenant hymnody, will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Pasadena Covenant Church.

0321 roland tabellRoland, 81, died March 2.

He was born December 3, 1934, in Tacoma, Washington, to William Bertel and Jean (Short) Tabell. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. After serving two years in the Army, he completed a master of music degree and did doctoral studies in church and choral music at the University of Southern California.

Roland and his wife, Betty (Kimbell), married in 1967.

Roland served as minister of music and worship at Pasadena Covenant Church for 38 years until his retirement in 1999. He also served on the Covenant’s Commission on Church Music and Worship, helping produce the silver songbook, The Song Goes On, and on the Hymnal Commission, which produced The Covenant Hymnal: A Worshipbook in 1996.

He is credited with arranging 17 of the selections in the hymnal, including “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “How Can I Keep from Singing?” and “Come, Share the Lord.”

Roland published more than 30 choral arrangements and compositions, many created with Bryan Jeffery Leech. Together they also produced two musical dramas, “A Tale of Two Brothers” (the Prodigal Son story) and “Resurrection,” which was recorded with singers from Pasadena Covenant Church along with members of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Roland’s musical gifts were eclectic. Throughout his ministry, he was committed to inclusivity and creativity. He could move easily between Vivaldi and Hillsong, hymns and contemporary choruses, always choosing the richest texts and enhancing them with his arrangements.

In addition to his wife, Betty, Roland is survived by his daughters, Pamela (Roger) Wagner and Linda (Raimer) Rojas, as well as eight grandchildren.

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  1. My condolences to the family. It wasn’t that long ago that I was chatting with Roland about worship leading. I grew up in Pasadena Covenant while he was the worship pastor. Being a worship pastor myself now in the ECC, I come across his brilliant work in the Covenant Hymnal often and remember him fondly. He was a wonderful man who had a beautiful heart for worship. He will be missed.

  2. I grew up with Roland Tabell’s music, at Pasadena Covenant Church. My father (Arvid Carlson) was pastor there for most of my childhood, and Roland was an absolutely gifted music director. We were constantly treated to orchestras composed of his fellow musicians from the area, thrilling musical cantatas featuring choirs from young to old, and inspiring arrangements. Roland can never be replaced – he was one of a kind and the end of an era. What a loss!

    1. Pam, So nice to see your comment here. Glad we were able to visit briefly at Samarkand awhile back.
      Thank you for inviting me to the Wednesday after-school club at Peninsula Covenant Church. I had accepted Jesus as my Savior at age six during VBS at PCC. My family attended a very small church in the area so not many youth there. That made your friendship up into high school years very special. Happy Easter and all the best, Jean

  3. I am very sorry to hear this news. He was a remarkable musician who I enjoyed working with arranging music for Bryan Jeffery Leech. His CD of hymn arrangements are incredibly moving and brilliant in bringing out the essence of music and lyrics.

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