- The Washington Times - Friday, December 17, 2004

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) — The longtime conductor of the Crystal Cathedral Orchestra fatally shot himself at the soaring glass-and-steel church yesterday after a nine-hour standoff that started just before a Christmas pageant was to begin.

Johnnie Carl, 57, got into argument Thursday evening with another employee, went back to his office and fired four shots, then barricaded himself in a bathroom and committed suicide as police officers tried to talk to him, authorities said.

Mr. Carl, conductor at the cathedral for nearly 30 years, had struggled with bouts of depression, authorities said.

The 128-foot-high church, designed in part by the architect Philip Johnson and completed in 1980, is home to the Rev. Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral Ministries and claims a congregation of more than 10,000. Mr. Carl directed the music on Mr. Schuller’s internationally televised “Hour of Power” broadcast from the cathedral.

Mr. Carl also arranged or recorded music for such artists as Celine Dion, John Tesh, Michael Crawford, the London Symphony and Lee Greenwood. He was an arranger and orchestrator on Mr. Tesh’s “Live From Red Rocks” and was an arranger on Miss Dion’s Christmas special, “These Are Special Times,” said Michael Nason, a spokesman for Mr. Schuller.

Mr. Schuller came to the police command post set up near the cathedral late Thursday and taped a message for Mr. Carl, but police did not have the chance to play it to him.

“Johnnie was a beloved member of our church family and close personal friend,” Mr. Schuller said. “He was a creative genius whose beautiful arrangements and superb conducting set new levels of excellence for sacred music.”

Mr. Nason said Mr. Carl had spoken about his depression in the past. He said Mr. Carl, a married father of three, had last talked to him about his troubles about a year ago — “just a sense of personal pressures, job and things around him, dealing with people around him.”

The first shots were fired less than two hours before the scheduled start of the cathedral’s annual “Glory of Christmas” holiday show, for which Mr. Carl had arranged the recorded music. Some 100 cast members were preparing for the first of Thursday’s two programs, which were to include the cathedral’s world-renowned pipe organ and a Nativity scene featuring live animals.

The programs were canceled Thursday but were scheduled to go on yesterday.

After the gunfire broke out, children in a day care center on the grounds were rushed to safety, while staff members and others were slowly evacuated.

David Hoffman, 52, of Front Royal, Va., was among hundreds of people from across the country who had come to see the show. He decided to fly out to California after watching Mr. Carl on the “Hour of Power.”

“I’m shocked. He was a wonderful artist,” said Mr. Hoffman, a professional musician. He said Mr. Carl had “the creativity to take the standards and make them evolved and living.”

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