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updated 2/23/2006 3:22:15 PM ET 2006-02-23T20:22:15

Gospel music pianist Anthony Burger, who played for the popular Gaither Homecoming shows and earned Dove Award nominations for his albums of instrumental music, collapsed and died during a performance. He was 44.

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He died Wednesday while performing on a Gaither Homecoming cruise out of Miami, said family friend Tom Rowland, mayor of Cleveland, Tenn., where Burger grew up.

“They have not done an autopsy yet, but they suspect it was a heart attack,” Rowland said.

Burger, who lived near Nashville in Brentwood, Tenn., released many albums and videos of his piano music. His records included renditions of “Old Time Religion” and “Hallelujah Chorus” alongside secular classics like Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”

Most recently, he’d been a guest artist and pianist for Gaither Homecoming concerts headlined by gospel superstar Bill Gaither.

Two Gaither albums and videos featuring Burger are currently in the top 10 on both music video and contemporary Christian album sales charts. “Gaither Homecoming: Live From Toronto,” has Burger’s “Shout to the Lord/Rhapsody in Blue Medley,” and “Canadian Homecoming” features his “Gettin’ Ready to Leave This World.”

Also this year, Burger’s album “A Tribute to Bill and Gloria Gaither” was nominated for the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award in the instrumental album category. Another album, “New Born Feeling,” was nominated in the same category in 1997.

Earlier in his career Burger played for the Celestials and the Southern gospel quartet The Kingsmen. He performed at the White House and on “Today” as well as the Billy Graham Crusade and won awards from the Southern Gospel Association.

As a small child, Burger fell onto a furnace grate and was burned on his hands, legs and face. Burger said in his biography that “gradually, the Lord healed my hands because he had a job for me to do.” Burger started playing when he was 3 years old and debuted on the radio at age 5, Rowland said.

Burger is survived by his wife, LuAnn, two sons and a daughter. Funeral arrangements were pending.

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