Diane Loomer, founding director of Vancouver's Chor Leoni and co-founder of Elektra Women's Choir, died on Monday, Dec. 10, at the age of 72.
Loomer's contribution to the Canadian choral music scene cannot be overstated. She was the first woman to conduct the National Youth Choir of Canada; she received the Healey Willan Prize in 1990 for her service to choral music in British Columbia; in 1994, she was named YWCA Vancouver’s Woman of Distinction for Arts and Culture; and in 2002, she was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for her significant contribution to Canada’s culture.
A Dec. 11 update on the Facebook page of Chor Leoni states, "we take comfort in the knowledge that her legacy is alive in the many works of Canadian composers and arrangers she championed, the artists and conductors she mentored, the singers she led in workshops, rehearsals, and performances around the world, and in the hearts of every past and present member of Chor Leoni. Our thoughts are with her husband Dick and her family at this sad time."
ListenDiane Loomer and Chor Leoni perform For the Fallen on Nov. 5, 2012, at CBC Studio One in Vancouver.
In November, CBC Music interviewed Loomer about her long and devoted association with Chor Leoni. We reproduce that interview here:
Where did the idea come from to establish a men's choir in Vancouver?
There simply were very few men's choirs in our country going after the classical literature that had been written specifically for men to sing. I thought it was time to bring some of that stunning music to new listeners.
I had also been tremendously inspired by Orphei Drangar (OD), the legendary Swedish men's choir, who were here in 1990, conducted by Eric Ericson and then later, by Robert Sund. Both of OD's conductors have continued to be inspirational mentors for Chor Leoni.
And, Elektra, which was founded by Morna Edmundson and myself in 1987, had been rising like a shooting star. Male singers in Vancouver started to ask about the possibility of forming a classical men's choir. And so, in the summer of 1992, the journey began.
How would you describe your relationship with the choristers in Chor Leoni?
They are family. They're my little brothers, big brothers, uncles, father, sons, great friends, mentors and my teachers. Most of the men, on the other hand, probably think of me in a "mother role" and all that that implies! A few have suggested the relationship of performing lions and a lion tamer, and some have even described our relationship as "Schiavo Diana" or slaves of Diane. I like that one!
What has directing this group brought to your life over the years?
Indescribable, abundant happiness. Of course, I could talk about the joys and pluses of international and national recognition, the embracing from our own city and local audiences, as well as the joy of knowing Chor Leoni has become an entity unto itself. But what all that boils down to is indescribable, abundant happiness.
What do you like about the sonority of a men's choir?
It's sensual, it's human; it can be brilliantly heroic and achingly tender. I love the richness and depth in the sound, the almost limitless palate of dynamics, pitches, colours that are possible. It is a sound that can envelop and cradle listeners and conductors in a visceral way.
Could you give three words to describe Chor Leoni?
No — but I'll try! Intelligent, adventurous, deep.
Were you touched by Loomer's music-making? Let us know in the comments below.
Vancouver choral director Diane Loomer dies
Listen to Diane Loomer and Chor Leoni's CBC studio session
Remembering Diane Loomer
on Dec 11, 2012