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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Appreciation - Helen Pedersen

Helen Pedersen just died at the age of 98. From her obituary:
Helen Hunter Pedersen, ninety-eight, born in Miles City, Montana passed away December 9, 2008. She was a graduate of West Seattle High School and the University of Washington, class of 1934, and taught primary and secondary school Music and English in Wrangell, Alaska and Ann Arbor, Michigan before returning to Seattle. She was a devoted partner to her husband of 68 years, Willard S. Pedersen, who preceded her in death. They spent many of their wedding anniversaries at Paradise Inn in Mount Rainier National Park which they treasured. She especially valued her small-town upbringing in Miles City, Montana which included daily horseback riding and summer camping trips to Yellowstone National Park, but also special nights for reading everything from children's books to classics with her parents. Her special interest became music which led to piano lessons, opportunities as an accompanist, and ultimately a life-long passion for teaching and choral conducting. She participated in, formed, and directed many community choral groups in north Seattle including a well-regarded women's chorus in the 1950s and 1960s, and the Haller Lake Methodist Church High School Choir which grew to more than 60 members during her twenty-year tenure. While good musicianship was always important to her, she was also interested in exposing both singers and listeners to fine sacred and secular music. Music appreciation made for a richer life.

I sang in Helen's High School Choir at Haller Lake Methodist church. During the time I was there (from 8th grade through senior year) the choir sang every Sunday morning at the early service during the year, doing a variety of anthems, introits, etc. Because the church was close to Ingraham HS, which had an outstanding choral program under the direction of Wallace Goleeke and later Jerome Semrau, there were some wonderful singers in the choir, which numbered 50-60 during my time.

Helen ran a disciplined rehearsal and we covered a lot of repertoire. I have no idea what we really sounded like (and have no recordings), but it must have been fairly impressive at the time. Certainly I learned a lot from Helen and also took a few piano lessons with her before entering the University of Washington.

We kept in touch from time to time and she never seemed to change. I think the last time I saw her was about five or six years ago when she came to a Christmas concert with Choral Arts at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood, north of Seattle.

She was always proud of her former singers who went on to a career in music--and I'm certainly proud to have worked with and learned from her. She had a rich life.

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