December 20th, 2012
On December 10th, the choral world lost one of its celebrated and respected choral conductors. Diane Loomer died in Vancouver, Canada after a short illness. She was 72. Here Chorus America board members Susan Knight and Leonard Ratzlaff remember their colleague and friend.
A native of Minnesota, USA, Diane moved to Vancouver in 1962. She was known for her many contributions in the choral sphere, but perhaps most prominently for her co-founding, with Morna Edmundson, of the women’s choir Elektra (1987) and the founding of the men’s choir Chor Leoni (1992). The latter was inspired by Sweden’s renowned male choir, Orphei Drängar, founded by Eric Ericson. Both Elektra and Chor Leoni performed and toured nationally and internationally, as well as regularly recording and broadcasting. Both choirs were in receipt of many accolades for their choral excellence. In 2007, Diane created her last ensemble, EnChor, intended for experienced singers “who had reached their 55th birthday”.
In addition to her choirs, Diane led an active career as a guest conductor and clinician. In 1994, she was the first female musician to conduct Canada’s National Youth Choir. She was a leader and encourager of choral colleagues and singers alike. Mentorship of young choral musicians was important to Diane, and she established programs to nurture their development. Diane gave great energy to promoting Canadian choral composers, and left a prolific commissioning legacy. This work was further enabled through the dissemination of these works through her dynamic touring, broadcasting and recording practice, as well as establishing, with her husband Dick, Cypress Choral Music, a publisher of Canadian choral music. A great supporter of arts organizations, most recently, Diane served as Vice-President for Advocacy from 2008-2012 on the board of the Association of Canadian Choral Communities. In 1993, she was a key organizer of IFCM’s 3rd World Symposium on Choral Music. She was also a sustaining member of Chorus America, providing the organization with additional support beyond her membership dues.
As a conductor, Diane’s instinct and philosophy was informed by her core belief in the person and in community, and the power of choral music to inform and enrich life. An impeccable musician, her work was also infused with empathic connection to her singers, the music and her audiences. In a recent national radio interview, in speaking about the sound of her men’s choir Chor Leoni, she witnessed this belief: “It’s sensual, it’s human, it can be brilliantly heroic and achingly tender... [it] can envelop and cradle listeners in a visceral way.”
Diane Loomer was a member of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of British Columbia in 2011. However, for all those who had the privilege to know her, she will principally be remembered for her delight in life and the caring warmth and inspired gift which she so generously shared throughout her stellar career.
Condolences may be posted on www.chorleoni.org.