Diane Loomer, founder of Chor Leoni Men's Choir and Elektra Women's Choir, has died

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Vancouver’s artistic community has lost one of its most beloved members. Diane Loomer, founder and artistic director of Chor Leoni Men’s Choir and EnChor Chamber Choir and cofounder and conductor emerita of Elektra Women’s Choir, died Monday night (December 10) in a Vancouver hospital. She was 72.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1940, Loomer moved to Vancouver in 1979 and began her career teaching voice, piano, and music theory at Douglas College, where she conducted the Douglas College Community Choir from 1982 to 1996 and helped establish the Douglas College Children’s Choir. In 1987, Loomer cofounded Vancouver’s Elektra Women’s Choir with current artistic director Morna Edmundson, and in 1992, Loomer created Chor Leoni, one of Canada’s few men’s choirs.

“Chor Leoni is a most extraordinary success story, and it was frankly through her passion and delight in it all,” Christopher Gaze, artistic director of Bard on the Beach, told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview today (December 11). “Her life was immersed in it, but not so that she didn’t recognize that she was working with people all the time, and people are complicated. She had time for everybody and that was part of her genius in a way, her beauty, her singularity and individuality, and the gift she brought to the world. I really do believe that this woman brought special gifts.”

Gaze remembered working with Loomer for the first time when she was assistant director of the Vancouver Bach Choir.

“I met her on the stage at the Orpheum about 20 years ago. I was narrating Henry V with the Bach Choir and she was working for the Bach Choir. I met her then but we have grown close. We spent last Christmas with her and her husband at my sister’s home, and we’re personal friends,” Gaze said. “It’s one of those wonderful artistic relationships that ended up as a deep personal friendship.”

Throughout her career, Loomer arranged and composed several choral works, many of which were published by Cypress Choral Music, which she cofounded with her husband, Richard Loomer. She was the first woman to conduct the National Youth Choir of Canada and was a frequent spokesperson for classical music in Canada.

“I think she had such natural charisma and leadership that she brought a kind of lustre to everything she did,” Edmundson told the Straight by phone. “Whether it was a youth choir in Ontario or Nova Scotia, or a regular rehearsal she was doing in Vancouver, people were really happy to be there in the room, happy to be making music with her, and that was chemistry. It’s not something you can teach somebody. It’s something you have and she had it in spades. It just excited a lot of people about choral music because they were doing it with her.”

Edmundson met Loomer while she was earning a music degree at the University of British Columbia in the early 1980s. The two musicians decided to create a women’s choir after reuniting in 1986 when Loomer was apprentice conductor to Jon Washburn at the Vancouver Chamber Choir and Edmundson was a member of that choir.

“I worked together as cofounders and coconductors of Elektra Women’s Choir for 22 years with Diane, so that started in 1987 and went until 2009 when she stepped down from Elektra,” Edmundson said. “She woke up every day just wanting to make music and help people sing well and encourage people, I would say. She did so much to encourage young conductors and singers.”

In 1990, Loomer was awarded the Healey Willan Award for her contributions to choral music in B.C., and in 1994, she was named the YWCA Vancouver’s Woman of Distinction for Arts and Culture. She was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 1999, and was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for her contributions to Canadian arts and culture in 2002.

“She has, I think, helped to transform choral music in Vancouver to mainstream levels, opened it out, and therefore, even put Vancouver on the map as the centre of choral music in the world, certainly in Canada,” Gaze said.

In September, Chor Leoni announced that Erick Lichte, a choir conductor from Oregon, would be taking over Loomer’s role as artistic director beginning in September 2013. Loomer would move into a new role as conductor emerita; however, Gaze said that those close to Loomer knew that she had been fighting ill health for a long time.

“When you fall in love with somebody, it’s always a risk, and the risk is that you will lose them, but it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all—I would say about Diane Loomer because I loved her,” Gaze said. “She was a glorious human being…gracious, kind, brilliant musician. … She had a charismatic presence that just was transformative to anyone around her. She was just someone who was very, very special. She’s just irreplaceable.”

Comments (7) Add New Comment
DavidH
Her contribution to choral music was (is) simply outstanding. Chor Leoni - only one example - still brings chills to the spine and joy to the heart.

My very young daughter had the opportunity to attend a 2-day choral workshop run by Ms Loomer many years ago, before Diane's leap into international fame, and it was unforgettable. Even at the lowest level of choral music, she had a way of capturing the imagination of novice singers and motivating them to achieve their best. She succeeded on both counts.

She will be missed greatly.
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Monica McNamara
In memory of a remarkable and musically gifted woman .You have left a great legacy, touching so many hearts with your choral music and love.R.I.P.sweet lady.
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BobMusicGuy
Diane was an inspiring, generous leader, whose warmth brought us close in our music making. In creating Chor Leoni she gave all of us, who are fortunate to be members, a second family where we have been nourished and loved. She brought out the best in each one of us, inspired us and made us proud. We will celebrate her life through our singing and sharing the great gift she has given us in Chor Leoni. She will be in our hearts forever.
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Clare v
I heard Bruce Hoffman on the radio this morning saying that everyone who sang for Diane eventually fell in love with her. I had the privilege to sing in a choir she conducted for two years, and it's true. She had such an incredible way of connecting with the singers and bringing out the best in them. So many people will miss her. My thoughts and prayers are with her family today.
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Hoot Gibson
I am forever blessed by Diane' s gift of simple, pure joy. She made me a better person and a far better musician than I ever thought possible. I will hold her memory close to my heart, and high to the light..
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Dennis Tupman
I will add my comments about what a great contribution she made, but this time from my perspective as a rural resident now singing in choirs in 100 Mile House.

Diane often came up to give us workshops and they were always positively received. She embodied such a combination of choral and vocal expertise with suberb interpersonal skills. Even as an immigrant to Canada she became a great Canadian ambassador for Canadian music.

We are all better for having known her. Goodbye, Diane.
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Milena Janda
A gracious and a grand lady. I am proud to have known her and worked with her.
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