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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 3 | Feb. 7, 2002

School mourns loss of music makers

Each created a legacy both on campus and in wider community

by Laurie Townsend Music

The UBC School of Music and larger musical community are mourning the passing of professors emeritii Elliot Weisgarber and Cortland Hultberg and a promising young alumnus, Wallace Leung.

Weisgarber (Dec. 5, 1919 - Dec. 31, 2001) and Hultberg (Sept. 5, 1931 - Jan. 3, 2002) joined the Dept. of Music in 1959-60 as UBC was just beginning to grant degrees in Music.

Elliot Weisgarber was a clarinetist, composer and ethnomusicologist. His study of Japanese music and in particular of the shakuhachi, a traditional bamboo flute, eventually led UBC to offer courses in ethnomusicology, one of the areas for which the school is now recognized internationally.

His students include Wes Foster, now principal clarinet of the Vancouver Symphony and well-known Canadian composers Michael Conway Baker, Neil Currie and Frederick Schipizky.

Choosing a different path in an era of sometimes dissonant experimentation, Weisgarber's compositions strove for beauty and clarity. His cheerful personality and interest in world travels were also reflected in his music.

Weisgarber was a friend and mentor to many colleagues and was involved in music making at all levels. He wrote studies for clarinet, spent a term conducting the Vancouver Youth Orchestra and befriended conductor Clyde Mitchell and his West Coast Symphony. At 82, he still had an opera he wanted to write when his congestive heart failure condition worsened late in 2001.

Cortland Hultberg taught theory and composition, established the Electronic Music Studio in 1965 and managed the audio recording facilities for many years. He founded the UBC Chamber Singers and the Phoenix Chamber Choir. Both of these chamber choirs won many national and international awards under his direction.

As an educator, Hultberg was much loved by students. A quirky and engaging style earned his classes a "not to be missed" standing and a teaching award from the university. To illustrate techniques used by composers such as John Cage, his lectures included elements of chance such as taking a book from a stack, opening it at random to read a passage aloud while making sounds with classroom equipment.

Hultberg was a man with a gentle manner, an insatiable curiosity, big bushy eyebrows and, more often than not, a twinkle in his eye. Those eyebrows rising or falling could tell his choir members, theory and composition students alike his approval or disappointment in their efforts.

Hundreds of his students now teach in classrooms and sing in choirs. Some have become prominent composers such as Alexina Louie, Barry Truax, Lloyd Burritt and Robert Pritchard. Others work in the recording industry or, like Morna Edmonson and Ramona Luengen, have gone on to direct award-winning choirs of their own. None will forget the school spirit and fun generated by Cortland Hultberg and his Chamber Singers annual Christmas concert complete with modulating carols and disappearing tree.

Wallace Leung graduated with a BMus in 1992.

With several other Music graduates he founded the Little Chamber Music Series That Could. They have commissioned and given the premieres of works by many UBC alumni.

He also founded the Helicon Ensemble and was music director at the Delta Youth Orchestra, Fraser Valley Symphony, Gateway Theatre and Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra. Recently he was appointed music director of the Prince George Symphony.

On Dec. 21, at age 33, he was hospitalized for viral encephalitis and died of heart failure on Jan. 18. Laurie Townsend is the School of Music's Communications and Concert Manager.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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