UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 3 | Feb.
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
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
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
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.