Vancouver choral director Diane Loomer dies

Diane Loomer, founder and director of Vancouver choral group Chor Leoni, has died. She was 72.

Founder of Chor Leoni and Elektra choirs

Diane Loomer founded men-only choir Chor Leoni and was its artistic director for 20 years. (Chor Leoni)

Diane Loomer, founder and director of Vancouver choral group Chor Leoni, has died. She was 72.

Loomer died in a Vancouver hospital Monday evening after a short illness.

Chor Leoni is a men’s choir well-known for its popular Remembrance Day concerts in Vancouver. Loomer, who also co-founded women-only choral group Elektra, created Chor Leoni in 1992 and it is one of the few all male choirs in Canada.

Inspired by Sweden’s Orpheii Drangar, Loomer said she wanted to create a group that could perform the classical choral music written for male voices.

Christopher Gaze, artistic director of Bard on the Beach, remembered Loomer for her love of music. "Music, she will tell you, is a balm to the soul. It's something exquisite and beautiful; to hear music, to sing music, to appreciate music. She has given great service to Vancouver and to Canada in her passion and delight," he said.

Loomer talked about how much she enjoyed the sound she had created with Chor Leoni in an interview with CBC Music earlier this year.

"It's sensual, it's human; it can be brilliantly heroic and achingly tender," she  said.

"I love the richness and depth in the sound, the almost limitless palate of dynamics, pitches, colours that are possible. It is a sound that can envelop and cradle listeners and conductors in a visceral way."

Born in 1940 in St. Paul, Minn., Loomer taught high school math and English in the U.S. and Germany, before relocating to Vancouver.

In 1979, she began studies in music theory, piano and voice at Douglas College, where she formed the Douglas College Children's Choir and the Douglas College Community Choir, later renamed the Amabilis Singers.

She became assistant director of the Vancouver Bach Choir and in 1987, formed the Elektra Women’s Choir with Morna Edmundson.

Both Elektra and Chor Leoni have earned strong international reputations for choral innovation and technical ability. Earlier this year Chor Leoni won several major awards at the 51st Seghizzi Concorso Internationale Di Canto Corale in Gorizia, Italy.

Loomer conducted provincial youth choirs throughout Canada, and in 1994 was the first woman to conduct the National Youth Choir.

In addition to conducting, she has arranged and composed works for choirs and published her arrangements through Cypress Choral Music, founded by Loomer and her husband, Richard Loomer.

She is survived by her husband, her son, and her choirs. Loomer is a member of the Order of Canada and received the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 2002.