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The chorus and all who love choral music in the Upper Connecticut Valley mourned the death of NCC's longtime Director, Mary Whitney Rowe, who passed away on July 17, 2002. A public memorial service was held at Blue Mountain Union School on Sunday, July 21.

Contributions in Mary's memory may be sent to:
North Country Chorus
PO Box 184
Wells River, VT 05081

 

Mary and Sir David Willcocks at Ogontz Choral Symposium, summer 1991

Mary Rowe Honored by Choral Arts New England

In a ceremony following its spring concert at the Wells River, VT, Congregational Church on 28 April 2001 the North Country Chorus recognized Mary Whitney Rowe for her fifty years of leadership of the group. Tributes were offered by chorus members and proclamations were read by representatives of the Governor of New Hampshire and the Vermont State Legislature. The outpouring of appreciation by her choristers and the audience left no doubt about the remarkable impact that Mary has had on the cultural life of her community.

On Sunday 30 September 2001 she was again honored, this time by Boston-based Choral Arts New England which presented her its Lifetime Achievement Award. Begun in 1980 as a memorial to Alfred Nash Patterson, a prominent Boston musician and conductor of Chorus Pro Musica, its mission is to encourage and support choral excellence throughout New England through grants and awards. In 1996 CANE began presenting this prestigious award to musicians who have made significant contributions to the choral arts over the course of their careers. Previous recipients have included Elliot Forbes of the Harvard Glee Club, Lorna Cooke de Baron of the New England Conservatory Chorus, Daniel Pinkham, a noted composer and choral director whose music the NCC has performed, George Kent of Chorus of Westerly, and Blanche Moyse of the New England Bach Festival in Brattleboro.
Elizabeth Lintz of Choral Arts New England congratulates Mary Rowe after presenting CANE's Lifetime Achievement Award.
In his presentation CANE's Robert Farrell described Mary Rowe's dedication and leadership as "extraordinary" and commented on how very rare it is that one individual conducts a chorus for fifty years. Despite having several other strong candidates Farrell said the executive committee had little difficulty in making this year's decision. He praised Mary for her remarkable talent and leadership and for her dedication to performing the great choral works for audiences on both side of the Connecticut River in northern New England.

In accepting this award Mary thanked her family for their support and expressed her delight in the rich friendships which have developed within the chorus throughout its history.

 

Mary thanks Robert Farrell as her husband Harry joins in the audience's ovation.

 

On hand to help celebrate were Mary's six children, five of her grandchildren, the Board of Directors of the NCC and several close friends and relatives.

A native of Northfield, VT, Mary began her study and love of music at an early age. While a student at the University of Vermont she was selected as a charter member of the Vermont Symphony, through which she learned much of the symphonic repertoire. Another life-changing experience at UVM was her "gig" as a violin soloist for the Men's Glee Club, where she met her future husband Harry.

In addition to raising a family Mary taught music in public schools and privately. In April 1951 she became Conductor of the three year old North Country Chorus. Under her tenure the chorus has performed an impressive array of choral works at venues throughout the northern Connecticut River Valley. The chorus has taken its gift of music to the British Isles, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Nova Scotia and our own National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

Daughter Betsy and soprano soloist Julie Proia celebrate Mary's achievement. Behind them is a six-panel collage prepared by Betty Nickerson to document the chorus's activities over the fifty years of Mary's leadership.

More on NCC history

Photos courtesy of George Mitchell

Read a delightful account of Mary's youth in her own words in A Vermont Scrapbook: Fifty Vermonters Remember, edited by Ellen Sullivan, published by Honeysuckle Imprint, Huntsville, Alabama.

Mary and her husband Harry were featured in the spring 2002 issue of Vermont Life in an article by Beth Champagne celebrating their 50 years of service to the Wells River community.

 

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