Wednesday notes: More departures


Roger Doyle conducting in 1979

Last month, we broke the news about the retirement of Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra music director Huw Edwards and the death of Oregon Chamber Players and Junior Symphony of Vancouver founder Timoteus Racz. Now comes news that Willamette Week performance editor Ben Waterhouse, who has anchored the paper’s theater criticism for the past six years and supervised its dance and classical music coverage, is leaving the paper to take a communications position with the estimable Oregon Humanities.

And we’re saddened to report Monday’s passing of long-time University of Portland director of choral studies and Choral Arts Ensemble music director Roger Doyle. One of the three major local musical figures who dominated Portland choral music for three decades (the others being Lewis & Clark College/Oregon Repertory Singers’ Gil Seeley and Portland State University/Portland Symphonic Choir/Choral Cross Ties’ Bruce Browne), Doyle was the subject of a touching portrait by Oregonian feature writer David Stabler upon the conductor’s retirement in 2010.

Here’s an excerpt from the item that the University of Portland ran yesterday.

The University of Portland community is mourning the loss of Roger O. Doyle, a colorful and beloved professor of music at the University of Portland for nearly forty years and cheerful sturdy pillar of the music community in Portland, who died Monday, April 30 of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – ALS, “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Doyle was 72 years old and is survived by his widow Kay Reboul Doyle, as well as his stepmother Lucille and stepsister Elizabeth, and his nephews Kevin and Christopher Sanborn.

Born in Wichita, Kansas, on Christmas Eve, 1939, the younger of Daniel and Minnie Doyle’s two children, Roger earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in music education at the University of Wichita (where he was also a noted singer and tuba player, and served six years in the Kansas Air National Guard), and a doctorate on conducting and choral music from the University of Colorado. He taught in high schools in Kansas and at Saint Mary of the Plain College in Dodge City before arriving at the University of Portland in 1973, where he became legendary for his energy, creativity, exuberance, tireless energy for conducting choirs and orchestras, and booming laughter.

But for all his excellence as a teacher and admired colleague on The Bluff, Doyle’s energy and influence ranged much further than the campus. He directed Portland’s Choral Arts Ensemble from 1976 until his final concert with that group in 2010. He served as president of Portland’s classical radio station, KQAC (formerly KBPS) – famously persuading the station’s board to purchase the broadcast license from Portland Public Schools and become an independent station. He founded and directed the Mock’s Crest Productions professional light opera run every summer in the University of Portland’s Mago Hunt Theater. He was often a guest lecturer for the Oregon Symphony. He lectured and conducted in Japan, Austria, Denmark, and Ireland, twice conducting the National Chamber Choir of Ireland. He conducted the Multnomah Club Balladeers for 35 years, from 1975 to 2010. He was a board member of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra for nearly thirty years. He was president of the Oregon Choral Directors Association. He wrote graceful essays and articles about music and composers for many periodicals. He founded the annual Best in the Northwest Choir Festival, which has brought thousands of talented high school students to Portland. He presented more concerts in and around Portland than can be easily counted, among them a series of famous sacred music events at Saint Mary’s Cathedral. He persuaded Aaron Copland to donate his scores to the University of Portland, he sang with Barry Manilow, studied with Robert Shaw, and taught thousands of students to sing and to savor and appreciate music and musical theater.

And among the many dreams and sweeping ideas he had that came to fruition, he finally did conduct Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, in 2008 in Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Portland, with the University Singers and the Choral Arts Ensemble, in two legendary performances; he finally did spend months in his ancestral Ireland, on a research sabbatical in 1998, where, among other entertainments, he conducted high school choirs and met the famous Irish composer Roger Doyle; and he did finally conduct at the farewell concert his wife Kay had always envisioned for him at the University, in 2010, with more than a hundred of his students and former students singing their hearts out for the professor who had changed their lives.

Yet for all his sweeping accomplishments and myriad projects, Roger’s legacy at the University and in the city of Portland is his character and cheer, his irrepressible humor and open friendliness, and the absolute integrity of the way he lived his life. He loved music, he loved his wife Kay, he loved bringing music to people and people to music. He was an unforgettable man with an immense heart, a lovely tenor voice, and a kindness bigger than an ocean. When he retired from the University of Portland in 2010, beginning to suffer the effects of his illness, the University community paid him the usual honors: emeritus status, scholarship gifts gathered in celebration of his work and spirits, an award for community service established in his name. But the most telling events, perhaps, are the stream of visitors, letters, calls, and notes to him from friends and admirers, so constant and dense that Kay had to resort to scheduling callers in advance; and that June 2010 farewell concert for him, organized by his current and former students, among them the wonderful Portland singer Julianne Johnson. During the show Roger sat on stage, beaming, as wave after wave of the young people he taught brought music back to him as a balm, a prayer, an expression of deep love and respect.

Gifts in memory of Roger may be directed to the Roger and Kay Doyle Scholarship Fund at the University of Portland, a scholarship devoted to students of music.

One Response.

  1. Martha Ullman West says:

    I am much saddened to read of Roger Doyle’s death, even more saddened to learn for the first time here that he went through the torture of ALS. He was a man whose joie de vivre was infectious as was his love of music and teaching. His direction of Gilbert and Sullivan was sublimely poignant and funny–I used to write about those productions for Portland Magazine. I remember with particular pleasure The Gondoliers. Thank you for this lovely tribute.

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