Sadness: Boston mourns its chorus chief

From the Boston Symphony Orchestra:

John Oliver, who founded the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival Chorus in 1970, and remained its sole conductor until his retirement in August 2015, died late last night in Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, following a long illness, at age 78.

Music director Andris Nelsons said: ‘John Oliver’s dedication to forming and then leading the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for 45 years represents an extraordinary commitment to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and to the art of choral singing.  Our hearts go out to all who loved and respected John, including his many fans throughout the BSO family and beyond in the music world at large. John’s work with the TFC and the BSO over many decades will always be an important part of the orchestra’s great legacy and its mission to realize the very best in the classical music art form.’


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  • Sad news. During much of John Oliver’s tenure, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus was superb and unstoppable. Things changed a bit towards the end of his tenure, but that does not diminish the incredible and sustained legacy he achieved. Condolences to all his loved ones and many friends.

  • The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival Chorus always sounded amazing whenever I had an opportunity to hear them. I particularly recall the performance of Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem in October 2014. Mr. Oliver was undoubtedly a major force in its development and success. R.I.P.

    • No, deVaron directed the New England Conservatory Chorus, which the BSO often used before TFC was founded in 1970. During the 1970s the BSO continued to use the NEC Chorus occasionally — for example, in performances of Holst’s “The Planets” and Orff’s “Carmina Burana” that led to recordings — but gradually that came to an end.

    • John was a student of hers at New England Conservatory. Her work was primarily there as conductor and teacher. I was fortunate enough to sing in both of these choruses in the 1970’s.

  • John helped me understand how to breathe and phrase from my short time with Tanglewood Festval Chorus in the 1970’s These skills still serve me to this day. Thanks, John

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