Long-time Winds musician Harvey Gleiser passes away in January 2005

Harvey Gleiser, a member of the WW since its creation in 1981 until 2005 and one of Canada’s finest euphonium players, passed away in January. Below is a musical tribute that was given at the funeral service by Dave Arthur.

Harvey Gleiser

HarveyGleiser2005The photo in the Record yesterday showed Harvey holding his euphonium. That euphonium was on display along with the pictures of his beloved wife Burgie. It is obvious that the euphonium and music were Harvey’s other wife, both being at the very centre of his life.

I was asked to give a tribute to Harvey’s music. I know Michael Purves-Smith would love to have been here and would have given a wonderful tribute. Many others of Harvey’s music colleagues could add to the story.

This CD, Harvey Gleiser: 60 Years of Great Euphonium Playing, produced by the Wellington Winds a few years ago, contains an account of Harvey’s life in music and a number of recordings of music Harvey performed as soloist and as conductor going back to a 1944 performance of a piece called Fantasia di Concerto with the Royal Canadian Air Force Band. Harvey’s playing is absolutely dazzling and proves his reputation as one of the finest euphonium players in North America.

We are told that Harvey cried all the way home at the age of seven when told he was to learn euphonium by his uncle George Ziegler, principal of the Kitchener Conservatory of Music and director of the Kitchener Boys Band. However, by 11, Harvey had accumulated 36 gold medals and earned a promotion to the adult band. He had fallen in love with the instrument and that passion remained the rest of his life.

Harvey received a diploma in music from the Western Conservatory, a BA in performance from Wayne State University, and studied conducting at the Eastman School of Music.

After the end of the war in 1945, Harvey left the RCAF Band and returned to Kitchener. He was an active musician, both in directing and performing, with the Stratford CNR Band, the Kitchener Musical Society Band, the K-W Symphony Orchestra, the Twin City Operatic Society (later K-W Musical Productions), his church choir and hand bell choir, the Wilfrid Laurier University Wind Ensemble, and with the Wellington Winds since its creation in 1981.

Harvey’s playing had an exceptional singing character, a warm vibrant tone, effortless phrasing and breath control, and an impeccable technique that he maintained by regular, conscientious practice throughout his life. Harvey was a perfectionist and was often dissatisfied with himself, in what the rest of us would have thought was very fine indeed. Many of you here will have heard him play, perhaps through the many solos he performed with the Wellington Winds or seen him conduct the Winds as he did on a number of occasions. He was an inspiration to all of us.

There are, I know, many stories that could be recounted about Harvey and his music. I’d like to share two, one early and one recent. I was 18 years old when Art Freund had me join the K-W Symphony as second trombone. Art was principal and Harvey was playing the third or bass trombone parts on euphonium. There was I, a newbie, sitting between Art and Harvey. Frederick Pohl was rehearsing the accompaniment for Wolfram’s Ode to the Evening Star from Tannhauser. The baritone soloist wasn’t there so Harvey played the solo on the spot from memory and it would have been the envy of any Wolfram.

The other story is about the last concert of the Wellington Winds Harvey attended in May of last year. We were performing Richard Strauss’ Don Juan, a very exciting, romantic and heroic musical tale that was music Harvey loved. As we reached the musical climax and the horns launched into their stirring melody, I looked at Harvey. He had been moving throughout the piece with his arms conducting and urging on the music. Harvey was weeping and completely overwhelmed. I could only imagine that, as Harvey knew life was getting late, this might be a last chance to experience the intense passion of the music that was so important to him.