Tribute to Earl Riener, former longtime member of the Wellington Winds

Earl Riener, longtime member of the Wellington Winds, passed away in October. The Winds paid tribute to Earl at the 2009 November concerts, both in music and in sock attire (Earl’s habit of wearing non-matching coloured socks). Below is the text from a tribute article from the 2010 January/February issue of The Music Times.

Beloved member of the KW musical community passes away

By Michael Purves-Smith

Earl Riener passed away, after a lengthy struggle with cancer, on October 21, 2009. He was in his 83rd year. For almost all of those years he was active as a musician, especially on the instrument that he loved so dearly, the flute. He had a memorable passion for music, for the flute, and for performance.

They were are part of his very being, and just a few weeks before he passed away he was still playing duets with his friend Anna Hemmendinger. That is appropriate because working with Earl was always a matter of

working with a friend. No one was better at making his fellow musicians feel valued, and no one had more skill at making the pleasure of performance the centre of any musical event in which he took part. He will be missed for his warmth, generosity, and truly astonishing sense of humour. He was, in short, the best of musical partners. Earl was a superb flute player with a beautiful, robust, singing sound which resonated through our community with the KW symphony for 45 years, with the orchestra at the Stratford Festival for

20 years and latterly with the Wellington Winds. He was also a noted conductor, especially of yearly musicals in Listowel Ontario. In the years before the KW symphony became professional, he was also active as a conductor of chamber orchestras that he organized to fill the need for a higher level of music making in the region. He was also a fine singer, sometimes professional, with a ringing tenor voice that

remained vigorous throughout his life and so during the last three years of his life he gave a number of memorable performances as a narrator and poetry reader.

Earl got his performing start under Charles Theile in the Waterloo Band. Not long thereafter he was posted to wartime duty as a member of a permanent forces band stationed in the Maritimes, where his quickness at learning other instruments led him to be called upon to play not only the flute, but the saxophone and the oboe as well. After the war he returned to KW to make his career in music. While in order to raise a family of three, he and his wife Joyce, also a professional musician, needed to supplement their income with a

laundry business, his dedication to music never faltered.

He was always a kind mentor of students and professional colleagues alike. Tom Kay spoke of how helpful Earl had been to him as a young musician in his first long term engagement. Earl also taught flute throughout his career and had a number of students who have subsequently made careers as flautists. In addition, Earl and Joyce always made their home available to help members of the musical community,

many of whom stayed with them for extended periods while they fulfilled their contracts at the Stratford Festival. Their home was always available for a rehearsal or a musical celebration.

We musicians will miss Earl’s musical intelligence and unfailing generosity. There was never an unkind word, or thoughtless criticism. You were a wise model for us all. You meant so much to so many.


The Music Times, Vol.IV, No.1, January-February, 2010