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. Mr. Oliver was born to Marie and Frank Oliver on June 4, 1939, in Teaneck, N.J. He is survived by his cousins Helene Carskaddin, Janet Domerski, Lyn Neandross, Jerilyn Simpson, and Nancy Sorge, as well as his dear friends Joel Evans, James Soules, and Anthony St. George.

A private service will take place this week in the Berkshires. A concert in honor of Mr. Oliver’s memory will be scheduled during the 2018 Tanglewood season. Further details will be forthcoming. Donations in John Oliver’s memory can be made to the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood Festival Chorus Fund.

Quote from Andris Nelsons, Ray and Maria Stata BSO Music Director: “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.”

Quote from Mark Volpe, Eunice and Julian Cohen Managing Director: “Few people in the 137-year history of the Boston Symphony Orchestra dedicated so many years of their creative lives to the orchestra as John Oliver during his 45-year tenure as conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, 1970-2015. All of us at the BSO are very grateful to John for his steadfast commitment to his vision in founding the TFC and nurturing it through decades of acclaimed performances here in Boston, throughout the country, and around the world. His enormous contribution to the BSO will be remembered far into the future, as the orchestra’s impressive accomplishments and vibrant tradition continue to be documented for music lovers today and for generations to come. John’s loss is deeply felt by countless music fans and thousands of singers who have been personally moved by his profound musicianship, gregarious personality, and legendary sense of humor. There are no adequate words to describe how much he will be missed.”

Quote from James Burton, BSO Choral Director and Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus: “Everyone involved with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus is deeply saddened to hear of John Oliver’s passing. Regrettably, I never had the chance to meet John in person, however I am acutely aware of the high regard in which he was held by his singers. Many of them shared their most beloved musical experiences under his direction, guidance, and, inevitably, his friendship too. I am sure that everyone who worked with him, including the many hundreds of former chorus members, will find his passing a difficult and painful loss. Everyone at the BSO today mourns a great friend of the orchestra and an outstanding champion for choral music. It is thanks to John’s incredible passion and dedication that the BSO has a prestigious chorus to call its own: John had the vision to establish the TFC, and the vigor and drive to lead it for nearly half a century. His creative and innovative spirit will serve us as an ongoing inspiration as the chorus and I continue and develop his important and unique musical legacy."

Quote from David Norris, Chair of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus Committee: “For over four decades John Oliver was the center of the musical lives of thousands of singers who volunteered their time, energy, and talents for the privilege of working with him. What we all know about the major works in the choral repertoire we learned from John. Our devotion to him, and his to us, is evidenced by many who have sung for him and because of him for close to half a century. His legacy will live on through the musical lives of those lucky enough to have sung with John. We will honor his gift to us each time we raise our voices in song.”


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