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Mary Elizabeth Caldwell

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CALDWELL-Mary Elizabeth Caldwell, a Pasadena resident since 1948 and a distinguished American composer, passed away Saturday evening, November 15th at Huntington Memorial Hospital. She was 94 years old. She is survived by two sons, Peter and Donald, and three grandchildren, Serenity, Caetlyn, and Tahi. Born in Tacoma, Washington, her family soon moved to the Bay Area where she began to display a unusual gift for music at an early age. By age ten, she had already composed numerous short piano works. She was educated at UC Berkeley, with further study at the Munich Conservatory and the Juilliard School. She was a church organist for over fifty years including 35 years at the San Marino Community Church. Many of her hundreds of published works wer e written for various choirs ranging from youth to adult, with voicings ranging from unison to complex divisi SATB. She composed numerous cantatas for young voices and was one of the first composers to explore the rich folk carol tradition. Several such arrangements were chosen by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for their earliest recordings in the late fifties and are still favorites today. In the sixties her interests expanded to include opera and liturgical drama. She was commissioned by the Pasadena Junior League to write three operas for children to be presented by the Pasadena Symphony all of which delighted thousands of children. The second of the these, "A Gift of Song", the story of Franz Gruber's composing of "Silent Night", has been presented in numerous performances world wide from Australia to Europe and often regarded the equal of "Amahl and the Night Visitors". In addition, she has written collections for solo voice and organ. Her works have been the subject of both a Masters and Doctoral dissertat ion, and she was listed in Who's Who of American Women since 1967. In her later years, although handicapped by an arthritic condition, she continued to take a great interest in local and national music activities. Besides her music, she was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother and up until the past five years, she loved to spend time at the family cabin at Echo Lake near Lake Tahoe. This mountain hideaway was the setting for the inspiration for many of her compositions, and her piano provided additional b eauty to the Sierra surroundings. A celebration of her life and music will be held at 3 P.M., Sunday, January 25th at the San Marino Community Church, 1750 Virginia Road, San Marino, CA.
Published in Pasadena Star-News on Jan. 16, 2004
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