George Halverson Fiore
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George Halverson Fiore

July 15, 1926 ~ August 27, 2013

The only son of Italian e;migre;s Giovanni and Elena Fiore, George was born in New York, NY. Much younger than his three half-siblings, Dominic, Henrietta and Louis, he spent his earliest years in Manhattan and Rome. George's parents wished a more practical career for their son, but were thwarted by his unrepentant interest in music (his godmother was legendary soprano Luisa Tetrazzini, and he remembered huddling next to the pedalboard of the organ at Wanamakers as the venerable Louis Vierne played.) Although he didn't begin formal piano lessons until he was thirteen, his talent was soon recognized, and after schooling at Brooklyn College, the Manhattan School of Music and eventually Julliard (where he became close friends with Van Cliburn,) he made his concert debut in 1950.

George's years in New York quickly split in two directions: as accompanist and coach, and as performer. He was principal pianist in William Pierce Herman's studio, learning about vocal

technique (Herman's students included Roberta Peters, who became another close friend,) and a vast range of opera scores, which put him in good stead years later, as a rehearsal accompanist at the Met. As a performer, George made his Town Hall debut in 1953, toured as a member of the "American Piano Trio," ("three grand pianos in a big truck,") and eventually mastered the multiple manuals of the organ. He spent eight years as organist and director of the boychoir of St. Saviour in Brooklyn, the experience of which won him the post of executive director of the Northwest Boychoir in the mid-70's.

George married Sherril Halverson

in 1956, and the couple moved with their two children, John Helmer and Claudia Christine, to Seattle in 1967 where George took the post of Principal Organist and Director of Music at St. James Cathedral. This was the first in a series of long-term appointments, including Seattle First United Methodist Church, Seattle First Presbyterian Church, and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Shoreline.

His knowledge of the operatic repertoire and rehearsal skills proved invaluable as Chorusmaster of Seattle Opera, a post he held for seventeen years, after which he assumed the role of Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony for Choral Activities. He retired from the Symphony Chorale in 2007 after seven years with the title "Conductor Emeritus."

He continued private vocal coaching from his basement studio throughout, and taught Vocal Repertoire at the Cornish Institute and the University of Washington, in addition to classes at Seattle Pacific University. George received an honorary Doctorate in Public Music from Alaska Pacific University.

As a solo pianist, George kept mostly to the Romantic repertoire, specializing in Chopin. As an organist, he was devoted to the music of J. S. Bach and Cesar Franck. He performed an impressive array of piano concerti with local orchestras like Thalia, Orchestra Seattle, Bellevue Philharmonic, Federal Way Symphony, Cascade Symphony, Highline Symphony and the Seattle Symphony. His repertoire encompassed several Mozart concerti, all of the Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin concerti, the Grieg, Tchaikovsky First and Franck Symphonic Variations.

What those associated with George remember first was his infectious enthusiasm. In rehearsal, his focus on musical values always outstripped dull repetition, and inspired his performers to surpass themselves. At the helm, George was old-school New York - insistent and brash, but never mean. What he demonstrated was a genuine love for the music (Orff's "Carmina Burana" excepted.)

Perhaps sharing music was a core mission for him. Students who glimpsed George's studio immediately understood his dedication to the core repertoire. An unalloyed zeal expressed itself in every aspect of his life, whether through his gift for teaching, virtuosity in performance, talent as a cook, or the sheer pleasure he drew from friends, colleagues and family.

George is survived by son John Fiore, daughter Claudia Fiore and her husband Rafe Dimmitt, brother Louis, and his 25-year-old goldfish, Greedy. To his many loving friends, perhaps there never was a man with a larger family of non-relations.

A memorial service will be held at noon on Saturday, August 31 at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Shoreline.

George in the 1950s

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Published in The Seattle Times from Aug. 29 to Aug. 30, 2013.
Memories & Condolences
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17 entries
September 22, 2013
Oops! I forgot to sign my entry. Helen Feigin Schrier, NY, NY.
September 22, 2013
I met George 65 years ago at Camp Chicopee in Pennsylvania. He was a thin, shy 22 year old with a wide smile and a love for music. I was a high strung 14 year old who wanted to be an opera singer and liked nothing better than to turn the music pages when he practiced. He became my big brother. As music counselor he rehearsed and taught musicals and operettas. His Showboat was a great hit and starred the actor, Jeremy Piven's father. He played the piano for Friday night Jewish services and enthusiastically composed variations of Happy Birthday in the style of Mozart, Bach and especially Chopin. I studied piano and opera with George through my teens. He also worked as an usher at the old Metropolitan Opera House. There was the memorable time he entered the Family Circle during a performance of Wagner carrying a tall window pole and mouthed Wotan's lines. I was privileged to be at Times Hall when he made his New York recital debut in April 1951 followed two years layer by a wonderful all Chopin program at Town Hall.
George was passionate about his family and a proud loving father to John and Claudia. How lucky I was to attend John's debut at the Metropolitan Opera conducting La Traviata with George, Sherril and Claudia and later to attend John's Russalka there. He was equally proud of Claudia's talent as a gifted jewelry designer.
For many years George and I had phone visits in which we shared tales of our respective children and talked of music, injustice, aging and swapped jokes. (He loved to laugh). He was generous with his gifts, playing concerts and giving piano lessons without charge. George was kind, just, loyal and gifted. Most of all he was a mensch!
September 10, 2013
Dear Claudia and Family,
We Sisters are remembering your father, George, his family and friends with our prayers at this time when his life has changed but not ended. May his new way of living in God's eternal Presence bring great peace and joy to him. and may you experience his nearness always.
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary
September 10, 2013
George we will miss your regular visits to our office. Over the years we have had great talks on many subjects but MUSIC always was the feature because you had such passion for it. I will miss George's teasing of my eye brows. Wally Kegel ,Ellen and Staff
September 5, 2013
I just returned from vacation and was devastated to learn of my dear friend George's passing. George and I have worked together for several years transcribing his many piano performances onto CD. He and my husband Alan Lund enjoyed sharing some very humorous stories of their years together in the opera. He was a very dear friend and a wonderful artist. I was so privileged to pray with him before his surgery. I'm sure he is having some long conversations with Bach! I will miss my dear friend very much!
Ellen Lund
September 4, 2013
George and I have a friendship that began in 1950 and has remained a beautiful part of this life that will last beyond this lifetime. 64 years of knowing George is not enough. He was unique, gentile, the very essence of music in his playing, warmth, and concern for others. With his passing, all who knew him, including me, lost something that cannot be replaced in this life. I was blessed to have met him; blessed to have had him as a close friend for so many years; blessed for the joy he brought to me and my family. He cannot be replaced. He cannot be forgotten, much like a beautiful Chopin melody that lingers forever.
Joel Le Bow
September 2, 2013
I knew George only slightly personally, but his musical presence has been an important guide and encouragement for the few of us fortunate to make our living in music. He was a peerless pianist, and coaxed such amazing music from those 88 keys in a way that seemed a bit surreal. I was quite terrified the few times I played for him for Symphony Chorale rehearsals, since he was such an amazing pianist, but he was always so kind and gracious and I couldn't quite imagine that could ever be so. I knew that at any second, he could move me of the bench and play circles around me! It is clear that he had great influence on so many, from the youngest and most new to music to the oldest and most accomplished. He was a gentle presence of amazing gifts and he will be so missed!
Nan Beth Walton
September 1, 2013
I am a member of Thalia and we always loved it when George soloed with us. His kindness, friendly smile, patience, and talent made it a joy to play with him. The Seattle music community has lost a giant and he will be sorely missed here and around the world. I feel blessed to have known him and to have heard him play. I will picture him in heaven playing like a young man again for a company of angels. Rest easy George.
Kendra Williams
August 31, 2013
Earth is less than before without George's presence.

Heaven is incredibly enriched.

Con Amore, Isabella
August 31, 2013
George was one of the kindest people I ever met. He befriended me when I most needed a friend. His playing, on piano or organ, was always beautiful and compelling. My life has been much enriched by knowing him. Thank you, Friend!
Anne Rosamund Fitzgerald
August 31, 2013
Thank you, George, for your friendship, your collaborations and your teaching. I am privileged to have known you. Thank you for your many years of musical contributions that have enriched our community. May you rest in peace. - Jerome Wright
August 30, 2013
I first heard George play the organ three years ago when I first came to Prince of Peace. I was not expecting to hear anything out of the ordinary, but George's playing kept me glued to my seat until the end of the piece. I didn't know his background, but thought that, "Wow! I would pay to listen to this." He was a delightful man, an encourager, and an amazing artist. I will miss him.
Cheryl Stitt
August 30, 2013
Forgot to sign my name to the last post!
Trella Hastings, Shoreline, WA
August 30, 2013
George was an amazing person, a man for all seasons. He was a special friend and mentor for my son, Aaron Nation. He would often call Aaron to get together to play through music on piano-cello for fun or to practice for gigs. He gave generously of his time and accompanied Aaron and brother at their Dad's (my late husband, Art Nation) memorial. Our lives are touched forever for having known him.
August 30, 2013
I have such fond memories of Uncle George and Aunt Sherril spending Thanksgiving Day with us in New York every year when I was young. As soon as they arrived, Uncle George would sit down at our piano and play " silly songs" engineered to make me laugh. It worked every time!
He had a special relationship with my mom and dad, his sister-in-law and big brother.They would always be in the kitchen together, discussing recipes and food. As Italian men, both loved to cook. Although the kitchen was my Irish mom's domain, she graciously allowed them in, until they got in the way,and were unceremoniously thrown out !
May you sleep in peace, Uncle George. You were greatly loved, and will be greatly missed.
MaryAnn Fiore
August 30, 2013
George at our home (2011)
Everyone who knew George adored him and admired his many talents. Our favorite memories are of George at the piano playing for his friends at numerous events. He gave generously of his talent to Compass Housing Alliance, donating his musical gifts as an auction item, playing for dinner parties in our homes. The photo shows George relaxing (at our piano, of course).
Jan & Peter Shapiro
August 30, 2013
I will miss him. I will also miss the music and enthusiasm of the many concerts he played at Prince of Peace.

Much loss is present but some joy will always remain when thinking of him. At the least, memories of his bright cheerful smile will always linger.
Elizabeth Stitt
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