May 26th, 2024

Memorial on Saturday for ‘lifeblood’ of Hat music scene, Bill Wahl

By ANNA SMITH Local Journalism Initiative on March 28, 2024.

Bill Wahl is pictured in this 2017 News file photo.--NEWS FILE PHOTO

In honour of his work and all of the lives he had touched throughout his career, a memorial concert will be held for Bill Wahl on Saturday at the Cypress Centre.

The band director at Crescent Heights High School for more than 30 years and the founding director of the Medicine Hat Concert Band, Wahl was deeply supportive of the arts within the city.

“He was a supporter and an ambassador for concert band music, not only in Medicine Hat, I guess, but in all of Alberta. You know, he just spent a huge amount of time promoting and advocating for music,” said Mark Ward, conductor of the Andante Band. “He was so busy with teaching, and the bend. Just a tireless worker for music.”

Ward described Wahl as the “lifeblood” of the music scene in Medicine Hat, a presence that advocated for music and inspired countless people to pursue it, and a presence that will be sorely missed.

“The number is not in the hundreds, it’s in the thousands of people that got exposed to music and continued in music, who had a future in music as adults, because of the work that Bill did here in the city and across the province,” said Curtis Perrin, director of the Allegro Band.

Perrin continued that many people, when it comes up that Wahl had passed, will surprise him with stories about how he had helped them, either as an educator or as part of the concert band, or simply with music in general in the region.

“It’s just so neat that there’s that many people out there who fondly remember him, and were appreciative of his efforts,” said Perrin.

The celebration of life is suspected to draw a large gathering, with attendees from as far away as Toronto making their way to Medicine Hat to pay their respects to Wahl. Perrin complimented the family for the decision to postpone the celebration until the long weekend, to allow for people who would need to travel to make the trip.

Both bands will be playing pieces selected by the Wahl family during the celebration, including a joint-effort performance of the last song that Wahl had conducted for the concert band.

“Bill’s grandson will be playing as well,” said Ward. “Bill’s had a very special instrument, a double-bell euphonium, which he is going to play at the concert.”

The process of learning the pieces for the memorial has been emotional, said Perrin, with a strong motivation for the best possible performance due to what Wahl had meant to the music community for so many years.

The celebration of life will begin at 1 p.m., and will also be live-streamed for those who would like to attend but cannot do so in person. Information regarding the livestream can be found on Wahl’s page on the Southland Memorial website.

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