Ed London in Memoriam

I just got word that composer and conductor Edwin London has died. Ed was a horn player, and worked with Oscar Pettiford as well as in classical contexts, but it was as a conductor that he was best known. He founded two significant ensembles devoted to new music: Ineluctable Modality, a chorus at University of Illinois; and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, based at my alma mater, Cleveland State University. I left Cleveland just as Ed was joining the faculty at CSU, but he was generously supportive of my work, conducting performances of my pieces with the CCS. It was with the latter group that Ed made an exceptional contribution to new music, conducting many premieres encompassing a wide range of styles.  I don’t know as much of his own music as I should – what I recall had an uncommon playful streak. Here‘s the only example of his music I found online. UPDATE: check the comments section where several composer colleagues have written about Ed and the generous support he offered.

7 thoughts on “Ed London in Memoriam

  1. Sad News, Jim.

    He was a wonderful musician and I’m grateful for a fantastic performance of a piece of mine for nine players that he conducted with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony back in 1990.

  2. I also am a CSU composition alumnus (Class of ’92). What I remember most about Prof. London was his incredible wit on and off the podium. He never missed an opportunity to slip this humor into his compositions. One of his best works that I recall from those days was an orchestra piece titled “In Heinrich’s Shoes,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to the German composer. While the title brought a chuckle to the listener, the musical references woven into the score were captivating.

    While his compositions were intriguing on an intellectual and emotional level, I believe Edwin London will best be remembered for his support of “young and emerging” composers –a unique mission that became the hallmark of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony throughout the 1980s and 90s. While not every work they played was a masterpiece, the ensembles programming emphasized exploration and helped establish the careers of numerous composers, myself included. Ed London’s leadership at the helm of the CCS helped bring names like Bernard Rands, Augusta Reed Thomas, and James Primosch to national and international recognition, while allowing more established composers like Berio, Lutoslawski, and Boulez to be heard in a live performance setting by extremely talented performers.

    I am personally grateful to Ed London for the opportunities he gave to the the composition students at Cleveland State University. As part of the CCS mission, he made a point of sponsoring two orchestra readings of student works each year. New works were read by the ensemble with surprising fluency. Few programs in the country, if any, ever offered such a resource to their students. The orchestration knowledge I received as a young 20-yr old composition major is still with me today. Thank you, Dr. London, for seeing the importance of nurturing a new generation of composers through your mentorship and your love for new music.

    Kurt Sander,
    Associate Professor of Music Composition
    Music Department Chair
    Northern Kentucky University

    1. I enjoyed reading your comments about Ed, especially your expression of gratitude for the excellent performances he provided for you and many other deserving young composers.

  3. Although I’m not a composer, Ed London’s support to me as a performance major was critical to who I am as a professional today. Starting my sophomore year, I was able to perform in his graduate “New Music Associates” in works of Boulez, Feldman, Chou Wen Chung, Jonathan Kramer, and was also able to start playing as an extra and substitute performer on stage and in recording with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.

    Thanks, Ed.

    1. Thanks for your note, and for reading the blog, Mell. It’s a very good point – Ed was supportive of composers, but in doing so he provided many opportunities for performers over the years.

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