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Barbara's Story

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Barbara L. (nee McCarthy) Wagner, an organist, teacher and choral conductor, passed away after a long illness at The Garden House nursing home in Getzville, on February 17th. She was 80 years old. A longtime resident of Buffalo, she was born in Lockport and graduated from Lockport Senior High School and the University of Buffalo. She was the daughter of Richard and Flora McCarthy of Lockport.
Ms. Wagner was the former Minister of Music at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, in her 50th year of service when she retired in 2012. She also taught vocal music at Nichols School for 25 years and later taught at Buffalo Seminary. She was the first artistic director for the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus, leading the group through their first rehearsal on the tragic occasion of 9/11/2001, and continuing as their conductor for 10 years. Additionally, she served as the Music Director at Temple Beth Am in Amherst for 12 years and as conductor of the Orchard Park Chorale for five years.
In addition to conducting the Unitarian Universalist Choir and numerous BPO musicians and other instrumentalists on Sunday mornings, she led the church choir on two European tours, the first to Germany, Austria and Czech Republic and the second to Great Britain. Under her direction, the choir recorded for American Public Radio, and performed locally with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Amherst Saxophone Quarter and the Arts Nova Chamber Orchestra.
Under her direction, the UUCB Choir was well known throughout Western New York for its dozens of acclaimed concerts, productions of operas and oratorios, Music Sunday performances, and, more recently, a Fall & Spring Bach Cantata Series, featuring her 60-voice choirs and chamber orchestras of BPO musicians, all performed in the Church's sanctuary.
Most notable among her many career achievements was conducting her church choir in the world premiere performance of a Requiem with text by Kurt Vonnegut and music by Edgar David Grana in March of 1988. Later that year, Ms. Wagner was the conductor for the Peace Odyssey Tour of Hungary and the former Soviet Union with singers from across the United States.
She was a member of the Unitarian Universalist denomination's Hymnbook Resources Commission, which published the 1993 hymnbook, Singing the Living Tradition, and chaired the New Hymns Task Force, which published another denominational songbook in June 2005.
Ms. Wagner earned a BFA degree from the University of Buffalo, where she studied organ with Squire Haskin and did graduate work at Westminster Choir College. She did advanced organ study with Karl Richter at Munich Conservatory (Germany) and studied advanced conducting with Raymond Harvey, the former Assistant Conductor of the BPO. She was a member of the American Choral Director's Association, the Erie County Music Educators Association, the American Guild of Organists, the Chromatic Club, and a founding member of the Unitarian Universalist Musician's Network. She was awarded the Erie County Music Educator/BPO Award for Excellence in Choral Education in 2002.
She was predeceased by her husband, the Rev. William G. Wagner, who died in 2003. Survivors include her daughters, Carrie Martin of Hamburg and Molly Wagner of Sydney, Australia; grandchildren, Jay and Evan (Jenna) Wopperer, Cheri (Matthew) Pritchard and Erica, Rachel and Gideon Heller-Wagner; and a sister, Jeanne (Ronald) Gunby; sisters-in-law, Susan Dull and Libby Wagner; and several cousins, nieces and nephews.
A Memorial Service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, 695 Elmwood Avenue (at West Ferry), Buffalo, on Sunday, March 5th at 3:00 PM.
Published on February 20, 2017
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