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Bernard Gilmore
In Memoriam

Bernard Gilmore

Professor of Music

UC Irvine

Bernard “Barney” Gilmore, cherished Professor of Music at University of California, Irvine from 1982-2006, passed away on April 17, 2013 at the age of 75.

Born in Oakland, California on November 19, 1937, Barney was the son of Bernard Sr., and Virginia Gilmore. He received his bachelor of arts degree in music from the University of California, Los Angeles and his master of music degree in composition from that same institution. He earned his doctorate from Stanford University. Previous to his appointment at UCI, he taught at Oregon State University from 1966-1982 and at Cornell University from 1960-1962.

Originally hired by UCI’s music department as orchestra director, Barney gradually shifted to composition as his main emphasis and taught composition, theory, conducting, music history, opera, orchestral literature, and 20th century music, filling in as needed on French horn for orchestra and band performances. He also served in an administrative role at various times during his career as Music Department Chair, Acting Dean of Fine Arts, and Associate Dean.

Gilmore’s music is now archived in Special Collections at Langson Library and is available for study, performance and listening. His compositions include instrumental and vocal works for large groups, chamber ensembles, and soloists. Hallmarks of his style are spontaneity and flow, rhythmic interest, striking harmonic progressions, unusual coloring, the influence of jazz, and the inclusion of folk elements. In 1963, he composed his signature piece, Five Folk Songs for Soprano and Band, for the annual conference of the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA). It was the first major work written expressly for soprano and band and was awarded Best Original Composition at the CBDNA Biennial Conference in 1967. It is played worldwide to this day.

In his remarks at the UCI Memorial Concert given in 2014 in Barney’s memory, Professor Christopher Dobrian said, “Barney’s personality is evident in his music… the honesty, directness, and generosity that characterized his interactions with others are also discernible in his musical voice.” The great majority of his works were performed only a few times, many only once. Most were written for the performers at hand, as requests from students and faculty, or tailored for individual student performers or groups. Barney considered himself the equivalent of a “court composer,” producing music upon request. He enjoyed coaching these performances and hearing them performed in a local setting. He did not pursue additional performances or publication of these works and the majority is unpublished.

Some of his personal concerns and interests are reflected in his compositions. Sons Coming, Sons Gone is set to the texts of African American poets and dedicated to the memory of James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Viola Luizzo, those who lost their lives working for equal rights for the black community. Requiem Summer 1995 was written as a rebuke for the actions of the Regents of the University of California, who withdrew their commitment to affirmative action. It is dedicated to those who sacrificed for the cause of equal rights.

Barney’s interest in his Jewish tradition is also reflected in many of his compositions. Two Songs from Torah for soprano and piano is one of his most lyrical pieces. Ha Nahash Arum (The Cunning Serpent) written for tenor, baritone, and chamber orchestra takes the form of a musical “drosh,” a commentary, on a text from the Torah. His last composition, Breed Street, a piece for orchestra that quotes Yiddish folk tunes evokes memories of the former synagogue in East Los Angeles (Boyle Heights), a center of Jewish life in the mid-twentieth century. God’s Chosen (also known as Journey to Freedom), for baritone and tenor soloists, full orchestra and chorus, is a contemporary setting of the story of Exodus.  It is his largest work in scope and plans are now in progress for its premiere performance in June 2019 at the Soka Performing Arts Center.

Barney also wrote original and imaginative librettos for some of his works, including Coffee Date, a chamber opera for soprano, tenor and mezzo soprano; Ha Nahash Arum (The Cunning Serpent), an original interpretation of the Biblical story of Eve and the Temptation; a whimsical poem entitled “Family Album” from Songs or Solitude; and a libretto fashioned from original material, biblical, and secular sources for God’s Chosen (Journey to Freedom), an oratorio.

Above all, Barney is remembered for the unique and memorable contributions he made through force of his personality, values, and character traits. His own eminence was not pre-eminent in his role as professor. Professor Dobrian observed that despite the experience, rank and age that separated them, they related as equals, friends and colleagues from their very first meeting. “His primary interests, and the focus of his dedication, were his students and the music he was teaching. To both his colleagues and his students, he was plainspoken, supportive, caring and kindly.” He acted with a natural humility that was very much recognized and appreciated by others, remaining open to all who sought his guidance, advice, and support. Humor was a hallmark of his teaching style, a way to leave his imprint in a non-threatening manner. Students were encouraged to express their ideas and to think in new and creative ways, especially in composition. Dobrian adds, “His own kindness and selflessness was, and is, a generator of good will... and good music. That goodness lives on, and continues to enhance our lives.”

Barney took music beyond its conventional boundaries to convey values about respect for others and open-mindedness towards differences. His unique contributions to the character of UCI musical life consist not only of his musical achievements, but also of the way he lived. In the classroom and by personal example, his values effortlessly permeated his music and his teaching. Always open, always approachable, he is well remembered, much respected, and also beloved.

In 1959, Barney married Phyllis Markin, a pianist and now Alexander Technique teacher. They were married for fifty-three years until his death in 2013. They have one son, Benjamin, a physician and musician, and a daughter-in-law, Sujin Yoon. Their granddaughter Isabel was born in 2012.  Grandson Brennan, his namesake and look-alike, was born shortly after his death in 2013. He is also survived by an older sister, Caroline Clark Ritchey.

Nina Scolnik
Professor of Teaching, Claire Trevor School of the Arts- Music

Phyllis Markin Gilmore