Lister lost: Mallory Walker, tenor, 1935-2014

Updated:  A memorial service is set for Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 2pm, on the Occidental College campus.  See the comment below.


Mallory Elton WalkerMallory Elton Walker was one of our charter members, as well as part of “the original 35”: one of the names on Lauri’s very first “list”.  He was also a dear friend, and a tenor known and loved throughout Southern California for his exceptional voice, sharp musicianship and sweet nature.  What many local musici may not know, however, is the stunning resume of this wonderful man.  A nutshell version is available at Bach-Cantatas.com, and the New York Times tells the story of the time he stepped in for Jerry Hadley at the Met…

Another tenor Lister, Jeff Greif posted the news of Mallory’s passing and a lovely tribute on Facebook this week, and has agreed to let us repost a special version here — see below.  (Thanks, Jeff!)

Mallory is survived by his three children; Maria Walker-Ebersole, Anthony Hugh Walker, and James Walker.

Please feel free to post stories and thoughts here, or visit Mallory’s Facebook page.

Adieu, dear friend.


[Tribute by Jeffrey Greif follows, with permission]

RIP Mallory Walker (1935-2014), a wonderful singer, determined and effective teacher, and caring friend.  His family reports that Mallory passed away at home on Sunday, December 7.  Here is a brief appreciation, not
authoritative, but based on things he told me when I studied with him for several years into 2011, and a few tidbits from the Web.

Mallory was a star of the music program at Occidental College in the ’50s — another alumnus reported that he was held up as an example of what the tenors should sound like long after he had left.  He went into the U.S. Army Chorus after graduating, and began to make a name for himself, singing the solos in Mendelssohn’s Elijah in Washington.  In 1959-60, he was the tenor soloist in Robert Shaw’s tour of something like 40 cities, presenting the Bach B-minor Mass in places where it had rarely if ever been heard, and culminating in a well-known recording. He had a career for a number of years in Germany, where he performed a number of operas and the Evangelist in the Bach St. Matthew and St. John Passions, the earliest of many performances both there and in the U.S.. Georg Solti engaged him for the St. Matthew Passion, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and the Beethoven Missa Solemnis with the Chicago Symphony in the 1970s.  He sang several roles, including Captain Vere in Billy
Budd at the Metropolitan Opera in 1978 and 1980, but also sang in the chorus there during leaner times.  In 1984, he came out of the Met chorus on same-day notice to sing the title role in Idomeneo as an emergency replacement for Jerry Hadley, in Richard Strauss’ rarely performed arrangement of the Mozart opera, since he had sung it in Italian and knew German.  He had to adapt himself to the arias in German, and to learn Strauss’ added recitatives on that short notice.  The New York Times article (linked above) on this event interviewed him
about the ups and downs of his career to that point.

After he sang a leading role in a Civil War opera by Dominick Argento, Argento composed the song cycle with piano and clarinet/bass clarinet, To be sung upon the water, for him.  Argento went with him and the
clarinetist to the studio of a Juillliard piano faculty member for the first rehearsal, handed the as-yet unpublished score to the pianist, only to be told, “I don’t do manuscript.”  End of rehearsal.

Later, back in L.A., Mallory sang in the L.A. Master Chorale, the Pacific Chorale, and the Crystal Cathedral Choir, among many others.  He never retired from singing — did a temple gig a couple of days before his death although he’d been in the hospital two weeks earlier.

His model of the ideal tenor voice was that of Fritz Wunderlich.  His teaching drew mostly from his own studies with Cornelius Reid, the author of several books on voice teaching who taught in New York well into his 90s, and who realigned Mallory’s voice after some earlier instruction had sent him down a wrong path.  Sometime in 2011 or 2012, he began to work with Seth Riggs, who helped him rejuvenate his voice once again, and when I last sang with him in 2012 and 2013, he sounded effortless and years younger.  He generously supported both his current
and former students, coming out to their performances, and once in a while, using his connections to arrange masterclass slots or private sessions for them with visiting artists he had worked with.

I don’t know enough about his family to say much, beyond that he had a brother who is a professor of Russian and served as his diction coach in that language, that he loved to spend time with his children, doted on his grandchildren, and was very glad to be on good terms with his ex-wife.

Around 2010, he privately compiled a couple of CDs of his best work over his entire career, mainly for his grandchildren — a pretty spectacular collection, including the “9-high-C’s” aria from the La Fille du
Regiment (in German!),  Lensky’s aria (a  favorite of his), a gorgeous Brahms song, and many others.

Here he is, giving his own benediction:

YouTube:  Bach – Mass in B minor, Benedictus – Robert Shaw 1960

3 thoughts on “Lister lost: Mallory Walker, tenor, 1935-2014”

  1. I am deeply moved by hearing Mallory’s singing in this recording. I met him only a couple of times, and really didn’t know about his accomplished background. What a beautiful voice! And yes, I remember his sweetness, even though we were only briefly acquainted.

    Thanks to Jeffrey Greif for contributing this.

    Deborah Mayhan

    Reply
  2. [This information received in January from Mallory’s daughter]

    Dear Co-workers of Lauris List. An old friend of my father’s emailed me your link and I saw the lovely tribute and bio of my Dad, Mallory Walker, who passed on on December 7, 2014.
    Yes, there will be a memorial on February 21, 2015 at 2pm at Herrick Chapel (Bird Studio) on the Occidental College Campus – his alma mater. All who knew Dad are more than welcome to come celebrate his life. Please RSVP to mallorywalkermemorial2015@yahoo.com
    Thank you so much!
    Maria Walker Ebersole

    Reply
    • Maria, I knew Jim when I briefly shared his Upper West Side apartment after my divorce, so please extend my great sympathy to him on the loss of his dad. And to you, too. I know what a great loss this is, and my heart goes out to the both of you. Trisha Angelo (as I was known back then)

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