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Donald Bryant (1918-2014)

UMS was saddened to learn about the death of former UMS conductor Donald Bryant. In the photo above, Dr. Bryant is pictured with Handel’s Messiah soloists at Hill Auditorium in 1971. During his tenure, Dr. Bryant continued to nourish the long-established role of the Choral Union in Messiah concerts and May Festivals, but his legacy to UMS was the Festival chorus, a smaller group of singers, who performed with visiting orchestras in the Choral Union Series and at May Festivals, as well as abroad.

“I began my first year with UMS as Donald was beginning his 18th. He was a talented, multi-faceted musician – conductor, pianist, teacher, coach, composer – who was beloved by members of the UMS Choral Union and Festival Chorus,” said UMS president Ken Fischer. “He worked with many of the greatest conductors and orchestras of our time for the annual Ann Arbor May Festival concerts and for Choral Union Series concerts. He also led memorable tours of the Festival Chorus to Europe in 1976, Egypt in 1979, and Spain in 1982.  UMS and the community paid tribute to Donald’s distinguished two-decade career with UMS on the occasion of his retirement in January 1990 with the presentation in Hill Auditorium of Genesis, a major work composed by Donald with libretto by son Travis Bryant and son Stephen Bryant as bass-baritone soloist. It was always a treat to see Donald at many UMS concerts after his retirement. He made a wonderful contribution to UMS and to the Ann Arbor community. Our sympathy goes out to Donald’s family and his many friends.”

UMS Choral Union member and coordinator of the Summer Sings program Marilyn Meeker remembers him as an “exceptionally talented pianist and composer.” She notes, “Everyone who knew Donald savored his racontorial skills…he had a lifetime filled with wonderful stories and anecdotes, and he could tell them with great relish and delight.”

Dr. Bryant’s memorial will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor (1432 Washtenaw Ave.) on Saturday, June 7 at 4 pm. At the request of current and former members of the UMS Choral Union, UMS is pleased to receive gifts to the UMS Choral Union Endowment Fund in memory of Donald Bryant. Gifts can be sent to Development Department, UMS, Burton Memorial Tower, 881 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor MI 48109.

We invite you to leave a memory or tribute in the comment section below.

We are also saddened to report that Thomas Sheets, former choir director at First Baptist and former UMS Choral Union conductor, passed away suddenly yesterday morning, April 24, 2014. Information about a memorial will be forthcoming.