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Lee Fairley

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 8 months ago

In Memoriam

E. Lee Fairley

December 4, 1917- May 20, 2007


A memorial service was held June 29, 2007 to honor the life and musical contributions of Lee Fairley. Members of the Friday Morning Music Club and board members of the Kindler Cello Society played tribute to Lee with musical offerings. Words about Lee’s life were shared by his daughter:


Lee was born December 4, 1917 in Hannibal, New York.


After graduating with a masters degree in Musicology from the Eastman School of Music, Lee came to Washington, D.C. I 1941 to work for the Library of Congress Music Division.


A temporary assignment with the State Department during World War II led to a second career with the Foreign Service, with postings in France, Germany, Uganda, and Morocco in the 1950s and 60s.


After returning to the U.S. in 1969, Lee worked for the U.S. Information Agency and State Department until retiring from federal service in 1975. From 1975-1980, he was Director of International Affairs for the American Public Works Association. He continued working intermittently as a diplomatic escort for the State Department through the 1980s.


Throughout his life, Lee was actively involved in amateur classical music organizations in the DC area and abroad. He was a charter member of the National Capital Cello Club and the Amateur Chamber Music Players; served many years on the boards of the Kindler Cello Society and played cello with the Arlington Symphony, the Friday Morning Music Club, and various local chamber groups; and wrote program notes for many classical music performances in the DC area.


He was fortunate to have had two wives and many wonderful friends who shared his interests I music, world travel, and international affairs, plus three children who loved him very much.


Fred Shoup, a long time friend and fellow Friday Morning Music Club colleague, captured the spirit of Lee’s musical and interpersonal relationships with the following description:


Edward Lee Fairley as Musician


Lee Fairley’s profession was not music, but the breadth of his contribution to music in the Washington area is probably unsurpassed and perhaps unequaled. Educated at the Eastman School of Music, he was cellist, program annotator, music reviewer, member of the Library of Congress music staff, editor of sheet music publications, and an active and influential member—often a valued board member—of many musical organizations notably including the Amateur Chamber Music Players, the Friday Morning Music Club, and the Kindler Cello Society, as well as a steady supporter of professional musical performance by groups such as the National Symphony Orchestra and the Theater Chamber Players.


No catalogue of this kind can do justice to the quality of his endeavors. The National Symphony long ago and several other organizations in recent years asked him to write program notes because he had read deeply and thoughtfully about music and listened widely to it, and because his writing exemplified the virtues demanded by one great authority on the English language—it was “direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid.” The Washington Star asked him to write critiques not only because he could write, but also because he was a remarkably acute and fair-minded listener. The International Music Company had him edit some of its scores not only because of the depth of his knowledge but because he was unfailingly accurate in matters of detail. Musical organizations valued his participation because with his candid spirit, his clear mind, his civil manner, his gentle wit, and his constant devotion to the betterment of the community, he unassumingly helped people work well together—and, it should be added, play well together in chamber music sessions. Perhaps most remarkably as a cellist, when he sustained a wrist injury, which would have caused almost any of the rest of us to give up playing, he continued to play and play well, within the limitations, which the injury imposed, for many decades more, indeed until two days before his death.


He loved music far more than he did his own playing of it—had loved it since boyhood, when his school principal had allowed him to leave class to listen to the famous orchestral radio broadcasts with commentary by Walter Damrosch which first gave students in American schools all across the country simultaneous access to great music excellently presented. It was this love, which in recent years helped him to remember string quartet works from the early part of the century, by composers like Quincy Porter and Virgil Thomson, and introduce his younger colleagues to these valuable forgotten works. And it was this love, together with warm hospitality, which made chamber music sessions at Gisela and Lee Fairley’s treasured experiences both for neighbors and for visitors from afar, in which all the participants could be frank with each other—for Lee always said what he thought. It is thus fitting, I believe, that so many of us will remember Lee, as a fellow musician, with love.


For those of us who knew Lee, shared music with him, or simply know of his contributions, we honor his life and will miss his presence. Lee’s family has asked that all contributions made in his name be directed to either the Kindler Cello Society of the Library of Congress.

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