On December 10, 2014 Eileen Atkinson, a founding and long-time member of the CPO, passed away. She was a wonderful 95 years old. She was a musician all her life, and received her Performer’s Certificate in violin from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in London (The Royal Academy of Music & The Royal College of Music). After World War II, she became associated with the Alberta Philharmonic which later merged with the Calgary Symphony to become the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. She retired from the CPO in 1984.
We’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate a life so well lived. Here are some recollections of Eileen from three active members of the CPO.
Kathryn Stewart Corvino (CPO 1st Violin)
“Eileen retired in 1984. At that time I had only been in the CPO for three seasons. It was not until about 2009 that I rediscovered Eileen. By sheer coincidence, I had organized a student recital in Garrison Manor, Eileen’s home at the time. I was thrilled to find her, and to learn she was excited to hear how the next generation of players would sound. At that time, Eileen was still attending CPO Concerts and other musical events in the city, despite being in her late 80’s.
“For these past 5 years, Eileen and I have enjoyed many recitals and evenings together, talking shop and listening to our particular passion – violin music. Eileen was so perceptive and sensitive to the power of music in our lives. She was an inspiration to all who knew her.”
Diane Valentine (CPO extra violin)
“The first time I saw Eileen Atkinson, she was on the stage of the brand new Jubilee Auditorium, playing a School Concert with the CPO. She was so beautiful! I was 10 and had just started playing the violin, and she was sitting next to my violin teacher!”
“Not so many years later, I was on that same stage, sitting next to her myself! She was not just beautiful. She was a wonderful violinist, and an amazing person! The longer we played together, the more I admired and loved her. She taught me so much about being a musician, about being a good person, and about making a difference. A true mentor.”
“Eileen was an extraordinary presence in this musical world of ours. She brought an elegance to the stage, had great integrity, and a true sense of honour. She supported the orchestra through the good and tough times. There was never a question that she would be there helping, making sure that all that could be was done. She was there at the beginning, in the orchestra’s first faltering days; through years of conductor searches, repertoire, committee and board meetings, speaking up when the need was there, quietly supporting her friends and colleagues when decisions were made.”
“I cannot imagine how many notes you played, dear Eileen, or how many bowing changes you made through the years, how many new, young musicians you made feel welcome, or how many words of comfort and wisdom you spoke. You are missed already.”
Richard Van de Geer (CPO 2nd Violin)
“Eileen Atkinson was my first violin teacher. We began our student-teacher relationship in 1962, and from the very beginning she helped me understand that all those notes and rhythms we were learning were also creating moods and colours and feelings.”
“I know that the years I spent with Eileen as my teacher were the reason I continued on to be a professional violinist. I grew to be one of her colleagues and we continued as friends for the years that followed. “
A memorial service for Eileen Atkinson will be held at THE ANGLICAN PARISH OF CHRIST CHURCH (3602 – 8 Street S.W., Calgary, AB) on Friday, December 19, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. Condolences may be forwarded through www.mcinnisandholloway.com. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in memory of Eileen Atkinson can be made directly to the Salvation Army, 420 – 9 Avenue S.E., Calgary, AB T2G 0R9. Telephone 403-410-1111.