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Day in the life: Dr. Erich Schwandt

- Robie Liscomb

A day in the life of Professor Emeritus Erich Schwandt (music)-if it happens to be a UVic Convocation day-involves playing the huge Clearihue organ in the University Centre Farquhar Auditorium. For the past 30 years, Schwandt has provided the music for UVic Convocation ceremonies during which tens of thousands of grads have crossed the stage.

"It's a lot of fun, and it's an easy thing to do," says the retired music professor. "I get to play whatever music I please," which often includes a processional piece by French composer and pianist C&e#180;cile Chaminade and works by J.S. Bach and others.

Perched at the keyboard high above the stage, Schwandt may have attended more UVic Convocations than any other person. "It means a lot to the families to see their child get their degree," he says, and he has proudly seen many of his own students receive their degrees.
"I've also heard speeches of all kinds from honorary degree recipients through the years." And he recalls particularly enjoying the remarks by eco-forester Merv Wilkinson (Nov. 2005) and Canadian author Carol Shields (June 2001).

Schwandt received his academic degrees from Stanford University and taught at Stanford and Eastman School of Music before joining UVic's School of Music in 1975. He performed harpsichord and organ recitals throughout North America and reconstructed the lost "Gloria" of Erik Satie's Messe des pauvres for its world premiere at the University of Victoria in 1997. He retired in 2001.

Schwandt was instrumental (pun intended) in UVic's acquisition of the Clearihue organ in the late 1970s. "I saw an ad with a very vague description of an organ for sale in Quebec for $20,000," he recalls. "I went to Qu&e#180;bec to investigate. And it was in a church where it had been subject to extreme fluctuations in temperature and had suffered damage so that it was barely playable. Local organ builder Hugo Spilker went and examined it, took it apart, arranged for transport and modified it mechanically for installation in the new UVic auditorium."

The organ was purchased and donated to UVic by Dr. Joyce Clearihue as a memorial to her parents Joseph and Irene Clearihue. Joseph Clearihue served as UVic's first chancellor. The French classic organ was built in 1966 by Georges Mayer of Sarre-Union, France, for the parish of St. Mathias, Qu&e#180;bec.

"I like it very much," says Schwandt, who will once again be providing sweet strains of organ music as UVic celebrates another Fall Convocation this month.

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Keywords: Day in the Life, staff

People: Erich Schwandt


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