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RIP, John Howell

I wanted to make sure that regular participants/readers didn't miss an announcement posted yesterday by Ian Howell, John's son:
The Passing of John Raymond Howell, May 3rd, 2013
In the announcement, Ian wrote that "if anyone would like to share a story to help us remember him, I cannot think of a more appropriate place than here." Because announcements can't be responded to, I thought I'd post a Forum message, so that anyone who wishes could pay their "digital respects" here.
I was often amused by some of John's ChoralNet posts, impressed by his breadth of knowledge and experience, and a little amazed at the amount of his input here. I'm not sure about the actual statistics, but I'm sure that John's posts totaled in the thousands, and he offered a lot of useful information and gracious advice over the years. He will be missed.
You can read John's ChoralNet bio here:
And you can contact Ian, John's son, at his ChoralNet profile, here:
David T
Replies (27): Threaded | Chronological
on May 4, 2013 8:24pm
I loved John Howell.  He has a special place in my heart. When I first joined ChoralNet (when it was still ChoralList/ChoralTalk) in 1995, he very kindly responded to one of my first queries.  I can't remember what the question was, only that he was gracious and kind and a real Gentleman with a capital 'G.' He did have opinions about almost everything--from concert wear for we Ladies
(yeah, take a look...there are scads and scads of postings about the color black and women's tuxes and he posts!) to anything music history related to choirs--and running them--and inclusion for special needs singers and show choirs and Disney I leaving something out? He was very supportive and helpful to many people and kind.....that sweetness/toughness seemed to come through the Net to many of us.  We had friends in common---my son studies harpsichord with a classmate of his from IU--and I considered him a friend, regardless of never meeting him in person.   I had hoped to meet him, in fact, some day.
He could be a curmudgeon, we can all agree about that.  He long complained about the ChoralNet Nannies (the Moderators)and, as now one of those Nannies, I can tell you we at times we had to steer him back on topic....but he most often understood why we had to get him back on track! Longwinded was John, Lord, was he longwinded!
He loved his kids, Ian, and he ADORED your mother, Suzie.  His pride in you and your siblings came through, always.  My only comfort is that he is now with his beloved Suzie, whom he still talked about often after her death.  I hope they are somewhere making beautiful music together. 
Love and Peace,
Applauded by an audience of 16
on May 5, 2013 2:08am
Mr Topping have a nice day.
Thanks a lot for re-posting Mr Ian Howell announcemente that i had not seen!
I loved John Howel, said Marie Grass Amenta.
I say: so DO I. I will miss Mr Howell a lot.
For years he gave me so much information... subjects to discuss... good ideas... nice reading.
Many times his thoughts entered in my articles for Choraliter, the Choral magazine of the Italian Choral Association Feniarco.
Grazie di tutto Mr Howell - riposa in pace.
from Italy, Giorgio Morandi
Applauded by an audience of 4
on May 5, 2013 2:49am
John's voice here was truly a presence this forum will sorely miss. Yes, Ian, tons of useful and practical information, and his wise advice was ALWAYS offered kindly and graciously. RIP, John, and thank you for the many things you shared here that made our world of choral music a little better.
Phil Michéal 
Applauded by an audience of 6
on May 5, 2013 3:19am
John Howell will be sorely missed from the forum. One of the main contributors and his entries were always insightful and helpful. He was always interested in helping out and an incredibly warm person to contact. Rest in peace, dear collegue and my thoughts are with you Ian and siblings. 
Applauded by an audience of 5
on May 5, 2013 5:54am
We always knew JH had a special authority and care for the questioner and student. Few have his  breadth and ability. I hope his friends and family can gather his various writings and create a book of his essays and musings. They will remain valued!
Applauded by an audience of 4
on May 5, 2013 7:04am
Like Marie, my online acquaintance with John goes back to those early Choralist days (when we cradled our phone receivers into those dial-up modems and got our plain-text e-mails pre-Web!).  As those who were around then know, choral directors were among the first to create an electronic community to share professional information and provide support, and John remained an important part of that community.  In these busy days, I must confess that I'm one of those who reads the ChoralNet message headings pretty selectively, and choose carefully when and how I respond.  John was willing to offer help and suggestions to anyone with a choral question, whether it was a raw beginner, or a fine point of Baroque performance practice.  His example serves as a reminder of the purpose of this community -- to offer help to those who need it.  John gave of his time and expertise freely -- he will be greatly missed.
Applauded by an audience of 7
on May 5, 2013 7:17am
Although I never met John, he was a great support to me as I dealt with difficult situations.  His responses to my queries were thoughtful and filled with the wisdom of his many years of his experience.  I was always so grateful that he would take the time to give a detailed response to someone he had never met.   I was also touched by his open devotion to Suzie and saddened when he lost her a few years ago.  But he never lost his spirit, and he did not allow his grief to prevent him from participating fully in the Choralnet community.  I had always wanted to meet him in person - guess I will have to wait a bit. 
Applauded by an audience of 4
on May 5, 2013 2:15pm
Hello, Dawn. Hope you are well. Yep, John Howell was beyond excellent. He was a fully human being.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 5, 2013 9:41am
I always have appreciated the thoughtful, well stated and helpful posts by John Howell. I wish I could have met him. We will miss his wisdom. My condolences to the family.
on May 5, 2013 11:20am
This is very sad news.  John was a wonderful member of ChoralNet and other online communities.  I'll certainly never forget how eager and willing he was to share his considerable knowledge on a vast array of topics, and I remain grateful for many answers he posted here and elsewhere.  The online and offline worlds are poorer for his loss.  May he rest in peace.  We will all miss him.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 5, 2013 12:05pm
I too was always amazed at how often I would open a thread and see a reply with John's name on it.  I was surprised at how many topics he could respond to with something salient to add.  (I often wondered where he found time to teach!)  I can't add anything better to the many fine things already said.  I'll only add my voice to the others in saying that he will be missed on ChoralNet.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 5, 2013 12:37pm
Hello all, we love these rememberences!
A memorial gathering and reception will be held at 6 pm on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at the Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, 701 Church St. SE, Blacksburg, VA 24060.  In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in John’s name to the Blacksburg Summer Musical Enterprise (, an organization that he loved and supported.
on May 6, 2013 7:08am
The link to Summer Musical Enterprise is not working correctly on Ian's note. This should be a working link:
on May 5, 2013 9:13pm
Thank you for posting the announcement here.
I only knew John from his many postings. From reading him so often over the years, I am sure he was someone I would have liked to have known personally. I had no idea he was ill, and I'm feeling the loss. I will surely miss him and his postings. He often mentioned his dear wife, and now he's with her again.
on May 6, 2013 2:45am
I cannot add anything to the reminiscences already posted, the warmth of affection and the sense of loss -- but this is one more message of gratitude to John, and condolence to the family; now he is reunited with the wonderful wife he has been missing and constantly referring to these past few years.
Doreen Simmons in Tokyo
on May 6, 2013 3:58am
Personally, I am stunned and saddened.  Professionally, I am bereft.  I had had no idea he was ill, but then I figured he had to have been along in years, though I had no idea how MANY years.  Although I've only been a member here for the last several years, there were so many times I would charge into some issue and John would come and "get my back" - and when he disagreed with my views, did so with courtesy and kindness, always the teacher, always the friend.  Like Marie and Dawn and others who have posted, I hoped someday to be driving through Blacksburg and have a chance to stop at VTech and just say "hi!" and meet him.  Dear John, I hope that, indeed, you are with Suzie and you're singing up a storm.  Ian, as you read these postings, please accept my heart-felt condolences to you and your siblings - I will miss, and miss terribly, seeing his name on some thread and the wideness and the depth of his wisdom and insights.  Requiescat in pacem.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 6, 2013 6:52am
I too appreciated John's posts and wish I had known him personally.  
May the angels lead you into paradise, 
may the martyrs receive you 
in your coming, 
and may they guide you 
into the holy city, Jerusalem. 
May the chorus of angels receive you 
and with Lazarus once poor 
may you have eternal rest.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 6, 2013 7:40am
I only knew John Howell through his ChoralNet postings, but I feel as though I have lost a friend. His comments on any subject were always a welcome addition to the discussion.  I didn’t always agree with him but I always respected what he had to say.  He was a good writer whose ideas were always well thought out.  His voice will be sorely missed!
Yesterday I conducted a performance of the Brahms Requiem and I dedicated my part in that performance to John.  “Sayeth the spirit, that they rest from their labors, and that their works follow after them.”
Richard Householder
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 6, 2013 12:00pm
  Long before I met John on ChoraleNet, I realized that he had had a significant impact on my choice of music as a career.  The various unconcious reminicence's of his career as an entertainer led me to the the question, "were you a member of the Four Saints?" He was and I had been stricken by this group when I first saw them entertain on the venerable Ruth Lyons' noontime talk show from Cincinnati, OH. I enjoyed the group so much that my parents took me to a concert at Franklin College, Indiana--sat first row. (Saw the Limeliters there, as well). Well, that sealed the deal, I needed to be a musician and worked toward that end mostly with a guitar on my knee fed on cookies baked by the bluehaired old ladies who formed my audiences. I mentioned this to John several years ago somewhat to his embarassment that this group could have launched someone else's career. He was that and in his postings, I found even more inspiration.  Thank You, John, you unwittingly sustained me through a wonderful life.
Stephen A. Stomps
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 7, 2013 3:17am
I miss John. I had from him a lot of informations and suggestions on musical aspects and legal issues as well. Above all, he had always a kind and constructive attitude towards me and everyone else. He used to close each message with: "All the best". Now it's my turn: I wish you all the best in your new home, dear John.
on May 7, 2013 5:51am
Some of us have been known to call ChoralNet "HowellNet". We were in awe of the vast range of his knowledge and insight. And grateful to the "Nannies" :-) for keeping the balance between letting others get a word in edgewise, and including as much as possible of what is in some way already the collection of writings that Sig Rosen mentions.
Many of us probably have thoughtful and humorous replies from him in our email archives... I just reread mine and found things ranging from pedagogy and philosophy ("Robert Shaw was not a great singer, but if you worked with him you didn't CARE!") to music puzzlers and ideas for t-shirts ("Canto, Ergo Sum").
I love seeing these stories!
"A great light has gone out. May the reflections shine back from all those it has touched, and warm and brighten us."
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 7, 2013 7:42am
Thank you for letting us forum readers be informed because I know for myself, I would have wondered "what happened to John?" I too wish I had known John personally, but didn't we all by reading his comments in this forum have some sort of connection? May we all be inspired to take the risks to share our views whether popular or not-because we will never know the kindness of a "stranger amongst friends" unless we take that chance. Blessings to his family and friends who will miss John's daily presence in their lives.
on May 7, 2013 9:58am
When I read the sad news about John's passing, I felt a real sense of loss even though I had never met him in person.  His answers to so many different kinds of questions were amazing. Prayers and love to his family, friends and colleagues.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 8, 2013 7:27am
John's wisdom and kindhearted support will be missed so much on this site, but to his family, friends and many colleagues, he can never be replaced.  David, please communicate with Ian our deepest sorrow and support for the Howell family.
In honor of John, I would suggest that the ChoralNet site compile all of his post and edit them into a "wisdom" book for the ages of choral educators and conductors to come. Proceeds could go to his favorite charity or musical association.
Thank you for letting me be part of this -- to honor John in some small way.
Paul Townsend
just a small brained music teacher --
Scottsdale, AZ
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 8, 2013 10:10am
I am so sorry to hear this news. Ian, my thoughts are with you! I vividly remember meeting your father (and your mother, of course!) many times, and was always happy to feel connected, in a way, through his incredibly intelligent and thoughtful posts on ChoralNet. I will miss seeing his name popping up, and I'll miss that feeling I had whenever I posted something--"I hope that John agrees with me!" :)
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 9, 2013 6:16am
John Howell taught us how to proudly share our knowledge, but just as important, how to simply say, "I don't know."   
He offered his vast knowledge with all of us but on the few occasions when a subject was beyond his expertise, he was honest.
This is the sign of a truly educated person.
Nick Page
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 9, 2013 7:24pm
Like so many of the other ChoralNet readers who have posted here, I am stunned and very saddened by this news.  
I never met John Howell, and yet (again, like so many who have posted) often felt that I was involved in a very lively conversation with this caring and passionate man.  It was obvious how much he lived and breathed music...but even more than that, he seemed to be a consummate lover of life.  It was also obvious how much he adored and missed his late wife, as was the immense joy and pride he felt about his son and his very successful musical career.  
My sincerest condolences to you, Ian and to your family.
Jenny Crober,
VOCA Chorus of Toronto
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