Seattle has lost a major musical figure with the death of George Halverson Fiore, who died early Tuesday at age 87 after cardiac surgery.
Kindhearted, exacting, exuberant and filled with the joy of music, Mr. Fiore was an important member of this region’s major musical institutions. As conductor, pianist, organist, vocal coach and lecturer, he influenced countless singers, instrumentalists and listeners.
When Mr. Fiore retired in 2007 as the Seattle Symphony’s associate conductor for choral activities, he capped a career that included 17 years as Seattle Opera’s chorus master, as well as directorships at the Northwest Boychoir and various churches: St. James Cathedral, First United Methodist Church of Seattle, Seattle First Presbyterian Church and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. In addition, he was an inspiring teacher and taught at the University of Washington, Seattle Pacific University and Cornish College of the Arts.
Born in New York City into an Italian émigré family, Mr. Fiore was the godson of legendary singer Luisa Tetrazzini. From an early age, he was entranced by the piano, particularly the music of Chopin. At 3, he would sit before the family’s collection of old Chopin 78s, playing them repeatedly.
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It was his love of Chopin that moved him to take up the piano himself, studying at Juilliard — where he met his lifelong friend Van Cliburn — and then performing at New York’s Town Hall and in cities across the country. Mr. Fiore’s studies took him beyond the piano to the organ and opera; he became a pianist/coach in the studio of one of New York’s sought-after voice teachers, where, as he later said, “I learned to coach the great repertoire from A to Z.”
After his marriage to Sherril Halverson and the arrival of two children, John and Claudia, the family moved to Seattle, where Mr. Fiore became organist/choirmaster at St. James Cathedral. Not long thereafter, Seattle Opera tapped him to direct its resident opera program and then the chorus, where his work earned raves from reviewers. He continued to perform as both organist and pianist, and on the latter instrument was a soloist with many regional orchestras: Thalia Symphony, Orchestra Seattle, Bellevue Philharmonic, Federal Way Symphony, Cascade Symphony and Highline Symphony, as well as the Seattle Symphony. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from Alaska Pacific University.
Mr. Fiore’s son, John, is an internationally renowned conductor and is currently music director of The Norwegian Opera & Ballet.
Mr. Fiore’s high standards are reflected in several Seattle Symphony Chorale members’ comments made at the time of his 2007 retirement; they called him “a stickler for languages and pronunciation,” “big on intonation and has an amazing ear,” and noted his “infectious enthusiasm” as “he turns his singers into students of the work.” But he always concluded, as singer Anne Foster Angelou said, “You know I love you all.”
He is survived by son John, of Oslo, Norway; daughter Claudia, of Seattle; and brother Louis Fiore, of Sarasota, Fla.
A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 14514 20th Ave. N.E., Shoreline. Remembrances in George Fiore’s name may be sent to Classical KING FM 98.1, 10 Harrison St. Ste. 100, Seattle, 98109.
Melinda Bargreen: firstname.lastname@example.org