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You can ask any musician who ever played or sang for conductor Alan Lund: If you were sitting in an orchestra or choir, and one person hit a bad note, Mr. Lund would hear it, know who did it, and tell that individual how to fix it.
“He had the most amazing ear,” said his wife of 45 years, Ellen Lund. “We all loved performing for him, he was so reliable. He demanded excellence — in a nice way.”
Music was a major ingredient in the Lunds’ partnership and family life. Ellen, a violinist, met Mr. Lund in the orchestra pit of a 1974 production of “South Pacific,” put on by the now-defunct Sound Expression Theater in Edmonds. Mr. Lund was director of the organization, which mounted musicals.
Ellen was so impressed with her maestro’s precision and exacting nature, she joined the orchestra of Seattle’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society, where Mr. Lund served as music director for 35 years. The two married in 1975, and the music never stopped until Mr. Lund’s death on March 19, from complications of the novel coronavirus. He was 81.
Born in Milwaukee in 1938, Mr. Lund and his family moved to Bellevue in 1952. He graduated from Bellevue High School four years later, where he was drum major and played clarinet and piano. He enrolled in the University of Washington’s music program, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in music education, and his master’s in music theory.
After a short time in an Air Force band at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, he returned to the Seattle area and taught music in the Bellevue School District, later spending most of his teaching career in the Highline School District. Away from the classroom, Mr. Lund contributed a great deal to Seattle’s music culture, as director of the Seattle Opera Chorus, the Eastside’s Cascadian Chorale, and the Boeing Chorale.
But it was his artistic leadership of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society where he left his major legacy in this region, signing on in 1967 to conduct W.S. Gilbert’s comic play “Engaged,” and ending his tenure with 2001’s opera “The Mikado” by Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.
Mr. Lund’s ambitions for the Society aimed high, including two appearances, in 1996 and 1998, at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England. In each instance, the Seattle team won multiple prizes, but their leader impressed the Brits in other ways.
“At the festival, they only had an 18-piece orchestra,” said Mike Storie, former executive director of the Society. “The musicians were excellent, but Alan didn’t think the arrangements were very good. He added eight Seattle musicians and rewrote the arrangements. Everybody was blown away by how suddenly the Buxton Opera House was filled with gorgeous music by Sullivan.”
“Alan knew how to nurture the highest level of performance from every player or singer without ever being mean-spirited or intimidating,” Ellyn Roe, who spent years in orchestras led by Mr. Lund, wrote in an email. “He was enjoyed, respected and loved by hundreds of performers.”
Music was a family affair for Mr. Lund, who conducted not only his spouse, but also his daughter Gina Gentile (now with the Dallas Symphony Chorus), sisters-in-law Norma Dermond and Kathy Moellenberndt, and several nieces.
In later years, Mr. Lund pursued a successful second career producing videos, including DVDs of Society performances. His commitment to Christianity in 1982, says Ellen, enabled him to step out of the spotlight and enjoy life behind the scenes. He found purpose in service to others.
“If he saw a need, he would address it and see what he could do to help,” Dermond said. “He was the sweetest, most gentle man. He always considered himself guardian of the three sisters: Ellen, Kathy and me. He would watch out for us.”
When Ellen and Mr. Lund became empty-nesters, they opened their home in Edmonds to a succession of people facing homelessness, cancer and marital breakup.
“Alan’s heart was a Good Samaritan’s heart,” said Ellen.
In addition to his wife, daughter Gentile, and sisters-in-law, Mr. Lund is survived by another daughter, Jana Jo Uhlendorf, a missionary in Uganda; his sister, Lois Hagen, brother-in-law, Jim Dawson, and 19 nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held when possible.