Gail O’Riordan was an extraordinary musician and teacher. She started her career on the piano at the age of 5 and quickly won competitions with the Victoria Festival for the Performing Arts during her school years. Between 1964 and 1968 she completed a Bachelors Degree in Piano Performance at the University of British Columbia, performing many concertos with the University Orchestra and accompanying senior instrumentalists. In 1969, Gail completed a Bachelor in Teacher Training and the University of Victoria and became a music teacher at elementary schools in Ottawa and West Vancouver till 1975.
Unfortunately, Gail’s voice was not suited to classroom teaching so she turned to her long-term love of the cello. She started cello lessons with Hans Seigrist, the then principal cellist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1971, and when she moved to Victoria in 1973, with the Victoria Conservatory of Music. She joined the Victoria Symphony as both a cellist and keyboard player in 1977 but took two leaves of absence to improve her skills. The first was in the UK in 1978-79 where she studied with Derek Simpson, the cellist in the Aeolian String Quartet. The second was in 1982-85 when she took a Masters Degree in Cello Performance under Linda Galvan at the University of Victoria.
She returned to the Victoria Symphony as a part time contract player and also became a founding member of the Victoria Palm Court Orchestra retiring from the Symphony in 2010 but continuing with the Palm Court till December 2017.
In 1995, Gail started a very successful cello studio to teach a wide range of students from the ages of 5 to 75. Over the years she encouraged hundreds of students to love the cello and perform in the Victoria Performing Arts Festival as well as giving two full concerts a year for all her students. Being a professional accompanist, Gail accompanied all her students for all their pieces both simple and sometimes requiring the most challenging piano accompaniments. However she never charged for this service. Many of her students continued with cello performance degrees either at the University of Victoria or other colleges and universities across the country.
Gail was also an accomplished singer. She was a leading soprano in the Amity Singers, a community chamber choir performing in Victoria between 1969 and 1985 and became involved in its administration and programming with its various Music Directors. Later in life she directed the Probus Singers – a group of retired professionals with little or no musical experience but used her energy and consummate teaching skills to mold them into a choir performing for the main Probus Christmas and summer functions.
In addition to Gail’s acclaimed musical performance abilities, she was also an arranger of chamber music for both her cello and vocal students. She completed some wonderful arrangements of well and not so well known Christmas Carols for her cello student’s Christmas concerts as well as Canadian songs for her choirs. Some of these arrangements have been captured on a CD played by a piano trio comprising of her son, nephew and daughter of a close family friend.
Gail made a lasting impression on the musical community across Victoria over the 45 years she was a performer and teacher. Her enthusiasm, her joy of music, her laughter and her beautiful singing voice will long be remembered by the musical community to whom she contributed so much.
The Gail O’Riordan Memorial Fund for Music and Performing Arts, held at the Victoria Foundation, will be a fitting contribution to keeping her spirit alive in the musical community over the coming decade. You can support the Fund by cash, cheque, credit card, or online through CanadaHelps (below). For information about giving publicly listed securities, or to donate by credit card, please call the Victoria Foundation at 250.381.5532.