Barbara L. (nee McCarthy) Wagner
Died: Feb 17, 2017
Barbara L. (nee McCarthy) Wagner

WAGNER - Barbara L. (nee McCarthy)

Barbara L. (nee McCarthy) Wagner, a musician, teacher and choral conductor, passed away after a long illness at the Garden House Nursing Home in Getzville New York , on Friday February 17, 2017. She was 80 years old.  A long time resident of Buffalo, she was born in Lockport and graduated from Lockport Senior High and the University of Buffalo.  She was the daughter of the late Richard and Flora McCarthy.

Ms Wagner was the former Minister of Music at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, in her 50th year of service when she retired in 2012.  She also taught vocal music at Nichols School for 25 years and later taught at Buffalo Seminary.  She was the first artistic director for the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus, leading the group through their first rehearsal on the tragic occasion of 9-11-2001, and continuing as their conductor for 10 years.  Additionally she served as the Music Director at Temple Beth Am for 12 years and as the conductor of the Orchard Park Chorale for five years.

In adddition to conducting the Unitarian Universalist Choir and numerous BPO musicians and other instrumentalists on Sunday mornings, she led the church choir on two European tours, the first to Germany, Australia and Czech Republic and the second to Great Britain.  Under her direction, the choir recorded for American Public Radio, and performed locally with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Amherst Saxophone Quarter and the Arts Nova Chamber Orchestra.

Under her direction, the UUCB Choir was well known throughout Western New York for its dozens of acclaimed concerts, productions of operas and oratorios, Music Sunday performances, and, more recently, a Fall & Spring Bach Cantata Series, featuring her 60- voice choirs and chamber orchestras of BPO musicians, all performed in the Churches sanctuary.

Most notable among her many career achievements was conducting her church choir in the world premiere performance of a Requiem with text by Kurt Vonnegut and music by Edgar David Grana in March of 1988. Later that year, Ms. Wagner was the conductor for the Peace Odyssey Tour of Hungary and the Former Soviet Union with singers from across the United States.

She was a member of the Unitarian Universalist denomination's Hymnbook Resources Commission, which published the 1993 hymnbook, Singing the Living Tradition, and chaired the New Hymns Task Force, which published another denominational songbook in June 2005.

Ms. Wagner earned a BFA degree from the University of Buffalo, where she studied organ with Squire Haskin and did graduate work at Westminster Choir College. She did advance organ study with Karl Richter at Munich Conservatory (Germany) and studied advanced conducting with Raymond Harvey, the former Assistant Conductor of the BPO.  She was a member of the American Choral Director's Association, The Erie County Music Educators Association, the American Guild of Organists, the Chromatic Club, and a founding member of the Unitarian Universalists Musician's Network.  

She was awarded the Erie County Music Educator/BPO Award for excellence in Choral Education in 2002.

She is predeceased by her husband, the Rev. William G. Wagner, who died in 2003. Survivors include her daughters, Carrie Martin of Hamburg, and Molly Wagner of Sydney Australia; grandchildren, Jay and Evan (Jenna) Wopperer, Cheri (Matthew) Pritchard; and Erica, Rachael and Gideon Heller-Wagner; and a sister Jeanne (Ronald) Gunby; sisters-in-law; Susan Dull and Libby Wagner; and several cousins, nieces and nephews.

Family and friends are cordially invited to attend Barbara's Memorial Service on Sunday, March 5, 2017 at 3:00 PM  at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, 695 Elmwood Avenue( at West Ferry).

Kindly consider leaving a message of condolence and/or sharing a favorite memory of Barbara.

The Wagner family has entrusted their loved one to the care of the KEVIN M. MASON FUNERAL HOME 154 Weimar street Buffalo New York 14206. (716) 362-0199 Fax: (716) 462-5355  www.kevinmmasonfuneralhome. com.

Bob Walter
March 6th, 2017 10:14 am
I was so fortunate to have wandered into the UUCB one Sunday morning in 1986 to hear a sermon I saw posted. What I heard that morning from the choir loft was so unexpected and glorious. The next Thursday I showed up for choir rehearsal and Barb welcomed me with open arms. For 25 plus years she introduced me to an incredible spectrum of music and musical experiences. She was hands down the best choral director I have ever worked with. She managed to get excellence from a group of mostly amateur singers. From singing the "Crown of the Torah" with the BPO at Temple Beth Zion to singing across the UK to performing the awful Vonnegut Requiem, her spirit and energy guided us. But it was the music we sang on Sunday mornings in the church that meant the most to me. She taught me so much and I love her for it all. I closed my eyes in the choir loft yesterday and could still see her at the organ console, hands and feet flying to make music that was truly a religious experience. I miss her so much and will remember her always.
Chris Vasquez
March 5th, 2017 12:49 pm
I have known Barb since I was 10 years old. I'm 48 now. She was my first music teacher, my choral director, my accompanist for a senior conservatory recital, and most importantly, my friend. It was incredibly hard to watch her slowly disappear into that oblivion. Even though, the last time I sat by her, she had no idea who I was, I found a smile come up from inside me. All my beautiful memories of her, the comfort and joy that she gave me, the power of her musicianship suddenly filled my heart with such a happiness. I will cherish that moment forever. I only hope in that moment she was at peace, as well. I think that she was. I love you, Barb. Pleasant travels!
Deborah Weiner
February 28th, 2017 8:50 am
Barbara Wagner was a wonderful musician and a wonderful colleague. Her contributions to the production of "Singing the Living Tradition" and "Singing the Journey," both published by the UUA, are significant, and her dedication to promoting choral music that carried Unitarian Universalist values, and acceptance and inclusion of all, will live on. I will miss her dearly.
Donald and Marjorie Reidell
February 25th, 2017 6:29 pm
Marjorie and I express our deep sadness upon learning of Barbara's passing. Not only was she a superb musician, she was also a kind and loving person. Over the many years of our membership in the UU Church of Buffalo we were blessed to have listened to and been inspired by her wonderful musical presentations on Sunday mornings. On a personal basis it was certainly my privilege to work with Barb over the years in the co-ordination of many wedding services. Marjorie and I offer our prayers and condolences to her daughters Molly and Carrie and their families.
Dan & Donna Rokitka
February 23rd, 2017 10:14 am
So sorry to hear of your loss Carrie, Molly and kids. You were the light of your Mother/Grandmother's eyes. She just glowed as she talked about all of you during our chats on John Brian Ln. She was the best neighbor we could have asked for. May her radiant smile shine down on all of you!
rella corris
February 23rd, 2017 7:44 am
I can still picture Barbara bouncing up and down on the organ bench at Temple Beth Am as she led the choir. She will be missed by many. My sympathy to her family. Rella Corris
Shirley R. Torch
February 22nd, 2017 4:10 pm
To Molly and Carrie, Sincere sympathy to you. Remembering your dear parents, and both of you from your days at East jr. High School. Your loving Mom & Dad offered such support to East's music program. I truly understand your sorrow in the loss of your beautiful and talented Mom. Ms. Torch
February 22nd, 2017 4:02 pm
LInda and John Pawelek
February 22nd, 2017 3:01 pm
We will always remember a wonderful trip to Hungary and Russia called Peace Odyssey with a choir made up of UU folks from across the United States under the direction of Barb Wagner. We gathered for rehearsals in the Shelter Rock UU Church on Long Island and then traveled abroad for 2 weeks. We had some wonderful choral moments and will always remember that trip with fondness. Barb was a founding member of UUMN and she and I worked on the UUMN board together in more recent years. She conducted the UUMN choir when we all participated in the UUA General Assembly concert when the hymn book was dedicated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1990. I remember her conducting in a beautiful red dress. She made her mark in so many different ways. We loved her and appreciated her many talents. We will miss her, but are so fortunate to have known her. We extend our condolences to her family. Linda and John Pawelek
Azim Barodawala
February 22nd, 2017 10:45 am
Mrs. Wagner was my teacher at the Nichols School from 1988 - 1992 (5th - 8th grade). She was one of the best teachers I ever had and made me really love music. I always remember her bright yellow car, and how it perfectly captured her vivacious personality. She brought that same brightness and cheeriness to all of her students, and instilled a love for singing and for music. The winter concert at the Nichols Middle School was always one of my favorites. We would enter the gym (since demolished), holding candles and singing a song which I believe was called "Candles on the Water." We would sing the "12 days of Christmas" with 12 students each chosen for a solo for one of the days. Mrs. Wagner organized things to such a high level of perfection. But more importantly she made us look forward to Chorus class. It's been over 25 years since I "graduated" from Nichols Middle School which was the last time that I had regular contact with Mrs. Wagner. I miss her - I had wanted to see her over the past few years as I made it back to Buffalo, but I never got around to it. I am so sad that she is gone, but I want her family to know that Mrs. Wagner left an indelible mark on thousands of students. She was a brilliant pianist, and a skilled educator, and I will miss her. My thoughts and prayers are with her family. The world would be a better place if there were more teachers like Mrs. Wagner
Brandy Sinco
February 22nd, 2017 10:42 am
Barb Wagner always brought joy and warmth to the UUMN conferences. I will miss seeing her at the Summer conference this year.
Nick Page
February 22nd, 2017 10:16 am
It was a joy to know and work with Barbara. Along with my mentor, the Rev. Christopher Moore, she was a founder of UUMN. Her contributions will echo on. Her musicianship, her humor, her humanity were as the stars.
Peter Brown
February 22nd, 2017 7:32 am
Thinking of Mrs Wagner today. One thing they left out is how incredibly patient she was - particularly with rambunctious adolescent boys who always seemed to get into trouble. Even when she had no reason to do so, she always gave me the benefit of the doubt and a second chance. I owe so much to her persistent patience, love and insistence that everyone could succeed.
Catherine Lochtefeld Sirianni
February 21st, 2017 11:09 pm
Barb was no nonsense, straight forward and very kind. Her moral compass was true. I will not forget her kindness and comfort at a moment of loneliness. She came up to me briskly, took a stance, spoke her mind, and was off. Thank you and Godspeed.
Kevin Shenoy
February 21st, 2017 7:51 pm
Mrs Wagner was my music teacher from 5th to 8th grade from 1988-1991. She believed in me in a way other teachers didn't. She talked to me like an adult and joked with me like a kid. She sat at my lunch table and was so much fun to talk to. She made me want to be at school. She opened music up to me to a whole new level. I am the person I am today because mrs Wagner cared. When I hear songs I like, I think of her and how she'd approach those songs. I remember when I turned 16, I drove back to middle school to have her sit in the car and listen to a song I really loved. And she came right out and listened. I am sad to hear of her passing, but she left a wonderful mark on my life. And I know she left a mark on countless other kids lives over the years as well. Mrs Wagner, I love you, I wish peace to your family and I hope I can pass on music appreciation to others the way you did for me.
Jeff Wilson
February 21st, 2017 1:24 pm
Dearest Barbara - I'll never forget, when the Organizing Committee was interviewing you for the Director position, you remarked "I don't know why you want this old broad! I don't even know what the 'gay repertoire' of music is!" I replied - Barb, just take any Broadway Duet that has even been sung by a mixed couple and put two men or two women in the parts - for instance 'We Kiss in a Shadow' from 'The King and I'. Don't change a single word, except perhaps a pronoun or two. The entire meaning of the song changes! THAT is the 'gay repertoire'... and I literally saw the light bulb go on over your head. I knew at that moment YOU had to be our Director, even though it meant waiting until that fateful day in September 2001 to start rehearsals. You helped form the very soul of the BGMC on that night, when you led the group in 'How Can I Keep From Singing'. The BGMC went on from that night, learning, growing, to become the beloved institution it is today, fulfilling its Mission Statement - "We seek thru Song not only to Entertain, but to Enlighten". You will be missed. My condolences to your family. With everlasting of your 'boys'
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
February 21st, 2017 10:07 am
My sympathies to your family. Barbara was beloved by the members of the UU Church of Buffalo and admired by her colleagues. The world has lost a musical legend.
Daniel Budd
February 20th, 2017 10:06 pm
I remember fondly the 15 years I spent at UUCB crafting worship services with Barbara. Her skill as a choral conductor, organist, and musician was remarkable. Of many memories: the Vonnegut Requiem, the many December music Sundays, and her willingness to join me in a small but important project, a Tenebrae Service. Even though only a few people came every year, she recruited the English Horn player from the BFO, who also got so involved she looked for music throughout the year for this one occasion, and gave it her all. Which she did every Sunday: she gave it her all, always and in all ways. Blessings, Barbara, and rest in peace.
Kate Olena
February 20th, 2017 9:15 pm
Barb Wagner helped hundreds of kids find their voices during her many years at Nichols. She appealed to each child's affinity and gave them a sense of belonging. I learned so much from her and will be ever grateful for the music she brought into all our lives. The angels are singing sweeter now. passbook
Lisa Hillegas
February 20th, 2017 4:42 pm
In my mind's eye I can see Barbara sitting next to Molly on some dilapidated couch -- each of them draped on the other grinning and laughing loudly --so at ease in their mutual admiration and love. And, when she and Bill accidentally swamped their canoe on Beaver Lake and I got to ring the emergency bell to alert everyone to their situation. More laughs ensued when they made it to shore. I always envied Carrie and Molly that they had parents that were so full of life, love for their daughters, passion and unbridled enthusiasm. As your hearts are understandably heavy now you will always have so much joy from those decades of happy memories. To love and be loved is all that really matters.
Edward P. Kowal
February 20th, 2017 12:58 am
I met Barbara after I joined the UUCB choir many, many years ago. Something like forty years ago, in fact. She was wonderful to sing for, and a beautiful person to know. My life is immensely richer because of Barb Wagner. The UUCB choir sang at my wedding to Nancy Wilkins. We, [the choir] published cookbooks, produced operas, sang all over the place, and just generally enjoyed each others company for years. All due to the talent and spirit of one amazing person. I'll remember oyster stew at the Wagner's for a very long time. Thanks, Barb.
Tony Hamill
February 19th, 2017 11:38 pm
It was a privilege to meet and know Barbara through our choral kinship from Toronto. A lovely, kind, gracious woman, who, as Trevor said above, made us feel at home with her and her wonderful chorus. One of a kind.
Carol A. Ventura
February 19th, 2017 11:22 pm
I met Barb later in her life. I would visit her along with my two therapy dogs, Maddie and Whitney. She always had a smile for us. When she would see us coming in to visit, she would walk around with us and when we left she would smile, pet the dogs and sometimes I was lucky enough for a pat on the should or a small hug. She was a very kindhearted woman and I will always treasure our little visits. May she Rest In Peace.
Trevor McLain
February 19th, 2017 9:09 pm
I was a big fan of the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus during my years of singing with fORTE - The Toronto Men's Chorus because one of our members moved from Toronto and joined the BGMC. Through him, I was asked to asked to attend a BGMC rehearsal of one of the pieces I had arranged for fORTE. Barbara Wagner welcomed me with open arms, and I felt like I was an honorary member of BGMC. The chorus did a brilliant job of the piece, and I was always so happy to spend time with this noble lady, the founder and conductor. She was so humble for someone of her artistic stature. It was no mystery why her men sang so gloriously and with such love. I will never forget her.PONCI14
Catherine (Peterson) Steffan
February 19th, 2017 6:41 pm
I will always remember going to church every Sunday and feeling such peace because of Barbara's choir and choice of music. It was really transcendental. Thank you Barbara for all your years of service to the UU church. You left a wonderful legacy.
Eileen Katz
February 19th, 2017 4:49 pm
Barbara was a giant in the field of choral music. Despite her stature, she was always friendly, warm and kind when I chatted with her as an awestruck fan. I have enjoyed so many hours listening to her music since I joined the Unitarian church in 1992. I enjoyed and was moved by all of her Gay Men's Chorus concerts. There are no words to describe her talent and grace!
Luis Martinez
February 19th, 2017 4:01 pm
It was a honor to meet a fantastic lady who I will remember not only for her talent directing the UU Chorus and the Buffalo Gay Men Chorus but for her smile and soft speaking tone. She will be missed but always live in my heart. Thank for the music Barbara!
William C. Hardy
February 19th, 2017 3:50 pm
I will never, ever forget the wonderful years with the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus under the direction of Barb. I was there for all by one of the concert semesters and learned so much about music and people during that time. Her smile and laughter will always, always be a part of me for the rest of my life. I am so thankful to have come into her orbit in February of 2002. And now she will forever be a part of the great Cosmos that surrounds us all. Thank you for the music Barb!
Rev. Joel Miller
February 19th, 2017 1:34 pm
What an amazing musician! And a colleague with skills to suddenly switch the music of a 60-voice choir in order to adapt a service to a sudden crisis or urgent congregational need. She partnered with me when I was the Senior Minister in Buffalo to weave music, readings, sermons, and hymns into a unified and meaningful arc of experience. She had a powerful vision for music in worship and influenced the music in Unitarian Universalist congregations throughout the United States. She and I had many moments of joy in the years we ministered together.
Nancy Stultz
February 19th, 2017 11:16 am
My sympathies my cousins Molly, Carrie and their children. Just remember the good times with your Mom and Dad/Grandmother/Grandfather. Nothing else is important. To the McCarthy family. Please accept my prayers and sympathies in the passing of your loved one. There is nothing harder than losing that connection. May Aunt Barbara rest in peace finally. Love Cheryl.
Hanford W. Searl Jr.
February 18th, 2017 11:30 pm
... I shall always cherish knowing Barbara during my 10-yrs with thee Bflo. Gay Men's Chorus. She was the 1st. ever Chorale Director, who explained that word meant "Singing Together." Took 45-yrs. & singing in H. School, College & Church Choirs to finally hear that! I shall always cherish the many laughs-&-tears we shared about our lives, families, friends, extended-families, careers, personal lives.
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