William Craig Metcalfe, teacher, performer, director, music lover
William Craig Metcalfe died early in the morning of November 22, 2021, the feast day of the patron saint of music, Sainte-Cécile, at The Arbors in Shelburne. His final days were peaceful, with his wife Elizabeth and children Sue and Scott by his side. He was eighty-six. A teacher, performer, director and entrepreneur in the field of music and scholarship, Bill made enormous contributions to musical life in his adopted country of Vermont and was appreciated for his warm generosity and his wit, the extent of his interests and enthusiasms, and his persuasiveness. talent for combining intellectual rigor and open emotionality.
Bill was born July 17, 1935 in Toronto, Ontario, the only child of Myrtle Reva Craig and Robert Henry Metcalfe. He attended Lawrence Park Collegiate in north Toronto, where an inspiring music teacher helped fuel his passion for conducting. He then studied History, French and Spanish at Victoria College at the University of Toronto, where he obtained a BA in 1958. During his college years, establishing the model he would follow all of his life, Bill devoted much of his time outside of his academic work. to music, compose, arrange, direct and direct productions of operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan. The pianist for these G&S shows was Elizabeth Auld; romance soon blossoms. Bill and Liz married in May 1958 between final exams and graduation and moved that summer to Minneapolis, where Bill pursued graduate studies in history at the University of Minnesota, earning a master’s degree in 1959. and a doctorate in 1967. The couple moved to Burlington in 1963 when Bill joined the faculty of the University of Vermont as professor of history and assistant director of the newly established Canadian Studies program.
“Applied schizophrenia is what excites me,” Bill told a Free Press writer in 1995, generally scoffing at his long-standing eclecticism and a career divided between his passions for history, Canadian studies, teaching and music. He taught at UVM for thirty-five years, occupying in passing the chair of history and music as well as the director of Canadian studies. He was a witty and engaging speaker and a warm, friendly colleague with a knack for bringing people together and allowing them to do their best work. Bill was the first editor of The American Journal of Canadian Studies (1973-89) and editor or co-editor of two books, Understanding Canada: A Multidisciplinary Introduction to Canadian Studies (1982) and Nordic Expos: Research on Canada in the United States (1993). His role in shaping the field of Canadian Studies was recognized by the Donner Medal in Canadian Studies, awarded in 1993 by the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States, and an ACSUS Alumni Award in 2013.
But Bill loved music above all, except his family. He was co-founder and co-director of the UVM Baroque Ensemble (1965-88), co-founder and frequent conductor of the Vermont Mozart Festival (1974-2010), and founder and conductor of the Oriana Singers (1981-2017). Bill, with characteristic idiosyncrasy, directed with his left hand. He was conducting Bach, Handel, Mozart and Haydn more than anything else, but his repertoire spanned centuries of music from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to contemporary works, and he had a particular fondness for English music from Purcell to Britten, including including, of course, G&S. Bill was appointed a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011, and in 2015, along with Liz, he received the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts from the Vermont Arts Council.
Bill was fascinated by geography and enjoyed traveling with Liz; he loved good food and good wine; he was an avid reader of detective novels; he liked fine watches and pens; he loved life as much as he could; he loved his family above all else.
Bill is survived by his wife, Liz; his son Scott, his daughter-in-law Emily Walhout and his granddaughter Anna of Watertown, Massachusetts; her daughter Sue, her son-in-law Andrew Speno, her granddaughter Erin and her husband Brandon Stout, and their grandson Benjamin Speno, of Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; sisters-in-law Jan Lord of Guelph, Ontario, and Cathy Davin of Tucson, Arizona; the husband of her late sister-in-law, Susan, Jack Hansen, of Thunder Bay, Ont., and their children Josh and Emily and their families; and his Canadian cousins, Alan McCormack and Trevor Metcalfe and his wife Teresa.
All obituaries are independently verified by VTDigger. To submit an obituary, click here.