Born: January 16, 1914 - Le Puy, France
Died: September 17, 1992 - Dijon, France
The French-American choral conductor, Roger (Francis) Wagner, founder/director of the Roger Wagner Chorale, the Los Angeles Chorale, as well as director of Choral Activities at UCLA, was considered to be one of the giants in the USA from the mid 1940’s to the late 1980’s.
Roger Wagner was a French-born, the son of a church organist. The family emigrated to the USA in 1921. The young boy received his initial music education at home, began his professional music career as a church choral director at age 12. After studying for the priesthood in Santa Barbara he returned to France for undergraduate studies. There he studied organ with Marcel Dupré.
Roger Wagner settled in Los Angeles in 1937 and became organist and choirmaster at St. Joseph’s. He also took courses in philosophy and French literature at the University of California. He studied conducting with Otto Klemperer and Bruno Walter, orchestration with Caillet, and composition with Erich Toch, Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg.
While serving as Supervisor of Youth Choruses for the Los Angeles Bureau of Music, Roger Wagner, in 1946, founded the Chorale which bears his name. Over the next four decades, the Roger Wagner Chorale received international renown in concerts and recordings for its brilliant performances and enormous repertoire.
Roger Wagner was also founder-conductor of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Sinfonia Orchestra (1965-1985). He was the head of the department of music at Marymount College in Los Angeles (1951-1966), and also taught at the University of California from 1959 to 1981.
In addition to his activities with the Roger Wagner Chorale, Roger Wagner was well known as a composer and arranger, as well as an accepted authority on Medieval and Renaissance music. He was knighted by Pope Paul VI (1966), holds two honorary doctorates, and has cut over 64 records (up to 1976). Acclaimed as a symphonic conductor, he directed the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the USA, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra in Russia, Israel Chamber Orchestra (1976), and major orchestras in South America. He toured with the Roger Wagner Chorale throughout the USA and on six continents, including a 1974 tour of the Soviet Union.
Roger Wagner's tireless efforts in music, coupled with his demand for excellence made him one of the greatest conductors of the 2nd half of the 20th century.