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Friday, February 9, 2018

Lives Remembered - Dr.Helmut J. Roehrig

Dr. Helmut J. Roehrig
Dr. Helmut J. Roehrig, a long time Hyde Park resident, was born in Germany and received his undergraduate education there. He trained as an organist with a special interest in sacred music.  He came to the United States in the early 60s and started a family, which he considered his crowning achievement in his life.

He earned his Doctorate at Indiana University in Bloomington.  Dr. Roehrig was Professor of Music Emeritus, Xavier University, beginning his career, spanning 42 years, at Edgecliff College which was purchased by Xavier in 1980.  At that time there was little interest in establishing a Music Department at Xavier.  However, Dr. Roehrig’s dedication, hard work and individualized attention to each student became legendary, and his dream of a Music Department at Xavier became a reality and is now a vital part of the University.  

He retired in 2002, and a music scholarship has been established in his name in recognition of his contributions to the musical education of countless students.   His expertise was in organ, choral, sacred music and conducting as well as formal courses. He led the Xavier Concert Choir and used his reputation to take this group to Europe.

When Dr. Roehrig came to Cincinnati, he realized the performance of sacred classical music had all but disappeared and there was a gap in Cincinnati’s choral music life.  So, in 1965 he gathered a group of singers representing a cross-section of the community and began rehearsals at St. Gertrude’s Church in Maderia.  The First concert of Musica Sacra was in February, 1965, performing Mozart’s Coronation Mass with Marian Spelman as soloist. 

Cincinnati Symphony  Orchestra’s Max Rudolph saluted Dr. Roehrig’s efforts saying  “Musica Sacra has revived a tradition in Cincinnati which used to flourish in former times, but regrettably has been lost.”

For 50 years, Dr. Roehrig lead Musica Sacra in three concerts each year in the sacred settings for which they were composed without charging for admission. He also took Musica Sacra to Germany for a singing tour.  In July of 2012 Dr. Roehrig led Musica Sacra to a Silver Medal at the World Choir Games held here in Cincinnati, where he met and conferred with the famous composer Morten Lauridsen whose works he had prepared and performed.  Dr. Roehrig  also was nominated for the Governor’s  Award for Arts in Ohio.  He  served for many years as Organist at Our Lord Christ the King Church in Mt. Lookout.

Dr. Roehrig was diagnosed with a severe pulmonary ailment just before he again conducted Mozart’s Coronation Mass celebrating, in October 2015, 50 years of creating music with his beloved Musica Sacra at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington Kentucky.  He was presented the Key to the City by its Mayor.  

He passed from this life on Monday, November 6, 2017 just before Musica Sacra’s weekly rehearsal held just down the street from his home at Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.  He will be sorely missed in this world, but he leaves a legacy of his loving family, and honoring music all of his life bringing his gift to thousands of sacred music lovers.

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