Mount Vernon News

Mount Vernon News
October 15, 2012 11:39 am EDT


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ASHFIELD, Mass. — Lois Williams Brehm, 84, passed away Oct. 10, 2012, in Ashfield, Mass.

Lois was born July 16, 1928, in the small farming town of New Providence, Iowa. Lois was well known in central Ohio as an accomplished musician, teaching and performing on piano, organ and harpsichord.

Her great musical talent was evident by the time she turned 5, when the local music teacher took an interest in Lois and discovered that she had the gift of perfect pitch. By the time Lois was 12, she was practicing regularly, giving piano lessons to the other children in town, and saving her money for college.

Lois attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where she majored in music, and married Carl T. Brehm in 1948. Both Carl and Lois pursued graduate degrees at Indiana University, where Lois received her M.A. in music. While at Indiana she was turned down for a teaching assistantship at the music department.

She went to the department chairman to ask why, and was told that assistantships weren’t given to married women since they would never pursue careers in music.

Always ahead of her time and using strong language, she protested the injustice. When she was offered the assistantship the following year, she turned it down because she was making more money on her own.

During the following decade, two daughters were born, and the Brehm family moved to Gambier, in 1960, when Carl accepted a teaching position in the Economics Department at Kenyon College. An accomplished sight-reader, Lois accompanied countless local musicians for their recitals and competitions. She performed many solo recitals, and played in a variety of chamber music groups; she also played piano concerti with the Knox County Symphony. Lois taught music theory and history for several years at the Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and organ and harpsichord performance at Kenyon College.

Lois’ favorite composer was J.S. Bach, and her longstanding love of early music flowered with the arrival at Kenyon of Ken Taylor, who taught in the music department. A specialist in early music history and performance, Taylor found a kindred spirit in Lois. Lois studied early music technique, and with Carl, built a harpsichord on which she perfected her skills. Lois loved working and performing with Taylor’s groups, especially The Gambier Baroque Ensemble and Musica Tranalpina.

Lois served as organist for the Lutheran Church in Loudonville, Ohio, then moved to the First Presbyterian Church in Mount Vernon. She helped to transform the musical life of the church, moving the congregation to install a state-of-the-art tracker organ. Her proudest achievement was her brass choir, for which she selected, transposed, and arranged music, often creating musical scores for each player on her computer. Composed primarily of members of the congregation, and including over a dozen musicians, the group contributed fine music to the services, and occasionally performed elsewhere in the area.

After retirement, Lois enjoyed gardening, reading (especially murder mysteries), and spending time with her husband Carl, who passed away in 2011.

She also enjoyed traveling occasionally with her daughter Susan. She spent the last few months of her life in Massachusetts to be closer to family.

Lois was predeceased by her husband, Carl; and brother, Lowell Williams.

She is survived by her three brothers, and their families, Paul Williams, Jack Williams and Joseph Williams; daughter, Barbara Brehm Curtis (husband, Peter); their sons, Ian and Adam Curtis; and daughter, Susan Hall (husband Deke); their children, David and Jessie Hall; and Princess, the last in a long line of cats.

The family is planning a private memorial gathering. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the Kenneth Taylor Concert Series at Kenyon, through the Development Office, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH 43022. This series sponsors concerts at Kenyon by musicians specializing in the period from the late middle ages through the 18th century.

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