The Canadian Music Centre joins with the Canadian music community, in particular in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, to mourn the loss of Associate Composer Alfred Kunz. Mr. Kunz passed away on January 15, 2019 at the age of 89. He was an accomplished composer with a penchant for nurturing music making in his community.
Mr. Kunz was born in Neudorf, Saskatchewan in 1929. His family would eventually settle in Kitchener when he was still young. Mr. Kunz felt a strong connection to music making as a shared activity, including among his family members. Although a career in music was frowned upon by his father, Mr. Kunz began putting some of his own money towards music lessons. These self-directed efforts culminated in his settling in Toronto to study at the Royal Conservatory (1949-1955).
As a teenager, Mr. Kunz told his friends he was going to be a composer, before he even “knew what a composer was”. While in Toronto Mr. Kunz studied theory and composition with John Weinzweig, Gordon Delamont, and Heinz Unger. He would spend summers from 1964-65 studying conducting and composition in Germany with Karlheinz Stockhausen. While his early writing explored twelve tone technique, his career as a composer would largely be defined by more tonal and deftly crafted melodic works, as well as a devotion to setting text (sacred and secular) exploring a range of thematic materials—including reflections on Waterloo County.
Like many Canadian composers in the 1950s, Mr. Kunz took it upon himself to foster the conditions for a vibrant music community, while also creating opportunities to write new works. When he moved back to Kitchener he would take on a succession of roles in his surrounding community: in 1958 he organized and conducted the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Orchestra and Choir; in 1965 he was appointed director of music of the University of Waterloo (a position he would hold until 1979); from 1965-67 he was the principal of the Canadian Music Teachers’ College in Burlington; and even served as conductor of the Kitchener Concordia Club Choirs. Choral writing would remain a focus of his composition practice. He also wrote numerous works for orchestra, concert band, string orchestra and more. In 1964, Alfred was commissioned by the Canadian Music Centre to compose two works for the John Adaskin Project which generated new works for music education: Fun For Two, and Fun For Three (pieces for wind duo and trio respectively).