GWENDA Nemerofsky, the Free Press classical music critic and columnist for almost a decade, died of cancer Tuesday. She was 61.
The Montreal-born flutist graduated from Concordia University in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in music. In 1990, she moved to Winnipeg, where she worked in communications at Marymound, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts. She wrote her first music reviews for the Free Press in 1997 and became the regular reviewer in 2004.
Nemerofsky wrote her last review two weeks ago and was adamant that she lived with cancer, as opposed to struggling, suffering or battling with it. She was diagnosed in August 2011.
"She mentioned to me and others many times how her love and connection to music sustained her through the last two years," says her husband, David Riach.
"On our desk here right in front of the computer where she wrote so many of her columns and reviews is a scrap of paper on which she has written a quote from J.S. Bach that music is 'refreshment for the soul.' Gwenda truly believed that."
Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra music director Alexander Mickelthwate said Nemerofsky's death was a real loss for the city.
"She wrote smart reviews," says Mickelthwate. "I learned to cherish Gwenda's opinions. We were lucky to have her."
WSO composer-in-residence Vincent Ho interviewed Nemerofsky as part of his research into cancer for his new percussion concerto called From Darkness to Light -- A Spiritual Journey. It debuted and was performed by Scottish percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie last February at the New Music Festival. In tribute to Nemerofsky, Ho subtitled the elegiac tune that opened and closed the piece, Gwenda's Theme.
"I am absolutely floored, I had just visited her two days ago," Ho said about Nemerofsky's sudden passing. "I didn't realize her cancer had progressed so rapidly.
"She was the voice of classical music. Gwenda knew what she was talking about. Her views were very straightforward and that's what made her such an invaluable asset to Winnipeg."
She is survived by Riach and two children Benny (Tobias) and Alice (Grant). A memorial service will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall, 515 Portage Ave. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Gwenda Nemerofsky Memorial Bursary at Marymound by contacting Mardy Yager at 204-338-7971.