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September 22, 2011

Baltimore loses great friend of music with death of Loraine Bernstein

With the death on Tuesday of Loraine Bernstein, Baltimore's classical music scene lost one of its greatest friends and advocates.

As longtime assistant director of the Peggy and Yale Gordon Trust, she helped to fund many a concert, to help artists and ensembles, to recognize students -- the Gordon Concerto Competition at the Peabody Conservatory has produced a particularly noteworthy stream of gifted young performers. It is not surprising to find that, in lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged for Peabody or an ensemble Mrs. Bernstein championed, Concert Artists of Baltimore.

If you'll pardon the personal aside, I first valued Loraine because ...

she was one of the few people who made me feel welcome in Baltimore. We used to meet for lunch just about every year, talking and, yes, sometimes gossiping, about the music world, local and beyond.

I had a small connection to Yale and Peggy Gordon, which brought me a little closer to Loraine. My brother, the late and much-missed Rev. Michael Smith, befriended the Gordons while he was studying at St. Mary's Seminary in Roland Park. The Gordons loved anyone who loved music, and Michael, an accomplished organist, fit that bill.

I mentioned all of this to Loraine one day over lunch. A couple days later, a package arrived in the mail. Loraine had found in the Gordon possessions a book my brother had inscribed and sent to them as a gift years before. She thought I would like to have it. That was Loraine.

A full obituary will soon appear in the Sun and I am sure I will learn from that a lot more about Loraine than I ever knew from her. [UPDATE: That obit is now available: http://,0,4629039.story">] She was too self-effacing to talk about herself on those few, delightful occasions when I was with her, much more interested in discussing the fine points of a performance she had heard.

When I started on this job, I was delighted to see the Gordon Trust name on concert programs and the arts center in Owings Mills that honors Peggy and Yale. It always made me think of the one time I got to have lunch with them and my brother.

Then, after I met Loraine, I would also think of her whenever I encountered the Gordon name around town. I would think of her smile and charm and wonderfully firm opinions. I will continue to do so. I am grateful that I knew her, however casually, and grateful for the compliments and encouragement she offered me at every opportunity.

In her honor, here is Schubert's song about the blessed art of music that can take us to a better world:

Posted by Tim Smith at 10:49 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes


Learned this piece a few years ago through my voice teacher and sang it for a rep class. The Schubert song certainly fits Mrs. Bernstein's whole life, and she will be sorely missed by all.

Tim - thank you for your comments regarding my mother, Loraine Bernstein. We were very lucky to have her in our lives.

Brian Bernstein

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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