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Jon Wattenbarger; Conductor Founded Paulist Boy Choristers

February 29, 1992|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jon Wattenbarger, founder and director of Los Angeles' internationally known Paulist Boy Choristers, which recorded several film and television soundtracks, has died. He was 44.

Wattenbarger died Wednesday of AIDS.

He established the choral group in 1977, based at Westwood's St. Paul the Apostle Church, where Wattenbarger served as director of music and organist until his illness.

Among the films for which the 27-member group recorded soundtracks were "Edward Scissorhands," "Flatliners," "The Thornbirds," "General Hospital" and "In the Name of the Father." Wattenbarger served as a consultant to the film industry on sacred and choral music.

He trained the young singers, ranging in age from 8 to 13, in an intensive program that included Latin, music theory, the arts and liturgy as well as singing.

Wattenbarger conducted the boys in singing High Mass twice in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the 1987 visit of Pope John Paul II. He also took the choir to London, Oxford, Venice, Florence, Salzburg, Paris, New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

In Southern California, Wattenbarger directed the choir in performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the American Youth Symphony and in the Joffrey Ballet's annual production of "The Nutcracker."

One of his last major performances was in December, when he conducted the choir and the Los Angeles Baroque Orchestra in a standing-room-only presentation of "Messiah" at St. Paul.

Born and brought up in Bakersfield, Wattenbarger earned degrees from Occidental College and USC, and studied at the Eastman School of Music of the University in Rochester, N.Y., and at Kings' College at Canterbury Cathedral in England.

He is survived by his parents, Helen and Roy Wattenbarger, and two sisters, all of Bakersfield.

A memorial Mass of the Resurrection is scheduled for Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in St. Paul the Apostle Church.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made to the Paulist Boy Choristers, 10750 Ohio Ave., Los Angeles 90024.

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