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OBITUARIES / Norman Dello Joio, 1913 - 2008

Pulitzer and Emmy Award-winning composer

August 08, 2008|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Norman Dello Joio, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer with a lyrical style who wrote works for orchestra and chorus as well as several operas and an Emmy Award-winning television score, died July 24 at his home in East Hampton, N.Y. He was 95.

He died of natural causes, according to his son Justin Dello Joio, who also is a composer.

Much of Norman Dello Joio's repertoire was inspired by sacred scripture, religious poetry and the lives of Christian saints. He sometimes worked medieval chant into his melodies.

He wrote some of his best-known works in the 1940s and '50s, including "Variations, Chaconne and Finale," which was first performed by the New York Philharmonic in 1947.

His opera "The Triumph of Saint Joan" premiered in 1950 at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., where he taught musical composition for five years. He later revised the work and it was performed by the New York City Opera in 1960.

Theme and melodies in the opera were inspired by the life of Joan of Arc, the 15th century French warrior saint. Dello Joio returned to the subject for a number of compositions, including an orchestral version of "The Triumph of Saint Joan" in 1951.

Another of his operas, "Blood Moon," was commissioned by the San Francisco Opera and premiered there in 1961.

Dello Joio wrote several pieces for ballet. Two of them, "Diversion of Angels" in 1947 and "Seraphic Dialogues" in 1951, were commissioned by Martha Graham for her modern dance company.

His "Meditations on Ecclesiastes" for strings and orchestra won a Pulitzer Prize in 1957. The title of the work refers to the scriptural text that begins, "To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven."

He also wrote a piece based on the work for dance choreographer Jose Limon.

"There have always been musicians in our family, but my father was the first to support himself that way," Dello Joio's son told The Times.

Dello Joio taught musical composition at several schools during his career, and was dean of Boston University's School of Fine and Applied Arts from 1972 to 1978.

He also worked with the Ford Foundation for 14 years, directing a program that paid young composers to write music for high school ensembles and school events.

In 1965, he won an Emmy for his score for "The Louvre," an NBC television show.

Born Jan. 24, 1913, in New York City, Dello Joio began taking music lessons at age 4. His father was his first teacher.

His father and grandfather had been church musicians, and Dello Joio was 14 when he became the organist and choir director for a Roman Catholic church in New York City.

He graduated from City College of New York and studied music composition as a graduate student at the Juilliard School from 1939 to 1941.

He also studied composition with composer Paul Hindemith at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Mass., and at Yale University.

Dello Joio married Grayce Baumgold, a ballet dancer, in 1942. They had three children before they divorced in 1971. He married actress Barbara Bolton in 1974.

In addition to his son Justin, he is survived by his wife; a son Norman; a daughter, Victoria, two stepchildren, Ned Costello and Kathleen Bar-Tur; and three grandchildren.

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mary.rourke@latimes.com

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