H. Harmon Diers
November 10, 1924 – October 28, 2019
H. Harmon Diers of Eastham, MA, died peacefully on October 28, 2019. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1924, the son of Francis Diers and Margaret Diers, Harmon considered Fredonia, New York, as his true home and his residence from the age of seven through college. His was an idyllic if uneventful childhood, a town of about 6,000, full of bicycles and backyard games with neighborhood children. He attended a relatively small public high school where he played tuba and trombone in the band and orchestra. He participated in student government and other school activities (with a friend he published a small news paper, The Glow Worm News, feeling that the official school paper was dominated by the faculty.), and made many long lasting childhood friends.
In 1942 he briefly attended the University of Nebraska enrolled in the engineering program and where he volunteered to join the Army Air Force Reserve. But at the conclusion of his first semester, he was called to active duty. Later, upon completing flight training, he crossed the ocean in a convoy of Liberty Ships to Italy, joined the 12th Air Force, and flew eighty two missions as pilot of a "Jug", a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter/bomber flying low-level air support for the Fifth Army destroying trains, tanks, artillery, and bridges. He was awarded four Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Returning home after the war, he continued his education at the University of Nebraska. Engineering gave way to music. He sang in the university chorus, directed his fraternity glee club, and ushered at the university concert series. These musical activities led him to transfer to the music school at S.U.N.Y Fredonia where his father was the Dean of Fine Arts. (Due to the paucity of male students, post WWII, he found himself on the varsity basketball team despite never having played the game in high school! - many losses, no wins!) There he earned a B.A., and later, at Teachers College, Columbia University, a M.A. and Ed.D.
In 1952, while at Columbia, he met Ann MacDonald of Farmington, CT, a professional soprano soloist, pianist and composer, who gave a solo Carnegie Recital Hall concert herself. They were married that same year. She was an invaluable partner in all of his musical activities. During his years at Southern Connecticut, the couple resided in Bethany, CT. They raised three children Cynthia Ann, Andrew Harmon, and Heidi Jean.
As an undergraduate student at Fredonia he had met Robert Shaw, then a young charismatic choral conductor, so later, while attending Columbia, he joined Shaw's Collegiate Chorale in New York City. This offered him, not only many opportunities to sing with Shaw, but also to sing under the direction of several other leading conductors including Serge Koussevitzky in a Carnegie Hall performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (along with two hundred other singers).
He taught music in the schools of Warwick, NY, Voorheesville, NY, Easton, CT, and subsequently, in 1956, he joined the music faculty at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, CT where he taught a variety of courses and directed five choral groups. His College Choir participated in choral festivals, several of which he organized, and a Charles Ives concert in Kennedy Center. His choir toured Europe twice. He later became chairman of the music department and retired as Professor Emeritus after 32 years. An avid concert goer, he served for several years as music reviewer for the New Haven Register.
Early in life he learned to cook and to wield a hammer and thus baked countless birthday cakes and built two houses.
Retiring to Cape Cod, the Diers became active in choral affairs, joining the Chatham Chorale and Chamber Singers. They organized a choir for the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House in Chatham, and together served for nine years as volunteer choir director and organist.
He is survived by Ann, his wife of sixty seven years and predeceased by his younger sister, Dorothy Louise Nactzker of Fairpoint, NY. All three of his children, Cynthia, Andrew, and Heidi, predeceased him. He leaves three delightful grandchildren, Heidi's two daughters, Brooke and Heather Spiegel, of Eastham, MA, and Andrew's son, Ryan Diers, of Pleasant Gap, PA.
A service in Harmon's honor will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House of Chatham, 819 Main St., Chatham on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019 at 2:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, he asks that you donate to your favorite charity, take your spouse or best friend to dinner at a nice restaurant, then sing the Air Force Song, "Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder". For online condolences, please visit www.nickersonfunerals.com.
Service in Harmon's Honor
Unitarian Universalist Meeting House of Chatham
819 Main Street
H. Harmon Diers
November 4, 2019
I had the privilege of singing under & studying with Harmon "Doc" Diers from 1972-1976 when I was at Southern. He believed in me as a singer, and gave me the courage to believe in myself. It was with Harmon & the choir that I first visited England. (I still have the palm cross from St. Paul's Cathedral that Palm Sunday.) And of course there was our 1976 trip to DC in the Bicentennial to sing for the celebrations. I still quote him when singers are going flat: "Point your ears!" Later we became friends when I sang with Ann at United Church on the Green in New Haven. Harmon Diers touched countless lives over the years. Those lucky enough to have known him will never forget him.
November 4, 2019
I am so saddened by his passing, although it was not unexpected. He did have a great and long life. Dr. (Doc) Diers touched so many lives as Southern Conn State Univ. Concert choir conductor and professor. He was imaginative, creative, a guide to follow not only in music but throughout life, and a true friend. His office in the music dept. was always open. A great place to go and talk and learn.
I had the pleasure and priveledge to be in his choir from 1971 through 1976. He was for me the most influential mentor I ever had in music. A great choral director, who always gave all the choir members a chance to grow as singers and to be soloists in the choir concerts every year. From the yearly Messiah, Bach's Magnificat in D major to the spring pop concerts, to the Jesus Christ Superstar concert, and 2 European concert tours, one in 72 and the other one in 74. And the Bicentennial chamber choir and consort in 75 and 76.
He instilled in all of us a deep respect and love for choral music.
The angel choirs have gained another conductor. God bless his soul and be a comfort to his family. If anyone is in contact with Anne please send her my love and prayers.
November 3, 2019
Dear Mrs Diers (Ann) and Family,
My deepest and sincere sympathy on Doctor Diers passing. I was so saddened to see it in the morning paper. My years at Southern from 1970 to 1975 were special, primarily because of Dr. Diers (Harmon) and the music department. Our concert tours to Europe and the Charles Ives concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington are forever embedded in my mind. I made many wonderful friends in choir and Dr. Diers made it special. We were like one big family and Harmon was the Patriarch. I am also so sorry and did not know that you also lost Cindy. I was not following much the past year and a half as I lost Janet in March of 2018. I will always remember his long notes at Christmas (I actually saved them). They were a breath of fresh air. Again, my deepest and sincere sympathy. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May they all be together in Heaven.
East Haven, Connecticut
November 2, 2019
I was a student at SCSU in 1963 when I was in Dr. Diers' choral music class. He was the happiest, nicest instructor I ever had at that school. He really loved what he was teaching. It was a pleasure reading about his life. May he rest in peace and continue to bring his wonderful music to others.
October 30, 2019
Shocked to hear this sad news. My condolences to Ann. I cherish many memories with both of these talented people and am grateful for their help along the way.