Marion Gail van der Loo

August 14, 1947September 6, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, IL - Marion G. van der Loo, 73, died from complications of a brain aneurysm at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, September 6, 2020, at Memorial Medical Center.

Marion was born August 14, 1947, in Bridgeton, New Jersey, to Paul Willem van der Loo and Christine Boice van der Loo. Her parents, who met as singers in a church duet, filled the family home with music. Marion sang in her Methodist minister father’s churches from the time she was able to talk, and she believed when they listened together to a recording of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” that it was the most beautiful music she had ever heard.

While she grew up to have a career in journalism, Marion also sang professionally with The Philadelphia Singers under the direction of Michael Korn, and left her corporate job to accept a full scholarship at Temple University, where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Opera Performance. After singing opera roles for four years she found choral music gave her greater joy, and was hired to sing with choruses and orchestras at venues including the Kennedy Center and the Academy of Music, and with conductors including Riccardo Muti and Georg Solti.

Drawn to the challenge of conducting, Marion earned a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting from Temple University. She conducted and directed numerous choruses on the east coast and in Chicago before studying for two years in the Doctoral conducting program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She then was offered the dual position of Music Director of the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, which she held for 10 years, and the Illinois Symphony Chorus, which she held for 12 years. She was an adjunct assistant professor of voice at Millikin University for ten years and founder and director of the Prairieland Voices ensemble.

For 14 years, until her retirement, Marion was music director of the Springfield Choral Society, enlivening rehearsals with her keen sense of humor while challenging singers to learn and master complex works, including Bach’s “Mass in b minor” and Rachmaninoff’s “All Night Vigil,” in languages including Russian, Czech, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Spanish, and Latin. She continued to write, publishing a book of poems, some of which were set to music and performed by the Choral Society. She directed the Choral Society with orchestra in performances of Handel’s “Messiah” which became a Springfield holiday tradition. She led choir members on concert tours of Scotland and England, Spain, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, and France, where she was thrilled to conduct the singers in the entire Sunday morning Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, a high honor reflecting the caliber of the community chorus she had shaped.

Marion felt strongly and cared deeply about music and its power to move and unite, about the musicians she cajoled and challenged to create it, and about those who suffered hardship or loss. She gave her best and inspired others to give theirs. She was generous with her knowledge and talent, and grateful for the opportunity to share them.

Marion is survived by her wife Alice Edwards, step-mother Audrey Smith van der Loo of Egg Harbor Township, NJ, sisters Kathy Sheetz (Timothy) of Akron, PA, Constance Yost (James) of Upper Deerfield, NJ, cousin Suzanne Koller (Dennis) of Shiloh, NJ, nieces Sandra Sheetz Wyllie, Lori Sheetz Herson, Heidi Yost Sray, and nephew Paul Yost.

Memorials may be made to Food for the Poor, Heifer International, Doctors Without Borders, the Springfield Choral Society, the Central Illinois Foodbank, and the Illinois Innocence Project. Bisch Funeral Home is handling arrangements. Please see for details regarding the memorial service on Saturday, February 27, 2021 at 11 am at Cathedral of St. Paul, 815 S. 2nd St., Springfield, IL 62704.


  • Memorial Service

    Saturday, February 27, 2021


Marion Gail van der Loo

have a memory or condolence to add?

Mark Robinson

April 18, 2021

I was just wondering about the choral society and decided to look it up on FB. I was stunned to hear of Marion's passing and am so sorry for the loss of many. I enjoyed singing with the society and learning from her direction, as well as touring through Italy.

Elizabeth (Bivens) Logan

February 23, 2021

Some people leave a monumental impact on one's life. Sometimes we can point to one conversation that changed the trajectory of our life. Marion was such a person in my life. I just learned about Marion's passing. I took voice lessons from her while at Sacred Heart Griffin, sang in her choir, and she conducted the musicals at SHG as well. Marion was so much more than a voice teacher to me. She was a musician I admired deeply and wanted to grow to become. She was a mentor who pushed me to grow but offered the support and safe space to do so. She had the best sense of humor and laugh. I will always vividly remember a heart-to-heart we had over popcorn that led me to pursue classical voice training in college. Still performing and teaching today, I know it all began because of her touching my life and believing in me. I can only imagine I am but one of many many similar stories. Marion was a force! Her passion was inspirational and I will continue to carry the lessons, about both music and life, with me on my heart forever! God bless you, Marion. I'm sure the choir of angels has never sounded better or laughed so hard. Alice, I am sending you so much love and a big hug. I so wish I could travel to be there this weekend. I'll sing something on Saturday in her honor.

Love a forever changed student and friend,
Elizabeth Bivens-Logan

Victoria Nichols Johnson

February 21, 2021

My husband Louis and I would never have enjoyed so many trips to Europe if it had not been for Marion. She brought so much joy and education to those of us who love music. She also helped even those with even a casual interest to become excited about music she presented. She will be sorely missed, but has left a lasting legacy. God bless Alice, Marion's family, and friends.

Ruth Freesmeier

February 20, 2021

My heart still aches when I think of her passing. She was the most kind, encouraging and humble person. My years as a member of SCS are very dear.... loved every moment. I will miss the Christmas letters. I will miss her outreach to make us all the best we can be. Always in my thoughts and prayers!

Martha Crowell

October 29, 2020

I just learned today of Marion's passing. I knew Marion from when we worked together teaching music at Springside School in Philadelphia. I loved hearing her sing with the Philadelphia Singers, especially Bach "Esurientes Implevit Bonis" and Handel "He Was Despised." Marion was gifted, funny, intense, and she deeply loved her family. I spoke with her fairly recently, and she was so happy in her life. I send love to her wife and to all the other family members she loved so much. She was one of a kind, and she will be missed.

Timothy Martin

October 26, 2020

I sang for many years with Marion in Philadelphia, both in the Philadelphia Singers and at St Paul's Church, where she was alto soloist for a number of years. Among my many fond memories is Marion's hilarious dramatic reading of "The Road Not Taken," showing that she could be a card as well as a fine performer. I also remember a heartfelt but understated performance of "Beautiful Dreamer," sung at a benefit arranged by Michael Korn. So much talent, so much fun.

Jim Kirk

October 23, 2020

Many years ago, (1960's) Marion and I were music soul mates. We both sang for Earl Ness in his Philadelphia Oratorio Choir. We did many gigs together. While she was doing her Master's work at Temple, I hired her as a temp for two summers at the company for which I was General Manager. We had lunch together almost every day. I used a company truck to help her move once. I could go on and on about our many experiences together, but it would consist of a very large tome. Her passing is a great loss both to the world of music and, the human race. While I have not seen her for many years, she has been constantly in my thoughts. Now, that she is gone, there is an unfillable void in my life. She was the greatest and truest friend.

Denise Kerhlikar

September 28, 2020

Marion was one of the most talented musicians I ever met. A wonderful, compassionate and very funny woman. Prayers for her wife Alice. I will miss the Christmas poem she wrote every year. Thank you for so many great memories singing in your choirs!

Janet Schmidt

September 27, 2020

Marion was a great inspiration to me. She was the consummate teacher, conductor and friend. Many opportunities to sing, travel and experience incredibly beautiful music were afforded to me and many others.
Sympathy to Alice.

Katie Spindell

September 22, 2020


Always treasure Marion's incredible talent and contribution to this world of ours and never forget, that she loved you.