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Born: Jun 07, 1932

Date of Passing: Jan 13, 2021

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1932 - 2021

With heavy hearts, but not without eternal hope, we announce the passing of our dear mother and grandmother, Helen Litz, on January 13, 2021, in Winnipeg, MB.
She was born June 7, 1932 to Edward and Elizabeth Wilms in Winnipeg, and married Albert Litz in 1951.
Her formal education included Manitoba Teachers College, Affiliated Arts and Orff courses at University of Manitoba, Royal Conservatory vocal and theory honours, and studies with Gladys Whitehead.
Besides her devout Christian faith and her family, Helen's lifelong calling and gift to the world was the Mennonite Children's Choir of Winnipeg, a 40-voice group she founded in 1957, serving as principal conductor and music director until 2008. The choir, which was established "to glorify God and spread joy with the voices of children," comprised girls and boys aged 8 to 16 who auditioned from locations throughout the province. It drew its repertoire from all periods of music, from baroque to contemporary, including folksongs in German and other languages. Its musical range and pure delicacy of tone led to comparisons with the renowned Obernkirchen Children's Choir.
Often simply called "Mrs. Litz's choir," it introduced hundreds of children to music, international travel and public service. Singers were described as "Canada's musical ambassadors for God and country at home and abroad." In response to invitations for concerts and workshops, the choir travelled throughout Canada and the U.S. (including Carnegie Hall), as well as globally to England, Wales, Holland, Germany, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, Israel, Korea, Australia, South Africa and South America.
A regular winner at local, national and international music festivals, the choir celebrated music of all kinds and through concerts and recordings promoted peace and global goodwill, sponsoring numerous philanthropic children's projects with proceeds from its concert tours. Years later choir alumni remembered lessons in discipline, diction and pitch that accompanied them throughout their musical lives. Helen Litz was known to set the bar high, both for herself and her choristers.
She was widely sought as a guest conductor and choral clinician/adjudicator for schools, festivals, churches, workshops and music camps. She is listed in the Canadian Encyclopedia of Music as one of the founders of the children's choir movement in Canada. In 2006 the Helen Litz Award for Children's Choirs was established by the Canadian Music Educators Association. In her 80s she still sang with the Mennonite Festival Chorus.
Helen Litz was predeceased by her brother Herman Wilms (2009), son Reginald Albert Litz (2013), and husband Albert Litz (2018).
She leaves to mourn her daughter Lori (Doug); daughter-in-law Lois (Reg's widow), and granddaughters, Sara and Rachel; son Conrad (Barb) and granddaughters, Katrina and Cassandra; sister Betty Bergmann; sister-in-law Mary Wilms (widow of Herman); and brother Bill (Eve) Wilms.
The family would like to extend a special thank you to Judy Urbonas, Erna Kehler and the staff and doctors at Seven Oaks Hospital.
A private burial has been held. A memorial concert will be held later. All arrangements handled by Friends Funeral Service.

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Jan 21, 2021, Jan 22, 2021, Jan 23, 2021

Condolences & Memories (13 entries)

  • I didn't know of your Mom's passing - sorry for my late condolences. You were blessed with great parents. She was a treasure to our community and remarkable inspired woman. Peace to your families and the many who knew and loved her. - Posted by: Tom Dojack (family friend) on: Jun 13, 2021

  • My heartfelt condolences to the family (especially Lori, who was a "guest conductor" for some of my years in the choir) Mrs. Litz (as I will forever remember her) was a remarkable lady. Our rehearsals were always a mix of pushing for excellence with a reminder of why we sang what we sang. Aside from music, Mrs. Litz also taught an approach to life. I remember being in tears after making mistakes during a performance (during the first half), but being reminded by her that "We do not quit - we shake it off, and get back out there". Another favourite quote that she would often say was "Never let your maximum (effort) be the minimum (you can get away with)" ... I happily pass that along to my children today! I'm thankful to have known her, to have been taught how to sing by her, and to have learned about how to live from her. - Posted by: Chad Schmitke (Member of the WMCC from 1983 to 1989) on: Jan 29, 2021

  • My deepest sympathies to you, Lori and Conrad and families, on the passing of your dear Mom. The expressive musicality I learned from Mrs. Litz during my time in the choir, back in the late 60s early 70s, was a foundation that prepared me well for my musical life. We also learned much from her that had nothing to do with music, but much to do with faith, character and how to be a light in the world. It was a privileged chapter in my life, even though the long bus rides from Crestview to the North Kildonan rehearsals after school were no fun! Besides the travel, friendships , and festivals etc, I fondly remember the Progressive Dinners that the choir hosted at Eatons (or was it The Bay?). So thankful to have been touched by this remarkable life. - Posted by: Connie (Rogalski) Smith (Former choir member) on: Jan 24, 2021

  • In 1972 I was a member of the Aberdeen School Choir (Moncton, New Brunswick) and we participated in an exchange with the Mennonite Children's Choir in June 1972, and we hosted them in March/April 1973. I remember when I heard that we were going to Winnipeg, I ran to the bathroom crying, so excited I was going on my first trip ever, and sooo far away. The first time I saw your mother, I was mesmerized by her beauty. She was so prim and proper. Because of this choir exchange, I've made lasting friendships .... my dearest one, Charlotte Livingston. Through her, I got the priviledge of meeting you, Lori (which I'm glad I did!!!) My deepest sympathies to you and your family. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. All my LOVE, Louise XO - Posted by: Louise Boudreau (former choir member of the Aberdeen School Choir (Moncton, New Brunswick)) on: Jan 23, 2021

  • My connection with Helen was not music. It was her interest in people. She visited some of her former choir members when they became wheelchair-bound until the end of their lives. Her enthusiasm and joy of life were contagious. - Posted by: Shirley (Penner) Bergen (friend ) on: Jan 23, 2021

  • I was a part of the Donwood Elementary School choir and Helen Litz came and we were taught the song she had written..."Oh Lord, make me an Instrument of thy peace." She was known as the best and she had a wonderful reputation not only in Winnipeg, but all across Canada. RIP and my condolences to her family, friends and former choir alumni.... - Posted by: Cameron Longo (Donwood School Choir, which Helen Litz came to help ) on: Jan 22, 2021

  • Dear Litz family Along with my sympathy I want to add that your Mom has certainly earned her eternal rest. By virtue alone of her traipsing approximately 4 dozen children around the world, 2-3 times a year wherein all of the children were billeted into strangers homes, it would seem to me that the tremendous responsibility of being accountable for the safety of each child for several weeks would have made for many sleepless nights. And a job that few might take on. Her passion for music making however stoked her energy for making the tours a reality. My personal experience in participating in the choir exchange between us and an Acadian Youth choir from Moncton New Brunswick in hosting them here in 1972, and us there in 1973, led to deep and lasting friendships between myself and some of their choristers that remains strong to the present. I will be eternally grateful to Helen Litz for facilitating that enduring legacy in my life. Charlotte (Koop) Livingston - Posted by: Charlotte Livingston (Former chorister ) on: Jan 22, 2021

  • I was one of "originals" that was convinced by Helen to join the choir in 1957. It was a Saturday afternoon while cutting her lawn and washing her car that she "convinced" me to join ..... she had her unique way to have you agree, that's for sure. Many years later both our girls, Melanie and Shauna had the privileged experience of singing in the choir as well. Vera chaperoned the children on several trips....what a great time that was. A big thank you to Helen for all she did for so many children. Our condolences to the family....John and Vera Wiebe ( now in Kelowna, B.C. ) - Posted by: John Wiebe (Past Choir Member) on: Jan 21, 2021

  • So sorry to hear of Auntie Helens’ passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and extended families. Both mom and dad send their condolences as well. - Posted by: Donna & Walter De Groot (Great niece) on: Jan 21, 2021

  • Dear Lori and Doug, Conrad and Barb, Lois and girls, On behalf of the “Koop family” we wish to extend our sincere sympathy to all of you. We all acknowledge the tremendous and profound impact that your Mom had on all of us. All 6 of us had the privilege of singing and travelling internationally in the choir. Your Mom mentored and trained skills in us for competency and excellency in life, music and art. She also worked collaboratively with our parents as they supported our choir experiences for over 25 years. This provided creative outlets for our Mom to help design and sew uniforms, costumes, and set designs, to offer her chaperoning travel experiences, and to include our Dad in building set designs, props and risers, including the “singing Christmas tree structure” for choir concerts and activity. We recall with fondness the midnight visits between your Mom and ours during which they would laugh, plan and draw out their ideas together. Your Mom was a “larger than life” individual with a carpet bag full of rich adventures that only a privileged few get to know in their lifetime, and that very few families get to collectively celebrate for her investment into theirs. Our family is honoured to celebrate her legacy and now wish for her the grandest choral musical experiences ever, as she organizes and rallies the heavenly hosts in beautiful harmonious song. Blessings to you all for sharing your Mom with ever so many others. Warmly the John and Erika Koop family, Elvira, Wanda, Kathy, Charlotte,Dorothy and Carla. - Posted by: Charlotte Livingston (Family Friend) on: Jan 21, 2021

  • Our sincere condolences to Lori and family on the loss of this very good woman. Thinking of you. - Posted by: Karen & Richard Howell (Friends of Lori) on: Jan 21, 2021

  • My deepest sympathies to you, Lori, Conrad, Lois and families, on the loss of your truly amazing mother. As a young chorister during the 70s, I can't tell you how much I learned from Mrs. Litz and what a profound difference she has made in my life. She was my role model for so many reasons- her beauty and grace under pressure, her joyous sense of mission, love of God, and relentless pursuit of excellence, of getting it just right every time. And the music! The music has stayed with me all these decades later and will for the rest of my life. "Sing joyous bird, sing rippling stream, sing happy child." I thank you, Helen Litz, for so many happy memories singing in the Mennonite Children's Choir. In the words of Shakespeare, "may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." - Posted by: Cathrine (Cathy) Wall (Chorister, Mennonite Children's Choir) on: Jan 21, 2021

  • My thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time. I was sad to hear of the passing of Helen as I have lost a true friend and mentor. Over the years we spent many hours creating, and rehearsing music with the choir. I remember figuring out some parts of the Dona Nobis Pacem in the midnight hour over the phone by singing the sections to each other. It was a joy to see it published and later performed and recorded with mass voices at the convention in New York. Helen inspired her choir with creativity and imagination in each phrase of the music. She was world renowned for how her choirs sang and all was done for the Glory of God! Our loss is heavens gain. Perhaps she is singing or conducting a choir of angels now. - Posted by: Annette Hindemith Hay (friend of family, alumni accompanist and musician of Mennonite Chilcren's Choir) on: Jan 21, 2021

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