A Belleville Treasure and the Eugene Lang Memorial Fund
By Heather Christiansen
Known to many in the Quinte arts community as a walking encyclopedia of classical music, Eugene Lang is a Belleville treasure. He devoted more than half a century to advocating, profiling and supporting the arts in Belleville.
Eugene was an accomplished pianist in his youth and his extensive resume spanned from radio broadcaster, columnist, educator, board member to volunteer. From the 1940s to 1986, Eugene hosted a classical music radio program on CJBQ and then on the Loyalist College radio station until his death in 2000.
In 2003, Belleville Intelligencer columnist Chris Malette wrote of Eugene’s concert reviews in the newspaper: “widely read, cherished, occasionally criticized and always bemoaned by whomever in this office had to retype them, are sorely missed on these pages.” Chris referred to him as Jeep or Jeepster, a nickname from Eugene’s youth used by his colleagues.
Eugene’s passion was classical music. He dedicated three decades adjudicating the Rotary Music Festival. In the early 1950s, he founded the Belleville Community Concert series bringing Canadian and international classical musicians to Belleville. Eugene associated with many international musicians, writing letters to them and receiving personal replies.
His son, Gene, recalls two handwritten letters from Jean Sibelius and a personal audio tape from classical pianist Glenn Gould. Eugene was also a mentor to Belleville-born Canadian classical conductor and radio personality Kerry Stratton. Eugene taught music appreciation classes in the 1970s at Moira Secondary School and advised customers on classical music as a volunteer at Sam the Record Man for 15 years.
Eugene served as a board member for the Quinte Arts Council (QAC) and the Quinte Symphony. Donna Lang-Davies, former QAC Arts Coordinator and former Manager of Quinte Symphony, says, “In my 20s, my father and I worked hand in hand on many projects, festival events and concert productions. I will always cherish those father-daughter times and our shared love of the arts.”
“Aside from his encyclopedic mind for musical history, our father was known to many for his colourful sense of humour and his outgoing, friendly manner to all who passed by or greeted him,” says Donna. “He could be the life of the party, as well as the serious interviewer, a man who always carried a joke or two in his pocket or one who could offer an in-depth analysis of a piece of music on the spot.”
A testament to Eugene’s impact on classical music in Belleville, the Quinte Symphony dedicated their 2000-01 season to Eugene and his family established the Eugene Lang Memorial Bursary with the QAC to encourage musical education projects in the schools.
Donna says, “Dad was also a school board trustee for many years. We think he would be proud to see the good it’s done over the years to introduce young audiences to classical music and also provide artists opportunities to share their own love and passion for music.”
On May 4, 2001, The QAC hosted a Quinte Symphony classical concert fundraiser and reception to benefit the Eugene Lang Memorial Fund. More than 20 years later, the fund has supported numerous classical music workshops, lectures, master classes and concerts in Quinte schools.
The QAC provides funding for music, performing and visual art in Quinte schools. To make a donation to the Eugene Lang Memorial Fund or the Artists in Schools in programs, or to learn more, visit quinteartscouncil.org/donate/