- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

She was 72.

Mrs. Leach was born in Trenton, N.J. During her senior year at Princeton High School in Princeton, N.J., she worked as assistant to John Finley Williamson, president of Westminster Choir College and founding conductor of its famed choir.

Mrs. Leach graduated from Berea College in Berea, Ky., in 1957, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South.

In Kentucky, Mrs. Leach worked for seven years on the production staffs and casts of the outdoor dramas “Wilderness Road” and “The Stephen Collins Foster Story.”

Mrs. Leach was a singing member of the Cathedral Choral Society for 40 seasons, having auditioned for Paul Callaway in 1967. In 1976, she was appointed part-time executive director at the resident symphonic chorus of the Washington National Cathedral.

During her two-decade tenure, she managed to liquidate a six-figure deficit and build an endowment exceeding $1 million.

Mrs. Leach was often asked to help coordinate and produce major cathedral events. Among them were concerts by Leonard Bernstein, Ronald Reagan’s 1985 presidential inaugural prayer service and the 1986 installation of Edmond L. Browning as presiding bishop.

Mrs. Leach also oversaw production of the Choral Society’s 50th anniversary WETA television documentary “Music in a Grand Space.” Mrs. Leach was awarded the Order of Merit, the society’s highest honor, in 1992.

She also acted as an adviser to emerging choral ensembles including the Thomas Circle Singers, the Coral Cantigas, the Woodley Ensemble and the Suspicious Cheese Lords.

At her retirement in 1996, the Cathedral Choral Society board of trustees established the Marion Drew Leach Performing Artist Series Endowment. The endowment has made possible appearances by such international artists as Thomas Hampson, Hakan Hagegard, Sanford Sylvan, Elizabeth Futral, the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Anonymous 4.

Last summer, Mrs. Leach was chairwoman of the committee that helped create the Richard Wayne Dirksen Memorial Endowment Fund to underwrite the Cathedral Choral Society’s annual carol commission for its popular “Joy of Christmas” concerts.

She persuaded Mr. Brubeck and John Tavener to write a carol for the “Joy of Christmas” concerts last year in honor of Mr. Dirksen, who was associated with the Cathedral Choral Society and the cathedral’s music program for nearly a half-century.

Mrs. Leach is survived by her husband of 46 years, William M. Leach; a daughter, Jennifer Megan Leach of the District; two sons, William Marcus Leach of West Bloomfield, Mich., and Steven Drew of Keene, N.H.; two sisters, Norma Drew of Lawrenceville, N.J., and Barbara Drew Gorman of Bakersfield, Calif.; and one granddaughter.

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