• Body of local orchestra conductor found
    By Amy Ash Nixon
     | August 28,2014
     

    BARRE — The body of a missing Montpelier man, Brian Webb, who had been the longtime conductor of the Vermont Philharmonic, was discovered Wednesday morning in Lake Champlain, Colchester police confirmed.

    Webb was 65.

    He was reported missing by his wife Sunday morning after he failed to show up for church in Montpelier. He had spent the night aboard his 34-foot sailboat in Mallets Bay, according to authorities.

    His body was recovered about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday roughly a half mile offshore, said Colchester Police Lt. Douglas Allen.

    Colchester police first had an inkling of something being amiss Saturday evening, when a caller reported hearing cries for help in the area of the International Sailing School.

    Allen said the Colchester police dispatched their rescue boat, contacted the Coast Guard, and got land units out searching but couldn’t locate anyone in distress.

    The search resumed Sunday morning with the help of a Border Patrol airplane, a Coast Guard helicopter and other police agencies. Searchers found Webb’s 8-foot dinghy Monday near Marble Island, while divers continued to search for him.

    Webb had more than 30 years’ experience sailing, his family had told police.

    He was also the longtime choir director at Christ Episcopal Church in Montpelier.

    “Brian was just a huge part of our community. I don’t know what we’re going to do without (him),” church volunteer Ginny Catone said. “I remember when his children were born. Brian has been here for a very long time.”

    “At least we’re not having to wonder now what happened,” she said.

    The Rev. Paul Habersang, minister of Christ Episcopal Church, said Webb’s death will be felt deeply by many in the community. “He really did a wonderful job” as both choir director and church organist. “Brian was at the heart of it and has been for many, many years. In my opinion, he was the professional who made the music in our church as wonderful as it was.”

    Habersang added, “He’s going to leave a huge hole here, and I think a lot of people in this community are in absolute shock. I’m just grateful that they have found his body and that his wife and children can have closure.”

    Webb’s body was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington for official identification, said Allen of the Colchester Police Department.

    Webb was a native of New Zealand who came to the United States in 1971 to study conducting at Indiana University, where he received his Doctor of Music degree in 1977. He was a member of the music faculty at Norwich University since 1974, was appointed associate conductor of the Vermont Philharmonic in 1976 and, since 1977, had held the positions of music director and conductor. He also was a frequent guest conductor for both instrumental and choral groups.

    @Tagline:amy.nixon @timesargus.com

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