Born: December 5, 1904 - Freistatt near Sulingen, Germany
Died: April 16, 1989 - Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
The German conductor, composer and musicologist Wilhelm Ehmannís father was deacon of the Evangelische church and also served as mayor of the town of Bethel. As a youth, Ehmann was a member of the Kuhlo Horn Sextet, the best-known brass ensemble in Germany in those years. This early interest in brass instruments played an important role in his efforts to keep the tradition a vital part of Church musical life by conducting brass ensembles and editing music for that genre. In 1924 he founded the "Singkreises Bethel", which her led until 1928. He taught in a seminar Schildesche (violin, organ and choir directing). From 1925 to 1928 he was at the Gymnasium Bielefeld.
Wilhelm Ehmann studied musicology, history, literature and philosophy at the Universities of Freiburg and Leipzig, where his major professors were Willibald Gurlitt, Theodor Kroyer and Hermann Zenck in musicology, and Heidegger in philosophy. In 1928 he founded the Choir of the Christuskirche Freiburg (which he led until 1938); from 1932 to 1938 he led the Lobeda-Chor. He received his Ph.D. in musicology in 1934 with the dissertation Adam von Fulda als Vertreter der ersten Deutschen Komponisten-Generation (published in Berlin, 1936) from the University of Freiburg. He completed his Habilitation there with his Der Thibaut-behaghel-Kreis in 1937. From 1934 to 1939 he was on the faculty of the University of Freiburg, starting as assistant of Willibald Gurlitt in musicology and earning the title professor in 1939. The following year he was appointed to the faculty of the University of Innsbruck (until 1945), where he founded in 1934 Collegium Musicum - Innsbruck, which he led until 1938.
Following World War II, Wilhelm Ehmann was asked by the Church Government of Westphalia to establish a church Music Institute in Herford, Germany (later named the Hochschule für Kirchenmusik). From its original class of 22 students in 1948, the school grew to become the largest Church Music Institute in West Germany, and it continues today as the largest and the most influential school of its type in that country. He subsequently founded the Westfälische Kantorei, conducting this ensemble in virtually every country of the world, omitting only Australia and Russia, and making more than 70 recordings.
The Westfälische Kantorei was established to demonstrate the feasibility of combining practical musicianship and scholarship, and to bring the study of performance practice to the music program of the local church. He retired in 1972. He also taught at the University of Munster from 1948 to 1954. Perhaps of all Wilhelm Ehmannís contributions to the art of music, his role as teacher has been the most significant. As the author of a definitive volume on choral directing, as a conductor of workshops in Europe and the USA, and especially by his contribution to the musical life of Westminster Choir College (whom he was guest conductor during the spring of 1978), Wilhelm Ehmann left an influence which will continue to grow in the lives of others.