Irving Hunter, 91, singer and vocal music teacher


Irving Hunter, a singer and for many years a teacher of vocal music at the Henry Street Arts for Living Center on the Lower East Side, died at Beth Israel Medical Center on Feb. 19 at the age of 91.

Born one of five brothers in Waterbury, Conn., on March 21, 1916, to David and Margaret McCallum Hunter, Irving Littlejohn Hunter moved with his family to Leavenworth, Kan., where he graduated from high school. He went to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he majored in operatic vocal technique.

“He was the consummate lyric tenor and an inspired teacher for 25 years at the Henry Street Center,” said Arlene Gottfried, a former student who became a lifelong friend.

A devoted member of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church on W. 46th St. near Eighth Ave., he served on church committees and performed as a soloist and sang for many years in the church choir.

Known as Hunter, he was a charter member and founder of the Black Independent Opera Guild and sang in many of the guild’s productions, including “Otello,” “La Boheme” and “L’Africaine.”

He sang for many years with the famed DePaur Infantry Chorus, organized by Leonard de Paur, which performed for military and civilian audiences during World War II. He toured South America with the DePaur Chorus. Hunter also sang with a New England choral group that performed throughout the region.

In New York he sang in productions of “Porgy and Bess” and “Showboat.” For 30 years he studied with Lucius Laconia Smedley and sang Negro spirituals arranged by Edward Boatner.

Four nephews, Howard Hunter of Fla., David and Stephen Hunter of Massachusetts and William Freeman of Connecticut, survive. Three nieces, Dorothy Lewis and Elaine Currey of Connecticut and Comelia Dixon of New York, also survive, along with many nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews. He also leaves a group of special friends, colleagues and students.