Leslie (Les) Stahl


Stahl, Leslie_ovalNovember 22, 1950 ~ August 17, 2016

Leslie (Les) Stahl, 65, has left his earthly confines to take his rightful place, at the keyboard, in Our Lord’s heavenly orchestra. A host of friends and family will be there to greet him with open arms. Les passed on August 17, 2016 after a yearlong battle with a variety of health issues.

Born November 22, 1950 to Irene and Leslie Stahl Sr. of Chicago Il., he was then raised, educated in Round Lake Beach, IL, where he further developed his God given gift of music. After high school, Les earned a scholarship to the prestigious Northwestern University School of Music in Evanston, IL. Les was first introduced to Spearfish and the Black Hills in 1974, when he co-directed and produced the musical, “Godspell” with a touring theater company, Westside Follies, vowing he would return one day. After arriving back in Chicago that Fall, he continued his exceptional career as musical director and arranger for over 220 theater and opera productions. He collaborated with such companies as Marriot/Lincolnshire Musical Theater, Steppenwolf Theater, Goodman Theater, Midlane Country Club Theater (Mr. L’s Carousel) as well as up and down Chicago’s Northshore theater scene, (Waukegan Players, Highland Park Theater, and Fort Sheridan Theater).

Les was a developer, creator, and educator at heart. He was an intricate part in developing Chicago’s “Off Loop” theater scene as well as his own opera company, Opera San Benedetto. As a human rights activist, he founded Chicago’s Gay Men’s Marching Band and Flag Corp. and was an arranger/accompanist for Chicago’s Windy City Choir. As an educator, his influence and energies where felt in public and private institutions throughout the Midwest. To subsidize and stabilize himself and these accomplishments he served as Minister of Music, Composer/arranger, and Choir Director for various churches and houses of worship for over 50 years. His influence has been felt from the Archdiocese of Chicago to Vatican City, Rome. One of Les’s favorite undertaking was the establishment of his 18-piece orchestra, “The Déjà vu Big Band,” a Chicagoland favorite, which he directed for 20 years.

In 2012 keeping to his promise, Les did return to the Northern Black Hills and introduced himself to the United Methodist Church of Spearfish, were he felt comfortable in his niche, going from service accompanist to Worship Coordinator.

He is survived by his sister, Laurie Burkey (Ingleside. IL), a brother, Greggory Stahl (Northern Illinois), and nephew Dillon Burkey (Ingleside, Il). He will be missed greatly by lifelong friend and collaborator Joe Saracco (Spearfish) as well as dear friends, caretakers, and confidants Craig Moore and partner William (Will) Charboneau (Sioux Falls). Friends from all walks of life in Chicago, Northern Illinois and Wisconsin will be celebrating his life. Many thanks to Pastor Scott McKirdy, wife Collen McKirdy and all the wonderful people from Spearfish’s United Methodist Church for their assistance and never ending devotion.

Les is proceeded is death by both of his parents. In lieu of flowers, a Music Scholarship has been established in his memory. For information please contact the United Methodist Church of Spearfish at 605-642-3457, 845 N. 5th Street, Spearfish, SD 57783.

Per his wishes, he was cremated. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

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  • Joe Saracco says:

    …miss you so much already, feeling lost. You were the refection of my creative life…Craig and Will, I can’t thank you enough for acknowledging Les’s genius and for loving him so much. Laurie, though miles away, know I am thinkin of you and all those fun memories. See ya soon Buddy…say Hi to all the “kids” up there…should be some wonderful musical being developed – save me a role.

  • Gary Miller says:

    RIP my friend! I will always cherish your talent, teaching and friendship! It was a privilege to work with you in the many productions at WCP! The greatest privilege was knowing you!

  • Jeanene Diana says:

    Les,knowing you will be directing music in heaven–simply warms my heart! May your eternal life be blissful. Sending xoxo’s your way!!

  • Sioux Turnoy Warfield says:

    Sincere sympathy to all who knew and loved Les,especially to his family.Les was my downstairs neighbor in Chicago on Estes Avenue. I think I originally met him through mutual friends in the Deja Vu Big Band. I’m grateful for the time we shared. May his memory be for a blessing.

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