The memorial service at the Dock Street Theatre on Saturday for Charleston Symphony Orchestra Music Director David Stahl and his wife, Karen Doss Stahl, provided an opportunity for civic leaders, family and colleagues to share warm feelings and remembrances.

The service, organized by the city of Charleston's Office of Cultural Affairs, featured performances by local musicians.

The memorial service originally was meant for Karen Stahl and was planned in cooperation with David Stahl, who had hoped to attend between chemotherapy treatments. The Stahls died about one month apart,

Karen at age 53 on Sept. 21, David at 60 on Oct. 23.

Mayor Joe Riley said the Stahls had changed the city, made it better. Riley called his friend David Stahl a "civic-minded citizen" and "the quintessential optimist."

Nigel Redden of Spoleto Festival USA said Stahl was an irrepressible "enthusiast" whose vision for a dynamic arts-infused community meant a lot.

Robert Stahl said his brother always was a dreamer. He said he was most proud of David Stahl when, in May 2002, the conductor led an orchestra playing Mozart in Furth, Germany -- the city whose synagogue burned to the ground on Kristallnacht in 1938, but not before their grandfather rescued the Torah.

Darrell Edwards, CSO executive director from 1992 to 2002, complimented Stahl for his optimism and told the story about how the conductor once took just one ball to play golf. He said the two of them agreed early on to "just do it," no matter how difficult the task.

The Rev. Edward Carney, pastor of Riverland Hills Baptist Church and the man who married the Stahls, said the vows the couple took as he looked on all those years ago were fulfilled. In sickness and in health ... "They kept their promise," Carney said.

Karen Stahl received a similar outpouring of appreciation. Her brother-in law, David Turschmann, praised her creative urge and devotion to family. "Let there be no doubt that there was not one but two maestros in the Stahl family," he said.

Barry Goldsmith, who was assistant principal of Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School when Karen was hired to teach kindergarten there, said it was Karen who could get things done. He said he remembered when David Stahl told him that the luckiest day of his life was when he enrolled his oldest daughter Sonya at Ashley River and first met Karen, who he described as a beautiful woman, but even more beautiful inside.

Jayne Ellicott, the current principal, noted that Byron and Anna Stahl, now 20 and 16 years old, respectively, also attended the school, and that their parents both were involved every step of the way. Ellicott said the school will lay two engraved bricks in honor of David and Karen Stahl along the pathway that leads to the new building.

Violinist Yuriy Bekker played a luminous version of "Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Rob Taylor, who has called David Stahl a mentor and father figure, sang a heartfelt rendition of Luther Vandross' "Dance With My Father."

Alex Agrest conducted the ensemble with earnest aplomb.

Rabbi Anthony Holz, referring to "The Lark Ascending" and to the Stahls, said, "Blessings come to those who strive and continue to strive."

But, arguably, the best musical tribute was offered by the children, the children who some day surely will understand what David Stahl has done, the children in the Unichorus of Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School who sang a song by Mark Patterson called "The Artist Who Teaches Us All."

They sang of love, Stahl's love.

This is the art of living, the work of creating and giving, learning to sing and learning to share the song.

Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902.