I was one of the fortunate sixty to accompany Fenno on the YGC's first
World Tour in 1965. How was I to know that that trip would set off a
life-long wanderlust, including living overseas for a dozen years? And
during that time, I was able to host three YGC singers when they
visited Hong Kong during the second World Tour.
Easily the artistic highlight of my life was the evening in Calcutta
when we sang Thomas Vittoria's Ave Maria--all of us first tenors
stretching for the high A# in the intonation, triple piano, before
settling back into the comfort of the basses and baritones behind us:
Gratia Plena indeed. And then the amazing moment happened. As we
reached the Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Fenno, who (in my memory, at
least) always conducted so precisely, who always surrounded himself
with our voices by standing close within our semi-circle, who always
had his head slightly cocked, listening, listening, who spread his
arms no wider than his shoulders when he wanted a good strong forte----
I write through tears now----suddenly took three long strides back,
his arms outstretched to their full extent and his hands shaking with
the impatience and encouragement of the deepest moment, his head
raised, and his face beaming. And out poured, rolled, soared the
Sancta Maria, mater dei. I think we were shocked, released, overcome.
I dared not look to see how many of us had been plunged into tears,
but I felt Ralph's hands clutching at my back for support. We sang, it
seemed, without having to breathe, and the sound was so pure and
effortless it seemed we had become the prayer itself.
At the end, when the seven-fold amen decayed into silence, Fenno bowed
on our behalf, and not one person in the Indian audience of some
thousands intruded on the prayer by applauding. We faced each other,
we and the audience, for minutes, it seemed, before we acquiesced and
continued with the concert.
That morning, on a guided tour, we passed a corpse in the street. I
was so distressed that, by the time we reached Bombay several days
later, I kept poor Dr. Joe up all night caring for me.
But the evening of that morning--the concert. On one day, then, I
learned some sense of the depth and height I might be capable of. The
day became the model for my artistic life, the last test, and the
Thanks for that, Fenno. Thanks for that.
Peter Stambler, '66