10th December 2008
10th December 2008
Dear Carol and family,
Music has always played an essential part in my life, since I sneaked into my parish's children's choir a year early, throughout junior and senior high school, and, most importantly, at Yale, where, after a concert by the Whiffs during my first weekend on campus in the fall of '68, I knew "what I wanted to be when I grew up" (the group of '71 must have spent days finding my nickname)!
Then I heard Fenno directing a YGC concert! The power, precision, and nuances that Fenno drew from the (still all-male) group through a wide range of styles and eras was the proof for me that music was the most profound way for me to feel and express emotion. Fenno's passion was contagious! His elegance, humor, glowering glance when we didn't give him the attention or effort he demanded for Musicdissolving into a pleased smile or, when we were really "in harmony" with him and the piece being performed, a face uplifted, eyes shut, in a moment of ecstasy (and, yes, sometimes with tears)is something none of us will forget.
As "bursary boy" in the Glee Club office for 3 years, I often heard Fenno in his office spending uncounted hours working on compositions and arrangements. As part of the Alley Cat mafia (Fred Weber, Charlie Gates, Mark Fulford) putting together the 1970 SATB YGC European Tourboy, did Fenno have his arranging work cut out for him!I spent more time than usual in the office and witnessed his commitment to making the transition to a mixed chorus a success. Having such a limited number of women to choose from for the needed voices, it was an especially difficult task. But, the tour produced some miracles (for me, it was Vespers in Westminster Abbey with the Randall Thompson(?) Alleluja coming to a climax just as the sun finally broke through the rose window of the Abbey). Who of us can forget the Beethoven Ninth with Stokowski at Carnegie Hall (weeks of rehearsal with Fenno, then a rehearsal with Stokowski in Hendri Hall where I reached absolute nirvana for nearly five timeless minutesand understood why a real musician like Fenno could devote his entire life to such a passion)?
After graduation I became very ill with Crohn's disease, but, 10 years later, during my doctoral studies at UNC/Chapel Hill, I discovered a men's singing group, the Pitchforks, next door at Duke U., founded by Yalies, former Morse Dean Ben Ward and Dr. Frank Block, and found that I was still a 1st Tenor (who knew all the repertoire, since it all came from the Yale groupsI did put my foot down, 'tho, when someone suggested singing the Whiffenpoof song!).
Nearly 10 years later I found here in Paris a men's chorus (directed my first year by David Hogan, a gifted composer and tenor soloist at the American Episcopal Cathedralwe lost him in the crash of TWA 800 at the end of our first U.S. tour in '96). That fantastic all-male sound, combined with David's, and now John Dawkins' uncompromising search for excellence, knowing that his singers can deliver, reminds me so much of Fenno's passion. I brought out my well-used Yale Songbook for both David and John to peruse. If David chose his own arrangement of Biebl's Ave Maria, John's interpretation of Shenandoah (with much coaching from me, requested or not, to achieve Fenno-style endless, "make them strain to listen" fade-outsor, in gloriously bombastic music, the "blast their socks off longer than anyone thinks possible" YGC ending) brought me back to that uncompromising search for excellenceand it's rewardsthat Fenno instilled in methe gift of a lifetime!
Fenno touched so many people's lives and gave so many the most precious gift, the means to express one's passion. He will be sorely missed but will remain with us forever.
With my deepest condolences,
Gantcho Anthony Gavriloff TC '72; Past Secy. Gen., Yale Club of France 1987-2001
Freshman Glee Club, Yale Alley Cats, Yale Glee Club, Whiffs ("Havetrunwill") '72
P.S.: I egged on YGC Co-Presidents Bob Bonds and Ellen Marshall (among others) to do something to freshen up the paint in the Glee Club room. I certainly did not expect the colors chosen by Bob, I believe, but we worked 'til 2:00 a.m. two nights in a row to finish what we could. Years later, after the room had been completely repainted, I admit to being relieved that the "Super Fenno" purple door had been left intactperhaps Bob Bonds has a photo.