Dear Fenno and the Heaths -
I was thinking of you just the other night, with no idea of what was happening, wondering how you were doing, and hoping it was better than it apparently is. Then Tim forwarded me this link today, and time is of the essence.
When I walked in to 201 Hendrie as a TD freshman in September 1982 to see my freshman adviser, Fenno Heath, I knew instantly that that room was where I wanted to be. It didn't take much longer for me to figure out that you were who I wanted to sing for. Thank you so much, Fenno, for asking me to sing in Battell choir immediately, and admitting me to the Glee Club the following year, where I had so much fun just plain rehearsing. Your wit, your energy, and your musicianship have set the standard for me in my adult choral life - I loved my time in 201 Hendrie, at Battell, and in Woolsey like no other time I spent at Yale, which is saying something.
I judge all the conductors I have had since then based on your ability to get what you wanted with an eloquent, concise and amusing turn of phrase, or a facial expression, unseen by the audience, that would both tell me what to do and make me smile in spite of myself at clearness and humor of it ! I'll never forget your explanation of how to approach pronouncing the words in "Fa Una Canzone", which was simply to say, with exaggerated emphasis on ALL the consonants, "SPAGHETTI"; I also have a very clear picture in my mind of being in tails in a hot Woolsey Hall, halfway through a Brahms motet with pitch starting to deflate, and you pinching your fingers together and lifting them up with gentle urgency as if the pitch were the hair of a baby, which you were trying to pluck without it noticing.
Thank you most for the privilege of creating harmony in a confused world, do it well, and enjoy it for its own sake - the camaraderie that I felt there was due to knowing that we singers were in the most capable hands around, and the confidence you inspired in us took us to greater heights than would have been possible through a merely technically satisfactory rehearsal. It's also what made singing Yale songs so much fun - knowing that we weren't just doing it pro forma, but that we were approaching it as real music.
This I think was clearest in a concert at Battell where half of us trooped up to the balcony to render the call and response in "Der Geist hilft Unsrer Schwachheit Auf", the end of which was greeted, before applause, by a single voice somewhere in the audience saying "wow".
Fenno, you are the best, most fun, most rewarding conductor I ever had, and singing for you was a peak musical experience in my life - the 125th was but a small way of saying thank you to you - nowhere near adequate.
SO, thank you for these wonderful memories and may you find peace
(sorry this has been so long).
You and your family (Hello Carol and Terry) are very much in my thoughts.
Fred Nangle, '86
F F Heath Jr. 12-30-1926 to 12-05-2008
About the blog:
Please feel free to share your memories with us about Fenno/Dad. Send your stories/memories to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly post your letter, unless you indicate otherwise.
Thank you. Your letters bring us joy.
~Carol, Sarah, Lucy, Peggy, and Terry Heath