Dear Members of the Heath family,
I have been so moved by the many postings to Fenno's blog, and wanted to include a little tribute of my own. I will both attach it and paste it into this message. My heart goes out to each and all of you!
During these past couple of weeks, as the news about Fenno has unfolded, I have taken part in four different choral performances. Each event has felt like my own personal tribute to Fenno; along with many others who have contributed to this blog, I imagine that nothing would please Fenno more than to know how many of us have continued to raise our voices in song.
In the nearly 30 years since I joined the Yale Glee Club, choral singing has been one of the few constants in my life, keeping me afloat through a variety of life changes and feeding my soul. It is hard to imagine any of it without Fenno’s influence.
I had done very little singing before college, so my two years in the Glee Club opened up a whole new world to me. What a revelation it was to sing Bach’s B Minor Mass in the spring of my senior year! Last Friday, as Fenno was breathing his last, I was in the middle of a dress rehearsal with the Yale Camerata for another of Bach’s great works, the Christmas Oratorio. I found myself instinctively marking a few last fugal entrances with brackets and recalling that it was Fenno who had first taught me to do that when we sang the B Minor Mass. What I remember especially is the larger purpose those brackets served. It was not enough just to learn your own line and sing it competently. Fenno always encouraged us to get inside the music, to see how the different parts fit together, to breathe life into the whole and give it our all in the way that he did.
Fenno ended up having a further, quite unexpected but profound influence on my life. Shortly after I had moved back to New Haven in the fall of 1987, we ran into each other in the street, and he invited me to sing in the Battell Chapel Choir. Before I knew it, I found myself back in the Glee Club Room, rehearsing during lunchtime on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Out of those years in the Battell Choir – which gave me my first substantive church experience – came, eventually, a call to ordained ministry.
It has also been a joy to get to know the Heath family: Terry during my Glee Club years and, in later years, Carol and the Heath sisters. Some of my fondest memories from the late ‘80s and ‘90s are of singing with Sarah (and Lucy, while she was still in New Haven) in a very informal women’s singing group called the “Sweet Alkalines.” Fenno was as enthusiastic about our ragtag little ensemble as he was about any other musical endeavor, even writing a few arrangements for us.
My favorite “Fenno-ism” was one he used in reference to his own compositions. Often, toward the end of a piece, he threw in a shift to a higher key. With a twinkle in his eye, Fenno always referred to these shifts as “tasteful modulations.” The twinkle let us in on an open secret: these signature modulations of his were really a strategy to ramp up the energy and dramatic impact of the music. In the hands of a lesser musician, they might have seemed like a mere ploy, but with Fenno they worked. Always. And they were indeed tasteful.
Perhaps one way to look at the events of these past couple of weeks is as the modulation of a song – the tasteful modulation of Fenno’s life song – into a different key. The song continues in a slightly higher key, shimmering just a little more brightly. I picture him telling us all about it even now, with a twinkle in his eye.
Caroline Murphy '83
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