In thinking about Fenno over the last few days, one memory that comes back is of the night, after a concert on a winter tour in upstate New York, when Fenno fell on the ice, while trying to push a car that was stuck, and cracked a rib. The next night, he was back on stage, conducting just as expressively as ever, as if nothing had happened. How could you not want to do your best for a guy who so obviously always gave HIS best? Others have made the same comment on the blog, but it's certainly true in my case that Fenno is the yardstick by whom I measure every other choral conductor with whom I've sung or whom I've watched. I'm not singing much anymore, much to my dismay, but any time I'm in the audience and I hear a choir starting to go flat, I can't resist the temptation to raise my index finger and to smile a bit, in hopes of pushing that tone back up where it belongs.
I consider myself fortunate to have sung in the Glee Club at about the time Fenno began to think this mixed chorus thing might actually work. I still remember a speech he gave at the end of our Christmas tour, in Chicago, in December 1972, about how proud he was of what the group had become. A couple of years later, Robert Shaw came to New Haven to conduct us in an Ives concert, as part of the University's commemoration of the Ives centenary. After the concert, the Glee Club officers went out for drinks with Fenno and Shaw. On the way back, Shaw said to Fenno: "Your successor will be a great man." At the time, we all scratched our heads about what he meant. ("What do your mean 'successor'? We think the genuine article is pretty great?") In the years since graduation, I've learned what Shaw meant. Fenno's successors have extraordinary talents of their own, but their success with the Glee Club has been in no small part because they have been able to follow in Fenno's footsteps in shaping a mixed-chorus tradition that is every bit as excellent, vibrant, and fun as the old one.
Finally, thank you to the Heath family for bringing us "into the tent" in this amazing blog. From the Glee Club picnics in your back yard at the beginning of each academic year, to Fenno's and Carol's extraordinary memory for Glee Clubbers who have graduated long ago, to allowing us to share in Fenno's final days, you've treated us like extended family, and we love you for it.
Ray Wells '75
F F Heath Jr. 12-30-1926 to 12-05-2008
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Thank you. Your letters bring us joy.
~Carol, Sarah, Lucy, Peggy, and Terry Heath