There are certain pieces that take me right back to Hendrie, Woolsey, and Battell with Fenno. The Hindemith Six Chansons. The Brahms Requiem. Barber's Reincarnations. And all of Fenno's wonderful settings of Walt Whitman.
A few special moments: On the Winter Tour during the first year that women were in the Glee Club, we began at the Yale Club in New York City (to which my female classmates were not invited to join), and we did NOT begin the concert with "Mother of Men." There was gasping and general apoplexy among the Old Blues. I think Fenno took as much heat as Kingman Brewster did for going co-ed. The standard rejoinder was that "Parent of Persons" just didn't have the same ring.
The year after Stokowski was given the Howland Prize, he invited a "chorus from Yale" to sing Beethoven's Ninth in Carnegie Hall. Fenno auditioned all the singers, who came out of the woodwork for the opportunity. At the end of my audition, Fenno said, "You have a high A. For a tenor in this piece, that's all you need. You're in." He taught us the piece, and Stokowski came to Hendrie for one rehearsal. In the middle of it, he suddenly stopped and said to his assistants, "These singers are wonderful. Where are we?" "We're in New Haven, maestro. This is the Yale Glee Club Room." Fenno just rolled his eyes.
During rehearsals for some piece with a lot of sixteenth-note runs (Messiah? Probably), Fenno insisted that we sing each note detached, with a strong "H" : ha-ha-ha-ha. We were horrified. It will sound awful, we argued. Just wait, he said. We sang it in Woolsey Hall, a.k.a. Reverberation City. The newspaper critic commented on the "elegant legato singing" by the chorus. Fenno knew just how to play that hall.
After decades of the Randall Thompson Alleluia from the second balcony of Woolsey at Commencement, one year Fenno switched to the Biebl Ave Maria. Faculty, deans, and other Commencement regulars were stunned, some near tears. What WAS that piece? William Sloane Coffin asked. (Coffin sang with us in that Beethoven's Ninth.)
Fenno worked his magic on generations of new singers, but he was also wonderful with skilled singers. At my Umpteenth Reunion, Fenno conducted a small bunch of us in a performance in Battell of the Biebl, the Mozart Ave Verum Corpus, and some other pieces. We all remembered the music and could put it together in one rehearsal, so Fenno spent much of the time talking about the nuances of this music, sharing insights from having lived inside this music for such a long time.
A lifetime spent creating beauty is a great achievement. We should all aspire to such generosity.
JE '71, GRD '76