Our hearts are heavy to hear about Fenno, but glad to know he will be able to say goodbye in such a warm and loving way. As usual, your family has a wonderful understanding of how to face transition with grace, dignity, and celebration.
The word “worship” isn’t an exaggeration to describe the deep respect I feel for Fenno. He took a chance on me when he accepted me into the Glee Club my sophomore year of college, 1990, even though I bombed my audition. I had spent a year with friends from the singing group Out of the Blue building up my image of him as something akin to a musical Zeus: a grand father figure, all-knowledgeable and all-powerful, terrible when angered but gloriously radiant when pleased, and most amazingly, able to eke professional music from the throats of young singers. So when I walked in the door to meet him I could barely squeak out my name, let alone a note. My sight-reading was terrible. My pitch went kerflooey. I couldn’t remember a note he played when he asked me to sing them back to him. There was no way I should have even been considered. My then-boyfriend, Jay Cowles, did far better and was accepted immediately. Rightly, I was not.
But luckily for me, within the week, my singing group gave a concert for the Glee Club which he attended. We performed a complicated, long arrangement by former OOTB pitch and Glee Club student director Eric Banks, and I sang my heart out for Fenno to prove, no, really, I was a good singer, even if I would never be in the Glee Club. And he heard! The next day our pitch received a call from him inviting me to join the Glee Club, and I’ve been grateful ever since. With the Glee Club and the Alumni Chorus, I’ve had experiences I never thought I could have – singing with some of the world’s great orchestras and conductors, traveling through the country and the world, sharing musical memories and building friendships with people of all ages and backgrounds. I had never sung classical music before that point, and it was a wonder placed before me; the huge breadth of sounds and emotions that can be evoked through this medium still astounds me now.
It was an enormous pleasure and honor to sing and work with him in his last two years at Yale. I’ve had many proud moments in my life, but really, some of the purest moments of pride and happiness I can conjure in memory are those last moments of a Glee Club concert, while Fenno’s hands were still raised, as we sang out our extended “Eli Yale!” at the end of the football medley. We had done a wonderful job, we had made beautiful music, we had made our audience happy, and we had made Fenno happy. At the end of the long, held note, his hands would snap to his side, and he’d give us a small smile of satisfaction.
I cannot rave about Fenno without also saying that watching his tender affection and respectful relationship with Carol Heath made a strong impression upon me. They always seemed to enjoy one another and support one another in a way that it seems to me a couple should do. I married Jay - that charming Glee Club boyfriend of mine - in 1995, and we’ve tried to enjoy one another with just as much zest and appreciation. We can’t sing a duet as well as Carol and Fenno, unfortunately – I’m an Alto II and Jay’s a Tenor I, so in the end we have the same range. Bad planning, there.
Should any member of the Heath family be in
Thank you for letting us send our thoughts at this time – it’s a gift to all of us to say goodbye while we still can. Our prayers and warm thoughts go out to all of your families.
Katelena (Kati) Hernandez Cowles, Class of 1993