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
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Your letters have brought this family incredible comfort in such trying times. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are especially grateful to you for the stories you are sending because these stories are new to us and to the Heath grandchildren.....6 Heath grandchildren, all reading this blog and being part of this 'virtual vigil' with all of their grandfather's friends, students, and colleagues.
Ellen R. Marshall, '71
Or, as Fenno arranged it, "like a motherless child." Thanks to you, Fenno,I was fortunate enough to get to sing both -- and so much more.
My freshman year of college, when I went home to Princeton for Thanksgiving,I ran into a rather pompous professor who asked what I was majoring in."What a stupid question to ask a first semester freshman," I thought. Ilooked him straight in the eye and answered, "Glee Club."
I continued to major in Glee Club throughout my college career. My fondestmemories of Yale will always be of the many happy hours spent with the GleeClub -- on tour, in concert, in rehearsal -- and the camaraderie in singingwe all enjoyed, thanks to the wonderful spirit that flowed from Fenno,always aided and abetted by Carol.
"Louder yet the chorus raise, friendship lasts when youth must fail" --especially lasting are the friendships formed in Hendrie Hall. By the1970's, there may not have been many elms to be 'neath, but we were always'neath the strong, gesticulating, insistent, sheltering, upraised arms of Fenno Heath, leading us to raise our voices with the shared love of musicand song.
Naomi Lewin '74
Cincinnati Public Radio
I sense that all across the country and the world tonight, Yale Glee Club alums are listening to our favorite choral passages, recalling rehearsals in Hendrie Hall, giggling about overripe moments on a YGC tour bus, and reliving the thrill of performing under your direction.
As I made our family dinner this evening, I grabbed some blue cheese from the refrigerator in your honor (I never knew your favorite foods and visual artists before...bless your family for sharing some details from your life that we can savor further), and I listened to the cassettes of the 125th YGC anniversary concert in 1986, my senior year at Yale. Hearing Shenandoah, Ain'a That Good News, and Randall Thompson's Alleluia brought me both comfort and a wide smile. All the memories came rushing back, and we were all together again in Woolsey Hall.
As I cooked, I tried to show my kids some of the conducting language you shared with us: how you bounced on your feet and commanded "give me more weight in your voices" with your turned-up hands; the pitch-correcting tug at a few strands of your hair when we were going flat; the "go away" hand motion when you wanted our sound to slowly disappear; the silent,
over-the-glasses glower at those who dared to chat during rehearsal; and the ready smile of encouragement you beamed at a piece sung well.
Fenno, we do remember you so fondly, as a conductor, certainly, but also as a mentor and a friend. Peace and love to you and your family.
Deborah Miles Czech '86
I keep expecting to see your mischievous smile and dismissive shake of the hand wave this -- this hospice nonsense -- all away like you have so many times before for a chorus with a sinking pitch ("no, no, no, sing it right, that's not to much to ask is it?") or a single voice on a wrong note ("someone's singing the wrong note -- you should stop doing that") or a soloist off on a spree ("well that's an interesting interpretation" -- that last comment from some ill advised solo audition of mine). We could take in these seemingly negative and brutally honest comments, because you said them with such child-like humor and innocence. Always with a smile and radiating genuine confidence that we could do it, you poked, prodded, and finally just made us, made me, want to sing and to sing well and to join others in sharing that song. But if you can't wave this all away, and you must go, go in peace and joy, knowing that legions of imperfect singers have been enabled and inspired by your leadership to make wonderful music together... and we carry those memories and friendships with us in your honor. And we're still singing. A small group led by Tim DeWerff '92 will perform your piece "The Lamb" and your arrangement of "Er Is Een Kindeke" in a week at a club in New York. We might have an interesting interpretation, but no matter what, we'll be singing it right because it will be from our hearts.
Thanks for filling our hearts with song,
M. Tracey Ober '85
I am so glad I got to sing with you again in later years – at YGC reunions and in DC. I am not one of your musical accomplishments--though I sang in an a cappella group with Bill Flanders and Jon McBride here in DC. I do the church choir and I’ve have been in a few chorales and YAC. All that I owe to you, having let me be my raucous self and blossom on our Europe ’63 tour, or as a YGC soloist who was not afraid to be loud and fake a Hungarian dance in Woolsey Hall.
I never managed your elegance, your style, or your musicianship. But you have indeed been a “Mother of Men.” You taught me and all of us leadership and grace under fire, and persistence, and attention to detail, and bravura -- even if we did not feel it. I have tried to turn those gifts you gave so freely to the works of peace and our fragile planet. That is my song. I learned it from you and I bless you for it. Our songs, sung for you, will last as long as a Fenno final chord – that is, forever. Go in peace.
Bob Musil, YGC ‘64
Bethesda, Maryland 20817
I have so many happy memories from singing with Fenno, but what stands out in my mind most was his calling my room to talk to me after my audition and saying, “We would be honored to have you sing with us.” The honor was mine, of course, but looking back at the call as a mentor and father now myself, what an extraordinary way to talk to a kid, basically, treating him as an adult, a musician, and a peer all at once. He set the tone from the outset, and made me want to live up to the extraordinary standards of Fenno and YGC…after that call it would never have crossed my mind to be late for a rehearsal or unprepared for a concert.
…..Andy Feinberg, JE 73
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
I am reading your beautiful letters to Dad today.....enclosed in this post is a message from Carol, mom...
You cannot imagine how thrilled and awe struck we are today at the out pouring of love for Carol and Fenno, our mom and dad. We have been receiving your incredibly beautiful and DEEPLY touching letters.......we are humbled........and we are trying to make sure we read every one of them to Dad today as he is resting here peacefully in his own bed with Hospice Care. My mother is overwhelmed with your avalanche of love and she wants to personally write a thank you email to each and every one!!!!!!!! But that is not possible at this time. Mom wants me to tell you how much your letters mean to her so here is Carol:
"Your emails are giving us so much comfort and we thank you all for loving Fenno and for being our extended family. It's so beautiful to hear how much you enjoyed your experiences with Fenno - choral experiences, rehearsal "insults" and joys, trips, performances, friendships formed, and memories made, with or without me. I love you all. ~Carol"
I was not a big singer in High School. Prior to college my exposure to singing ran to church choir and opera, but when I got to Yale I heard the Glee Club and my eyes were opened to an entirely different idiom. Fenno’s ability both to impose discipline in blend and dynamic and to wring expressiveness out of the Glee Club were truly amazing, and I always counted it an honor to sing with the Glee Club. Seeing all those photos of long-ago Glee Clubs the wall in Hendrie gave me a sense of the grand tradition, but Fenno’s direction was what made the Glee Club great. I will never forget the first time I heard a hundred voices singing as quietly as possible.
I treasure my memories of Fenno and thank God for what Fenno was able to share with us.
Eric Schweikert, ‘85
You have been the standard by which I've judged all choral conductors
since my Yale days, and nobody else ever quite measured up. It was a
great honor, inspiration and privilege to sing with you , and it was
wonderful to reprise it every five years at the Glee Club reunions in
Woolsey Hall. There'll be a huge void at the next reunion without you.
Thanks so much for what you did for generations of us.
Fred Sellers, 1965
My thoughts are with you, Carol and your dear family. I have so many treasured memories of our time together, which I think about often. How can I not? You helped shape who I am. For what you created in Hendrie Hall was so much more than mere notes and music. It was the most important classroom at Yale for learning about life. We learned how to work together, how to harmonize. Through your shining example, we learned how to lead. We saw in you the fulfillment that comes from professionally pursuing one’s passions, no matter what they may be (though perhaps none so sublime as the life lived in music.) We were privileged to create something magnificent and beautiful that could touch and transport other human beings– can there be anything more exhiliarating than that? You helped us realize the JOY (the joy, the joy, the joy) of belonging. Belonging to a community, to something bigger than ourselves.
Fenno, you inspired us. You still do. You always will.
Rodney Wynkoop, '73