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
Friday, December 5, 2008
You, Carol, and your loving family are in the hearts of all who were blessed to know you and to sing under your direction.
Filled with love and joy for music, you imparted these qualities to us. Unfailingly gracious, generous, and noble in the face of the challenges involved, you inspired us to reach for some transcendent goal that we did not know we could reach until we had done it.
Your masterpieces of composition, so many arrangements of great insight and profound respect for the material at hand---singing these with you made the experience all the more personal. Your ingenious conducting technique - an elegant ballet that swept delighted choristers up and into the many sound worlds that you created, filled with magic and crackling with electrical sparks.
Oh, Fenno! To once again be singing with you, to feel the entire chorus rising to meet the demands of your gestures and directions. To feel once again the surging power of those FFF sections, and the instant swoops to PPP, all riding as it were on the wings of song. But really on the wings of your technique and musical knowledge. And your brilliant wit.
What a gift, dearest Fenno, what a gift you have been to all who know you.
With deepest love and admiration,
Warren H Rothman, ‘65
You have always been such an inspiration to me. In any concert setting, I invariably found myself ready to place my musical well-being in your talented hands. It didn't seem to matter how well I remembered the music or words. You were somehow able to extract the best I had to offer.
I'll always remember that moment at Boston Symphony Hall when our soloist forgot the words and you covered the gap with your own voice, and the audience never knew. Wow!!!
I'm forever grateful for your wonderful friendship over the years, and your many kindnesses.
Marv Berenblum, YGC, '54-56
To all Heaths,
Fenno and the Glee Club were such an important part of our Yale years,
that many of us (even having sung his retirement concert) have
difficulty thinking of the chorus as having any other director. I am
thankful to have had the rare opportunity to sing with him for so many
He has touched my life deeply, as he has those of several generations of
Yale singers. I love him and miss him and hold all of you in my
thoughts and prayers.
When I was at Yale, you gave me the greatest gift, the gift of song. I hadn't realized then that it would be such an important part of my life. I had arrived at Yale in 1971 and, although I had sung in my highschool choir, I didn't pursue singing at Yale until I was a junior. I'm not sure why I ventured down to Hendrie Hall to audition for the Yale Glee Club in the fall of my junior year, but I did. I remember that you seemed sort of surprised. I guess by junior year most people were either singing or not. You asked me why I was there, and I said I realized that I really wanted to sing. I don't even think the audition went that well because I remember you said my sightreading wasn't the best, but I had a good ear. I'm sure there were plenty of other "younger" kids that you could have taken (there was no Freshman Glee Club at that time, so there were probably many freshmen auditioning), but you took me. Perhaps it was because I said I really wanted to sing. And for that I am forever grateful. I made my best friends in the Glee Club (do you remember what a duo Leslie Fitzpatrick and I were?!) and I haven't stopped singing since.
For most of my adult life, I have lived in Norfolk, Conn., where music at Yale was really born. I have walked on the paths that the Battells and Stoeckels walked on along the Village Green and sung in the church where they sang, as I know you have too. When Robbins Battell introduced the singing of English glees to northwest Connecticut and supported Gustave Stoeckel at Yale, he began a proud tradition which continues today. I am so grateful to have been a part of this tradition. Singing has brought so much meaning and beauty into my life. I don't think I can ever thank you enough.
Yale College, Class of 1975
I want him to know that his legacy lives on...
Class of 1979
Thank you from me, as well, another of the many thousands whose lives you touched. You taught me how to make music with care, love, and fellowship--many of my dearest friendships are forever wound up with memories of your gentle, generous conducting and all the wonderful times I had in the Glee Club. I offer immeasurable thanks, and wish you much peace.
--Harriet Goren '83
My love to all of you, and deepest sadness for the news that Fenno is ill.
I thought the Harvard Glee Club sang beautifully. "How could anyone sing better than that", I mused as the Yale Glee Club entered on stage. Of course, there was an underlying competitive spirit within as I was preparing to go to the Yale Bowl the next day and scream for Harvard.
Well, a funny thing happend. I saw this guy named Heath rise to the podium and embark on a selection of anthems and songs and I was totally spell-bound. I remember feeling that I was being taken into "another place". I could not help thinking (as hard as I tried not to) that this chorus was better than Harvard's. I kept trying trying to suppress the thought, but I was swept into that other world to which only good music could take you. And to top it off, Yale sang without music, Harvard sang with music! I began to realize that Yale had defeated Harvard, at least on that Friday night.
I had the pleasure of watching Fenno conduct numerous times after that, almost always in those memorable Friday concerts.It pushed me towards allocating much of my time into singing (and some conducting).
And, 2 years ago, I sort of came full circle after 50 years and joined the Yale (ahem, that's correct, Yale) Alumni Chorus on their tour of the Netherlands and their Beethoven 9th concert with Maestro Gergiev.
After my first memorable experience that Friday in New Haven, even during my undergraduate years at Harvard, I always had a little sense of comparative inferiority when I was listening to the Yale Glee Club.
But I still point towards that first concert in New Haven where the Yale Glee Club beat Harvard and turned me on to a life of such immense pleasure. I will never forget it.
God bless him.
Tim Russell '66
You may not remember me, but I sang in the Glee Club from 1975-78, and was a music major, Janne Newland (I now go by Juanita Newland Ulloa).
Your spirit, both in the Glee Club and in conducting class was always masterful, spirited and elegant. I remember I was too scared to conduct, actually, but I greatly admired you.
I am now a Latin American mariachi singer/songwriter and Professor of Voice and Ethnomusicology at
I am sure your influence is part of what has given me a wonderful music career, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Plus you are very handsome! I will always remember you.
My best to you and your family,
A circle of song
This circle of song
We pass it along
You shine at the core.
Thank you always,
Dawn M. Ellis
YGC '88-'89, officer
Dearest Fenno, Carol, Sarah, Lucy, Terry, and Peggy,
Thank you for allowing me to be with you as we witness the process of life.
"Keep calmly knowing change." This reverberates as I prepare myself, too, with an aging father.
It is such a gift to read the many posts from Yale Glee Club members as I learn more about a past I was not part of but have helped me piece together those memories you cherish and connect them with the most current 12 years of Cornstock events in Cornish, New Hampshire: Fenno reading "Fern Hill" and The Heath Sisters singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and Terry setting up the fireworks display, and Carol playing wonderful contra dance music or leading us to parade The Plainfield Yankee Doodlers in "This Land is Your Land" and "Yankee Doodle."
Magic, music, and wonder. You are a wonderful family.
From the day in the Fall of 1973 that you asked me to sing "Aura Lee" for you at my audition…to the last time you led our singers at the Celebration in Woolsey Hall, you've been an important part of my life. But I am just one soprano, and not a very good one at that. There are so many people whose lives would have been different had they not met you. There is also your music, which is everywhere. When the Whiffenpoofs sing "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" in white tie and tails, it is present. When three guys driving up to New Haven practice "Autumn Song" to perform at reunions, it is present. When yet another audience hears "Little Lamb" for the first time, in all of its achingly beautiful simplicity, it is present. You will always be part of this world, even though – as your friend John Krumm wrote – "The road is calling as leaves are falling, it's back to home, my travels are all done. We'll sit by the fire and drink a toast to all of you. Farewell, I must be gone."
Jennifer L. Julier '77
Assistant Director, Association of Yale Alumni
(203) 432-0587 (fax)
Dear Fenno, Carol, and Heath Family,
What do I remember? I remember Carol sitting at the back of Hendrie Hall, knitting, nodding her head with the music, and looking up every now and then. I remember Fenno waving his arms in front of us, a bi-weekly ritual to wake us from our post-prandial stupor, to inspire us to sound worthy of the pictures on those walls, the history in that room, the music itself. I joined the Glee Club in my senior year, 1991-1992, an quietly opinionated violinist who had never completely understood “choristers.” Why did I jump the orchestra ship to join the choir? Because of Fenno. It was his last year as music director of the YGC, and I knew even then that this was an opportunity to last a lifetime. Here was somebody whose light I wanted to shine on me. My emotional attachment to Yale is primarily through the songs of the Glee Club. My fondest memories of Yale are of learning to sing with a group, learning to be a musician with my voice, and Fenno has everything to do with that.
With Carol’s constant presence – whether in Hendrie Hall or not – and Fenno’s boundless energy and devotion to this organization and to each of us, they created an enormous family – of hundreds? thousands? – built around music, love, and affection. My consolation today in contemplating his passing, is that he has left to us his music on the page, in our hearts and in our minds. For anyone else that would be a cliché. Not for Fenno. And because this is the Glee Club, we can be sure that when our voices become strong, we will raise them joyfully.
Thank you, Fenno for giving so much of yourself to so many. Thank you, Heath Family, for sharing Fenno with us for so many years.
We are everlastingly grateful.
Sandra L. Davis '92
Fenno graciously gave me $500 toward tour because he knew I did not have the funds. The fact that he made the process virtually painless was greatly appreciated -- only years later did he tell me he knew that I was scared to ask him. However, it came with a Fenno warning; "If you are late, even one minute late to one rehearsal, you're out." Well, one day I woke up late and had minutes to make it to Hendrie -- no time to change out of PJ's. I ran all the way to Hendrie and then faced the dreaded stairwell that could make even the best Glee Clubber late. I climbed those stairs and made it inside to the Glee Club room with seconds to spare -- that metal folding chair never felt so good. Fenno looked down, saw my jammies/winded demeanor and said, "Hello, Sandra" as if nothing had happened. Then he gave me a genuine Fenno smile with that curve of the lip.
Fenno was always a supporter of women's voices at Yale -- from his arrangements for Proof of the Pudding and Whim to all the behind the scenes work that few knew about and many benefitted from; that is part of his living legacy. When we travelled to Harvard for the joint Glee Club concerts, he reminded us to "Let the crowd know why we have women and they don't."
As a person who has zero sight reading skills, I was able to look at Fenno all the time and cherish the faces -- OH ALL THOSE FACES -- that he made. And watching Fenno in a concert was a true joy. He brought out the best in us and gave so much through sharing himself. Over the years, I have been very thankful for wonderful interactions and conversations with our dear Fenno.
My strong faith tells me that when Fenno is called Home, he will be welcomed by angel choruses -- but there will be resounding voices from earth below from all of his friends and family singing. Fenno will simply smile and know, that's his YGC!!!
I love you Fenno, and I thank the Heath Family for sharing themselves with us over the years. And Carol, the Altos still knit and crochet with you -- I can still hear Fenno say "Put those Goddam needles down!!" followed by Carol's calm response, "Keep going, Girls."
Sandra L. Davis '92
A few thoughts run through my mind as I contemplate your passage into a more peaceful world:
You will always live on as a part of me. The Glee Club was the best experience of my undergraduate days, and you personified the Glee Club. I made my closest Yale friends in Hendrie Hall and on tour buses. You taught me to love singing, and to love music.
Today I continuously hum "The Ash Grove," a tune that you helped me arrange for 4-part chorus during my junior year. You have been an extraordinarily gifted composer and arranger.
You have had such courage! You recognized that when Yale admitted women, the Glee Club should do the same. You endured a few rough years, but you persevered. All women who have ever sung in the Glee Club owe a debt to your foresight.
Last April, when Helmuth Rilling came to Yale to conduct Mendelssohn's Elijah, I was thrilled to see you in the balcony of Woolsey Hall before the performance. I sang my heart out for you that night, just as I sang for you all those years ago in the Glee Club. I will continue to sing for you, as long as I live.
With love and affection,
Laurie (Hasselmann) Ongley
I remember the audible gasps of Yale Club old-timers on one tour when YGC's women stolled out onto the stage to sing ("My GOD, there are more women than men!"), and the tepid applause for our incredible soloist - a black man who, like Fenno, ignored their subtle and not-so-subtle rebukes. How far we have come, and in no small thanks to Fenno's courage in making music 'harmonious' in so many ways.
In 1981, a small group of senior women, most of us Glee Clubbers, decided to try to start a senior women's accapella group. At the time, there was nothing like the Whiffs for women, and we thought it was time. There was plenty of skepticism that it would catch on, not least of which among this small group of women. The one who didn't show any skepticism or hesitation was Fenno. Fenno helped us, supported us, provided us with practice space, encouragement, and I think later arranged for the group. That year, Whim 'n Rhythm was born. When we sang 25 years later with the Glee Club and other groups at a reunion event, it was like coming home. Mother of Men is cool. Father of Whim 'n...well, that deserves some credit, too. Thank you for believing in us, and in the power of music to bridge differences and knit people together. We never have, and never will, forget everything you have done for us. We love you, Fenno, and the wonderful family you shared with us, too.
Julie Iffland, '81.
Where to start? It's fair to say that you, Fenno, are personally responsible for our 20 years of couplehood, 15 years of marriage, and two wonderful (and musical!) children. We met in the Freshman Chorus, grew to be friends in the Glee Club, and started dating during our senior year, when we served as President and Business Manager. (As we recall, you were more or less clueless about our romantic relationship, though Georgia Whitney sussed it out early on....) As you always loved to say, "the best friendships are made through singing," and we couldn't agree more.
We of course have special musical memories from our YGC years -- beautiful Heath originals like "Fern Hill," spirited renditions of the football medley, thrilling spirituals with great soloists like Sonya and Dave, sublime choral classics from Bach to Bruckner to Berlioz. And then there are those quirky, memorable moments from rehearsals, concerts, tours -- your gleeful gestures at a sudden modulation, your perfect balance of withering disdain (when we stunk) and heartfelt gratitude (when we soared), your remarkable ability to conduct with your eyeglasses. It was a particular pleasure to work with you as part of the officer corps, to see how deeply you cared about the YGC, its members, and its history.
But perhaps our most treasured experience with you came when you graciously agreed to conduct the chorus at our wedding in 1993. When we first approached you with the idea, you eagerly accepted, declaring that our ceremony sounded a lot like your daughters': "a concert, with a little wedding on the side." You conducted the Durufle "Ubi caritas" and your own setting of 1 Corinthians 13, "The Greatest of These Is Love." We'd assembled an all-star chorus for you, made up of friends from high school, Yale, and New York, including soloists from YGC, the Whiffs, the Alley Cats, and the Metropolitan Opera. The combination of their voices, your conducting, and your amazing music was by far the highlight of the ceremony -- a breathtaking way to begin our marriage. We also remember how touched we and the singers were when, after the rehearsal run-through of the Corinthians piece (the first time this particular group had ever sung together), you dropped your hands, smiled, and announced, "Well, that's just about how I wrote it." We could imagine no higher compliment from a composer.
We've loved seeing you and Carol occasionally over the last few years, and we regret that we weren't able to see you more often. As we sing with Sam and Ellie, we think of you, and we remain ever thankful that we walked up the stairs in Hendrie Hall those many years ago. It was a rare privilege singing with you and knowing you, and you will always be with us.
Juliette and Jeff Hyson '89
You always challenged us to sing our best.
Your assuming that we could sing that way, inspired us.
Sometimes approaching your expectations, we glimpsed beauty that you knew.
Graceful and easy Maestro, we can't forget the joy in music we discovered following your cue.
Bob Burke '67
Whenever I think of you, thrilling Hendrie Hall memories come rushing back -- and of a sudden I am with you there again, experiencing the joy of expressing in song what it is to be alive, here, now, together, this moment. So many truthful things you shared with us!
When I left the YGC to conduct the Yale Women's Slavic Chorus, you welcomed me as a peer, and I did my best to pass on what you taught us about song, human striving for excellence, cooperation, and sound's ordered beauties. And joy. Oh the joy. You have enriched my life, and so many lives, in untold ways. Thank you for all of it.
Today as I open Carol's message, in my heart I am back in my Hendrie Hall seat again, with dear companions, sight reading the alto part to your Fern Hill and hearing those chords move through the air for the first magical time.
Thank you for your music, for the respect and love you have given us to pass on, in turn, to others, for your humor, for your sharp musical wit and lyrical brilliance.
You are a most beloved man and your song is in our hearts forever.