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
Monday, December 8, 2008
First my sincere condolences as you make this sad passage- Be comforted by the generous outpouring of support -And while words can not make up for your loss, hopefully you will feel the love coming across these pages and draw comfort from all who knew and loved Fenno.
I first met Fenno when I came to Hendrie to audition as a new graduate student.Having just spent several years working and singing in some terribly stuffy chorus in Boston and thinking I was a serious singer I wasn't sure about having to learn the "Football medley" But the prospect of a trip to Europe the following summer convinced me otherwise. Little did I know how lucky I was to be offered the chance to work with Fenno, experience the pure delight and enthusiasm of his music making, his genius of composition and best of all the camaraderie, spirit and history of the YGC. Whether it was singing Boola Boola, Shenandoah or Randal Thompson we all shared in Fenno's great commitment to making us reach beyond ourselves and experience the music.
While I moved on from New Haven memories of the Glee Club , the trips, and the friends I made remain with me to this day. They truly defined my experience at Yale .
All our lives were blessed for knowing him and his spirit will shine forever in our hearts
Ellen Rothberg, EPH '78
West Hartford, CT
I am so sad about your Fenno, but keep reminding myself that it best for him. I loved so many of his nostalgic stories, as the years flew by. He talked about my brother Bill (Cam wasn't born yet) and I sitting on the stairs, listening to all the great music coming from the living room. Needless to say, it was way past our bedtime but how could we possibly stay in bed with all the glorious sounds downstairs? (And nobody told us to go back to bed!).
More recently, what a gift to have been a part of the March Singing Weekend, organized by Linus, and run by Fenno. He often talked about the importance of rehearsals, emphasizing that they were where the true joy of learning took place and thus true singing occurred. I had to skip a couple performances in order to attend to Mum..... I love rehearsing and don't like performing, so....Then I got a great dose of chastisement from Fenno, he loving every minute of it....."But Fenno!!!...You JUST SAID ......!!!!!"
After being a part of that group...what a privilege!!!....it makes me smile whenever I hear or read a reference to Robert Shaw.....So often, F. uttered "Robert Shaw says....." that we loved trying to keep count of how often he made that reference.
So as I ramble on, I thank you for being "you" (What a family!) and all the joy that brought (and will continue to bring to us, in memories and in song) to all Hennings, for many decades past and to come.
So much love from the Henning sibs,
Morgan, Bill and Cam
No one ever asked, "Fenno who?" He was the first one-name major figure in my life, beating the one-named sports stars of recent vintage by decades.
His generosity—so many accounts of what he gave to us are on this web site. When in 1996 classmate Alex Gunn and I asked if he would be willing to lead a March weekend choral festival in Boston, his "yes" came out before the echo of our question faded. And what a job he did with us, usually with a new composition tucked under his arm, until 2004, when the weekend's strenuous nature forced him to pass his baton to Jeff Douma. Needless to say, the Festival Fenno began lives on. Next March we'll feature at least one of his works.
Another instance: a decade or so ago the men's chorus with which I had been singing seemed to have leveled off in its musical development and showmanship. Was it us? Had we gone about as far as our talents could take us, or had we outgrown the director who had led us for five years. I invited Fenno to Boston to lead part of a rehearsal, to take us through several songs—"Motherless Child," as I recall, and a couple of others. In ten minutes, Fenno had drawn out of us sounds we had never made before. We made music that night that some of us thought we were incapable of—and we hired a new director three months later.
Last Friday the a cappella group spun out of that chorus ended a well-attended concert with Fenno's arrangement of "September Song" in his honor. A couple of us had trouble getting through its lyrics.
With incalculable gratitude,
Linus Travers '58
I don't know that you'll want to post these pictures to the blog (though you can if you want), but I thought you'd like to see one way three of us demonstrated our love for Fenno when we came back for the Glee Club 145th in 2006.
(Left to right: Stephanie Golob '87, Karen Sherman '88, and Rachel Monfredo '87.)
We (together with Liz Miller '88) called ourselves the Back Row Altos because we were all altos who sat in the back row during rehearsals...and because we were regularly reprimanded by Fenno (in his usual "I love you; now shut up" kind of way) for talking when we should have been singing. I wish I could now say that I regret not singing more and talking less, but I have such fond memories of those days (including those reprimands) that I just can't!
Lots of love and continued good wishes,
So many people have written about the experience of singing that it’s hard to say more other than it brought the happiest, most meaningful experiences of my college career (Robert Shaw and the War Requiem being one of not THE defining experience). Fenno, you always gave 150% (at least) to every rehearsal and performance inspiring us to sit up straighter and do more. My sister always said you could have been a dancer because your lyricism and physical movement conducting was a beautiful art to watch. I’d have paid money to see you in a leotard and tights! J
Many of my best friends from college (and the ones I treasure most seeing now) came from Glee Club and from the hours we spent on tour buses laughing and joking and generally I’m sure, driving Fenno nuts. The common experience we shared of singing under one of the all time greatest choral conductors bonded us for life. I remember at the 20th (heaven help us!) reunion standing on stage with Liddy Manson who looked around and said, “This is what’s different about Yale—everybody sings!” She was so right and everyone sings in large part because Fenno Heath taught them how, and celebrated singing and kept many of the songs and traditions alive.
As many have already said the only problem with singing for Fenno is it ruins you for the experience of singing with anyone else. To this day I can’t hear Randall Thompson’s Alleluia without welling up in tears, Fenno and family you have given so many of us the gift of a lifetime. The only thing we can do to repay it is to sing and to share that joy of singing with everyone we know. So, fol de rol de rol, rol, rol—we love you and we thank you for everything you’ve given us all.
Lisa Bradner y’87
I smiled over the weekend as I remembered how hard we tried to please and entertain Fenno. Most of us parted our hair in the middle just before coming on stage for one of our Christmas tour concerts, and the three upper parts droned "Fen-no, Fen-no, Fen-no, Heath" during the Switzer Boy yodel while the basses sang "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf." Perhaps these traditions have continued.
Brothers and sisters, sing on.
Greg Hayden, '68
I'll never forget that, after we finished the song, Fenno spontaneously jumped up from the piano and gave me a big hug! That's how happy he was to make music, and how happy he made others with his music-making. He will be missed
Dr. Kristie Foell, Bowling Green State University
Assoc. Prof. of German
It is with great sadness that Carla and I hear of Fenno’s illness and passing. As you know, our association over many years has been very important to us. In 2005 I wrote a letter of appreciation to Fenno, and he graciously wrote back to me saying that it was the best letter he had ever received. That made my day! If you are so inclined, I thought you might like to share that letter with your family at this time. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Carla and Dick Wilde
Enclosure: Letter to Fenno dated 28 February 2005
I have just turned 71 years old, and it is time for me to acknowledge what you, the Yale Glee Club, singing at Yale and our subsequent experiences together have meant to me over my lifetime.
As a youngster growing up in WWII, I decided early on to become an aeronautical engineer. However, in 1948, my dad, who was a chemical company VP in North Haven, received two tickets to the Yale broadcast of “Songs From New England Colleges.” We sat in Hendrie Hall (my first time there), and the Yale glee Club of 1948 stood on risers against the west wall. I had never heard such powerful, precise and moving singing in my life. I decided right there, that I would try for Yale and for the glee club, even though it meant giving up aeronautical engineering for mechanical engineering. While I didn’t know it at the time, you must have been singing to me in that group. Do you remember that broadcast?
I entered Yale with the class of 1955 in the fall of 1951 and tried out for the Freshman Glee Club. I didn’t make it, but Fred Pratt welcomed me into the Freshman Chorus. Meanwhile, my love of sacred music led me to the Battell Chapel Choir and Luther Noss. I was one of only two freshmen in the choir, and I loved that group. In the five years I sang there, I heard the finest organ liturgical music played on the brand new Holtkamp organ, sang wonderful sacred music, and heard legendary preachers, including Paul Tillich, the Niehbur brothers, Bill Coffin, Harry Emerson Fosdick and others. That was the beginning of a nearly continuous run of church choir singing that I am still enjoying.
I tried out for the varsity club in sophomore year, but didn’t make it. That year, Fred Pratt took a fellowship in Europe. Meanwhile, I was having great academic problems with math, which affected my whole engineering program, and at the end of that year I flunked out. However, Dean Robley told me to work for a year and take night school courses, which I did. Working in New Haven, I was available to Luther Noss for the chapel choir, and he allowed me to sing and to get paid. This was particularly important to me because my dad was having severe financial problems. I was on my own from that time on, including future college expenses. I returned to Yale the following autumn with the class of 1956, paying for that year with my earnings from my year of outside work and working in the medical school as a machinist. Soon after my return, we heard that Fred Pratt had died of leukemia. I cut Saturday classes and joined a group of Yale friends to sing at his service in Memorial Church at Harvard. On the bus trip up, I learned Randall Thompson’s Alleluia, which I have never forgotten.
Junior year I tried again for the varsity, and didn’t make it. However, Pete Westermann, whom I had gotten to know in the Battell Chapel Choir, invited me to sing in the Apollo, which I did and enjoyed. Senior year I tried again for the varsity, and you let me in. I think I was the last person admitted. I enjoyed that year very much, and it was so important to me that I quit my outside job to make time to sing. Meanwhile, I borrowed the cost of my entire senior year from a local bank, for which my employer for the year I was out of school cosigned the loan. Highlights for me were learning the Hindemith Requiem, which retuned my ears for all time to the dissonance of 20th century music, and our trip around the United States that summer. Three memorable impressions from that trip were that people all over the United States were basically the same (I didn’t begin to understand regional differences until my much later travels with the space program). Also, learning the Mormon hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints” while flying from Denver to Salt Lake City, and looking down and trying to imagine what crossing that territory by wagon must have been like in the 1840’s. And then to sing that hymn in the Mormon Tabernacle to the Tabernacle Choir! I still relate that experience to people. And lastly, singing the Cowell Hymns and Fuging Tunes and the Martinu Field Mass at Tanglewood. Henry Cowell and I conversed for about 15 minutes, and I really appreciated his spending that time with me.
Well, I met my objectives: I got my engineering degree from Yale and I sang with the Yale Glee Club! However, I didn’t realize that was only the beginning. You invited me to sing with the University Glee Club, and we sang together for several years in the United Church Choir. During those “New Haven” years, I built two stereo systems for you, one for your Hendrie Hall office and one for your Sheffield St. home. Those were fun projects for me. I custom designed the speaker enclosures to match the characteristics of the speakers, and I learned a lot about acoustics from those projects. But more important to me was the boost you gave to my confidence by being an already an eminent person who trusted my engineering judgment to build something of value for you. I also remember with great pleasure your inviting me back in 1957 to sing the Bach B Minor with Connecticut College, and later to sing the second and third sections of the Messiah with the Litchfield County Choral Union at Norfolk. Those pieces still reside in my repertoire. You also invited me to join the Glee Club European tour in 1958, but I had to refuse because Carla and I were getting married and she did not want to share our honeymoon with 80 other guys! I finally got to take a Yale overseas singing trip in 1998 when the YAC went to China. Carla and I celebrated our 40th anniversary on that trip.
Fenno, I could go on and on, about glee club singing dinners, reunions, Heath family musicales in New Hartford, and YCOB festivals in Concord and Milton. But you get the idea. You admitted me to a very select and prestigious organization that has formed a significant part of my adult identity and has given me a lifetime of pleasure and satisfaction. It has also opened some amazing doors. Let me cite an example. In 1990 I was part of the first US engineering delegation to visit our counterparts in the Soviet space program. We were in Moscow visiting “Nauka” (“science” in Russian). They built the life support equipment aboard the Russian Mir Space station. Imagine the scene: we are in a hunter green and white conference room in a really grubby and run down factory in downtown Moscow, with a plaster bust of Lenin glowering down at us. A long table has been set with water and fruit, and we Americans are on one side, and the Russians are lined up in a row on the other side. After the formalities, no one knows what to say. After what seems like an embarrassingly long time, a Russian points to my Yale Glee Club key on my tie bar, and asks through his interpreter, “What is that?” I answer through my interpreter that as an undergraduate I was privileged to sing with the Yale University Glee Club. He replies that while in medical school in Leningrad, he had established the singing society there. That breaks the ice. We talk about choral music, and the rest becomes history. (Re Barty: the world needs less talking and more singing) I subsequently became the first US engineer to go aboard a Mir space station. There was a second flight unit used for training the cosmonauts at Star City. Our trip to Russia led ultimately to the US government’s inviting Russia to join the International Space Station program, and I subsequently led the effort to integrate their Orlan (Eagle) space suit into the space station. As you know, the Russian ability to resupply the station after the loss of the Shuttle Columbia has been absolutely critical in keeping that program alive. Over the years, my Russian colleagues and I have written several joint papers for international presentation, and recently we have each contributed to books about the development of our respective countries’ spacesuits. In 2001 YAC sang in Moscow, and I invited about 30 Russian friends to hear us in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. Joining my love of singing with the international space program has been very special for me.
This has been a long letter, but you and I have known each other for a long time, too. Thank you for being a teacher, inspiration and friend for more than 50 years.
Dick Wilde, 56E
after I moved to New Haven. I was alone - my family was still in
Michigan - but he was kind enough to invite me to breakfast shortly
after I arrived. Within seconds, we discovered two mutual affinities
- for the genius of Robert Shaw and for the children's literature of
Sandra Boynton! I have cherished his friendship, guidance and
encouragement every since.
All of us in the current Glee Club know that our beloved ensemble is
what it is today because of Fenno's inspired musicianship,
leadership, and love. For me personally, it is a privilege and an
honor to be a part of the tradition he nurtured for so many
years. Fortunately, music is a living art, and Fenno will continue
to live on in the Glee Club as long as we have voices to raise!
performances of major works in the literature. Fenno's passion for choral music permeated his life, but his influence reached far beyond the conductor's podium. He was a University citizen, a faculty member who loved this institution and relished its values. As President of the Friends of Music, his concern for students and their well-being was, for me, a memorable quality he brought to us in his retirement (though no one I knew ever considered him to be retired!).
In these days of reflection, we celebrate the many ways his life enriched us all. For Fenno and the gifts he brought to us, we are and shall be always grateful.
The Henry and Lucy Moses Dean of Music
Yale School of Music
My Yale experience owes much of its magic to you. Like several others have said, I loved the Yale Glee Club before I love Yale – I saw a performance as a high school student and dreamed of being part of such a wonderful group. Fenno, you were an inspirational mentor. At my 20th reunion, after spending the first 10-15 minutes in a rehearsal with you, it all came back to me! The way you could inspire good but not great singers to make great music, to bring a piece to life. You let me sing, solo, accompany, conduct and do many things I’m not sure I was really talented enough to do. But I LOVED every minute of it. I think of you often, and will continue to do so for many years to come. Thank you for everything.
Please accept my most heartfelt condolences. Fenno was a truly remarkable and inspiring man. The first time I met him was at my audition in 1982, as a nervous sophomore who was somewhat lacking in confidence. Going in to the audition, I was almost sure I wouldn’t make the Glee Club. Fenno’s encouraging words and his warmth out me immediately at ease and somehow I did well enough to get in. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Glee Club under Fenno. He had that memorable quality of being, at once, a perfectionist and a person of deep humanity and kindness. He was a legend that will be remembered always.
I will keep him and the rest of the family in my prayers.
Yale Glee Club 1982-85
As I've scrolled through this blog, I'm reminded how this one person moved us with his passion for the music, his devotion to YGC, and his love for us. Herein, I see not only the names of beautiful songs, but also the names of so many dear friends -- some near, some far. It was Fenno who brought us together and kept bringing us back: all wanting another chance to sing Biebl's "Ave Maria" and another opportunity to be conducted by every fiber of Fenno's being (including his jowls). What a tremendous, joyous legacy.
As we give thanks for the gift of this extraordinary man, my prayers are with Carol and the entire Heath family. Godspeed and God bless.
Hal Chen '91
Thank you for nurturing and supporting such a great light, so that so many of us could be illuminated by it over the years. It is a continuing inspiration to me that your love and support only intensified once Fenno receded from the limelight; it is good to see that love returned in all the posts from thousands of people he has touched. I once told Fenno, just before I left New Haven, that I had had only two or three heroes in my life; my father was one of them and he was another. I've long felt privileged to be part of your extended family; I stand ready to assist you in any way that will bring comfort in these difficult times.