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 10, 2008
For spine-tingling moments I recall, during the YGC’s 1963 European Tour, singing Bruckner’s “Christus Factus Est” on the stairs to the crypt of Bruckner’s own church in Austria. I have sung it many times since, but have never forgotten what 70 singers in sync with each other can do in the right space! Fenno prepared us, conducted us, and inspired us.
He contributed, as did Marshall Bartholomew and others before him, to a Yale tradition possibly unique in collegiate choral music: a core repertoire of Yale songs that have stayed in repertoire across generations. As freshmen, we were expected to learn a body of songs and to be able to sing them anytime, anywhere – which we often did, with enthusiasm, and still do in bars and train stations and public spaces all over the world. At Yale Singing Dinners graduates from the 1930’s through the current year can share a common heritage – many of us without referring to printed music because the legacy is intact and ingrained. This made the Yale Glee Club Associates a realistic link across the years and ensured the Yale Alumni Chorus would be a success from the start. Wherever Yale choral singing is heard, Fenno Heath is in the air and our hearts.
John T Hanold 1964
62 Prospect St
Turners Falls MA 01376-1305
I was one of the fortunate sixty to accompany Fenno on the YGC's first
World Tour in 1965. How was I to know that that trip would set off a
life-long wanderlust, including living overseas for a dozen years? And
during that time, I was able to host three YGC singers when they
visited Hong Kong during the second World Tour.
Easily the artistic highlight of my life was the evening in Calcutta
when we sang Thomas Vittoria's Ave Maria--all of us first tenors
stretching for the high A# in the intonation, triple piano, before
settling back into the comfort of the basses and baritones behind us:
Gratia Plena indeed. And then the amazing moment happened. As we
reached the Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Fenno, who (in my memory, at
least) always conducted so precisely, who always surrounded himself
with our voices by standing close within our semi-circle, who always
had his head slightly cocked, listening, listening, who spread his
arms no wider than his shoulders when he wanted a good strong forte----
I write through tears now----suddenly took three long strides back,
his arms outstretched to their full extent and his hands shaking with
the impatience and encouragement of the deepest moment, his head
raised, and his face beaming. And out poured, rolled, soared the
Sancta Maria, mater dei. I think we were shocked, released, overcome.
I dared not look to see how many of us had been plunged into tears,
but I felt Ralph's hands clutching at my back for support. We sang, it
seemed, without having to breathe, and the sound was so pure and
effortless it seemed we had become the prayer itself.
At the end, when the seven-fold amen decayed into silence, Fenno bowed
on our behalf, and not one person in the Indian audience of some
thousands intruded on the prayer by applauding. We faced each other,
we and the audience, for minutes, it seemed, before we acquiesced and
continued with the concert.
That morning, on a guided tour, we passed a corpse in the street. I
was so distressed that, by the time we reached Bombay several days
later, I kept poor Dr. Joe up all night caring for me.
But the evening of that morning--the concert. On one day, then, I
learned some sense of the depth and height I might be capable of. The
day became the model for my artistic life, the last test, and the
Thanks for that, Fenno. Thanks for that.
Peter Stambler, '66
One afternoon in New Haven sixty-one years ago (in the fall of 1947), I dropped in for a haircut at the barber shop next to George and Harry’s on Wall Street. In the chair, already being served, was Fenno Heath. We knew each other, slightly.
The result of that chance meeting was an agreement to merge our vocal groups--Fenno’s being the well-established quartet, the Yale Blues, and mine being the remnants of the Elm Street Eight--into a revived and upgraded Elm Street Eight. This was the beginning of a long and wonderful friendship with a fellow who has been my mentor and musical soul-brother ever since.
Though I had the beginnings of a personal vocal arranging style, the next year was an education for me, as I learned many tricks of the trade from the songs Fenno wrote or arranged, including “Boogie Man” and “Over the Rainbow.”
Thanks again to Fenno, we made an alliance with Carol’s group at Smith College, the “Smithereens.” Over the months, we wore deep tracks in Highway 10 between New Haven and Northampton, and sang several joint arrangements, calling ourselves the “Sweet Sixteen.” I especially remember Fenno’s arrangement of “Heat Wave” and how much fun it was to sing.
As we all know, anyone who influences an activity that is above-all in enjoyment is, at the same time, changing all your life for the better. An “above-all” for me is music; Fenno helped me achieve that.
And I was rewarded in another important way: I was asked to be an usher in Fenno’s and Carol’s wedding!
Since those times, I have spent the intervening decades arranging and composing, with various efforts sung by many groups, from the Whiffs to the Kingsingers, the Belgian Radio Choir, and the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, and the Colorado group Wally Collins and I organized, the New Wizard Oil Combination. And there were the medleys of Gershwin and Cole Porter for the Yale Glee Club--the latter, of course, at Fenno’s gracious invitation. I treasure the recordings of those medleys, done under Fenno’s direction.
And all of the above goes back to that chance encounter in the barber shop!
I am sure that there will be remembrances from the members of SLOT. I have never been a full-time member of SLOT, but I am aware of the leadership and training Fenno gave the SLOT guys, and how much that has meant to SLOT in terms of vocal quality and enjoyment, and in their efforts to record all the many Whiffenpoof songs that had not yet been put on record. Whenever you hear SLOT, you will be the beneficiary of Fenno’s leadership.
Shamefully, I have gotten near the end of this essay without having already saluted Fenno for his 37-year leadership of the Yale Glee Club and for his many compositions. (I recall especially his setting of William Blake poems.)
To say that with Fenno’s passing, there is an end of an era--that is an egregious understatement. Fondly remembered and sorely missed. That’s Fenno.
Ed Wolff, Boulder, Colorado, December 8, 2008
Dear Carol and family,
We were so sorry to hear of Fenno’s death. Please know that his memory lives on in so very many people and that his passion for music continues to inspire generations of singers, conductors, instrumentalists, and on and on.
We will be thinking of you all during this season and wishing you peace.
Vince Edwards and Rodney Ayers
MM ’93 and MM/MAR ‘93
Director of Music
St. Paul's on the Green
60 East Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06851
Tel: (203) 847-2806
Fax: (203) 847-5818
A few years back while I was watching a program on Public Television
about the Nazi's favorite marching tunes, to my great surprise I
recognized the Yale song "Bright College Years". I immediately called
Fenno at Cornish, NH, alas I did not realize it was almost midnight.
Fenno answered the phone and politely he said: Moshe it must be
something urgent for you to call so late. Embarrassed as I was, I
asked Fenno about the Nazi's favorite melody. Fenno patiently
explained to me that Yale came first. In 1835 a certain German
musician came to Yale and he imported with him some of the favorite
German tunes. Words were added and thus became "Bright College
Years". Fenno told me the difficulty they had during a concert tour
in Europe (in the 50's or 60's?) when the Yale Glee Club got booed
singing "Bright College Years". We had to stop singing our song at
the end of the concert, said Fenno, lest we will be harmed by the
This wonderful Fenno story is etched in my mind and it reminds me the
wonderful and loving gentleman and a scholar that Fenno was. As Lucy
had witnessed, as a student of musics I was a total failure. But the
Heath family still accepted me and I consider myself lucky to have
shared life with such a wonderful giant, his loving wife Carol and
Professor of Physics
10th December 2008
10th December 2008
Dear Carol and family,
Music has always played an essential part in my life, since I sneaked into my parish's children's choir a year early, throughout junior and senior high school, and, most importantly, at Yale, where, after a concert by the Whiffs during my first weekend on campus in the fall of '68, I knew "what I wanted to be when I grew up" (the group of '71 must have spent days finding my nickname)!
Then I heard Fenno directing a YGC concert! The power, precision, and nuances that Fenno drew from the (still all-male) group through a wide range of styles and eras was the proof for me that music was the most profound way for me to feel and express emotion. Fenno's passion was contagious! His elegance, humor, glowering glance when we didn't give him the attention or effort he demanded for Musicdissolving into a pleased smile or, when we were really "in harmony" with him and the piece being performed, a face uplifted, eyes shut, in a moment of ecstasy (and, yes, sometimes with tears)is something none of us will forget.
As "bursary boy" in the Glee Club office for 3 years, I often heard Fenno in his office spending uncounted hours working on compositions and arrangements. As part of the Alley Cat mafia (Fred Weber, Charlie Gates, Mark Fulford) putting together the 1970 SATB YGC European Tourboy, did Fenno have his arranging work cut out for him!I spent more time than usual in the office and witnessed his commitment to making the transition to a mixed chorus a success. Having such a limited number of women to choose from for the needed voices, it was an especially difficult task. But, the tour produced some miracles (for me, it was Vespers in Westminster Abbey with the Randall Thompson(?) Alleluja coming to a climax just as the sun finally broke through the rose window of the Abbey). Who of us can forget the Beethoven Ninth with Stokowski at Carnegie Hall (weeks of rehearsal with Fenno, then a rehearsal with Stokowski in Hendri Hall where I reached absolute nirvana for nearly five timeless minutesand understood why a real musician like Fenno could devote his entire life to such a passion)?
After graduation I became very ill with Crohn's disease, but, 10 years later, during my doctoral studies at UNC/Chapel Hill, I discovered a men's singing group, the Pitchforks, next door at Duke U., founded by Yalies, former Morse Dean Ben Ward and Dr. Frank Block, and found that I was still a 1st Tenor (who knew all the repertoire, since it all came from the Yale groupsI did put my foot down, 'tho, when someone suggested singing the Whiffenpoof song!).
Nearly 10 years later I found here in Paris a men's chorus (directed my first year by David Hogan, a gifted composer and tenor soloist at the American Episcopal Cathedralwe lost him in the crash of TWA 800 at the end of our first U.S. tour in '96). That fantastic all-male sound, combined with David's, and now John Dawkins' uncompromising search for excellence, knowing that his singers can deliver, reminds me so much of Fenno's passion. I brought out my well-used Yale Songbook for both David and John to peruse. If David chose his own arrangement of Biebl's Ave Maria, John's interpretation of Shenandoah (with much coaching from me, requested or not, to achieve Fenno-style endless, "make them strain to listen" fade-outsor, in gloriously bombastic music, the "blast their socks off longer than anyone thinks possible" YGC ending) brought me back to that uncompromising search for excellenceand it's rewardsthat Fenno instilled in methe gift of a lifetime!
Fenno touched so many people's lives and gave so many the most precious gift, the means to express one's passion. He will be sorely missed but will remain with us forever.
With my deepest condolences,
Gantcho Anthony Gavriloff TC '72; Past Secy. Gen., Yale Club of France 1987-2001
Freshman Glee Club, Yale Alley Cats, Yale Glee Club, Whiffs ("Havetrunwill") '72
P.S.: I egged on YGC Co-Presidents Bob Bonds and Ellen Marshall (among others) to do something to freshen up the paint in the Glee Club room. I certainly did not expect the colors chosen by Bob, I believe, but we worked 'til 2:00 a.m. two nights in a row to finish what we could. Years later, after the room had been completely repainted, I admit to being relieved that the "Super Fenno" purple door had been left intactperhaps Bob Bonds has a photo.
1. Adagio for Strings (Barber)
2. Air for the G String (Bach)
3. Dona Nobis Pacem (Bach)
4. Nimrod Variation (Elgar)
5. Mathis der Maler 1st Movement (Hindemith)
6. O Magnum Mysterium (Lauridsen)
7. Nanie (Brahms)
8. Short Ride on a Fast Machine (Adams)
9. Symphony #1 3rd movement (Schostakowitsch)
10. Things Ain't What They Used To Be (M. Ellington)
11. The Folks Who Live On The Hill
12. L'il Darlin' (Hefti)
He revered Paul Hindemith and Bach. John Rutter. From Bach to John Adams...Rob McConnell, Diana Krall, The King's Singers, and Mel Torme.
I am with you still - I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone -
I am with you still - in each new dawn.
May your Heart always carry a joyful song.
Remember that you are Blessed -
each day by the Love that lives all around you.
"I'm sorry about the mishap. I bet you right now your Dad is dancing in Heaven."
"I'm sorry for your sadness, but it will get better along the "Road that is Calling". (reference to our favorite Heath family round, The Road is Calling)
"I know your heart is broken into half notes, so I hope your heart will go back to a whole note soon."
~Peggy Heath Ogilvy
Baltimore. I went with my family. It was only the second time they had experienced Yale - the first being when they delivered me to Phelps Gate in September. Needless to say, the concert was breathtaking. None of us had ever heard choral singing like that. I was so proud of being
a Yale Man. Years later, when I finally did start singing, I think it was partly because of the memory of watching Fenno and hearing the Yale Glee Club.