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
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Dear Fenno: My thoughts are with you, Carol and your whole family. I hope you realize that during your time in this world you truly made a difference, not only through the music that you so brilliantly conducted and composed, but also by enabling the many true and lasting friendships that came about between and among the members of the Yale Glee Club over which you presided for so many wonderful years. Thank you for your friendship as well, and for your leadership and inspiration, which I can assure you will not be forgotten as long as any of us who were fortunate enough to know and sing with you are around.
Mark Fittipaldi, ' 72
Friday, February 6, 2009
The World Wide Web is amazing. Just found this post from 'alto artist' on HER blog. Incredible reading about her memories of Fenno at Yale
758. "Let the short-lived hours speed, running smoothely, quickly by."
My 21st birthday, many years ago, was a strange day. I was a junior at Yale, and the entire East Coast had just suffered a freak early-April blizzard. I remember trudging through piles of snow in the morning to get to my my painting studio, and then clumsily tipping over a jar of turpentine on the bench where I sat in front of my canvas. I was wearing layers and layers of clothing (the studio, maybe to make us feel more like real starving artists, wasn't heated), so barely noticed at first. But turpentine is evil. It seeped through all the fabric and suddenly, an hour later, the skin on my left leg was in agonizing pain. I left the studio and made it back across town in blinding snow to my dorm, where I stood under a shower for many minutes in hopes that cool water would ease my distress. It didn't. I then hiked over to the undergrad health services building, where I joined a long line of sniffling students with hacking coughs. I gave up after an hour and instead headed to a local pharmacy, where I bought every kind of aloe and salve I could find, slathered it on my thigh, and went back to my room for a fitful nap.
That evening, leg wrapped in a bandage, I limped over to the Yale Glee Club office where 80 people sang "Happy Birthday" and then voted me in as their next manager. I heard their voices and forgot all the pain. (And my leg ended up being just fine.) Thus began a year, culminating in a tour of Europe with the group, my first time overseas, that would teach me how to start being an adult--and that music was as necessary as breathing to live life fully.
I remembered this moment in the wake of great sadness: Fenno F. Heath, Jr., conductor of the Glee Club during my tenure, and anyone else's who was lucky to be a member between the years of 1953 and 1992, passed away peacefully last Friday at 6:12 pm at the age of 81. I never before realized how much his philosophy was similar to that of the rabbis at my synagogue: give music freely, and it will repair the world. So much of my spiritual life--chanting Torah, helping lead services--as well as my work life, has its origin in what I learned from Fenno: work hard and be good at what you do. And do it with your whole heart. I'm pretty sure the voice I often hear in my head when chanting ("Don't go flat!") is his.
Forty years' worth of Glee Club members have been sharing our memories, and I added a few of my own:
I loved how Fenno would begin "'Neath the Elms." Just a little flick of the wrist in our direction--"Go!" As if to say: I gave you all the tools, and now it's your job. Don't worry, I'll help. But you lucky people get to do most of it.
Singing, since Yale, has remained my biggest hobby--in 25 years I've never been without an opportunity to raise my voice in the company of others, and owe much of this addiction to my Glee Club experience. I've had some terrific conductors, but can honestly say that none came close to Fenno for the passion and drive to excellence he managed to instill in us all, always with good humor and the reminder that this was, above all, fun. From Fenno I learned that a well-lived life must have two often-overlapping parts: singing, and everything else.
I spent an hour last Friday afternoon reading the beautiful words everyone has shared and then, as usual, went to Friday evening services at my synagogue. I belong to a congregation where prayer is always in the form of music--they subscribe completely to Fenno's exhortation that there's too much talking going on. But as I walked in, a little after 6:00 pm, my heart was heavy with the loss I knew this world would soon bear, and I wondered how I could sing of the joy that the Sabbath brings. Then I heard everyone's voices in harmony around me, and realized that if I learned one thing from Fenno it was that when given the chance to sing, take it. The outcome would always be good and healing. I bet Fenno was standing in front of the heavenly choir at that very moment and telling them the same thing.
Posted by alto artist at 12:54 PM
Labels: death, Judaism, music, visiting old places
Regina Clare Jane said...
aa, this was a beautiful tribute to your conductor, Mr. Heath- thank you. It was nice hearing a little of your history, too. :)
And... I am sorry for your loss, my friend...
alto artist said...
Thank you so very much. It's amazing how one person can have such an effect on one's life--and how we often don't fully understand until years later.
In memory of Fenno Heath, 1926-2008
Fenno Heath, legendary conductor of the Yale Glee Club from 1953-1992, passed away on December 5. His family has set up a website with many more wonderful stories and memories of him.
On hearing the sad news of Fenno’s passing, I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts, tell a couple of stories of Fenno, and hopefully honor him a little bit, as best as anyone can. For new Glee Clubbers: Fenno Heath was our conductor from the 1950s through the 1990s. If any one person could embody the Yale Glee Club, Fenno would be he. He made the courageous leap to bring women into the group; he brought the group on numerous tours abroad, including to China (I believe the group's first China tour ever); he arranged and even composed for the group extensively (hence the Fenno Heath Award for new Yale songs); and most importantly, he did it all with a spirit of genuine, hardy big-heartedness.
I can't claim to have any Glee Club memories from before 2005, but in my time in the Glee Club, we did get the lucky chance to sing under Fenno's baton twice. The first time was my sophomore year, when Fenno came to hear a rehearsal for the Commencement concert, and, at the end, conduct us in "'Neath the Elms." He had a special motion for asking more from the basses: he put his left hand down low, and mimed a very, very strong grip. Later, this motion was jokingly known in the bass and tenor sections as the "more guts, men!" motion; but in all seriousness, what Fenno showed us that day is that if you do something, you should take it seriously, and do it with fortitude, and courage – that fun, joy and togetherness are to be found not in spite of those qualities, but because of them.
The other time we sung under Fenno was my freshman year, at the 145th anniversary alumni reunion (these reunions come once every five years, and they're amazing; the 150th is in 2010-11). We had a concert with the pre-1969 men's alumni chorus, followed by the post-1969 mixed alumni chorus, and then the current Glee Club, in Woolsey Hall. At the very end, all the groups sang a set of songs together, with Fenno conducting: the current Glee Club on stage, and all the alumni in the first floor seats, filling nearly to the back of Woolsey.
Our first song was "We Meet Again Tonight, Friends" -- which, prior to 1969, had been called, "We Meet Again Tonight, Boys." It was Fenno who originally took a stand and changed the name of the song, knowing that making all different kinds of people (in this case, women in particular) at home in the Glee Club would be impossible if any traces of the old patriarchy remained. Just so, when Fenno conducted us my freshman year, he showed that same blend of courage and kindness. Before he raised his baton, he smiled, and said, "Now, remember ... friends." We all laughed, and he laughed too – and then we launched into singing; and we truly were friends, united by mirth, by song, and by the wisdom of Fenno Heath.
We all can continue to honor Fenno by infusing our singing -- and every action of our lives -- with these values. Every concert, and every small act we do, will be a chance to keep Fenno's good character alive, and to make him proud.
-Noah Lawrence SY '09
Posted by YALE GLEE CLUB BLOG
Dad adored and looked forward to his YAC experience each year during his retirement from the YGC. All of the Heaths enjoyed attending, including various grandchildren.
Long Live the YGC AND the YAC!
You have always been my most favorite choral conductor, the perfect blend of person, musician and teacher, who always welcomed every singer of any level of ability as a friend. I originally came from the instrumental side of the music world, and when I took your choral conducting class you used to call me the 'band director' until I took your teachings to heart. The Glee Club sound has inspired some of my own work. I only sang in the Glee Club in my Senior year, but the ever expanding Glee Club world (Associates, YAC, etc.) has grown to be the main way I connect to Yale. It has truly been a pleasure.
David Barnett '78
Dear Fenno and family,
I have just been reading the postings on the blog and am overwhelmed. Fenno was
such a big part of so many of our lives at Yale, and I just can't imagine
the place without him. I am so grateful for the day I got up the courage to go
put my name on the audition list at Hendrie Hall - and that I was blessed with
such a common name. I might not have made the Glee Club had I not been the
third Susan Williams to try out. My time in the Glee Club is one of my fondest
memories of Yale. Fenno, you were a mentor and a friend and I will miss you. And
yes, we are all sorry about the time a group of us talked our way into some
museum in some Midwestern town by promising to sing in front of the I-max screen
and you told us we should not advertise ourselves as the Yale Glee Club unless
all of us were there. Peace and love.
Susan (Louise) Williams '86
Composer, conductor, teacher (with the greatest of teacher's gifts, as others have noted, the ability to know every one of us as individuals and recall us decades later without the slightest hesitation), colleague, friend, husband and father-- there's also Fenno the arranger. At a Whiff reunion some years back, three alums took the stage to announce that in the car on the way, they had found that Fenno's arrangement of "September Song" worked even with one part missing. They proceeded to knock us all out by showing how very true that was. By way of explanation, their spokesman observed, "Well, it's Fenno". No more needed to be said.
Now the heavenly choirs are pulling up their socks, clearing their throats, and getting ready to sing as they've never sung before. Fenno and family, I hope you are feeling the love and the gratitude just pouring in.
Lewis Girdler, '61
I'm so saddened to hear this news. Many of my happiest memories of Yale are of rehearsing and singing in the Glee Club under Fenno. He set high musical standards and always did it with great charm, warmth, and humor. He brought out our best, gave us wonderful musical experiences, and made everyone in the Glee Club feel both welcomed and essential. Everyone who sang under Fenno will miss him very much. My thoughts are with Fenno, Carol, and their family as shepherd Fenno toward his next great journey.
Class of 1977
It is unimaginable to me that I will not have another opportunity to tease Fenno by counting the number of Fenno's citations of Robert Shaw during a rehearsal. I think the greatest number of citations was somewhere around 20. Fenno is a fixture of choral singing for me--the person who made choral singing an important, permanent piece of my life. My life would have been very different---and much less rich---without him.
Lisa K. Catapano-Friedman '73
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Judy and I are sitting here in the sunshine and thinking about the
inestimable value and significance of your life; what you have given
all of us in your orbit in appreciating and making music that is
distinctly “Fenno” – challenging, sophisticated and cutting-edge; and so beautiful. You’ve given it to us, multiplied exponentially as we take it with enthusiasm to the various places of our lives.
I’ll always remember the boost you gave me in conducting “Unity” in
Milton and later lowering the boom on “Freedom” until I patched it up into more-or-less singable shape; or responding to a new piece with “That’s unfortunate – sounds like Michel Legrand.” (for me, a towering compliment!)
We’ve just completed a recording of four pieces and hoped you’d be the first to hear it outside the participants. I’ve unabashedly used the piquant sevenths and ninths learned from the master.
With healing love to you and your wonderful family,
"Fenno. The definition…of a great conductor, a great teacher, and a great man, kind and good."
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