There is only one thing I truly regret about the otherwise very positive decision I made after leaving Yale to become Sabbath-observant. It has become very difficult to stay in touch with the YGCA and the YAC, because so much of the alumnus activity occurs (understandably) on Saturdays. So those who know me from Yale haven't seen me much, I haven't made many Singing Dinners, and I just couldn't manage to get to New Haven for the memorial service. But no one should mistake that for not caring, and I'd like to share just a few thoughts about Fenno with everyone.
To start, Fenno played the single most important role in making music important in my life. I'm sure that's not a novel idea, but since everyone's story is different, I'll share mine. When I came to Yale, I was a decently experienced choral singer, and was a fairly talented cantor (prayer leader) for a teenager. Still, I don't know that I was really a musician, and I do know that I had fairly little contact with the broad canon of choral music, so much of it Christian in orientation. (OK, I could teach the pronunciation of Chichester Psalms. There are compensations.) Under Fenno's tutelage, I became a musician, a singer, and comfortable with music from a broad range of cultures, languages and traditions.
Fenno really took me under his wing. He gave me a semester of tutorial in choral conducting – with me an engineering major! – and using Brahms' Requiem as a launch pad taught me a great deal about what makes choral music – and any other music – really work. He filled in the details (around so much already learned in rehearsals) about how to get a group of singers to do what you want. Most important, he taught me, and all of us, how to work hard at what you want, but also how to live life to the fullest, and to love what you do with your life.
I share many of the memories that others have shared. One I didn't see was about Fenno's eating habits (at least in the 1980s): I never met someone who salted his prime rib before eating it until I saw Fenno do that at Mory's at the officer dinner in the fall of 1980. But to me, that was part and parcel of Fenno – a man who, as conventional and traditional as he was sometimes, marched to the beat of his own drummer. It was hard not to be bound up in that enthusiasm.
I haven't done much choral singing lately, and the posts that I have read about the joy of participating is making me reconsider doing some more this fall. My main musical contributions these days is as a lay cantor in synagogue. Most of my fellow congregants consider me fairly capable at that, and while Fenno obviously didn't teach me the prayers and melodies, he played a part in this as well. I learned from
Fenno how to combine my musicianship with my religious service in a way that did not compromise the integrity of either one, but rather allowed them to work synergistically together. That is a gift which, in my view, is truly priceless.
Carol, Sarah, Lucy, Peggy, Terry and families: I don't pretend to miss your husband, father and grandfather as much as you do. But he had an enormous influence on me and many, many others, and we miss him, too.
May Fenno's memory be for blessing, and may his soul be bound in eternal life.
Yours in friendship,
Steven J. White, '81
Manager, 1981 Glee
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