Today in My History2000: Lions & Tigers & Grants, Oh My
2001: Love Story
2002: Out of the Closet
2003: Attack of the Killer Brownies
2004: How RU 2Day?
2005: Flurry of Activity
2006: Back to Reality
2007: The Pitter Patter of Little Feet
2008: Feeling Crabby
IN MY OPINION
Books Read in 2009
"The Thunderbolt Kid"
Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
VIDEO OF THE DAY / WEEK / WHATEVER
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THE EMPTY MUSIC STAND
23 March 2009
It was July of 1986 and in the orchestra pit of Presentation Theatre, the conductor's music stand stood empty, with a baton on it, while the orchestra played the overture to HMS Pinafore, without a conductor, a traditional way to honor a conductor who has died, the orchestra playing a piece that it knows well enough to play without a leader.
It was the memorial service for my friend Gilbert Russak, the music director for the Lamplighters and conductor for the orchestra. The orchestra would continue to play throughout the memorial service, but with a conductor, Alan Harvey, a long time member of the Lamplighters and music teacher at Piedmont High School, who stepped in to conduct the rest of the run of Yeomen of the Guard and, later, to become Managing Director of the company itself.
It wasn't Gilbert's conductor's stand that stood empty at the Alan L. Harvey Theatre on the grounds of Piedmont High School today, it was Alan's.
Throughout the memorial service for our friend, who died in January, a spotlight shone down on the conductor's stand, another good person who has left us far too soon.
It was a moving tribute, filled with more music and laughter than tears, but which gathered together people from all parts of Alan's life. Students he had taught at Piedmont High during his 19 years there, parents of students he had taught, people from The Lamplighters, where he worked full time for three years before taking a position as Executive Director of the Festival of the Arts, the Performing Arts Alliance, and a professor of music and drama at Foothilll College, later Dean of the Fine Arts and Communications Division until his retirement two years ago. Foothill College had held its own memorial service for him earlier this year.
After his retirment, he moved to Carson City, Nevada where he performed with the Carson Valley Pops, the Washoe Valley Woodwind Quintet, the Toccata Choir and played viola and flute with the Carson Valley Symphony. But he missed teaching and so in the fall of 2008, he came out of retirement to become instrumental and vocal music teacher at Incline High School. There was also a memorial service in Carson City earlier this year.
If there was ever a doubt about the effect that one man can have on the human race, all one had to do was to listen to the people who spoke at the memorial, talking about how "Harv" (as the Piedmont people knew him) had changed their lives.
This was a "gentleman" in every sense of the word, yet he left a profound legacy, and countless people whose lives were touched and in some way changed, or at least shaped, by their encounter with him.
There was, of course, lots of music including the ubiquitous "Three Little Maids" from The Mikado
performed by former students (Piedmont High did lots of Gilbert & Sullivan in the Alan Harvey years!), as well as a piece from The Gondoliers sung by Lamplighters
The MC for the event was Austin Tichenor. I never knew Austin well, but his brother John was in the Lamplighters Something's Afoot (about which I wrote in 2003), a show which had a profound impact on everyone who was involved, so the high point of the afternoon, for me, was seeing John and getting caught up again, if briefly. (John and brother Austin are featured on the Video of the Day in a number from 1776).
Austin also did a number from Iolanthe with the Lamplighters' Jim McIlvaine (one of the organizers of the Memorial) and David Stein.
The ceremonies ended with a rousing rendition of the Halleluja Chorus. We all had sheet music to join along, but it had been literally decades since I'd read sheet music and I'm an alto, so sight reading it was pretty much impossible for me, so I just listened while the rest of the gathered audience filled the theatre with glorious Handel music. Alan would have loved it.
I hate going to memorial services. It seems we attend too many of them and even when they are real celebrations, as this one was, it's still a reminder that we have lost someone else very special.
But if you can look back on the difference the honoree made in so many people's lives, as Alan did, it makes you feel good for having been able to say "this was my friend and I'm so glad to have had him as part of my life."
PHOTO OF THE DAY
"When words fail, we speak through music"
MILES TO NOWHERE: 103 miles