I sang in Anne’s chamber choir all four years of college. I think it might have been the most enriching artistic experience of my life, and my college years certainly would not have been the same without it. I have many things to thank her for, foremost of which is introducing me to some fantastically beautiful music, and teaching me to listen to it, as well as sing it. I’m sure anyone lucky enough to have sung with her, been coached by her, or studied in her music class would concur. Her ear for how a piece should be sung: in what voice, which sections should stand out from the others and when in order to “tell the story” more clearly, how to keep from going flat when singing in French—was masterly. Perhaps these are all prerequisites for musical directors, but it’s surprising how many professional choirs sing Rachmaninov as if it were Mozart, or Palestrina as if it were Poulenc, or why some of them bring out the tenors in Russian music when the bassos clearly have the melody (that is if one should ever bring out the tenors over the bassos in Russian music).
Anne also taught me a lesson for which I’m grateful. Sometimes she reproached me for not having continued my music studies after college. She asked me once a few years ago, “How could you treat music like it’s this thing you can dabble with and then throw away, like it’s not worthy of a place in your life?” I bring this up because for me it was a new way of thinking about art—it is not just something to amuse yourself with while you pursue things you respect more; an art form such as music is something towards which one has a responsibility, like a person, or a political cause—not to be treated lightly. People often talk of theatre and responsibility, but the context is usually that of rescuing that art form from failure-by-inanition, or that of an artist’s responsibility to the audience, to move, to educate, to provoke. Anne was speaking of music as though it were itself a human being with a soul and dignity, and that to love it meant to honor it somehow—through continued consideration, examination, participation. It is not just something to entertain yourself with when nothing’s on TV, but something requiring an active and sustained, intellectual as well as emotional (and physical, for practitioners), study. I believe she felt music to be as much of an educator as are books, and that to disrespect it is to let a major aspect of one’s self, of one’s soul, atrophy. It might say something more about my own retardation that I hadn’t considered this until given a talking-to in my mid-twenties; nevertheless, I’m grateful that Anne was as critical as she was generous, and taught me this lesson unasked, which she did over chocolate martinis at Geronimo, a posh restaurant in Santa Fe where we sometimes went when we wanted to feel glamorous and get drunk.
She was also one of the funniest people I’ve known, and her humor added another delightful aspect to our rehearsals, which were never without laughter. I shall miss her.