The words of the post title are from a Ricky Ian Gordon song, “What shall we remember?” which I am set to sing on the August 11 recital down here. The text of this song took a personal and poignant turn yesterday when I lost my Granddaddy.
Heh. “Lost,” as if I could possibly misplace him, as if he will ever again be farther from me than in my heart and mind and memory. I was his “Number 4,” an honorary title referring to my place as their fourth “daughter.” He was my kindred spirit, my buddy, my biggest fan, and I think I was his.
I lived with him and Mamma for a year in college, my senior year, so they got to watch, up close and personal, as I took the scary step from education to performance major. They watched me fight my way through my senior recital and sing my first opera, but their proudest moment might have been watching me sing the UGA Alma Mater at my graduation in Sanford Stadium. I was also so happy to have been able to sing with the Atlanta Symphony and to have him in the audience, and to have been able to sing at the Met, knowing that he was watching from a movie theater in Georgia!
Whenever I’m asked if I come from a family of musicians, I usually talk about how musical everyone is, how I grew up singing in church with my family (The Bird Family Singers, complete with guitar and rounds and matching outfits. Kidding about the outfits… kind of.), and how our family name likely was given to us years ago because of our singing voices. It’s a running joke on the Pabor side of the family that I most certainly did not get my voice from Granddaddy (that comes from my Granddad Bird), but he was totally comfortable with his musical “gifts!” When I spoke to him on Saturday, after he entered the hospital, his voice was terribly raspy and gravelly; even then, in such a state, he could joke about how he would “never be a high soprano” and that he would leave that to me.
He did make music, though, and passed along his love and passion for it to me. He played the clarinet from early on in life and even wanted to be a band leader a là Tommy Dorsey, but he had to go to war instead. He picked the clarinet up again throughout his life and as recently as last year was playing in the Classic City Band in Athens, GA. When I first heard Schubert’s “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen” (The Shepherd on the Rock), a gorgeous piece for soprano, piano and clarinet, I dreamed about singing it with him. (Read about it and listen to a recording here.) I’m talking with someone about singing that on a concert series in NYC next spring; if it happens, I will be dedicating the performance to Granddaddy.
But more than any of this, Granddaddy just plain loved music. He was embarrassed that beautiful music would make him cry; I probably got my proclivity for being quick to tears from him, as did my mom. He was touched by beautiful things, and I loved him for it. I love him for it.What shall we remember of the ones me miss?
Dear friend, pain in my heart,
I won’t be afraid if we’re meant to part.
Some things have to end before they ever start.
What shall we remember?