Friday, January 25, 2008
This is a picture of my big brother, Gaylen, and me. I called him "Brother," because for many years I thought that was his name. He hung out hundreds of my diapers on the clothesline for our mom, he carried me around on his back, he paid me pennies and nickles to smell his feet and scratch his back. I first time I ever heard Mairzy Doats and Dozey Doats was when he sang it, drying dishes after supper one evening. I thought it was the funniest song in the world. He built model airplanes and hung them from the ceilings all over the house. There was a perpetual smell of balsa wood and model glue. He flew them in circles over the desert with our cousin Billy. He learned to play the trumpet. He listened to Stan Kenton jazz records, and to Woody Herman, subscribed to Downbeat and Metronome magazines.
Walkin' with my baby, she got great big feet...
Caldonia! Caldonia! What makes your big head so hard? Hunh!
That was the second funniest song in the world.
He said he wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, and fly real airplanes. He bought his own plane with money he earned reading gas meters, and took flying lessons. But when he went away to college, he studied music, and became a performer and a composer, and a teacher. Igor Stravinsky liked Woody Herman's scat and screech Caldonia too, so much, in fact, that he wrote music for Herman's band. WHen my brother composed his own music, years later, much of it echoed the sound of Stravinsky. For his PHD at the University of Utah, my brother wrote music for a ballet gala, performed by the U of U Ballet (which became Ballet West), That piece, TOXCATL, based on Aztec history during the periodic "War of the Flowers," was no doubt inspired and influenced by Stravinsky. This is where he met my sister-in-law, Marianne, a ballerina with the company. They married and had four children, two boys and two girls. He played French Horn with the Utah Symphony under Maestro Maurice Abravanel for years.
He set a poem I wrote when I was seventeen to music for a 75 voice choir, performed and recorded with brass and timpani. He also used a text of mine called JAEL, for a short opera written a few years later. Most recently (April, 2000), I was pleased when he asked me to provide and edit the text for an ambitious piece called APOTHEOSIS, based on the writings of Neal A Maxwell and performed by the Ricks College Chamber Orchestra and Collegiate Singers. A CD was made for Tantara Records as part of their Heritage Series, called Three Sacred Works. An absolutely fantastic piece of music! The last thing he wrote was a piano piece called Fallen Angel, for a special project uniting LDS classical composers with LDS visual artists, performed by Grant Johannesen, called Mormoniana.
He accompanied the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on several tours around the world, he was invited by the Chinese Minister of Culture to spend time in China lecturing and performing at three of the conservatories there. He's performed with George Shearing (on bass), Mannheim Steamroller (on horn), and has accompanied Margaret Whiting, the Lennon Sisters, Liberace, Ray Charles, and many others. He played a jazz concert once with Paul Horn, Conte Condoli, and Milton Bernhart.
The last three years, my brother has suffered with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, and diabetes (which took his sight a year ago). But it never, ever, took away his spirit, his sweet nature, or his sense of humor. Now he is dying. We all went over the night before last to say goodbye -- but I hate goodbyes. I said "Goodnight," and he said, "You've been a good sister." We said our "I love you's," and I asked him to please hug Mama and Daddy when he sees them, and to tell them I miss them. And to "leave a light on" for the rest of us. (You know, like that Motel 6 commercial).
Night before last he said to my sister-in-law, "Did you order this?" "Order what?" she asked. "This music," he said. They were playing Faure's REQUIEM for him. Whoever they were, bless them. And bless him.
(Please click on the link to hear a bit of Fallen Angel)