VOL. 5 N° 2 Special Issue June 2011
BEING MUSIC The Dalcroze Society of Canada/la Société Dalcroze du Canada
On n'enseigne pas ce que l'on sait ou ce que l'on croit savoi: on n'enseigne et on ne peut enseigner que ce que l'on est. ~ Jean Jaurès
August 25, 1930 – January 3, 2011
Passed away on Monday, January 3, 2011 at age 80. Born in Galt, Ontario, the only son of the late Norman and Ruth Himes. Forever loved and cherished by his surviving spouse, Henry Li. Sadly missed by cousin Melissa Martin and her daughter Claire Martin, dear friends Marjorie and Gerry Eldred, Andrew Welsh, Barbara Newham, Eric Shaw and Claude Tousignant. He is fondly remembered by all who knew him. Don was a passionate musician, dancer, choreographer, composer, and master teacher of piano, Dalcroze Eurhythmics, and Feldenkrais, which he applied to his piano teaching and became a highly sought-after teacher for injured performers. He recently received le diplôme supérieur honoris causa, the highest honour of the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze, Geneva, Switzerland. Don was instrumental in the beginnings of the Toronto Dance Theatre, and directed notable productions such as Babar. For thirty years, generations grew up with a smile from his theme song on Mr. Dressup, which he composed and played on air. It was the longest running and most successful children’s television show in Canada. In addition to his professional achievements, he was an accomplished French language student, and connoisseur of French culture. Don was truly a generous person, making donations to many charities and giving up his free time to teach voluntarily. We will miss his incredible wit, infectious laughter, and warm spirit.
Peter Mose "Donald Himes, born in Galt (now Cambridge) sometime during the last century, has enjoyed a career that has glided, with very few mishaps, through the interconnected worlds of music and movement." … it's
the first sentence of a short biography that Don wrote about himself for me, in advance of a salon evening I held a few years ago saluting his life.
At the funeral I observed that gliding was the way Donald thought of himself going through life, and the way many of us pictured him, graceful as he was.
I also observed that we were all gathered now as a result of a terrible mishap that ended his life, but that the one compensation was that it brought together many diverse people whose lives have been touched by this kind and playful fellow.
Donald Himes died suddenly on January 3, 2011 in Toronto of a heart attack, at the age of 80. He had had a hip replacement a month earlier, and seemed to be doing well in his recovery. He was a music-and-movement educator to many in Toronto, including this writer, and Canada’s senior statesman of the Dalcroze methodology. A tall, handsome man, Don had a distinguished, quasi-European bearing and a kindly Anglo-Canadian reserve. To these were added a decided streak of whimsy and playfulness. One might liken him to a fine English stage actor, simultaneously theatrical and yet understated. The Canadian Dalcroze community is reeling with this news, and mourns his loss.
The sometimes arcane flavour of Dalcroze Eurhythmics was never in evidence in one of Donald Himes’ adult classes in Toronto. Instead there was grace, there was whimsy, there was laughter, there was striving. And there was constant proof that music, while abstract, can indeed be “made flesh.” I studied music and physical movement in classes with Donald at the Royal Conservatory for three years about a decade ago, and his musical outlook has become a decided and integrating influence on my teaching. Later, to repay this debt, I invited Don to tell his rich life story - as a musician, dancer, choreographer, and arts educator - to a salon audience in my home. Small surprise, he proved a born raconteur: he could seem shy, but he was also very much a man of the theatre, who delighted in an audience. For the past several years he has graced my annual spring student piano recitals with his presence as a guest artist: he would always lead the performers and audience in some sort of interactive music caprice. Few realized he was improvising these Dalcroze-flavoured educational games mostly on the spot, given his musical ease and refinement. I wanted to pay him for these lovely recital interludes, but that made him uncomfortable, so instead I took him to a different French restaurant in Toronto each year. That was Don’s idea of sufficient payment. As in dance, a big part of the world of classical music is the connectedness between teachers and their students: I was privileged to have worked with this kind and playful man, who almost literally breathed music. Many will miss Donald Himes, and many are startled he is suddenly gone; I am one. Peter Kristian Mose This article appeared on the Dance Current News website, January, 2011
Susan Macpherson Artistic Associate, The School of Toronto Dance Theatre
Donald Himes, a unique and remarkable artist who made a major contribution to the School, passed away in Toronto on January 3rd, 2011. Himes was an integral part of both Toronto Dance Theatre and the School in the early years of both. A man of considerably varied and rich artistic gifts, he was a dancer, choreographer, director, musician, composer, and teacher. He taught Eurhythmics in the School, and he performed both as a dancer and on occasion as a pianist with the company. For several years he was the Principal of the School of TDT. Using students of the School, Himes created and directed a wonderful and tremendously successful children’s pantomime, Babar, the Little Elephant, which toured to Paris with the company in the 1970s. Also in the 70s, he choreographed a delightful dance for the School, Songs from the Newfoundland Outports, to music of the same name by Canadian composer Harry Somers; the piece was subsequently taken into the company repertory. In the 1980s, David Earle’s magnificent Christmas pageant Court of Miracles included a wide age range of performers, from students at the School to older guest artists. Those who saw the work will likely never forget the beautiful closing image, with a staircase of richly robed saints ascending to the heavens, led, at the top, by the then white-haired Himes.
Virginia Parlan My Piano Lessons with Don or If You Haven’t Lived It, It Won’t Come Out of Your Horn – (Charlie Parker) Once a week, every week, for the past nine and a half years I went to 17 Washington Avenue for a piano lesson. During the earlier of those years, the ‘doorbell’ was a large key poking out of the middle of the front door. Turning the key was supposed to produce a sound, a sound something like the tinkling of a bell. It never worked. No matter how hard or how many times I turned the key, only a barely audible, grinding noise was produced. For years, I gave the key three good cranks, then pounded on the blue door with my fist until Don, and a mewing Mojo, appeared. “Have you been waiting long?” he would always ask. A few years ago, Don finally upgraded to electronic, programmable bell chimes. The key disappeared from the middle of the door; a doorbell button was installed on the doorframe. I never knew, when I pushed the new door bell, if I would be greeted by loud chimes ringing out Bach or Dixie. My piano lesson always began with coffee – freshly brewed, served up in delicious, royal blue, porcelain mugs fitted with gentle gold handles. The coffee came with wit and charm and warmth. We discussed the latest political lunacy, local, national and international. How could anyone who played the piano be a Republican? Don asked me one summer after he returned from a Quebec workshop where a participant from Texas admitted to having voted for George Bush. Don is the only person I have known who has sent an e-mail to the President of the United States. I think it was in 2003; Don was irate about the Iraq War. I told him he was going to wind up on a “no-fly” list. We talked about the latest episode of The Sopranos and the current COC production (Don’s wickedly perceptive critiques of some staging folly ruined more than one opera for me); the characters in the novel he was reading in French for his course at the Alliance and the characters we both knew at the Alliance; books and musicians and composers I had never heard of. My music books are annotated with the names of books to read and musicians to listen to or watch on YouTube. In fact, it was Don who introduced me to YouTube and Dalcroze and Feldenkreis and ... soy milk in coffee. Sometimes when I arrived, the coffee was not quite ready. I entered the salon (what else to call a room that allowed me to imagine I was Madame de Sévigné), sat at the piano and showed off the results of my week. I was thrilled when a voice drifted from the kitchen on the aroma of coffee: “Almost right”. Don was always kind and reassuring. He convinced me – almost – that playing the piano was easy. After all, he told me, Bach said it was easy – just hit the right note at the right time. 6
Eventually, the blue porcelain mugs, empty, wound up precariously perched on top of the paper clutter strewn across the top of Don’s Steinway and we started to look at Bach or Satie or Mozart (“the little brat”). Or some, to me, obscure French or Russian composer. Don would lend me yellowed and tattered music pages to copy so I could work on some piece or other. After four years of lessons, I asked Don why the back legs of his piano bench were raised up from the floor on a two by four. After eight years of lessons, I asked him why the piano bench was placed at right angles to the piano. I learned the quirky setup was not some weird homage to Glenn Gould. In a recent frenzy of “de-cluttering,” I decided to get rid of my little pocket calendar date books which had been accumulating for over a decade. I flipped through the pages of each one before tossing them into the trash bin. At the back of the 2002 book I had scribbled a bunch of quotes –from Arthur Schnabel, Yo-Yo Ma, Rudolph Laban and, yes, Charlie Parker. Don had dictated these to me at one of my early lessons–keystones to help me embrace the keyboard. This June, it will be ten years since I made the first phone call to Don. Are you taking on new students? Certainly. What about adults? Sure. What about adults with absolutely NO music training –ever? Better yet. But ... what about ... OLDER adults? Why not? Why not, indeed. He told me to buy something called a Dictation Book and come the following Monday at three o’clock. Only one entry was ever made in that Dictation Book–in pencil, in Donald’s handwriting: “June 25. Hand in that good relationship to the forearm.” My last piano lesson was at the end of November. I still try to practise every day. At three o’clock, I make myself a cup of freshly brewed coffee, sit on my piano bench, now placed at a right angle to the piano, check the hand in that good relationship to the forearm, and try to hit the right note at the right time.
Alicia Excel I had no idea the full scope of all Donald's accomplishments when I started taking piano lessons with him. I was too ignorant to feel intimidated. I started lessons in the summer of 2008. Donald's patience made it possible for me to really focus on my own process with learning music. In that sense I found lessons very healing. Whether or not I felt I practised enough and even if I were not prepared at all, he was very consistent with teaching and I always learned something. I was surprised that he would give me the same time and attention that he would give to a very accomplished or professional pianist. I felt that he did not teach one way for someone less skilled and another for the skilled; I got the sense that he was teaching "music" regardless of the ability level or experience of the student. I felt that his patience created a space where I could work out my own issues about piano playing without getting caught up in my teacher's needs or expectations. He was just consistent—same warmth, good humour, clarity of thought, excitement about the music and what it conveyed, same unwavering attention to detail about achieving more ease in my body when I play—regardless of whatever drama I could conjure up in my head—old scripts from lessons with past teachers—he didn't engage in it because his ego was not impacted by how I played. With Donald I felt such clear space, he was so grounded that he could be very "present" and "in the moment" in lessons, and that helped me to be more attentive. He understood the process of learning so deeply that his patience usually exceeded my own. I found lessons with Donald very healing in ways I did not expect. Donald was teaching me how to practise, how to approach my practice with an attitude of expectation, ease, and desire for discovery. He talked of finding "the movement with the most ease and only exerting the effort required to produce the sound one imagines". It took me a year to figure out what he was going on about. I was truly puzzled that I did not have to come and please him and prove myself worthy of attention. He would ask, “Well, did you like that sound?” I became less focused on trying to please or think about my own insecurities, and actually paid more attention to the sound, how I was producing it, and whether or not I liked it. He paid such close attention to how I moved and if I was exerting superfluous energy. It wasn't until I listened to all of the audio recordings of our lessons (completed over a few days) that I could begin to understand the continuity of what he was saying. I started to let go of my "inner drama" and pay more attention when practising. I found this way of practising required more "focus". I had to be present. It was initially very tiring but also more satisfying. I still had a great deal to learn from Donald, but I am very thankful that I had 2 ½ years of lessons with him. His teaching has deepened my relationship with music and I thank him for that. I don't think I will find another piano teacher like him. I decided that I would not try and let it go. Instead, I may study a different instrument but I feel I will take the lessons from Donald into that new adventure.
Amy Bowring Donald Himes, pianist, composer, dancer, choreographer, teacher and somatic practitioner, died suddenly on January 3rd. Originally from Galt, Ontario, Himes moved to Toronto in 1952 where he taught piano and soon began studying Dalcroze Eurhythmics with Madeleine Boss Lasserre at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He then travelled to Geneva to complete his studies at the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze. Himes taught Eurhythmics for several decades at the Royal Conservatory of Music, at the National Ballet School (NBS) when it opened in 1959, and also later at York University and the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. He was considered a master teacher and was awarded the Jaques-Dalcroze diplôme supérieur in 2010. In the early 1960s, he performed with modern dance choreographer Yoné Kvietys and introduced one of his NBS students, David Earle, to Kvietys’ work. Himes was among a group of young Torontonians, along with Earle, Susan Macpherson and Patricia Beatty, who studied at the Martha Graham School in New York in the mid-1960s. Back in Toronto, he played accompaniment for Beatty’s classes and performed in the debut concert of Beatty’s New Dance Group of Canada in 1967. A year later he collaborated with composer Ann Southam to write the music for Peter Randazzo’s Trapezoid for the premiere of Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT). He was heavily involved with TDT in its early years and was the first principal of the School of TDT in the 1970s; while there, he created a production of Babar that was performed for several years. In his later years, he used his practice in Feldenkrais to help dancers and musicians move more fluently. In 2003, Himes performed in Dancetheatre David Earle’s remount of Court of Miracles, a work in which he had performed many times since its earlier inception. Other performance and directing credits over his career include the Canadian Opera Company, Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, Young People’s Theatre, Stratford Festival and Butternut Square with Ernie Coombs (aka Mr. Dressup). He is also known for composing the theme song for the popular CBC children’s show Mr. Dressup. originally published online at www.thedancecurrentnews.blogspot.com, January 7, 2011 and in print in the Dance Current, Volume 13, Issue 7, February 2011.
Marion Harris It is with great sadness that I let you know of the sudden death of Donald Himes on Monday, January 3rd. Don had been recovering wonderfully from recent hip replacement surgery; so it was a deep shock to all his friends and family when, due to post-operative complications, this vibrant and much-loved man passed away. Don was truly a Renaissance man. His full life included the professions of musician, dancer, choreographer, composer and educator. The latter included Principal of the Toronto Dance Theatre School, Piano and Dalcroze Eurhythmics Teacher for the Royal Conservatory of Music and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Instructor. Don was recently awarded the diplôme supérieur from Geneva, the highest award in the Dalcroze world. Generations of children grew up running to the television as the sound of Don playing his piano composition introduced the long-running and extremely popular television program, Mr. Dressup (Canada’s equivalent of Mr. Rogers). Don and I graduated from the Amherst Professional Feldenkrais Training Program in 1983. Our friendship grew when we shared living space for three years during the training, and later as we collaborated on numerous workshops and projects. He has been a faithful and highly respected teacher and colleague at The Feldenkrais Centre since it opened in 1991. His devoted students benefited from his vast knowledge and delighted in his sophisticated dry humor. At the end of each (Feldenkrais) class his students would gather round as if in a salon, sharing experiences and soaking up his words of wisdom. Donald Himes lived life his way - with elegance & grace. His presence and contributions will be greatly missed, their loss deeply felt and leaves a void in the Arts, Dalcroze and Feldenkrais communities, and in our hearts. written for the Feldenkrais Centre’s newsletter, Winter 2011 10
Letters from friends, students, and associate teachers….. from … Lisa Parker, Dalcroze teacher I am so sorry to hear about Donald's death. It was so sudden and I know how fond you were of him and how you enjoyed teaching and planning courses together. I'm sure this has been a great shock to you and all of your Canadian colleagues. We will all miss him and I am only glad that he got his diplôme this fall and could enjoy this recognition of his work. We loved having him at Longy. The students enjoyed his classes greatly. from ... Shyra Rawson The day after Donald's funeral, I was playing the piano and was working on one of my music compositions. There was a part that I have been working on for years. I've always heard it in my mind but it had never 'clicked' - I could never get the right notes and harmony. However, on this particular day, it was like things slowed down in my mind and I truly 'heard' what I was supposed to play. Then, everything clicked and I knew the exact harmony and rhythm and the part turned out just as I had imagined!! I thought I'd share this with you because I remembered that you told me that Donald had been helping you. I thought of this at that moment and thought 'hmmm...' I wonder if Donald helped me to figure out that part of my composition! There was also another part that 'fixed itself' in another composition that day as well - another song that I've been working on for years. from …Lala Loon To the friends and family of Donald Himes, Donald’s passing is such a great loss for all who were lucky enough to have met and known him. His great sense of humour, his quit wit, and the joy with which he taught were unique and unforgettable. Whether it was a piece of music he was playing, a plastique he was creating, or a complex rhythmic exercise he devised to which we were to move, he was a master at them all. I can’t believe that he is gone forever. We still had so much to learn from him; so much joy and laughter to share with him. We will miss you so very, very much, Donald. Anacrusis, crusis and metacrusis… May the afterlife be good to you, our dear Donald.
from … Claire Pigott It is hard to believe that Donald is gone… I met him in 1975 at a summer school of dance when I was a kid. Now, I quote him often as I teach children’s dance – especially when it comes to the confidence to move musically. It feels like he is still going to be there on the other end of an email or at an upcoming luncheon date to mentor or maybe just listen or laugh our heads off at something outrageous. I will miss hearing his velvet voice and watching him saunter off after a good bye. from … Mara Teitelbaum It is with much sadness that I learn of Donald’s passing. Not to see his warm smiling face and to hear his friendly hellos at our neighbourhood restaurants or at the Alliance Française where we recently studied together seems unreal. In 2001, I was an uninitiated non-musician student of Dalcroze and piano, privileged to be captivated by Donald’s impressive talent, keen sense of humour, wisdom and breadth of knowledge. He was a gentle, understanding and patient teacher, generous with his time and knowledge. I will miss him. My heartfelt condolences to his friends and family. from … Newton Moraes I am deeply sad and will miss Don greatly. He was my friend and one of the major supporters of Newton Moraes Dance Theatre. Donald Himes was performing in “Court of Miracles”, a beautiful work by David Earle, at Premiere Dance Theatre in December 1992. I was in my first year at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and I was also invited to perform in this presentation. We shared the stage together; he was a very elegant performer dressed in a court costume. Two years later Donald Himes came to see my choreography at Damn Straight Space by Erin Trudell and Sharon Digenova on Queen Street in Toronto. After the show, He said to me in his own words “Newton, your work is very strong with your Brazilian aesthetics. You need to start applying for grants”. I was so happy that he said that to me, it made me feel very special. I knew who he was; an amazing Dancer, Choreographer, Musician, Composer, Dalcroze Eurhythmics, and Feldenkrais teacher. We became friends and once a week I met Donald at the Tafelmusik concerts, to which he, my later partner Bob Shirley and I subscribed! He was a gentleman, very kind, courteous, funny and mostly very supportive of other artists, watched dance performances all over Toronto. Now he is everywhere encouraging all the stars, constellations, and beings to be more elegant and witty, and helping to heal the wounds of the Universe.
from … Eric Schenkman Don was one of those one-of-a-kind teachers. This is what we remember ... what we recount ... what we extrapolate ... what we improvise upon in the concept of … I loved his stories about things Feldenkrais said, like “let your shoulder kiss your cheek” or, “now let it all unwind” or, “float your arm up to the ceiling”. I loved talking to him about music after a class or about how to manage hand arthritis or double time or my (ouch) shoulder. It filled me full of cool and confidence, just to hear the friendly boom in his voice as he settled us all down with an easy “O.K”. Don always seemed to me to be sitting there upon a fence, looking this way and that, musing, contemplating and commenting on the lesson he was giving, all the while stretching it in different ways … and noticing. I will miss the noticer in him most of all. I am so much the wiser for knowing Donald. He gave us his time and I am grateful. from … Claudia Benz, Dalcroze teacher I am so sad to hear about the death of Donald Himes. He was such a marvelous person, I will never forget. from … Fraser Rubens I was deeply saddened to hear of Don’s passing. Actually, it was the passing of my “Uncle Don”. He was an adopted father figure for me and my two siblings and he was there in a very difficult and trying time for my mother. What a joy to remember the sight of him, with his beautiful white hair, in a stunning white suit, walking my mother down the aisle for our weddings. Don was an inspiration for me in many ways. His encouragement to me to grow in the arts provided me the confidence to develop as a musician and actually as a cardiac surgeon. I kid you not! I will miss his charming soothing voice, his laughter, his wisdom and his sense of musical grace. Henry will have many glorious memories of his life partner. I am very thankful and honoured that Uncle Don was such a key part of my life.
from … Donna O'Connor My wings were clipped, you patched them up we built a place to heal and every time you shared your light the moments run so deep I ventured out, I tried to fly I flittered and I flopped you always knew the value of “the journey never stops” Eventually I lifted up and rose above the ground You smiled, you laughed and clapped your hands and sang “forever found” au revoir your humble student forever …..
from … Silvia Del Bianco, Directrice, INSTITUT JAQUES-DALCROZE GENEVE Je souhaite transmettre à sa famille ainsi que à tous nos collègues canadiens, au nom du personnel de l’Institut Jaques-Dalcroze de Genève et de son Collège, nos plus profondes condoléances. Que la personnalité de Donald Himes puisse continuer à inspirer le travail de tous ceux que l’ont côtoyé. from … Madeleine Duret, president, FIER Il venait de quitter l’Institut à Genève en juin, et je commençais mes études en septembre suivant. Le nom de Donald était sur toutes les lèvres, tant des étudiants que des professeurs : « Ah ce Donald ! Quel danseur ! Quelle élégance ! Quel musicien ! ». Je n’avais qu’un regret, ne pas l’avoir connu. Ce fut fait plus tard, lors de Congrès à Genève ou ailleurs, ou lors de ses visites à l’Institut. Il avait le contact très aisé, très léger. On a sympathisé très facilement. C’était comme la famille. Et ainsi l’on s’est revu au gré des occasions. Jamais très longtemps : « Bonjour-au revoir ». Comme un papillon. Et un jour, ce fut le dernier « au revoir ». Mais cela, hélas, on ne le sait pas alors.
from … Karin Greenhead, Dalcroze teacher So sad to hear of Donald’s passing, and so glad that he was able to receive his diplôme honoris causa before his death – a well-deserved honour to a great teacher whose work deserves to be known more widely outside Canada. He came to teach at a Summer school for us here in England many years ago and people still remember his classes. My sympathies to all those who are close to him and my hopes that his work will continue to grow in Toronto through those who knew and worked with him and who had the benefit of his influence.
from … Anne Farber, Dalcroze teacher What an incredible joy it was for me to see Donald in Toronto in November, and to be present on the occasion of his reception of the diplôme supérieur. Donald and I go back a long way in our Dalcroze connection. I always considered him one of the real stars in our Dalcroze sky. As a Dalcroze practitioner he was skillful, generous, insightful – and fun! He embodied – and passed on to his students and colleagues – all that M. Jacques intended. What a gift to all of us! And now – what a loss. His star shines on. I want to convey my heartfelt condolences to Henry Li and to the members of the Dalcroze community.
from … Brian Katz, Dalcroze teacher (On the eve before Don’s funeral): I had a dream with Don in it last night; we embraced; with tears in his eyes he thanked me for coming to celebrate his life with him; others arrived at his house, and we all celebrated together; at one point in the evening there were cartoons played on a big screen, and various people improvised music to them, what a joy! Don was so generous, skilled, caring and giving. Thank you, Don, for enriching my life, and the lives of so many others. As a student of Feldenkrais and Dalcroze with you, I always felt very safe… yet nicely on the edge; what skill my dear friend! The life of a great teacher, and a truly lovely melody, are, indeed, without end. 15
Anthony Panacci Simplicity…. That is what I think of when I think of Donald Himes. Please let me explain. My name is Anthony Panacci and I am a professional pianist on the Toronto music scene for over 30 years now. In 1992 I had to stop playing the piano because of repetitive strain. I was very busy in the studios of Toronto and live work. That is how I made my living. I feared that I was not going to play again. My piano teacher at the time did not know how to help me. I went to the Hamilton Musician’s Clinic and I was recommended to see Donald. I sat down and played for him for about two minutes and he said to me I can help you. It was like a weight came off my shoulders. This started my journey of retraining with Donald. I stopped playing altogether and studied with Donald for two and a half years. In that time I developed a new technique and approach to how I played and taught piano. It was an amazing experience to study with him. His gentleness and patience allowed me to really find myself at the piano. His knowledge was endless and he shared many things with me. The thing that stood out the most from his teachings was the simplicity of it all. It is everything! I have been playing for sixteen years now and it keeps on getting better. He unlocked something in me. Last summer I took him out for lunch and thanked him for everything. I got that chance. I will miss him dearly, but he has left something special with me. I am on the Jazz Piano Faculty at Humber College, and I pass many things on to my students I got from him. Donald I miss you, but every time I put my hands on the piano, you are with me.
Selma Landen Odom, Dance and Dalcroze historian
Farewell to Donald Himes Lanky, courteous and friendly, Donald taught in an almost unbelievable number of Canadian schools and settings over some sixty years. Working from a calm personal centre, he was an inspiring and delightful presence to thousands of lucky students, young and old, who met him in various studio situations. He simultaneously taught and played for the first Graham dance technique class I took in Toronto right after I moved here in 1972. I’ve never forgotten that miraculous fusion of dance and music in a sun-filled studio on Lombard Street. Donald’s knowledge of the body and transcendent musicianship made every learning experience memorable. I treasure memories of studying with him and participating alongside him in many different classes and workshops at the Royal Conservatory of Music and York University. Whether we did Dalcroze or Feldenkrais didn’t really matter. The important thing was how Donald could help people attend to what is happening, physically and musically, in and around them. The weekly lessons for adults he taught in 1987-1988 at the Conservatory, which covered classic Dalcroze exercises such as anacrusis, metrical rhythm and counterpoint, were a perfect complement to the historical research I had embarked on at that time. I enjoyed Donald’s touch at the piano, his luminous improvisations and his musical choices. Each evening included a journey into a particular world of Bach, Schubert, Mozart, Chopin or Poulenc. I’m so grateful to Donald for his interest in my quest to investigate the history of Dalcroze teaching. He lent me rare books for decades at a time and regaled me with stories of Madeleine Boss Lasserre, his first Dalcroze teacher in Toronto, as well as the remarkable personalities he encountered at the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze in Geneva. Donald’s sense of humour punctuated the on-going conversation and made organizational meetings fun. I adored his production of “Babar” for The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and seeing him perform in works such as David Earle’s “Court of Miracles,” Laura Taler’s film “The Village Trilogy” and Holly Small’s multigenerational “Souls.”
We often ran into each other at concerts and dance performances, and we exchanged many emails about what not to miss. Most of all I admired Donald’s sense of wonder. He several times remarked that Dalcrozians of venerable ages seem to “die in mid-skip” and so did Donald, because he never stopped sharing his wisdom and enthusiasm. Donald was convinced that there usually are, as he said last year in our plastique animée group, “a thousand more ways” to pursue a concept, whether in music or movement. I think those of us who recently had the chance to explore with him works by Pärt, Dalcroze, Kodaly, Debussy and Bartok will always hold on to that idea, that there are no limits to what we can imagine and do. A dance colleague, after hearing the news of Donald’s death, wrote, “I’ve known him since I was twelve years old, and I felt he would be here forever.” The passing of Donald Himes has made me reflect on how much is lost when a Dalcroze teacher of his stature goes.
My Life and Dalcroze Donald Himes My first awareness of the work of Jaques‐Dalcroze sprang from a nagging dissatisfaction, not only with my own capabilities as a teacher of piano and theory at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, but with much of the musical instruction that I heard and observed taking place in the studios around me. I had gradually come to realize that developing an adequate technique and following notational instructions did not necessarily create a musical performance, just as the memorization of its theoretical rules did not produce an understanding of its essence. As a pianist, I had been well taught, notably by Pierre Souverain, a marvelous Swiss pianist, himself a student of Cortot and Serkin; and yet, something was missing. The defining moment in my life came when I decided to investigate something I had heard about called Eurhythmics. By great good luck, Madeleine Boss Lasserre, who had begun her own studies with Jaques‐Dalcroze in Geneva in 1919 and had introduced Dalcroze to Canada, was teaching in Toronto. To say that my first encounter with the concepts and procedures of Dalcroze was a revelation is something of an understatement! Here I found everything that I sensed was lacking in my musical education to that point; how and why music could move, how the fingers must be led by the ear not the eye…and what it felt like to be an upbeat! After two years of study, Mme. Lasserre made it abundantly clear, a la Suisse, that I needed to drop everything and go to Geneva. How could I refuse! My time at l’Institut Jaques-Dalcroze shaped my understanding of what music was and what it could be. Apart from the remarkable teaching in every class of all aspects of music, I had the great pleasure of performing two‐piano performances with Christiane Montandon (Mozart and Francaix) and also with my fellow Canadian student, Louise Hoffman (Poulenc). On my return to Canada, I rejoined the Conservatory faculty but with a much enlarged perspective on the art of both teaching and making music. I began sharing the children’s Eurhythmics classes with Mme. Lasserre, not as a junior partner, but at her kind insistence, her equal. Although she did not fully retire until many years later, the rewarding task of spreading the pedagogical ideas and procedures of Dalcroze into new areas and situations fell primarily to me. Coincidental with my return to Canada in 1959 was the founding of the soon‐to‐be prestigious National Ballet School of Canada and the first class on opening day was Dalcroze Eurhythmics! Many of Canada’s future balletic étoiles had their musical training according to the guiding principles of Monsieur Jaques. Having left that position due to other commitments, the Dalcroze tradition continued with Elizabeth Morton until I was able to return. 19
In the following years I was able to introduce Eurhythmics in many other educational situations: The Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto (a position now held by one of my students), MacMaster University (Hamilton), York University (Toronto), Queen’s University (Kingston), The School of the Toronto Dance Theatre and The Opera School of the University of Toronto. The Kingston Summer School of the Arts was a most rewarding four years; the young students, although otherwise immersed in classes of drama, photography, sculpture and choir, all attended my daily Eurhythmics class. When an Artist Teacher Programme was introduced at the Royal Conservatory of Music focusing on musicians destined to teach rather than perform, I taught the Dalcroze component. Mindy Shieh had her first taste of Dalcroze in these classes before moving on study in New York and to great glory in Taiwan. This programme was supplanted by Teacher‐Training, a credit course for the Early Childhood Music Educator certificate. I invited Marianna Kotyk (Université Laval) and Ilona Bocian (Academy of Music, Poznan, Poland) to co‐teach this course with me and eventually added our newest member Cheng‐Feng Lin (Longy School of Music) to our Faculty. With Cheng‐Feng’s arrival (and his computer expertise!), our Dalcroze journal Being Music, to which I have contributed several articles, became a regular publication. I had the honour to be invited by Madeleine Duret to provide examples of my lesson plans for the 2007 FIER publication “Chemins de Rythmique” and again in 2009 to give a commentary (“Glancing at Reflections “) on an article (written in 1934) for the 100th anniversary of “Le Rythme”. Over the years, we have invited many esteemed colleagues; Louise Mathieu, Anne Farber, Lisa Parker, Bob Abramson and Ruth Alperson to conduct workshops and master‐classes, introducing Dalcroze to an ever‐widening public. And so, Dalcroze ‐ already 86 years in Toronto – continues; hopefully forever! Donald Himes, 2010 reproduced with permission from Madeleine Duret 20
Bon Soir I can’t comment on Don as a Dalcroze teacher, since I didn’t take enough workshops or lessons with him to know about his teaching. I can, however, talk about Don from a different perspective, and that is how his lessons began: usually in the kitchen … with a coffee … soy cream, no sugar. Then, off to the antique pine desk (no doubt French influenced). He would sit on the bench, sunlight shining on his shoulders from behind, and write effortlessly away on a piece of paper to plan out his lesson. In between scribbles, he listened to music to determine what to use as part of his teaching. In passing by, I looked at him and noticed his contented smile, and the eager gleam in his eyes. It was obvious he loved what Dalcroze embodied, and that he loved teaching. Perhaps most important of all, it was obvious he loved helping others. Don was constantly learning and looking for ways to improve his teaching. The shelves are chock-full of books and CDs that he bought from various corners of the universe (I’m sure Canada Customs has Don’s picture on their VIP watch-list). The materials were sometimes unrelated to Dalcroze, at least on the surface. However, Don found a gem from each item, and incorporated whatever new information he learned into his repertoire. Don also practised what he preached. Sometimes, when I came home, I would find him lying on the floor doing an exercise with all sorts of items strewn about; elastic, pillows, balls, and more. Like a cat, I carefully tip-toed around him. Once, I recall Don telling me how he helped a student ease back into playing piano after having to stop because of repetitive strain. At the time, he said the student’s name was Anthony, but without a face to put to it, the name didn’t register. Nonetheless, I did remember the success story because Don was so delighted and pleased that he was able to help someone to that extent. He didn’t actually say he was pleased nor was he boastful. I could tell from his demeanour that he was just glad to help. It wasn’t until the funeral service when I met Anthony’s wife and her subsequent touching speech in honour of Don (on behalf of Anthony) that I saw the true effect Don had. On one occasion, Don tried to help me walk properly to compensate for my flat-feet. Can you imagine how frustrating it must have been for Don to impart knowledge to someone with a skull that’s 3.25 inches thick, and is more obstinate than a donkey who’s been pulling the plow all day!? 21
On November 21, Don was participating in a Dalcroze workshop conducted by Anne Farber. That morning, I got a call from Marianna, inviting me to attend the announcement that Don had been awarded le diplôme supérieur honoris causa – Don did not know this was about to happen. I said, “Of course”. I showed up at the studio where the workshop was being held, but stayed outside the room so I wouldn’t ruin the surprise. Just before they were about to go to break, I discreetly crept into the room. Don saw me, but he did not come over. They made the announcement. People clapped. Flowers were presented. Flashbulbs went off. Everyone congratulated him. I meandered my way over to Don. He told me that he thought I showed up because I had bad news for him. Poor thing: for about four minutes, he worried for nothing. But that worry subsided. I remember how he beamed with pride when Louise made the announcement, and how happy it made him feel. It was an acknowledgement for his tireless devotion to promoting Emile Jaques-Dalcroze’s teachings (please note that Jaques is indeed the correct spelling, without the ‘c’ – Don would want me to say this). When he came home that night, he was still glowing. Like the words he so often praised in his teaching, Don moved with grace and effortless ease. Rest assured, if it was a movement that looked strained and forced, Don would alter it. Sometimes, I would tease him, “Give me the Donald Himes,” and he would break out into his best impersonation of your typical, gyrating rap star … with strong overtones of Nureyev! I think this is what made Don so unique as a teacher – his sense of play and humour. Hi effect reached many, and from far away – people flew in from New York to attend his funeral. He certainly changed me. When I walk by the Royal Conservatory, on my way home from the gym, I still glance into the basement window of that room where Don taught Dalcroze for so many years, and I immediately change how I walk to compensate for my flat-feet. As I sit here typing this tribute, I feel Don’s presence, I adjust the chair so that my body is aligned with my hands. I release tension in my hamstrings. Right now, I can almost hear Don say to me, “ease of hand … “ Thank-you, Don Bon nuit.
President’s Message Laura Ono Around this time last year, I was organizing a small party at my house to celebrate Donald Himes’s 80th birthday. There was good food, plenty of libations, and delightful company. As I write this message, I find myself reflecting on the birthday soirée, and how magical that evening was. That August celebration also stands out for me because we had just completed our first Dalcroze summer course through the DSC, and I remember how the evening was super-charged with energy and optimism upon discovering that it was possible to preserve and promote the Dalcroze work without the aid and affiliation of accredited institutions. Indeed, I believe it was this bold decision to teach courses independently that has reinvigorated the work and the Dalcroze community. Donald was instrumental in bringing about this positive change and it was his perseverance and dedication that inspired me to collaborate with him. Little did I suspect that a year later, I would be penning this article to commemorate Donald’s passing. Days before receiving the sad news, Donald and I were engaged in a lively email exchange about who we should invite to teach the 2011 Summer Course. Several weeks prior, I had paid him a visit after his hip surgery, and he was in gay spirits. In fact, up until his surgery, Donald and I were in contact at least once a week – sometimes even daily. With the DSC re-established, I assumed that Donald would be involved every step of the way. It has been almost six months since Donald left us and already so many things have happened on the Canadian Dalcroze front. In particular, the long-cherished Certification Program is now fully underway – I think I have remained closely involved in its development because I knew how important preserving the work was to Donald. After all, this was the initiative that started our working relationship, which quickly blossomed into friendship. As I read the submissions for this special Tribute Issue, it is clear that aside from being a master teacher, Donald was an endearing man. His warmth, patience, and dedication to his students and colleagues were unwavering, and he made a tremendous impact on many people not just within the Dalcroze world, but within the artistic community as whole. A heartfelt “thank you” goes to everyone who contributed to this special issue of Being Music. It is truly touching to see Donald remembered and honoured with such kind words.
From the editor ... I never dreamed, when I recently accepted the position as editor of Being Music, that I would be assembling this collage of beautiful sentiments for Donald Himes. I am humbled by this unique, yet unfortunate privilege, and sincerely hope that this memorial issue honours both his memory, and the sentiments of those whose expressions have been published herein. I too studied piano improvisation with Donald, albeit quite a while ago. While I still employ the lessons that I learned from him, reading these tributes has also given me a great lesson in pedagogy. Translated, the opening quote reads, “We do not teach what we know, or what we believe we know; we teach and can only teach what we are”, and never could that quote be more personified than by the life, social interactions and teachings of Donald Himes. Donald was evidently many different things to many different people; a truly gifted teacher and Dalcrozian, and a man who lived a life full of passion and joy. Many people here in Toronto and around the world were touched, and are still touched by his knowledge, his caring, his dedication, his wit, and his artistry. He will indeed be missed. On behalf of my co-editor, Marianna Kotyk, without whom this issue would not have been possible, I wish to thank everyone who contributed their time, stories, expertise, and photos. It has been a real honour to assemble and present this special tribute issue to Donald Himes. Sharon Dutton [email protected]
Announcements: Being Music-Fall 2011 Issue If you would like to contribute an article, the submission deadline is Friday July 22. Please send to [email protected]
The content of the articles are subject to approval and editing.
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