Alison Howard (1939-2010)
A memory by Terry Meyers, Voci Administrative Director
Alison and I joined Voci at the group’s second rehearsal in the fall of 1991 – Voci’s first season. We rehearsed in Calvary Presbyterian Church on Milvia and Virginia in those days, and Mitchell Covington was our director. There were 16 of us and Alison and I both sang Alto 2. We were the only two from that first season still singing with Voci, having rolled with the changes in directors and singers over all the years.
Over all the years in Voci, Alison steadfastly gave her time to Voci. From the first, Alison immediately volunteered to become Voci’s librarian, having just recently retired from her career as a librarian at the UC Berkeley School of Optometry Library. What an amazing job she did! We could always count on her to volunteer for something new. I remember when we decided to design and sew Voci vests (our first attempt at unifying our look) - she came with a few of us to my mother-in-law’s apartment and we designed the vests and began to sew. After that day sewing, she took the rest home and finished them up…and made still more over the next few years.
Alison always had her music learned way before anyone else. She would leave for a trip with Peter [her husband] and return better rehearsed than those of us who stayed behind. She was our editor and proofreader, with consummate skills finding the errors or inconsistencies in our programs and publicity. She corrected our pronunciation and was always right, unlike the rest of us. She researched composers and shared her discoveries with us - we are all the better for her knowledge. Peter and Alison invited us to sing at their bookstore (Serendipity Books in Berkeley) to help celebrate the International Book Convention. We were able to be part of this event several times over the years, enjoying the fun and honoring their business. Alison and Peter were long-time supporters of Voci. For Voci’s first ever raffle, Alison made a beautiful quilt as the grand prize. How we all wished to win that piece of art! Alison was also an amazing cook, and always brought something surprising and yummy to our potlucks and house concerts.
Alison gave of herself without a moment of hesitation. Even when she was ill and undergoing treatment, she only missed two seasons with Voci. Afterwards, she was back with her library box of music, always arriving at rehearsal before everyone else. At a recent concert in December 2009, one of my relatives asked, “Where is the singer with the wonderful expressive face? I missed her.” I knew he meant Alison, who was sitting in the front row beaming back at us with that wonderful smile.
Alison passed away peacefully on August 16, 2010. We miss her presence, and will always hold her in our hearts. Voci will not the same without her.
In spring 2010, Voci decided to honor Alison by commissioning a new work in her honor. We invited her to select both the text and the composer. For the text, she selected the last portion of “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d" from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. She chose Peter Knell as the composer, having fallen in love with his work when he composed a new piece for Voci in spring 2009.
Voci will premiere the new piece - “Passing” - in Alison’s memory on December 12 and 18, 2010 in our concert series, Voices in Peace X: The Place of the Blest. We hope you will join us.