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A Harmonium remembrance for Dan

September 1, 2020

(Photos by Andrew Moody)

Today I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of Harmonium at a dear friend’s small covid-style graveside service. Non-covid, I could see 100 people singing, so we are planning a concert of his favorites in the future.

Dan Karger was one of the kindest, gentlest, giving, and most fun members of Harmonium. I still remember his audition, although I can’t remember how many, many years ago. Louise got in first. Dan was already a fan. I told him right away after the audition that he got in and he was so excited he hugged me. Since then as well as being a wonderful friend, he has done so much for Harmonium, and I really need to tell you about some of it because so much of it was like Dan, quiet  and efficient, but behind the scenes.

Dan served a term on the board, but like many board members, he left the board but kept his jobs forever. For many, many years, he served on the recording committee—doing all the work of making our CDs be produced, even driving to my house to leave final masters on my porch. Dan made the banners go up around town. Dan was the baritone section leader—keeping tabs on his flock. Dan met all the new people as he took their pictures at the first rehearsal and made them feel welcomed into the Harmonium family.

For so many years, Dan was the sunshine committee, sending cards and gifts to singers with joys or losses. Last year, when I was recovering from a really bad experience with chemo, Dan had (I am pretty sure, all this was a secret) an integral part in commissioning Mark Miller and secretly rehearsing a get-well work in my honor, which became The Children of All Others, a work about how we all have responsibilities for one another. Dan served on last year’s Open Minds committee, helping us to partner with mental health resources around the area.

I especially want you to know that Dan cheerfully sang every Outreach show in a nursing home, library or retirement community that he possibly could. Every caroling gig. Dan knows more Christmas carols than any good Jew I’ve ever known. Dan was an integral and enthusiastic member of all of our tours since Eastern Europe. It was on that tour that we sang the piece we sang (masked and distanced) graveside: Prayer Before Sleep from Talmud Suite, by Canadian composer Sid Robinovitch.  For the 2002 tour, we prepared  a set of Holocaust remembrance music for our visits to Prague, Auschwitz and Terezin.

Small Fortress Museum, Terezin

I can’t sing this without telling you the story of what happened at Terezin. Before we headed into the former ghetto/concentration camp, (now a town restored to the Czechs), maps in hand, looking for our friend Ursula Pawel’s former address and visiting the Jewish museum, we visited the small fortress museum.  We prepared to sing by the large Star of David Memorial overlooking the cemetery. We knew this was just for us, we didn’t expect tourists or audience except for our friends and family on the tour. We began with the Robinovitch, Baruch atah, Adonai…  It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, with just a few clouds in the sky. The birds were loud. I remember as I got to the last page I looked down and saw wet splotches and thought I was crying. Actually, it was raining. The sun continued to shine. The music blurred.

Singing at Terezin, 2002

There is more to this story for another day. But all of us will forever remember what happened that day, and how we felt surrounded by those who were being remembered. That brings me comfort now, as Louise was moved to ask for this piece, like a way for us to be surrounded by Dan’s presence, as he will always be with us in Harmonium. Because he often didn’t have to say anything. He’d just be there listening.

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