Find a Mentor
Herbert Fiss was the director of the Villanova Singers during my time at Villanova. He remains to this day one of the most significant influences on my life. His passion for music allowed him to take 80 unruly young men and shape them into a remarkably talented choir. He exposed us to music from many lands, in many languages. He demanded perfection, and was a tough task master, but did it in a way that made you understand that he cared about you.
There is not one day that passes that I don't think of Mr. Fiss's gift of music. He is the great shaper of the soundtrack of my life.
I received this e-mail last year:
"It is with a heavy heart that I write of my grandfather Herbert Fiss's passing this week. Opa, to me (meaning grandfather in German), passed away yesterday, June 23, 2004, of natural causes. He is survived by his daughter Norma Gillespie (my mother), his son Herbert Fiss, Jr., nine grandchildren and upwards of two dozen great-grandchildren. He was 93 and sharp as ever.
I know what a big role in the Singers' history my grandfather played. I attended the graduation ceremony when he was recognized with his honorary PhD. (I'm sure you know we all had to call him Dr. Fiss after that).
If you can pass the word along to his former students, I'm sure they would like knowing that Herbert Fiss lived out his life after VU exactly as he always had -- with passion, determination, spirit, precision, and an undying love for the beauty found in music.
With best regards,
Herbert Fiss Student (violin, 1970-1973)"
Hang Out in the Dorm
Dorm Life: Two people live in a space about the size of a walk-in closet. I was fortunate to have a roommate who was much more than tolerable.
Here, a bunch of my friends and I hang out in my dorm room, in what was then called "The New Dorm." It eventially was baptized "Stanford Hall."
Learn the Alma Mater
By Al Dubin and Joseph Burke
The two men responsible for Villanova's Alma Mater have a pretty impressive songbook, including works such as I Only Have Eyes for You, We're in the Money, Forty-Second Street, Shuffle Off to Buffalo, the Academy Award winning Lullaby of Broadway, and the infamous Tip Toe Through the Tulips With Me.
The Villanova Alma Mater
When the twilight shadows gather
Out upon the Campus green,
When the blue and purple night
Comes stealing on the scene
Loyal heirs of Villanova
Sing a hymn of praise
To our dear old ALMA MATER
And our College days.
When we leave your shelt'ring walls,
We shall leave an echo ringing
Through your treasured halls
We will leave an echo ringing
In the silent night
While our memories are singing
Of the Blue and White
When the last big game is over
And the last roll call is heard
When the oldest pedagogue
Has had his final word
We shall come to ALMA MATER
In our dreams again
With prayer for Villanova
And a sweet amen.
Seated, left to right; Patti, Mary.
Two things are very wrong in this picture.
1. There is a female in our dorm room. This was a huge "thou shalt not" when I was at Villanova. Females were NEVER allowed in a guy's room, and vice versa. We obviously thought that was a very stupid rule.
2. The second very bad thing... two rocking chairs we "borrowed" from the porch of the convent at nearby Rosemont College. (We eventually returned them. Catholic guilt is a powerful force.)
Oh, we were bad!
Listen to Great Music
Probably anyone of any age feels the same way, but I think there was a lot of outstanding music during my senior year. A few stand-outs:
Bad Bad Leroy Brown
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
Break Up to Make Up
Walk on the Wild Side
Touch Me In the Morning
Smoke on the Water
We're an American Band
Midnight train to Georgia
Give Me Love - Give Me Peace on Earth
Good Morning, Heartache
Hello It's Me
I Got a Name
Keep On Truckin' (Part 1)
Killing Me Softly With His Song
Let's Get It On
Living for the City
Midnight Train to Georgia
Morning Has Broken
One of a Kind (Love Affair)
Peaceful Easy Feeling
The Cover of "Rolling Stone"
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
The Right Thing To Do
The Way We Were
Knocking on Heaven's Door
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
I Shot The Sheriff
Will It Go 'Round in Circles
Until You Come Back to Me
Yes We Can Can
You’re So Vain
The Villanova Singers often paired with a girls' choir at a Catholic girls' college. Each choir would perform separately, and then they would pair for a few major numbers. Singing was always fun, and so were the social events after the concerts. Here, a scene from a "mixer" after a concert in Detroit.
Have a Picnic
Why are so many of my finest memories associated with an event at which a keg was present? The Villanova Singers offered many such events.
Here, brothers Stan & Dave, plus Ted, along with Ted's wonderful Bryn Mawr girl friend-- all very cool people.
Amazingly, I've just reconnected with Stan and Dave, after a lapse of 32 years; the wonders of the Internet never cease to boggle my mind.
Road Trip Again!
So if a boring weekend is on the horizon, make a decision to do something radical... pile a bunch of friends into a bunch of cars, nab some tents, and drive to Niagara Falls.
One of my life's most amazing experiences happened on this camping trip. When I walked out of my tent at dawn the first morning, there were thousands of worms suspended above the ground, hanging from trees on silken threads. It was one of the weirdest, must surreal things I've ever seen (or walked through).
- Road Trip
Road Trip !
The summer of Junior year, I flew to Seattle with two friends, and then we drove across the country back to Villanova (in a VW bug!), What a great experience! It was my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean, Mount Rainier, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon... and days of corn (it seemed) in Kansas.
Whoa... was I ever really that thin?
Go On Tour
Periodically, the Villanova Singers would pile onto busses and hit the road. We typically sang at Catholic Girls' Colleges, in Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburg, NYC, Boston... I have many fond memories of the concerts and the social aspects involved. A number of my singer friends are still married to those sweet women they met on the road!
One of my fondest tour memories: our director got "snowed out" of a concert. We were already in Chicago, but he got snowed in in Philadelphia. After a lot of "Now what the hell do we do" discussions, I ended up directing the choir during our concert. What a rush... moving your arms and hands, and having 80 powerful voices follow your motions.
There is a train station on the Villanova campus. In about 30 minutes, you can be in Philadelphia and enjoy all the cultural events the city offers. This is a program from a recital at the Academy of Music. A young tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, was rather impressive!
The Academy of music began its life as an opera house, then served as home to the Philadelphia Orchestra for many years. It now is home for the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
Party Like A Fool
July 2, 1972-- the morning after the first annual July Fools' Party. My great friend Ippi had this party at his parents' home in West Orange, NJ. This shot is from the backyard of this house (even though it looks like we are in some wonderful wilderness!).
This tradition has continued for decades, with just a few interruptions (The 29th July Fools' Party takes place in July 2005). Now there are several generations that participate. There is always a good number of Villanova Singers there, plus a lot of beer... so the music always gets better as the day goes on!
Use Your Talent
The joy of making music is hard to put into words. The sensation of singing with very talented singers and musicians is a peak experience. It is that concept of "flow."
I had the privilege of singing with Bill Grabowski as a Singer and Spire. He would go on to write music (ranging from masses to songs with Bon Jovi) and produce a variety of musical acts. He is a great talent and one of the nicest guys I've ever met.
Villanova offers a variety of contrary options. Philadelphia is a short trip. Valley Forge Park is nearby. Adjacent towns such as Wayne offer a variety of restaurants, coffee houses, and movie theaters.
Here, we commune with nature and each other. Communing sometimes works: the Immaculata girl and her Villanova guy have been married now for years.
Be A Clown
One of the Villanova Singers... I can't remember, but I imagine this was taken around the end of October.
Now if there's a smile on my face
it's only there tryin' to fool the public
but when it comes down to foolin' you;
Now honey, that's quite a different subject
But don't let my glad expression
give you the wrong impression
Really I'm sad
I'm sadder than sad
You're gone and I'm hurtin' so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad
Now there's some sad things known to man
but ain't too much sadder than
the tears of a clown
when there's no one around
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