Sunday morning I got up early to catch a 7:00 AM flight to Washington DC to attend the memorial event for Fred Zenone. As I had ample time between arrival and the beginning of the event, I decided to take the train, which got me to within a 25-minute walk of the church. After changing at Rosslyn station, I noticed a somberly-dressed gentlemen with a cello in my car. He got out at my stop, so I approached him and suggested we might be going to the same place. Indeed we were, so I had the pleasure of chatting to David Teie of the National Symphony during our walk.
The event was, as Bill Foster described it, “cello-centric.” Most of the NSO cellists were there with their celli to play David’s arrangement of the Sarabande from the sixth Bach suite, as well as an arrangement (I believe also by David) of Mark O’Connor’s Appalachian Waltz and Casals’ Song of the Birds.”
Interspersed amongst all the cello music were reminiscences of Fred. Bob Blatt, who had known Fred since he came to the National Symphony in 1969, spoke about Fred’s love of the cello and how Fred had actually begun his professional career on trumpet before switching to the cello in his 20s (he joined the NSO in his mid-thirties); a remarkable fact that I, for one, had not known. Larry Bocaner spoke of Fred’s long service to the NSO as a frequent chair of the orchestra committee.
Liza Medina spoke about getting to know Fred during his tenure as ICSOM chair, as well as re-connecting with him over this summer. Nick Webster told about trying to hire Fred to be his second-in-command at the New York Philharmonic, and read short tributes from Henry Fogel, Peter Pastreich, and Jesse Rosen as well.
Eric Zenone, Fred’s youngest son, gave a tribute to Fred from another of his sons, Brian, who couldn’t get out of work from his French orchestra to attend, and added his own remembrances; together they were both moving and very funny. Then Eric sang Shenandoah, accompanied by four celli in a very beautiful arrangement by David Teie, which really was the emotional center of the whole event. I shouldn’t have been in the least bit surprised that a musical family with the last name of “Zenone” (or “Zen One,” as Eric said his Buddhist monk mentors would insist) would spawn at least one beautiful voice.
Bill Foster spoke last. Unfortunately he cut his remarks short, I suspect because he was feeling some time pressure, as I would have liked to hear everything he had to say.
The event concluded with a lively performance of the first movement of the third Brandenburg concerto by ten of Fred’s former colleagues.
There were a number of people there who I knew, as well as many I didn’t. I finally got to meet two of Fred’s sons. And I noticed AFM President Emeritus Tom Lee sitting a few rows behind me as well; of course he must have worked closely with Fred during his time as an officer of the DC Local.
It was a lovely event, and it was good to be reminded forcefully that Fred was, first and foremost, a musician and a family man.