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Friday, September 27, 2013

Teaching the torches to burn brightly for n years

Recording session, probably Family Resemblance (2002)
In practically every post about a song or album of ours, I mention her voice with some kind of hyperbole. Or what seems to be hyperbole, until you actually hear the recording. As someone said of her, probably Gary, she could sing the phone book and make you cry. It's just the way she does it. She can't help it. She opens her mouth, and heaven comes out.

And today is her birthday.

She's a private person. I even had to ask her permission to acknowledge her in my blog. But I couldn't let her birthday go by without some kind of notice, some little tribute, because so much of what I've become, more than half of my life, has been shaped by our relationship. And when you or anyone else hears a song of mine on a CD, or Pandora, or iTunes, you're hearing my ideas filtered through Gary Daigle's or Tom Kendzia's talent, and permanently colored by Terry's interpretation of it.

With Betsey Beckmann (l) and
Ginny Temple (r) at LAREC 2003
And not just mine. The original recording of Liam Lawton's "The Cloud's Veil" was Terry's vocal, along with his "The Lord Will Heal the Broken Heart" and others. Same goes for Dan Schutte's "Table of Plenty" and "River of Glory," and Tom Kendzia's "Endless Is Your Love." But there's no denying that she is "the voice of Cooneytoons." In the early days, especially, days of singer-songwriters in liturgical and pop music, I was told by more than one person that they thought Rory Cooney was a girl, because that's who was singing on the recording. I could do worse, that's for sure.

That's all about singing, and there's a lot more to the story, hers and ours, like there is about everybody's. Granted that it's not The Greatest Story Ever Told or anything, but it's a really good story, and I was thinking today that it's just like almost every other great story about real people in that it won't ever really be told. Cripes, I can hardly remember it, and I'm part of it. And it weaves in and out of other peoples' realities (and fantasies), so it would clearly need to be told posthumously. And by "posthumously" I mean after everyone now living on earth and their great-grandchildren are all dead.

Sorting through my memory and the apologies I would have to make for revelations crossing the Mars-Venus boundaries of propriety, I've settled on ten Greatest Donohoo Moments from the ages that I believe will pass historical muster. If they do not, then by Saturday morning, September 28, there will be fewer than ten, and possibly no one to write the next entry into this postequinocturnal olio.

The "master" of the house, at NIU graduation 2007
10. Graduation NIU...After early years of working as an inhouse nanny for two gorgeous little girls in St. Charles, with Desi in tow, and with Desi safely at school at St. Anne's across the street from our residence and where I was working, Terry went back to school to get her MA in English at Northern Illinois in DeKalb. After a few hundred long, long commutes, particularly in winter, she and a few thousand of her closest friends graduated on a gorgeous May Saturday in 2008. Separately from the weather, it was a radiant day in the northwest suburbs.
9. Cabin in Wisconsin (2007) Both Terry and I are cancer survivors, thanks be to God. The first of three vacations we took to Wisconsin, all of which were meticulously researched by herself, came just a couple of weeks after Terry's surgery took place, in the weeks before she started her first round of student teaching and radiation. This was a lesson in generosity, healing, and patience for me, I hope, for Desi as we enjoyed the quiet beauty of the northern Wisconsin forests.
8. Trip to St. Martin. We had miles and we had time. We wanted to go to a Mexican resort area and chill for a week, but no seats or rooms were to be had. So we just asked the airline agent, "Where can we go for x miles that's warm?" and we were flown to Princess Juliana airport in St. Maarten, NA. We quickly drove out of the Dutch side of the island and ensconced ourselves at a bougainvillea-draped resort on the French side of the island, where we felt more of our culinary fantasies might be fulfilled. It was here, people-watching at a clothing-optional beach, that I was sunburned within an inch of edibility, and Terry got some kind of food poisoning, on the first day. My movement thus restricted to Frankenstein-like lurchings at night, we managed excursions to shaded venues like an amazing butterfly farm, and lots of restaurants. Verdict: near perfection.
7. Search for March Street. In the winter of 2008-2009, Terry decided that if we were ever going to buy a house, the time was now. She had landed a job at Carmel Catholic HS in Mundelein, and began a search for a place that would be a little closer. After a house-to-house search worthy of Seal Team Six in the tri-county area, in spite of two false starts and rejected bids, we landed our current residence in Lake Zurich, almost exactly equidistant between our jobs. She did this single-handedly while I went along for the ride, grousing about my weight-loss regimen to the real estate guy and the Gurreris who kept her company and gave her advice. Well done, Ms. Donohoo.
6. Swann in Love. In brief, the worst movie idea (based on Proust, for chrissake) made into the worst movie in the history of cinema, and she took me to it anyway, because it had Jeremy Irons in it. If there is a Dumb and Dumber 12, it and all its predecessors would not equal in value the torpor of its banality. What I did for love.
2010 outside San Xavier del Bac, Tucson
5. Desi's graduation. The moment when you got to give the boy his diploma. It would have been a Kodak moment, if the other kids and I hadn't been in the nosebleed seats at the opposite end of the arena, requiring a telephoto lens of the kind generally associated with spy satellites. No matter. It was a perfect moment from any distance. 
4. Desi being born. I think I barely had returned from a Forum gig the afternoon of June 25, and early the next morning Terry went into labor. We had, of course, done the classes, and even made a practice run to the hospital, to find the route of fewest bumps from Elgin to Barrington. The other kids were around, Joel coming over after work in the village, and then the hottest summer in history in our 2nd-story flat with all the kids. And a lovely woman (thanks, Cynthia, and God bless you, wherever you are) from the parish bought us an air-conditioning unit for the bedroom window. Good times. And good to get the house in Barrington the next spring...
3. "Change our Hearts" at the NPM Cry of the Poor concert. At an NPM in Cincinnati, I think, in 1985 or so, John Foley and others arranged a benefit concert that was recorded with proceeds going to aid the hungry. We were invited to be part of the concert, as it was being co-sponsored by NALR, and the song they chose was "Change Our Hearts." It was a house band, and most of us composers were in the choir. But Terry came out to sing the lead vocal in the song, in a sweet red dress that was perfect for the event, the song, and her. 
2. Hurricane Andrew (?) incident at Guggenheim cabin Saranac Lake. I wrote about this a while ago, but need to reiterate it because it's part of Cooney-Daigle-Donohoo lore. We were giving a concert and doing workshops for the Diocese of Ogdensburg in upstate NY, staying at the Guggenheim family lodge near Saranac Lake. Unfortunately for everyone, the violent remnant of Hurricane Andrew (I think) blew through the evening before the conference, knocking out power to the area between the concert and the conference. We were in complete darkness in a cabin we didn't know, a huge one, with what we thought of as a walk-in fireplace. The wind is screaming outside, rain coming down horizontally. The three of us are huddled by the fireplace trying not to be scared out of our minds. Then there is a BANG BANG BANG at the front door, and suddenly it's like a scene from Friday the Thirteenth. And, in fact, it is a Friday. Lucky for us, it was our host, the diocesan director of RE, with a bottle of Jameson's, and we all lived happily ever after. Trucks cleared the road early in the morning, we cleaned up in town at a rectory that had power and water, and went on with the gig. God provides.
1. Volcanoes and the Big Island bus ride of 1992. If I don't finish this soon, it won't be Terry's birthday any more. This event needs a post of its own, so I will do it in the next few days. Suffice it to say that it was a Day in the Life. You'll see what I mean. 
Tie for #1: Ireland for the whole month of October, 2000, with Desi and your mom. Through the goodness of Martin Brown, OSB, some colleagues in Dublin, and Brian Foley and his family and colleagues in Belfast, we scraped together enough work to make a trip to Ireland that took up over three weeks in October 2000. We spent a week in SE Ireland at an equestrian resort near Wicklow, a week in a "traditional" thatched bungalow near Limerick in a village called Murroe, and a week in Belfast. So many great memories from those days, and stories we still tell. I'm not sure that any of our work made any difference to them, but our time in Ireland made a difference to us, and it was one of the great adventures of our life together. 

Here are a few samples of Terry's singing through the years: you can hear how she just keeps getting better, and we are holding out hope that there will be yet another collection in the near future that will provide a span of thirty years of her gift to the music of the church.

Terry singing (1984) You Alone
Terry singing (1992) Be Thou My Vision
Terry singing (1999) Cloud's Veil
Terry singing (2006) New Jerusalem
Terry singing (2012) Turn Around
Thanksgiving 2011 at the Bean, Chicago, holding her
great love (in her right hand), and standing next to me ☺

Happy birthday, my dear love, and may Good Health and Happiness relentlessly hunt you down. And if they need any help, may they enlist the assistance of Prosperity. Thank you for everything that has been.

Speaking of memoirs and great stories, a very fine look at the whole process of remembering and sharing memory is artfully rendered in actor/director Sarah Polley's film Stories We Tell. Terry and I watched this last week, and it really stays with you.


  1. Beautiful! And I actually remember some these stories of your life together. :)
    However you forgot my favorite, moving into the second story flat on HALLOWEEN and it's pouring outside. Happy Birthday Terry!!

  2. Gorgeous memoir. Favorite line: "She opens her mouth and heaven comes out." Yes, yes and yes.