By Richard Ammon
October 13, 2010

Today would have been my father’s 98th birthday. Sadly he is long gone. One of his personal legacies to me was his love of classical music and opera. Together we listened to Toscanini conduct the NBC Symphony Orchestra and listen to Maria Callas and Leonard Warren sing at the Metropolitan Opera House with Milton Cross as radio host. Later in life came Joan Sutherland (photo right) whose beautifully pure voice touched my soul (doubly so with Pavarotti). I saw her perform live twice and was in awe of her, as well as from her recordings and Met appearances.

Equally blessed by a cultivated father and great singers my life has a rich and deep quality-of-being that I constantly appreciate. I cannot imagine a life without Beethoven, Mahler, Verdi, Bellini or Wagner, among so many other great artists who float my life.

Now Joan Sutherland has died. I feel a light has gone out but of course she lives on in her recorded legacy, as does Pavarotti (whose birthday is also today). There is clearly an elevated status that great artists bring to civilization that lifts it above the muck of politics and mire of homophobia that lower minds like to wallow in. When I feel dismayed about the pathetic state of common human affairs–religious, legal, financial, social, military, political–I turn to sublime affairs, the sounds of great music and the distances of astronomy. Getting above the daily fray is essential for my soul and I am blessed to have a host of great people who help me there and a father who pointed me to that tune.

May Dame Joan sing to the gods.