...Interview with an unsighted singer
One of the most interesting singers in the Polymnia Choral Society of Melrose is Dan Larkin from Revere.
Dan joined Polymnia two years ago and has been active as singer and co-chairman of the Spring Pops. What makes him unusual in this context is that he is totally blind. Of course, that doesn't deter his singing ability, but it brings a whole set of challenges for getting to rehearsal, learning music and rehearsing. He graciously spoke to me at some length about his life experiences.
Born in 1945 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, he was a premature baby, and like a number of others at that time, was placed in a high oxygen incubator that resulted in irreversible damage to his eyes with a condition called Retrolental Fibrosis (RLF.) He lost sight completely at eight years.
Dan has been interested in music all his life, from high school to this day. He has perfect pitch, has taken graduate courses in music theory, and has given recitals both in voice and playing the trumpet. He has also composed pieces, including one based on the poem "The Lamb" by William Blake. As a young man he took vocal lessons for five years and an additional year of voice at St. Norbert College in De Pere, in his home state. In college he organized a group and served as lead trumpet.
He and his wife Kathy have been married for 27 years. They have two sons now in their twenties. He moved to Revere in 1986, where he now directs the choir at Eagle Heights Church and is active in a worship team there.
Dan has worked as a piano tuner for many years, and is currently a telemarketer for Atlantic Funding in Everett.
At Polymnia rehearsals he keeps his tape recorder going all the time. His fellow tenors help him by dictating the words to all musical pieces by telephone to his home while he transcribes the words into braille. By concert time he has memorized both words and music completely. "Watching" the conductor is something all singers are supposed to do. By a combination of sensitive alertness and judicious nudges by a companion tenor, he is able to attack and release the entrances and cutoffs as well as (really better than many of) the other singers.
He wanted to express special thanks to Joan O'Connor, a physical therapist during a recovery period, who first invited him to Polymnia and frequently drives him to and from rehearsal. Many other people have helped him to contribute his time and talents to Polymnia.
As you can imagine, Polymnia is honored and blessed to have this gifted member.
(You can learn more about Polymnia at http://www.polymnia.org.)
November 2, 2001