Critics may be vain but we are not generally foolhardy, so we don’t review weddings or funerals. But there was a memorial service this weekend, offered before a capacity audience at the United Church of Chapel Hill, that included so much wonderful music, played and sung by so many distinguished artists, that some mention of what was done is, we think, appropriate, to serve as documentation of how our music community can and often does rally, especially when the person whose life is being celebrated is one of its own. That was certainly the case with pianist and teacher Greg McCallum, whose untimely death is reported elsewhere in these pages. He was clearly held in deep, nay profound affection by the folks who performed and the folks who sat to hear them and the words, too, of encouragement and inspiration that were delivered by the ministers of the church, Jill and Richard Edens.
The service began with Bach’s Prelude in E-flat, S.552a, and ended with its companion Fugue, S.552b, played by Alexander Anderson. The hymns were “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” and “When in Our Music God Is Glorified.” The 23rd Psalm was sung, in a setting by Jessie Seymour Irvine. An organ voluntary (“…The Peace may be exchanged…”) by Dan Locklair was played by Mary Beth Petersen. Brian Tate’s “Hold Me, Rock Me” was sung by the massed choir, Jennifer Anderson, director. Violinist Eric Pritchard, accompanied by Alexander Anderson, performed Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise.” McCallum’s student Gabriel Crist played the chorale prelude “Es ist en Ros’ entsprungen” by Brahms. The choir sang the Agnus Dei from Fauré’s Requiem. The choral response was the traditional “Saints bound for Heaven” as arranged by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw. After the Bach fugue, bagpiper Bill Caudill summoned the congregation to the fellowship hall with a traditional Scottish tune that went on and on; perhaps he – like the rest of us – was reluctant to have the tribute end.
And beyond the music, Rev. Richard Edens’ meditation, touching on how perishable music can be – and in turn, life – is likely to linger long in the hearts and minds of those who heard his remarks.
Artist-colleagues came from as far away as Maryland to celebrate this exceptional life, and a second service was held the following day in Rowland, Greg’s hometown. He will not soon be forgotten.