Jim Casey - RIP
- I first met him at Harmony college in the early 80s . . . he was just a
fun-guy to be around. We sang a bit together, and it was obvious to me that
this guy was special. He helped me without my even asking. He smiled like an
approving father when I did it right and he never scolded. It was great. I
looked for him from then on at every Society event.
Time passed, our friendship grew, and one day . . . voila! . . . there were
Jim and I working together on the Society staff. This huge man among men
came to share his talents with us for less than a year, but oh . . . did he
share. The funniest part of his tenure on the staff was that he sang bass
for the learning quartet . . . bass . . . with one of the prettiest lead
voices in our Society, he was still willing to "sing the low notes." And did
he ever! Jim replaced another Society legend, Bill Myers, as bass of The
Staff Infection, and was not too shabby himself.
I used to kid him all the time about his parking lot striping business. He'd
laugh and ask me if I knew a better way to work outdoors in Dallas? After
all, he did the striping at night when the lots were empty and the heat
wasn't so bad. Not so dumb this guy from Texas! Well, he did have a hard
time understanding that in Wisconsin, an open container in the car meant a
trip to jail. Never seemed to bother him much.
Our favorite little exercise was to engage in my learning to speak Texan.
Jim coached me to say "How's the Mom 'n 'em?" and he would reply in his best
West Texas accent "Guuuuddd! I was up 'ar 'is week-end." I tried to teach
him to speak with a Maine dialect, but he kept insisting on using 26 letters
of the alphabet, and it just didn't work. But, the Texas lessons continued
right up to the end.
One year at Harmony College, during the Wednesday night bash outside of the
dorms, Joe Connelly and Pookie . . . ahem . . . de-pants-ed Jim while the
show was going on. Jim dropped to the ground like a felled elk, and let go a
scream that could be heard for miles. We all (except Jim) laughed until our
sides hurt. Later, Paul Engel and I composed a musical tribute to that
event: a parody of "The Band Played
On." The lyrics captured the moment and we eventually gave Jim an
autographed copy of the masterpiece. I can still hear the faculty singing
"Casey was watching the Wednesday night bash, and his pants came down . . .
" and the rest we'll leave among those who were there to enjoy it. I
understand Jim had that puppy framed.
To watch him coach was to watch an artist paint. Loving strokes of kind
encouragement coupled with some colorful techniques that everyone remembered
. . . especially "Holy Moly!" Some would argue with Jim's techniques, but
few could ever argue with his results. He just got it done. And those he
coached all loved him. He was a task master in many ways, but to see that
smile of his light up the room when you got it right made it all worth
while. One thing is for sure, he was as effective with female voices as he
was with men's. Not many could say that.
My last visit with Jim was about a year ago. I was in Texas on business for
the Foundation and called him, got directions to his place, and then drove
north for a healthy drive to sit and talk with him. We laughed about the
same stupid things we always laughed about, and we even cried in frustration
about his cancer. He showed me the marks they had placed on his body to aim
the radiation. Chilling. And then we talked some more. Jim was one of those
guys that you didn't have to see every day to call a close friend. He could
pick up with you after a long absence, and it was like you'd never been
separated. At the end of our visit, we hugged and said nothing . . . both
realizing that what he was facing might put the final wall between us
But it hasn't.
As long as I have breath, I will see his smiling face and hear "Hey, Boy!"
And when stories are told of our old heroes, Jim's will be added to the mix.
And when I struggle with my sight-reading (as I always do), I'll hear his
voice in the back of my head not only telling me how to do it, but how to do
it well. Mixed with that will be some helpful hints to making a better
sound. And then I'll continue my conversations with my friend, Jim Casey.
This time I won't try to teach him a Maine accent, only enjoy the warm Texas
drawl that made that 6-foot-4-inch tower of power so dang lovable . . .
oops, one slipped in. He won.
Via con Dios, Jim.
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- I don't know exactly when my copy of the March/April Harmonizer (the one whose cover highlights the article about what motivates the VM) arrived, but I just read The HOT Seat article while eating my lunch at work. This is the cleverest, funniest Harmonizer article that I can recall reading in my 20 years as a barbershopper! Paul Agnew (HotShots quartet bass) and Ned (the GeriTones hand puppet) are the "interviewees" in this article. It sort of reminded me of the old Saturday Night Live "mock news" skit with Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd ("Jane, you ignorant slut"). If anyone out there hasn't read it yet, I highly recommend it. Kudos to whomever wrote it!
There are some serious moments in this "interview", and a couple of them really struck a chord :-) with me. The first was in response to the question "How can we significantly raise our membership?". Part of Paul's answer was that "our conventions have become spectator events -- shows tacked onto contests and afterglow revelry hijacked by district chorditoriums and other sit-down-and-shut-up shows when we should all be out in the hallways and lobbies singing the night away."
At the recent Illinois District convention, I estimate that I planted my butt in an auditorium or chorditorium seat for about 13 hours in a 28 hour period. By the time I left the more formal sessions late on Friday night and late on Saturday night, I was pretty tired, but on Saturday night, I wanted to go to a "hospitality room" on the 11th floor of the HQ hotel. This old hotel has 3 elevators, which were besieged by barbershoppers, 20 wide by 15 deep. I waited almost 15 minutes, until I finally gave up and took the stairs up to the 11th floor. Luckily, my heart and legs are still strong enough to survive this walk, but I sure miss the days when the district convention moved to a different city every time, because most of those cities were too small to have a 13-story hotel. Instead, the members would stay in any of several motels, which were only 2 or 3 stories high. It sure was easy to bounce around from one hospitality room to another, and even from one motel to another. Even if you had to drive to another motel, there was never any heavy traffic, and parking in the motel lots was free! Granted, our never-changing convention city has a very good civic auditorium, but there are other factors to consider. Have other districts dealt successfully with similar problems?
Finally, in response to the question "Why do many of us still fight for respect from the 'regular' music world?", part of Paul's answer was that "Every effort we make to create a better public impression of barbershop .. is instantly obliterated the moment we send a poorly chosen foursome out for a Singing Valentine." This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I agree that there is a problem. I know that this topic has been discussed before on the Harmonet. Has there ever been an obvious majority opinion on the topic in this forum? Having been conditioned all of my life to detest dictatorships, I couldn't go along with any kind of mandatory "certification" requirement for a quartet to be "registered". However, I would be in favor of some kind of voluntary certification program. Quartetters who truly care about "preservation and encouragement" would want to meet or exceed the standard, in order to be confident that their public appearances would not make our style of music's reputation worse instead of better.
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- I am happy to see hear that others are finally waking up to what our
Society has become.
Let me offer you an alternative Tim, and anyone else who cares to
listen. I invite you to attend the Pioneers fall convention in
Chicago in September 2007. You can find out exactly when and where by
visiting the Pioneers, BQPA web site. www.BQPA.com. No one will tell
ya to "sit down and shut up here." In fact it is almost a stand up
in fours weekend, and only two floors.
What have ya got to lose Tim? The Convention is right in your
backyard. You might even win a medal in the Friday night contest if
you can hold you own in a quartet. ;-)
On 5/7/07, Tim McEvilly <tmcevil@...> wrote:
> There are some serious moments in this "interview", and a couple of them really struck a chord :-) with me. The first was in response to the question "How can we significantly raise our membership?". Part of Paul's answer was that "our conventions have become spectator events -- shows tacked onto contests and afterglow revelry hijacked by district chorditoriums and other sit-down-and-shut-up shows when we should all be out in the hallways and lobbies singing the night away."
> Tim McEvilly
> Illinois District
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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