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My first appreciation for Gordon goes way back to 1996. Joy and I were new to the choir, and had joined because we heard that he was going to take the group to Wales for the Eisteddfod competition. We were both ardent choral singers and music lovers.
It was clear from our first rehearsal that his choir was different. His choice of music was outstanding. The vibe among the singers was energetic and committed. Gordon was giving guidance about how to sing each piece for maximum interpretation, and then requiring us to sing on pitch, and with blended voices -- no prima donna voices allowed. This was new for us, and it was so, so gratifying. Our choral sound was superb. You get a taste for this in our Choir of the World CD and the 25th Anniversary CD.
Besides having the greatest respect and admiration for what he did with the DCC, we have enjoyed immensely the last 18 years under his direction. We have been exposed to literally the world's greatest choral music, and felt the luscious gratification of performing it so as to emotionally connect with our audiences.
Joy and I have often said that the DCC "changed our lives", and we sometimes had trouble remembering what exactly we ever did with ourselves before 1996. How rare that one person can be such a continual force upon our lives! We have been so fortunate to have known Gordon.
I wasn't able to see Gordon in his last few weeks, but if I did, my message to him would have been an emphatic "JOB WELL DONE". What he passed on to us was absolutely priceless, and will stay with us forever.
Our family is very grateful for the expressions of love and kindness you have given us and the love that has been shown to Gordon.
It has been such an honor to work alongside my father for 28 years, helping him develop his dream, his world class Detroit Concert Choir. I feel so blessed to have had that role.
My dad was a dreamer, a creator, a visionary, an adventurer, a motivator, and a musical genius. He had high expectations. He was a believer. He was an inspiration.
Me, I was the practical one, the worker bee, the behind the scenes person, ‘The voice of reason’. And he was always so appreciative. He always thanked me. He always told me how proud of me he was. He even thought I was organized. “How do you stay so organized?” But he never saw the inside of my purse, or saw me struggle to find my keys and glasses and phone before I got out of the house in the morning.
It makes me so extremely happy to hear how much he has touched and influenced so many lives. Thank you for sharing your stories. Please keep sharing them and please keep him close. It has been a great comfort knowing how much he is loved, and knowing that he is now home with a choir of angels in heaven.
Judy M Holmes
It’s not often that you can remember the exact day that you met a total stranger who ultimately would change your life but I remember that first meeting with Gordon in vivid detail. My first impression was how suave, debonair and distinguished he was. I auditioned for him in the spring of 1996 after seeing a newspaper ad looking for singers to compete with DCC at the international choral competition in Wales. Fortunately, I passed but had no clue what was ahead of me—long hours of rehearsal, long hours practicing at home, sectionals and concerts throughout the city. I told Gordon that I kept waking up at night rehearsing mentally some of our numbers and he replied, “That’s good!”
And then, when we finally arrived in Manchester, England, and Llangollen, Wales, there were more intense hours spent perfecting articulation, intonations, harmonies, blends, balance, phrasing and precision. Gordon brought all of us together in one unified body of singers who mesmerized the audience and judges that Saturday night when we performed “Arma Lucis” for the finals. It was magical! And then, having just changed from his tux to his green Denby athletic jacket, Gordon raised the trophy for the coveted title—Choir of the World. I think we were more proud for him than for ourselves.
That same level of excellence and magic was evident at the May concert presented in Gordon’s memory. There could be no greater tribute to him than for the choir to sing gloriously to the heavens. One sensed that emotions were running high and hearts were breaking without Gordon at the podium or in the audience. He created a unique sound and style among choral groups. What a legacy he leaves for singers, audiences and judges alike.
Gordon was larger than life and forever will be in my heart. What a special gift God gave us. May love and prayer encircle his family—especially Lois, Chrissy, his children and his grandchildren—and comfort them in their great loss.
Gordon was a life changing experience for me. He took someone with a little talent, taught me how to "breathe", and gave me the confidence to accompany all the great people in DCC to international competitions. What could be better than that!? My favorite memory is when practicing the "Brazilan Psalm", (spelling I'm sure is wrong) and watching Gordon dancing to the music across the rehearsal room. I'll never forget that...
Maestro Nelson worked with love, persistence and with high levels of expectation to prepare his Choir so that their song would be worthy of God and his angels. And when the performance came, the angels found the work worthy and came down and joined the Choir with their song. What we then heard was the Detroit Concert Choir, and the angels, lifting up their voices, and often one could see the heavens open. We got a glimpse of heaven through this immense union of sound. It’s a glimpse that can transform human souls and of- ten, human lives. Longfellow wrote: “God sent his singers down to earth with songs of sadness and of mirth, that they might lift the hearts of men and bring them back to heaven again.”
Gordon Nelson did this for us and for many. Gordon, you lifted up those who sang, and those who listened. For those glimpses of Paradise, and for the magic and beauty you brought to thousands, for the souls you have touched which opened worlds to us all, we thank you, Gordon.
— Dina Soresi Winter
I first met Gordon in the 60’s when my mother Carol Reddick (later Solenberger) worked at Denby High School as an accompanist for the music department. She went twice to Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod with Gordon. Carol and Gordon were good friends who respected the others musical abilities. For me, Gordon was a friend and a personal vocal coach who always had time to help in my musical endeavors.
Carol passed away on February 15, 2015. I sent a copy of her obituary to Gordon as he and Denby were mentioned in it. When I received a reply from Christine, I feared for his health. A friend later informed me of Gordon’s passing. The following is my note to Christine; she asked that I post it here.
I just heard about Gordon and I am so sorry to learn of his passing and our loss. When you wrote and said you would share Carol's obit with him I suspected he was not as active as he had been, but thought he was still "the Ace". When I think of the number of people he influenced and assisted over the decades I am simply amazed. He was a wonderful man, and personally wonderful to me and my mother. I already miss him and as you say, I wish to be sending you comfort and peace. Maybe they are together somewhere enjoying a good concert. I hope so.
There have been few people in this world to take the time to mentor and teach music as this man did - with a passion! Gordon directed the international competition-winning Detroit Concert Choir, and I was blessed by how he encouraged and taught us to sing. I am thankful to have stood facing this man as he coached and coaxed every note and chord, every measure, every song from us, to give to those listening to our concerts. THIS was a GREAT man, loved and respected by everyone who knew him.
Thank you Gordon, for all the precious memories. We danced! We all did, thanks to you.
I've been thinking more about Gordon - about what he gave us in many subtle yet essential ways...how he never ever made anyone feel small or unworthy of his time and attention. This truly was one of his greatest gifts to me [and I think to all of us]. He shared an unbridled and foundational enthusiasm to encourage me/us towards that which he saw us as capable...which was certainly a high degree of excellence. He seemed to already know that we could become better/more than what we may have imagined for ourselves, individually, and as a choir. This always led us into a certain kind of sustained confidence that we really could learn and improve and create something that was outstanding, memorable, meaningful and inspiring to others [and for us as well]. As I see it, he did these things not for his ego, reputation or pride, but for the sheer wonder and joy of it all...which is truly profound! The whole process was/is work and fun and it is glorious, beautiful and transforming. Gordon was indeed, a great champion of choral music in every meaning of the word!
I look forward to joining him in those exultant choirs of heaven...Alleluia, Alleluia!
We are all feeling this tremendous loss with you and we recognize how deeply this is affecting your heart and spirit. Our hearts ache with yours. We all have been so blessed by Gordon's dedication and passion and his giftedness as a wise mentor and gentle teacher. Your essential role in all the growth and success of DCC should never be understated as well, as you have infused your own passion and talents through many years of service for this wonderful institution...the "choir family" we so dearly love! You both have made the DCC a warm place and a welcome and joyful space in our hearts. So much of all that we know and cherish of DCC is due to you and your Dad, as you have been the most superb team and duo to guide and lead us! THANK YOU!!! Singing with the DCC these past 12 years has been a true joy and blessing to me…I am praying for you all. May God’s Spirit be near to you, comfort you and cover you with his peace that does lift us above our understanding and sorrow.
Much love to you and Lois and the entire family,
Psalms 5:11 But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You.
Your dad was a great and wonderful person. I had the honor and privilege to be mistaken for your Dad one time.
We were in Northern Italy in 2004 and had just performed at a small church, getting ready for our competition. After the concert the townsfolk welcomed all of us to a wine and cheese reception in tents they had set up next to the Church. While walking along inside one of the tents, a lady came up to me and handed me a large "key to the city" and said "Thank you, Mr. Nelson for allowing your choir perform in our Church." I said, "Sorry, but I am not Mr. Nelson, but I can take you to him" And we walked around the tent to where Gordon was standing and I presented her to the "real" Mr. Gordon Nelson. I was really humbled and pleased to think that I looked like Gordon, and was mistaken for him. I cannot take his place as a great choir director, but if I can continue to make people happy through singing I believe Gordon will be pleased with the results!
God bless you and the family throughout these trying days. Love and Hugs!
I am so sorry for the immense loss of your father, Gordon. I cannot imagine what it must be like for you right now. He was a great man and so very well-loved by all of us.
We all believed in Gordon and he believed in us and the power of the music to "Take us there," wherever "There" happened to be. Sometimes "There" was in an ancient Welsh graveyard or in a vaulted cathedral in Spain or Italy. Sometimes "There" was simply inside the grand architecture of the beautiful Bach Mass in B Minor, sung by the choir in the humble rehearsal room at Grosse Pointe North. But Gordon took us "There" and we were happy to take the ride with him.
And now his music has taken him "There" to Heaven, his Homeland, the place where he can have a choir who does not need reading glasses, a choir who look up at him because all the music is memorized, There, where all the notes are sung in the pocket of the pitch, a place where The Dance is inherent in all they do There in Heaven, and does not have to be taught. Yes, Gordon is finally There, and it's a glorious homecoming for him. And the best part of all is he gets to see his Savior's face, the One who redeemed him, his days, his time, the One who redeems us, our days, our time, if we simply take the time to ask Him.
I made this recording last week for you. I laid down the tracks myself in a recording studio here in little old Sequim, then sang over them. The first is "A Living Prayer" and the second, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." I hope you are nourished by them, Chrissy. Much love to you.
Your steadfast friend, Cynthia
"This is so very hard for me to do. Gordon was like a 2nd father to me. I started singing with him at Denby High School in 1970. He said " come sing the National Anthem for me and we can see the world". Boy, was he right. He taught me all I know about singing. And yes, I saw the world with Gordon. I was on every trip the choir went on. Little did I know as a 15 year old in High school I would be there to care for him 45 years later as he made his transition to Eternal Life as our Lord has always promised us. I thanked him for teaching me and letting me be a part of his life. I don't know what I would do without my choir family. It has been a joy to watch Chrissy grow up to be my friend, little sister, great Mom, the executive director of DCC and my Little Chicken! My heart is hurting but I know we will meet again, singing in Heaven. I pray for peace for Chrissy and her family, Lois and all of DCC. I will miss you Elmer. I know you are directing the band of angels." xoxo
As Mister Emeritus of the Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church, I have many fond memories. There was no prouder moment for me, however, than when Gordon Nelson and the Detroit Concert Choir agreed to locate their offices within our church complex. It was not just that Gordon was an incredible musician and director, it was his combination of twinkling laughter, abiding faith, and unwaveringly high expectations of himself and others that drew us to him. I loved our many conversations and his visions of what can be. I never thought he could surpass the Detroit Concert Choir, but now when I think of Gordon, I truly will hear America singing. Word of the concert honoring Gordon arrived on Friday. Were I not scheduled for a preaching assignment on Sunday morning, my wife and I would have driven from our home in Tennessee for Saturday's concert. We will certainly be there in spirit. Our love to Chrissy, Veronica and all of the wonderful people of the Detroit Concert Choir.
Carmen Smithe (Shank)
My prayers and thoughts are with all of you.
The world has lost a great talent. I have so many great memories and times that are dear to my heart. I will always remember those times i shared with all and my individual times with Ace. May his soul rest in peace and until we meet again, Gordon, in the heavenly choir...
Dear Chrissy, Veronica, and all of the DCC family. I was saddened to hear the news of Gordon's death, but we know we will see him again. There is always great comfort in that assurance. I haven't known Gordon for nearly as long as most who have posted testimonials here, and I doubt that I know him as well as many. But I know enough about him to know that he was one of my heroes. His musical accomplishments speak for themselves of course. Additionally I was always impressed by his kindness to me. He worked with my group, the Langsford Men's Chorus, more than once and was always quick to praise and encourage. I have a video tape of one of his sessions with us, which I will always reference when I need to be reminded how to get my choirs to sing musically. He also once generously gave me a volume of sacred latin texts and their translations, as well as a very supportive recommendation for my files. Whoever succeeds Gordon as director of the DCC will be lucky indeed...but of course will have some huge shoes to fill. Rest in peace, Gordon.
Gordon Nelson was a champion of my ARMA LUCIS earlier in his career and it was one of my greatest pleasures to know that through him and the Detroit Concert Choir, my music served as a vehicle for touching hearts around the world. Gordon will surely be dearly missed by all those who worked with him.
Sharing in your loss,
Almeda and Jackson Berkey
For ALL of us that cannot make it to pay or respects due to time, distance or previous commitments... Here is to a great person who shaped anyone he came in contact with. From Boys Choirs, Girls Choirs, Mixed Choirs to the ensembles at Denby and motivating many to the All_City High School Honors choir we all thank you. From zero hour rehearsals, to the fantantics programs that you directed Winter and Spring Concert along withCarmina Burana, and The Messiah and an album that you created with us (i still have mine). We all thank you and are listening to you in that heavenly choir.
To Ace, OZ and all the nicknames you had ..... This is for you.... Our heartfelt thanks and love.
God Bless you and yours.....
Alan Isaacson - Denby Class of '69
The only choir director who could help me sound better than I was. What a joy to be in his choir and have all those wonderful experiences. Thank you, Gordon, for bringing out the best in me, in us, in your choir. Rest in peace and may you direct the choir of angels in heaven. Love, Paula Beaudoin
Lois Whiteside Miller
I had to take some time with this, Gordon. Goodbye, Ace. We have so many wonderful people in our lives because of you. Our lives are full of such beautiful music and memories because of you. From 1970 when I first sang for you, you beamed that magic smile and gave me the ticket to the rest of my life by saying "You're in! Let's be great, Ace!". From high school, through the Denby Performing Arts Co., through the DCC and beyond to my own choirs - I'm so immensely grateful for so much. You were and are one incredibly special human being, Gordon Nelson. Peace, love and music - always. Viva la musica!
Gordon was probably one of the most influential people is my musical career. Even though I had played drums and sang professionally in the 1970s I really didn't have a good feel for how to sing and present my message until joining the DCC back in 1998. The Dance! Yes, The Dance was all he talked about and that was how he molded the singers under his wing. And what a difference it made in how the DCC sounds. I still remember my first audition with him like it was yesterday. I had an ok range but I told him I always sang bass in previous choirs so he initially stuck me in the bass / baritone section. I practiced and worked hard but Gordon always seemed to lack tenors. Well just before our spring concerts he popped me into the tenor section and then hounded me for weeks as I didn’t have the tenor parts down. My music reading skills were clearly not up to par. But I survived and got better thanks to my fellow tenors and most of all because of Gordon. He would make time to personally coach me, plunking out each note on the piano and making sure I was comfortable with what I was singing. He truly cared about each and every one of us! Gordon you will be sorely missed by me and everyone you’ve mentored. God bless – Mike Samyn, San Diego California
I’ve known Gordon Nelson since I was 14 years old. He was the choir director at our church and he let me play piano for him with the youth choir…and sing the soprano duet from Vivaldi’s Gloria. At U of M, when I was there in the Music School, he was there getting his Master’s of Music, and he and his wife, Cynthia Kunert included me in a couple of Sunday dinners (Chrissy -Jeff Rouce- was about 4 yo!)
Later, I was able to join his World Award winning choir. We traveled to Spain, Austria, Italy and Wales – and won more awards. He asked me to be the Alto Section leader, allowed me to direct and teach the choir many times. This choir, which at times has included up to 90 members, has become a family to me. I will miss him along with all my choir family - but will hold his music and all I've learned from him in my heart.
I went to a concert at Denby High School BEFORE I was even teaching--when I was a student at Oakland University. I'm not even sure how I found out about him but someone told me to go see/hear the choirs directed by Gordon Nelson. I didn't even bother meeting him--but was totally impressed. (This would have been in the mid '60's)
I had no further contact with him after that until after I became choir director at Ebenezer Baptist Church and became acquainted with Jan Stewart --who was the organist there--and later became my accompanist at Dondero. She had know and worked with Gordon since she was a teen-ager--and --soon after he formed DCC she took me to a concert--(before she was a memeber) and from that time I became fan of this most amazing Choral man!! He was one of the best in his field--as we all know. His performance of the Gospel Mass was our inspiration and guide to performing at Dondero with the A Cappella choir--and even joining the DCC on one occasion for a performance. Gordon will be missed by the hundreds of people who have sung under his direction. He did what he was put on this earth to do--as good as it could be done!! Proud to call him friend.
I will be forever grateful to have known and loved Gordon and having had the privilege to sing under his direction for 28 years. I have been moved beyond words so many times while singing with the DCC under his artistic direction, especially during out Choir of the World performance in 1996. That was transcendent. He will be forever in my heart and our music will continue to touch and inspire me and so many others for years to come. Thank you Ace for your inspiration, love and guidance. Enjoy the Choir of Angels now.
Gordon was the wind beneath our wings, encouraging us to develop out talents to the fullest and challenging us with new musical wonders every concert! So many
People have told me how much they enjoyed the variety and quality of all our concerts, different every time! We will all be eternally grateful for his guidance, patience and wisdom!!
Gordon taught me so many things about musicality, emotion of music, challenging yourself vocally, etc. etc. all while enjoying making beautiful choral music. I am very grateful to have had the honor to learn and grow under his directorship. DCC is my 2nd family, and he will be sorely missed.
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