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Words From Wiser: My Words Were Music to His Ear


From Chuck Wiser, 8/5/21

I’ve mentioned here before that I always wanted to be a writer. I have always fancied myself as a “fair to middlin” singer, at least in the privacy of the shower, and prior to the 80’s my only formal exposure to music was as a drummer in Tex Warner’s “Allegany Ridge Runner’s”, a Country Western band out of Nile, N.Y. in the early 50’s and 60’s.

In the early 80’s (’81 I believe) the Genesee Valley Chorus was in need of a music director and so did a regional advertisement and search. One of the applicants was David Dunbar, Director of Music at Portville Central School. I had the honor and good fortune to be on the search committee, and Dave’s experience, personality, and obvious passion for music, made him a clear choice to be the musical director of our group. Unbeknownst to us at the time, along with Dave came a perfect “2 -Fer”, as his wife Peg was also an accomplished piano accompanist and alto singer. We got “two for” the group in many ways.

My poetic writings are typically generated by some external inspiration. Shortly before meeting Dave, I had been inspired to write a poem by the view from above the clouds, where the clouds slipped by so silently, on an airplane ride for a business trip. I wrote of those clouds and other “silent sounds”. At a typical meeting between the Chorus officers and Dave, the discussion somehow prompted me to mention that I wrote poetry. Dave asked if I would be willing to share some with him as he had dabbled in writing choral music. Dave put my words to music and by far brought forth more through his music than I ever anticipated was there. If a picture is “worth a 1000 words”, Dave’s music multiplied that worth “many fold”. The first of several published choral pieces “Silent Sounds” was published in 1982 by “Kendor Music Inc”, Delevan, NY.

I’m pretty sure that all musical directors have their own “musical performance philosophy”, as all that I have been exposed to certainly did. Our previous musical director, well known in this area, was a stickler for precision of “the mechanics of musical performance”. You “dasn’t” take a breath in the middle of a musical phrase where it didn’t belong. If you did, you earned a glare, if not outright admonishment. Dave was not lax on demanding mechanical precision, but his “musical motivation” was to sell the emotion and passion of the song with feeling and expression. A mechanical mistake was forgiven and, as I recall, it was suggested something along the line that: “If you’re going to make a mistake, make a glorious mistake”. One of Dave’s other “musical talents” was one requiring a little more attention to “precision” detail as he was also involved and dedicated to “Marching Band” directing, composing and judging.

At the beginning of our second performance year under Dave’s direction, he approached us with an offer, and a challenge. Dave and Peg had been intimately involved with the association known as “NYSSMA” (New York State School Music Association) and especially its annual student participation and presentations at The Concord Resort in the Catskills. Through Dave’s contact with them we had been invited to perform as an adult mixed chorus in front of the audience of hundreds of musical students and “professionals” in the form of fellow musical educators.

I had, by that time, become the President of The Genesee Valley Chorus and naive like a rookie, and maybe because I was, I helped convince the group that it would be a fun thing to do. Committees were formed and the task of fund raising began.

Many chorus members and officers met the challenge and through their efforts and labors, we were able to charter a bus, travel to, and present at, the Concord and indelibly etch an experience into our hearts and minds. I am biased as I was integrally involved in both activities, but, at least in my time, the two greatest experiences with the Chorus were: The production of a record while under the directorship of Anthony Cappadonia, formerly Musical Director at Alfred State College, and the Concord Resort visit and performance under Dave and Peg Dunbar.

Unfortunately, I had to step away from formal musical participation shortly after starting my teaching career at Alfred State College, and stayed uninvolved for over 20 years. Nearly all of the courses I taught at Alfred were new to me, so I had to learn a tremendous amount of new information, in a number of different engineering and manufacturing disciplines, so as to be able to teach the material. Although physically separated from contact with Dave from about 1984 on, we remained in virtual contact and successfully collaborated on several musical compositions published by Shawnee Press/Glory Sound. It is with great pride that I can say that many of these songs have been performed at local churches and High Schools. Their popularity is not of my doing, but instead, due to the fantastic talent and musicality of Dave and Peg Dunbar.

Two songs, in particular, have special meaning to Dave and me. One song; “Trust in Me”, was written and dedicated to my Mother, “Fran” Miles. She never got to hear us perform it, but when Dave and Peg sang it at her funeral, something tells me that she was listening. The other song; “In His Hands”, was dedicated to the memory of his Mother and Father “Jo” and “Ozzie” Dunbar.  

I share with you here, the lyric for those songs, with heartfelt disappointment that you cannot hear the beautiful strains of the music that Dave composed. “Thank You Lord” for putting Dave and Peg Dunbar in my life. They are my musical inspiration.       But first…a “ditty for Dave”.

Muse-ically for Dave

David is a friend of mine. We sing for fun and play.

I’ll try my best to make a rhyme, to share on his Birthday.

Music was a link to us, we sang and wrote some songs.

In harmony, as friends we grew, as Peg would play our songs.

Birthday songs just didn’t fit the pace of this here note.

But surely, he can be the one to fix these words I wrote.

“Silent Sounds”, was the song, that started our career.

How could we know back then, t’would bond a link so dear?

It’s hard to keep these thoughts herein in syllables and rhyme.

Six beats just doesn’t seem to work to write this song of “time”.

David is a friend of mine his friendship has been dear.

Our link was music that we share, his music speaks so clear.

Trust in Me

If you feel like talking, talk to Me

If you feel like crying, cry to Me

If your soul is thirsty, drink of Me

For I will share your burden if you trust in Me

If you’re sad and lonely, come to Me

If you’re tired and weary, rest in Me

If your road is troubled, walk with Me

For I’m the only way to eternity

If your heart is heavy, share with Me

If tempted and astray return to Me

When you need a guiding hand, pray to Me

Close your eyes, Trust in Me, and you will see

In His Hands

In His hands we are free to speak. In His hands we are free to seek

He comes to us in many ways. He comes to us when we kneel and pray

 In His hands we are taught to love, He shines his light from up above

We learn to love, to hope and care. The strength from Him is always there

In His hands, He will hold who grieve. There’s life ever after if you believe

In His hands all things can be. With open hearts and eyes to see

In his hands though tired and frail, if faith is strong we cannot fail

In His hands, so full of grace with faith and trust our fears we face

When daylight fades or the journey ends, let us sleep or lay, within His hands

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