FARMINGTON — As University of Maine at Farmington chorus members sang Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” in memory of the group’s founder, former choral member Beverly Dunst sat in the back of the packed hall, emotionally listening to the tribute to Joel Hayden.
Hayden, founder of the University of Maine at Farmington Community Chorus, died in March at age 92 and was honored at the concert Sunday afternoon at the university. The chorus was accompanied by Patricia Hayden, Joel Hayden’s widow and longtime musical partner. Patricia received roses and two standing ovations from an audience teeming with families and friends of current choral members along with former members.
Dunst said she was a member of the choir before Joel retired 21 years ago, and she has continued to attend the concerts out of a sense of community with the close-knit group of students and community members.
“You could just tell that they both loved music with every cell in their body,” she said.
Patricia said after the concert that it was chorus conductor Bruce McInnes who decided to dedicate “Elijah” to Joel.
“That was his favorite choral work,” she said. “That was the only thing he listened to for the last two weeks before he died.”
McInnes told the audience after the performance that he would keep his remarks brief, but emotionally thanked Patricia for her work with the choir.
“I would be insensitive if I failed to comment on this wonderful woman,” said McInnes, twice composing himself between his words and prompting another standing ovation.
Patricia and Joel founded the chorus in 1981, she said, when Joel became a professor at UMF, where he taught both music and Russian until his retirement in 1993.
After his retirement, Patricia said she continued to accompany the chorus on the piano and, aside from a brief break, has served in the role for 32 years.
“It’s been the love of my life, and it was my husband’s too,” she said. “We were musical partners.”
Joel, born in Cleveland in 1922, earned his doctorate in Russian history from Harvard University in 1958 and started his teaching career at the St. Louis Country Day School. He went on to teach at Antioch College, where he taught Russian and history, and Nasson College in Sanford, where he was director of counseling and career planning, and was a founder and faculty member at The Meeting School, a secondary level Quaker boarding school in Rindge, N.H.
Along with the chorus at UMF, Hayden is also noted for previously founding and conducting community choruses in Springvale and Portland, as well as Middlebury, Vt., and Peterborough, N.H.
“He started lots of choirs all over, because that’s what he did,” Patricia said. “He just loved music.”
Kaitlin Schroeder — firstname.lastname@example.org