The two weekend events were designed to be a tribute, not a memorial. But everyone on stage and in the audience knew that our friend Dave Marston had contracted an incurable, fatal disease.

We all tried very consciously to refer to Dave in the present, using "is" instead of "was." We struggled to keep the atmosphere filled with light when all we really wanted to do was cry.

Now that Dave has died, "was" still seems inappropriate. He "is" very much with us, speaking in the language he loved most — music.

As the weekend benefits made so clear, Dave is a seed planter. The fruits of his labors were in evidence as each of Dave's many students took the stage and played an original song or instrumental. Choirs Dave led or started and other choirs that had performed with them filled the Historic Ashland Armory with song. His family performed. Friends and colleagues performed, and in true Dave fashion, even the audience performed.

And Dave "is" in our memories of him. And there are many. Who can forget his passionate and powerful "Essence of Lennon?" Or the Beatles marathon when Dave sang 'em all, right through the night. I have fond memories of Dave as the music director for a production of "The Yellow Submarine" that I directed at St. Mary's. My youngest son played the part of John Lennon.

Then there were the evenings at Archie's Pizza on the Plaza in Ashland where Dave, Linda Hawkes and Garret Edmands performed in the Beatles cover band Vera, Chuck and Dave.

What especially struck me when I went to those nights was that the band encouraged people to sing along, sometimes even inviting them to come right up on stage with them. There was a sense of community in those nights. A clear recognition from Dave and the other musicians that those songs belonged to all of us and the band was not so much performing them for us as sharing them with us.

Somehow when I call to mind Dave Marston, I am aware not so much of personality but of what he made possible for others to do. I rarely got to hear his beautiful tenor voice. Sure, there were the aforementioned "Essence of Lennon," Vera, Chuck and Dave, and the Nowhere Men. And even a scene or two with the Rogue Opera and at Elderhostel.

But mostly when I think of Dave, I see him directing choirs and having them perform in the Fourth of July Parade, the Feast of Will, on stage at the Ashland Christmas parade and at nursing homes. Wherever and whenever they could. His music became the soundtrack for the people of Ashland.

I joined the Siskiyou Singers shortly after Dave did. It quickly became one of the highlights of my week as we rehearsed toward our performances. Dave would fill in the blanks of our musical understanding with bits of composer biographies, quick lessons in music theory and tips on how to breathe so we could sing better.

He kept the mood friendly but focused. He had a light-hearted sense of humor. His trademark smile was often accompanied with a little chuckle, before he took in a couple of breaths between his teeth and quickly got down to work again.

I saw that toothy grin again last Friday when I visited him. He was lying in bed and I sat in a chair next to him along with David Gabriel and his sister. Dave and I stared at one another as I held his hand and thanked him for giving us all so much. Then I thanked him for the wonderful experiences I had being a part of the Siskiyou Singers, especially getting to sing "Carmina Burana" twice. Dave often encouraged members of the choir to sing solos or in small groups for some of the pieces. Again, planting seeds.

I thanked him for letting me sing with the men's sextet in "Carmina Burana" and added half in jest, "Even though I can't sing." With that, Dave's face, which had been mostly expressionless up to that point, lit up with that classic Dave grin, teeth and all. A few moments later David Gabriel and I launched into one of our impromptu comic routines. We got smiles for that, too. Thanks, Dave, for being such an appreciative audience. And promoter.

Like all of us, Dave had sad and difficult moments to contend with. What kept him going, what got him to his feet again and again, was the healing power of music. It was his special destiny to spread that power over a wide range and in a span of time, the precious brevity of which no one, including Dave, could have foreseen.

Thanks Dave, for continuing to fill our souls with song.

Share This Story