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Life and Times - MW Bro. Ramond S. Daniels

 

Lifetimes: Beloved music teacherís legacy went far beyond classroom

 

Ray Daniels of Waterloo. Born: Sept. 2, 1937, in Orillia; Died: Jan. 24, 2016, of age-related illness

 

Description: Ray Daniels and Thomas Goerz

 

Ray Daniels and Thomas Goerz

Waterloo Region Record

By Valerie Hill

 

Ray Daniels was a conundrum, a man who sculpted himself a career that shot him into the limelight, but who also refused public accolades and often downplayed his abilities. Outgoing or introverted? Ray was both, and that is what made him so interesting and a bit mysterious.

 

Ray taught vocal music at Eastwood Collegiate for 23 years, started numerous choirs and co-founded the Waterloo Regional Gilbert & Sullivan Society, launching it at the school. Because of Ray, students not only found their voices but several went on to professional careers including Alex Mustakas, artistic director of Drayton Entertainment.

 

Alex recalled, "I learned more about music and the works of Gilbert and Sullivan from him than anyone else I have ever met. He set the musical bar for me, no pun intended. An amazing human being."

 

Opera singer Thomas Goerz wrote a lengthy tribute to his old teacher, speaking of Ray's ability to inspire students. Ray was always at school an hour early and he led at least three choirs while encouraging even the most reluctant singer to open his mouth and just try.

 

"Raymond Daniels was known to many an Eastwood music student as Uncle Ray, Mister D, but usually just good ol' Ray," recalled Thomas. "Though I came from a musical family, it was Ray Daniels who was the true difference maker. He gave me the confidence to take the plunge into the unknown: a career in the performing arts."

 

Ray's father was an orchestral musician so the love of music might have been genetic. As a child, Ray studied piano then graduated to the organ at 13. At 17, he was hired as church organist in Barrie and later studied for a decade with a Toronto organist and at Syracuse University in New York. Ray also held diplomas from Trinity College of Music in London, England, and an undergraduate degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in music and history.

 

Ray was hired by a church in Simcoe where he was also music supervisor for the school board. It was in Simcoe that he met Brenda, a music teacher. Brenda declined to be interviewed for this feature. The couple, married for 52 years, didn't have children.

 

In 1967 Ray accepted the vacated organist's position at Trinity United Church in Kitchener. He was aware of the church's reputation and told a Record reporter at the time "one of the reasons for my wanting to come to Trinity was its tradition of music. Because of the background and the service already done here the church staff was anxious that they be continued. I am also."

 

Ray and Brenda were musical powerhouses in the region. Brenda sang in the Grand Philharmonic Choir, then known as the K-W Philharmonic Choir, and Ray served as accompanist.

 

Retired conductor Howard Dyck said Ray was an exceptional accompanist, an intuitive musician who anticipated the choir's needs, sometimes before Howard did.

 

"An accompanist has to be a pretty good pianist," said Howard. "He needs to be looking at the choir, watching what the choir is doing."

 

Ray had to play with emphasis if a particular section was faltering, trying to get them back on track and he usually knew exactly which bar to start at after the conductor stopped the singing to fix a problem.

 

"Ray was able to do this magnificently," said Howard. "He was a very fine musician."

 

Howard also spoke of how much his friend loved Great Britain, particularly the musical history, and he had taken The Renaissance Singers, a choral group he founded in 1972, to perform at festivals in England.

 

"He was an Anglophile, he loved all things English," said Howard. "He was a walking encyclopedia of music, very knowledgeable."

 

Ray often suggested beautiful but neglected pieces of music, works that even Howard didn't know.

 

On a personal level, Howard said his friend was "a quirky guy who didn't suffer fools gladly. He would say really irreverent things about people he thought were uninformed. He was very funny."

 

As Ray began winding down his musical career, he poured his energies into Freemasonry. Ray had joined his father's Orillia lodge in 1959 and he was an active Mason during his teaching career. By the early 1990s, he started moving up until he reached the highest rank in the province, that of Grand Master. Ray shared his fraternity's basic tenet of gentlemanly behaviour and compassion for others.

 

Fellow Mason David Cameron said that Ray worked hard to open lines of communication between the general public and the Masons, an organization that has long suffered from distorted public opinion about what goes on behind closed doors.

 

"He wanted to be open with them, get the facts out there as opposed to all those conspiracy theories," said David. "He rose to the top quickly because of his enthusiasm and his teaching ability."

 

Ray came up with the idea of the Masons and Brock University partnering to establish the prestigious Dr. Charles A. Sankey Lecture Series on Masonic studies and they also established a Masonic lodge in Afghanistan on a Canadian Forces base, to give young soldiers a sense of fraternity.

 

"He made it happen," said David.

 

What made Ray a good Grand Master? David thinks it was his friend's caring manner and how he would gravitate to new members ensuring they felt welcome.

 

"He always had a smile when he'd greet you," said David. "He was always approachable."

 

vhill@therecord.com