How does one speak about “the light” that was Dominic? How does one speak of this inexplicable tragedy that has shut off that light?
I am being neither flippant nor poetic in my use of the word “light”. I have heard it so many times from different people who either knew Dominic well or had only heard of him. I have heard students speak of him as “radiant light”, as “luminous.” He cast a certain light in the way he perceived the world, in the way he wanted people to be with one another, in the way he saw the place of music in our lives, in the way he saw his role in our midst.
“For Dominic, life and music was about love and compassion and forgiveness and kindness and gratitude and connectedness. As a friend put it, “Dominic was hired to teach music, and he did, but it was secondary to his teaching about love and compassion.””
I came to know him best was when I joined his choirs for The Messiah in 2017 and Faure’s Requiem in the spring of 2018. He shone the brightest of lights on the pieces and brought a new perspective to those of us who had been singing the choruses of The Messiah for 25 years. He made clear the symbiosis of the music and the words, the nuances and dynamics of the music that bring the story to life. He also made us understand that we had been given a gift, and we, in turn, were giving that gift to those who would be listening to us. We not only were singing, but also making a connection with each other in the choir and with those in the audience.
For above all, Dominic was a passionate connector.
And that was the role of music in our lives. For Dominic, life and music was about love and compassion and forgiveness and kindness and gratitude and connectedness. As a friend put it, “Dominic was hired to teach music, and he did, but it was secondary to his teaching about love and compassion.”
During rehearsals, he would constantly encourage us to reflect on those values, and make us greet and speak to the choristers beside us. It was annoying and quirky at first – all those homilitics and all that hugging your neighbour – but eventually it all made sense. We were not simply singing, we were connecting and living the music.
And the students in the choir – one could see how much they idolized Dominic, how they respected him and absorbed everything he said. He was full of joy and was genuine in his affection and care. As one student put it quite poetically, Dominic’s luminosity “radiated from his being and dispelled the shadows from every soul he touched.” And he worked hard – late into the night writing and sending us copious notes after every rehearsal – and he expected us to work on his notes.
As soon as he had come on campus, he worked hard at attracting students to his choirs. He eventually doubled the size of the University choirs as students responded to the freshness and vitality of his approach to music, and to his creativity.
He very quickly made a name for himself in the University as well as in the community. Regina has always been blessed in its musical culture; Dominic tapped into that culture and enriched it. The concerts he directed were always a delightful and aesthetic experience –transcendent even.
And then there was his socializing, for he had cast a wide net of circles of friends. He was as intense in his friendships as he was in all that he did. He was loving and wanted desperately to be loved.
But I think Dominic would tell us to find comfort “in the strength of love”; love makes the tragedy endurable, which would otherwise inflame the brain and break the heart. There is comfort in knowing that though Dominic’s life was brief, it was a life profoundly, lovingly, lived. Dominic strongly believed that we live not in our bodies but in our minds and hearts. And so though he is no longer with us physically, he continues to live in the spirit and the music and the love he left behind, in the many whom he taught and whose lives he touched with his “bright light.”
Former professor of English at Campion College