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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on April 3rd, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 4 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 4

Missing Mr. Montague

This late, musical humanitarian gave us all a wonderful gift

BY RICHARD CHILTON

One of the most remarkable ambassadors for the greater Central Coast region of California over the last half-century was the indefatigable late maestro of acapella choral music, Mr. Glenn A. Montague, who journeyed to the Spirit World the day before the first day of spring, this winter.

Mr. Montague, whose local debut in 1963 at the new campus of Ernest Righetti High School in Santa Maria matched mine as a freshman new to the area, was one of those rare human beings for whom “humanity” meant truly everyone. His passion may have been acapella choral music, but his practice was with people, and he lived his faith through being an example and in nurturing a respect of self as you defined it for yourself with hard work, humor, grace, and humility.

He was dean of students then, a job he disliked because an in local parentis discipline still popular at the time was not his style, and secular public school, even in those waning days of baccalaureates and prayer-in-school, was community to Glenn Montague, and especially one drawn together through music, and expressly so with choral music—sacred choral music.

Ah! but a choral music that was modern and contemporary, with discordance and eight-part harmonies. Mr. Montague even later acknowledged its difficulty after we had mastered it. His time at Springville, Utah, gave him the confidence, but Righetti gave him the freedom to be himself in his chosen craft, and the folks at nearby Allan Hancock College had the vision to see who Mr. Montague was to hire him away, offering more freedom.

Within the winter, I was to graduate and move back home to college. In the immediate winters afterward, before I went east, I stopped by a couple times—once to visit, once catching a performance. I will always be haunted by that sound. No one else anywhere ever replicated such “flawless choral sound” performed with such “intense spiritual impact” as Glenn Montague choirs. They were all unique.

Speaking to us as vocalists, Mr. Montague himself once described this experience as “[through] your spiritual efforts in combining ‘truth’ and ‘beauty,’ then serving as a ‘conduit’ through which [our] audiences felt the spirit of our music, thousands of hearts have been touched. … I am sincerely grateful to have shared such precious experiences with you.”

So are we, Mr. Montague. Thank you to all residing in the greater Santa Maria area over the last half-century for supporting the work of this extraordinary man. What a phenomenal gift he gave us all through our voices in his long professional career as the humanitarian he was!

Richard Chilton sang in the Ernest Righetti High School Acapella Choir from 1963 to 1967. He now lives on the Omaha Indian Reservation in Rosalie, Neb. Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.