Remembering Paul Des Marais

June 21, 2011

Paul DesMarais

I attended Paul DesMarais’ funeral last week. It was good to see his family, whom I had never met, and old mutual friends: Paul and Claire, Elaine Barkin, Mark Carlson, David Long and others.

Paul wanted to make sure that his final chapter as a gay man didn’t get swept under the rug. Rev John Coleman saw to that in his homily. The homily was touching. It climaxed on Paul’s decision to come out as a gay man at age 76, which coincided with the death of one of his daughters.

Paul and I have been friends since 1983 when he was a member of the committee that ID’d me as a candidate for the job I now hold at UCLA. We both had Harvard and Illinois in our heritage. We had lunch monthly for years. We’d gush over Ravel and Stravinsky music, often singing loudly together a shared beloved passage: other customers would glare at us, and we didn’t care.

Paul was famous for being one of the best score readers ever. His early training and experience with Nadia Boulanger made him an amazing musician. His compositions preferred instrumentations that favored piano and percussion. He rarely pursued orchestral instruments. He fell in love with writing songs relatively late in life and they became more and more beautiful. He has a musical that got a performance and then he withdrew. I’d love to revisit that again.

Paul always wrote in ink. He didn’t make the transition to computer notation, although he used computers for email and such. I remember fondly Paul playing music for me on his upright piano.

I publish much of his music through Yelton Rhodes Music. I encourage you to listen to some of the recordings of his music that we have on that website.

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