BY DONALD TEETERS
John Grimes was a musician’s musician. He loved performing. He also loved the preparation for performance and the research that went into determining the right instrument and mallets for the work being performed, be it opera, oratorio, or symphony. And there was a stylistic integrity that he brought to his work, the knowledge that music by Handel or Haydn or Brahms or Britten required different sounds and techniques. John’s attention to these matters, coupled with his great natural gift, earned him the admiration of his colleagues. Audiences, too, enjoyed his musical company. His enthusiasms were a delight to hear and to see. He wanted people to see how much fun he was having.
His first performance with The Boston Cecilia (then The Cecilia Society) was on April 14, 1977. The work was Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Benjamin Zander was the conductor. I was on sabbatical leave for most of that season. When I last visited John at his home two weeks before he died, he was working on orchestral contracting details related to Cecilia’s forthcoming performance of that work, on Bach’s birthday, March 21, 2014. Cecilia’s new music director, Nicholas White, will conduct. There is a poignant symmetry, I think, in musing on that span of thirty-six years between John’s first and final collaborations with The Boston Cecilia, and on all the fine music-making that took place in between, and that at the core, both at beginning and end, was Bach’s magnum opus.
I have conducted many Cecilia performances over the years in which John played a central role: a great deal of Handel, of course, and Bach, but also Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and from later times Fauré and Britten and some fine composers of right now. John Grimes was not only a frequent performer with Cecilia, but also a valued contributor to its management team as a member of the Board of Directors during his final years. Speaking personally, the relationship between John Grimes and me grew from a formal, professional one into, in the last decade or so, one of great personal friendship and mutual respect. We had great conversations about everything. He liked my cooking. I liked the wines he brought as accompaniments. His circle of friendships was wide, professional connections maybe even wider. Stories of his kindnesses and support are legend, markers of the respect and affection this most remarkable man and musician so fully earned. He is missed.
—Donald Teeters, Conductor Emeritus
Timpani photo: courtesy of Flickr user, vxla