Post: Aug. 28
It's with great sadness that I write this post. My new friend, Dr. Randall Giles, passed away yesterday quite suddenly. Randy had been ill with a fever and cough for a few days and decided to go to the doctor yesterday morning. He walked himself to the car and even had a cold drink on the way there. But when he arrived at the hospital he suffered a massive heart attack and died.
It was a blessing to have known Randy, even for this short time at SAM. He was not only the Dean of the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music but also a prolific composer and musician and a beautiful person. The first time I heard one of his choral works it brought tears to my eyes. He wrote a lot of choral works and sang with a number of choirs. He originally came to India as a Christian missionary, doing musical work in local churches. If you want to check out all the work he's done, visit www.randallgiles.org. He travelled all over the world and has quadruple the musical education I have plus double the years of experience. He celebrated his sixtieth birthday in July. He lived in Chennai for ten years before moving everything he owned to the SAM campus a few weeks ago.
One of my favourite memories with Randy was the day we spent together in our villa, listening to music. I played him some of my own music that I've been working on. He was extremely encouraging and gave me some great constructive feedback that will stick with me for the rest of my musical life. We also spent time that day listening to his own works. It was so inspiring and made me realize how much there is to learn about music AND Randy himself. I wish I had asked more questions. He told me he was planning on writing a song for me to sing and for the rest of the faculty to perform as well.
Another great memory was the day we went to Pondicherry and Randy guided us to the good places. We ate lunch at a beautiful restaurant called Sat Sanga- Randy knew the owners. Randy was very well-known and well-liked and, as far as I know, has many friends throughout India, particularly in Pondicherry and Chennai. He also took us to a hotel called the Promenade, where we had drinks on the patio with a view of the beach. I would like for us to travel back there and raise a glass to him once again when the time is right.
Randy had a great spirit. He smiled and laughed a great deal. He was also very capable of making his opinions known. I don't know who will be our advocate for boneless chicken and for telling the cooks that the food is simply too spicy! He made himself at home in our villa, bringing in his own filtered coffee kettle and mugs. If you were around when he was having coffee made, he always invited you to share in his coffee stores and have a cup with him- he preferred to not drink it alone. Keep in mind the value of a good cup of coffee around here- they're serving us powdered blend. Good coffee and good conversation.
When I was sick with Delhi Belly: Round Two, Randy would call and check in on me. He would stand in line for food at the dining area and tell me what they were serving, and then make sure they sent me something manageable. He also lent me one of my favourite things that I had been missing since I got here- a good book. The book he lent me is called "The Quickening Maze" by Adam Fould. It's won several awards and is extremely well-written. Randy was in the middle of reading it but, because I was bored, suggested that I borrow it. Reading a good book here brightened my days. The book, which I was still reading when he passed away, has Randy's name inscribed in his own calligraphy on the first page and also has a little business card in it on the page where he left off.
The day I got better, Randy got sick. He was my next-door neighbour in our villa and I would check in on him frequently (but now I think it should have been more frequently). On Thursday I brought him juice and some good old North American crackers from my suitcase. Apparently he quit smoking on Thursday. That was the last time I saw him. According to Prasanna and Shyam, who visited him in the hospital after he passed away, he died with a blissful smile on his face.
Thank you, Randy, for your friendship. It was an honour and a privilege to have known you for this relatively brief period of time. You blessed us with inspiration and light. Rest in peace, new friend.