Dal Richards 1918-2015

I’ve just listened to Margaret Gallagher’s thoughtful and gracious tribute to Dal Richards, who died on New Year’s Eve–perfect timing, since NYE was for him for 79 years the great moment of the year. From 1936 to 2014, he led his swing band in saying goodbye to the old year and hello to the new.

Some family memories. I remember my parents talking about dancing to Dal’s orchestra on NYE at the Panorama Roof at the Hotel Vancouver, then the most glamorous night-spot in town. So when we noticed that on Mom’s 85th birthday (November 21, 1997) he and his orchestra would be playing at a downtown restaurant, we arranged her birthday party there, without telling her why we had made that choice. Dinner carried on, and she enjoyed the music–“sounds a lot like Dal Richards!” Then we asked him to come over to our table and ask her to dance, which he did. A very sweet moment.

In 2013, with my sister’s 70th birthday coming up (on March 30), we wanted to do something special. So we hired Dal and four of his musicians for a mere (I mean this sincerely) $1000, which we thought was an incredible bargain for someone of his fame and stature. Everyone who came chipped in $20 and the cost was easily met. We arranged the party in the lower floor (OK, the basement) of First Lutheran Church, and again, made it a surprise. And of course Helen danced with Dal.

I saw him for the last time on this plane on Christmas Eve. He was slated to do one of the readings at the 1:00 pm Gospel Choir Christmas service at Christ Church Cathedral. He was not well, and there had been some talk about him not being able to read. My sister was asked to be ready to sub for him if this turned out to be the case. But when he arrived, frail as he was, he insisted that he was perfectly capable of reading. So he did read, with my sister beside him, her arm supporting him, and her hand pointing at the lines he had been asked to read–his last gig.

Margaret’s tribute ended with him playing and singing “As time goes by,” one of his signature pieces–and he did have a fine singing voice. Given that our family’s memories of Dal go back to the thirties of the last century, there is a particular poignancy in that song title. Time has now finally gone by for Dal, and we are all the richer for a man who enjoyed to the full his ability to give us the gift of music.

His funeral/memorial will be at Christ Church Cathedral probably some time next week, time and day TBA. Rest in peace, Dal, and thanks for the memories.

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