Sunday, January 09, 2011

Remembering Donald Himes, Pianist, Educator, and Composer of the Mr. Dressup Theme

A few days ago, I was very saddened to hear about the passing of Donald Himes, one of my colleagues at the Royal Conservatory. Even though you may not have heard of Don, if you live in Canada, you've heard him play - he wrote the theme music and played the musical numbers for the long-running CBC kids' show Mr. Dressup.

Don started off his TV career in the mid-60's with "Butternut Square", starring alongside Ernie Coombs (who played the role of Mr. Dressup) and Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers). After the show ended in 1967, each of the two main characters went on to create their own spinoff series based on their Butternut Square characters - Fred Rogers with WQED Pittsburgh and Ernie Coombs with CBC Toronto. Don Himes joined the Mr. Dressup creative team, wrote the theme music, and played the episodes.

Here's the opening segment from a CBC British Columbia broadcast in the mid-80's:

Don also did a lot of pioneering work in the relationship of movement to early childhood music education, especially through his relationship with The Feldenkrais Centre and the generation of teachers whom he mentored. Marion Harris wrote a lovely remembrance on their website:
It is with great sadness that I let you know of the sudden death of Donald Himes on Monday, January 3rd. Don had been recovering wonderfully from recent hip replacement surgery; so it was a deep shock to all his friends and family when, due to post-operative complications, this vibrant and much-loved man passed away.

Don was truly a Renaissance man. His full life included the professions of musician, dancer, choreographer, composer and educator. The latter included Principal of the Toronto Dance Theatre School, Piano and Dalcroze Eurhythmics Teacher for the Royal Conservatory of Music and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Instructor. Don was recently awarded the 'Honorary Diplome' from Geneva, the highest award in the Dalcroze world.

Generations of children grew up running to the television as the sound of Don playing his piano composition introduced the long-running, and extremely popular television program, Mr. DressUp (Canada’s equivalent of Mr. Rogers).

Don and I graduated from the Amherst Professional Feldenkrais Training Program in 1983. Our friendship grew when we shared living space for three years during the training, and later as we collaborated on numerous workshops and projects. He has been a faithful and highly respected teacher and colleague at The Feldenkrais Centre since it opened in 1991.

His devoted students benefited from his vast knowledge and delighted in his sophisticated dry humor. At the end of each (Feldenkrais) class his students would gather round as if in a salon, sharing experiences and soaking up his words of wisdom.

Donald Himes lived life his way - with elegance and grace.

His presence and contributions will be greatly missed, their loss deeply felt and leaves a void in the Arts, Dalcroze and Feldenkrais communities, and in our hearts.
More links:

Notice in the National Post's Ampersand
CBC News article
Toronto Star obituary
Notice in the Winnipeg Free Press

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