Editor’s note: The many tributes to Allen Toussaint in the wake of his death on Monday chronicle expertly his contributions to his craft and his industry. But those who knew Toussaint recall a kind and gentle personality that defined him as concretely as his musical genius. Treme creator David Simon captures that eloquently in his recollection of a trio of moments shared with Toussaint here. Below, NolaVie president Sharon Litwin recalls her own encounters with the legendary New Orleans musician.
One of the things most precious about living in New Orleans is the daily exposure to our myriad, brilliant, native-born musicians. To lose one is truly painful.
So, when I heard of our darling Allen Toussaint’s passing this week, I will admit freely that I shed more than one tear.
I guess I have known Allen for more than 30 years. It began when my older daughter, Anna-Marie, a budding coloratura soprano, needed to cut some audition tapes to submit to university music schools for admission. At the time, Allen was co-owner of Sea-Saint Studios, a place not noted for recording classical music. But they really knew how to record vocalists. Anna-Marie and I went there several times. We were always greeted with a friendly, if somewhat curious, reception by the varied groups of musicians who always seemed to be in residence.
There’s nothing like hearing a soprano belt out the Queen of the Night aria from Mozart’s Magic Flute to get attention. Being the amazing, talented musicians that they were, they recognized the effort that went into that difficult piece. They all had words of encouragement for Anna-Marie when the sessions were over and we were leaving — Allen more than anyone.
As Executive Director of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, it was a privilege to have Allen appear as a soloist with our musicians in one memorable special concert. As co-founder and President of NolaVie, it was a joy to have Allen participate in a very special NolaVie/Prospect 3 art and technology presentation at the Historic New Orleans Collection, produced by MIT Media Lab artist Xiao Xiao, another New Orleans artist.
Over those and the many other occasions when Allen and I happened to be in the same place at the same time, he always, always asked after Anna-Marie. It’s rare to be associated with one whose gentlemanly ways, kindly attention and elegant manner never wavered.
To his son, Reggie, another true gentleman, his wonderful daughter, Alison, and all in his family, I send my deepest condolences. It was an honor to have known your father. I, too, will miss him.