An Unfinished Life David Hogan's career as a composer was just beginning its cresecndo when his life was cut short by the explosion of TWA Flight 800.

August 25, 1996|By Richard O'Mara | Richard O'Mara,SUN STAFF

DUBLIN, N.H. -- Nansi Carroll sits in the creamy light of the empty concert hall at the Walden School, struggling to explain her lost friend, David Hogan.

She knew him nearly 30 years, going back to the days when they were voice students together at the Peabody Conservatory. Still, the words don't come easily.

"He didn't speak about himself a lot," she says. "He would share his music. That was our way of knowing what he was thinking."

The idea is hard to make concrete, she admits. But, then, there is something else on her mind: this evening's choral concert.

It will be dedicated to Hogan, a composer who helped found this school for young musicians and composers almost 25 years ago. He kept it going in the lean years, cultivated it, seeded it with young talent. It may prove as lasting a monument to him as his music.

Many of the students shown in the old snapshots pinned up in the lobby are on the faculty today. Some of them run the place.

As Carroll reminisces, the rain continues to fall over the oak and beech forests outside, as it has all day. But people are coming anyway, through the fog seething over Route 101, to be at this concert. Many are coming to say goodbye to David Hogan, who died last month when TWA Flight 800 exploded off Long Island.

He was a man, his friends say, who never stood still. He was here, he was there. Motion, fast, unceasing, defined his character.

"Hoagie was always moving," says his Peabody colleague, Leo Wanenchak. It was Baltimore, Washington, San Francisco and, lastly, Paris.

He was always in flight: He fled the Baptist religion he was born into. He fled his marriage after 10 years of it. He fled his native country for France.

Carroll sees him as "a man on a spiritual search." No doubt: He started out a Baptist, considered becoming a Presbyterian minister, even a monk, and wound up a Sufi.

One wonders about all this self reinvention. Was he running away or toward something?

Whatever the answer, David Hogan died an unfinished man. The circumstance of fate, or agent of evil, that contrived the TWA disaster would not have known him or of the promise annihilated with him: the extent of what was left undone.

At 47, David Hogan was a serious composer of choral and theater music as well as an accomplished pianist, organist, tenor and teacher. His most conspicuous achievement in this country was his Festival Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, choral pieces composed for and performed at the consecration of Washington's National Cathedral in September 1990, and later recorded on the prestigious Angel/EMI record label.

In Paris, Hogan wrote music in collaboration with Coline Serreau, a French actress and author of plays and films. He also was a tenor soloist at the American Cathedral in Paris and the director of the International Gay Choir of Paris.

In some quarters, all this adds up to considerable professional success, if a modest sort of fame. Hogan never won any of the major prizes for composition: no Guggenheim, no Broadcast Music Industry awards. Brighter stars have come out of the Peabody. But Hogan was getting better, moving closer to the promise so many saw in him.

Now it was over. Which accounts for the melancholy so evident on the Walden School campus this evening; it is almost as if it has rolled in with the fog. At least there is music to look forward to, the language and words of David Hogan.

Never happier

Everyone who knew David Hogan says he had never been happier with his life than at the moment it was taken from him. The war within him over the true nature of his sexuality had been resolved. He had found a life's partner in France, Christian DuMarty, a Normandy school principal. His career was ascending.

"There is no way to look at his death other than as a tragedy," Carroll says. "But what one can say is that he had entered on a phase of pure contentment. These last few years of his life, in Paris, he was able to make his living doing what he loved."

What was he like? The question draws the conventional accolades: he was "a sensitive teacher;" he had "a wonderful spirit;" he was "self-effacing," "humble," "modest," "nonjudgmental," "a master musician," "full of life."

He went everywhere and at every moment with music in his mind; it spilled out of him. He whistled, constantly. It is not something musicians or composers routinely do, though one might think they would. But this is something everybody remembers about Hogan: his whistling, humming. His sister, Anne Emory, remembers it from their childhood in Northern Virginia.

"He hummed all the time," she says. "He added a little bit of whistling, but I remember he was always humming."

Hogan's friends are certain they knew him well, even as they admit he rarely revealed himself. His modesty and self-effacement, charming qualities, also served to conceal much.

In the mid-'80s, he suffered a lymph cancer which cost him a kidney. But some of his closest friends learned of it only after he had defeated it.

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