Retired Utah Choir Teacher Gets Surprise Of A Lifetime
CLEARFIELD, Utah – Life is often about perspective — and what we think we know isn’t always in harmony with reality.
“He kind of feels like it wasn’t a big deal, like he really didn’t do much,” said Erik Davis, speaking about his father’s decades as a choir teacher in Davis County. “He’s had an impact on hundreds and hundreds, thousands of lives.”
His father, Les Davis, has been retired for over 20 years, but still gives lessons to his son and his grandchildren. On Monday, they gathered in Erik’s living room with Les at the piano, practicing the old Christmas classic, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
He slipped easily back into the shoes of an instructor, effortlessly stopping and starting to point out ways in which his grandchildren could improve. Erik said being a choir teacher is still very much part of who his dad is — but lately, Les’ perspective began to change.
“He’s had a couple of heart attacks, and he had prostate cancer,” Erik said. “He’s not doing too well after that. He doesn’t have the energy that he had before.”
Although Les is now cancer-free, Erik said his dad isn’t quite the same as he used to be. After facing a bit of a challenge a few months ago, Les’s family heard something that shook them all to the core.
“He went out to weed his garden this spring, and he could only do two shovels full,” Erik said. “He had no stamina. He came in, sat down in his chair, and he says, ‘I just am of no worth.'”
Erik and his family knew they had to prove their dad wrong.
“Our siblings had talked about…we need to do this,” he said.
“This” involved Erik wearing a dress shirt, jogging back and forth in a rapidly filling music room at Clearfield High School.
“When he comes in, we’re just going to clap,” he said, addressing a crowd of faces he’s spent the past few months conspiring with. Since June, Erik and his family have operated a secret Facebook page, inviting only friends, family and his dad’s former students.
Over a hundred of those students showed up, all with the intent of surprising Les Davis with a concert in his honor — and some have traveled quite a distance to be here.
“Florida, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Idaho, all over,” Erik said.
They all came to get in one last-minute practice and to record the performances from their concert to give to Les once the surprise has subsided. Erik’s wife poked her head in to finalize their plans — he told her to make sure she doesn’t pick him up until 6:45 p.m. and to coordinate his arrival at the high school auditorium at 7 p.m. on the dot.
Erik said keeping this secret for so long has been a challenge — but it’s well worth it to help a man who’s become a bit off-key get his life back in tune.
“It’s been touch and go, our kids almost gave it up, but he still doesn’t know,” Erik said. “He thinks he’s going to a select concert for my son that’s in junior high.”
After walking into the back of the auditorium to a roaring crowd, Les glanced around in confusion, before realization slowly set in.
“I never suspected this at all, they had me fooled,” he said, standing behind a microphone and addressing a crowd that came to remind him of his importance to them. “It touched my heart…I cry really easy now, so be careful.”
“He doesn’t like the attention,” Erik said. “I think that this will show him that he really did make a difference and that his life was not for naught.”
Some of Les’ former students went on to sing with the Tabernacle Choir and others became choir teachers themselves.
“That’s a pretty big group to show up after 20 years of retirement,” Erik said. “What he did in his life was something that brought joy to many, and still does.”
As Les Davis’ own personal choir took the stage and sang just for him, the man who thought he was no longer of worth learned he may be the wealthiest man in Utah.
“I was very impressed that he didn’t tear up,” Erik said with a laugh.
Although Les didn’t cry in front of the crowd, the smile on his face was enough to show that for him, everything’s looking a little different.
“Even if sometimes you’re downtrodden, and trials are in your life, use a song to get out of it,” Erik said.
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