I know I usually use my blog to write about the good things going on in my life, but today I want to pause and remember a friend and colleague who took his own life yesterday.

Angel Oramas was a vibrant tenor who always had something to say about just about anything. When I first met Angel, he was hitching a ride with me to rehearsals of my first Philadelphia Singers concert: Beethoven 9 at the Mann Center in the summer of 2003. He told me so much about the people in the Philadelphia music scene during those car trips — I guess you could call it gossiping, but it was more like he was explaining to me the ins and outs of the community — that I felt so much more comfortable becoming a part of that community.

Oh, he could be a catty gossip, yes. But just behind his very well-constructed wall of perceived rancor lay a gentle, empathetic, loving man who was just as sensitive and self-conscious about his own shortcomings as the rest of us in the arts. Perhaps even more…who can say what exactly led him to give up on life altogether?

But it was those shortcomings that endeared him to me. The main thing that kept running through my mind at opera rehearsal last night (while we were all struggling to focus after hearing the devastating news of his death) was that Angel never was any good at memorizing words. I missed hearing the random syllables or mumbles that came out of his mouth, especially at this early stage of the rehearsal process. He always had every single note spot on, but the words? Nope. And I loved him for that.

He was one of my carolers at Macy’s a few years ago. We had been singing the same Christmas carols over and over for a while, so we were a little punchy…and Angel — who was dyslexic AND who had not sung with our group before — had been struggling with the words of some of the lesser-known carols all day. We got to “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” which got faster and faster as we sang each verse, arriving at the last verse, sung in double time: Johnny wants a pair of skates / Suzy wants a sled…only Angel sang “shed” instead of “sled,” and we all lost it.

Here’s the video (my brother happened to be shooting us at the time on my dinky Canon camera). Verse 3 starts at 0:30. Angel so gracefully took our mirth in stride here, even though I’m sure he was very frustrated at having to learn so much so quickly. His grace under pressure is why I loved him.

If you are reading this on Facebook or in an aggregator and cannot see the video, you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9uYto7a-nk

He also served as an essential member of the AGMA negotiating teams for both Philadelphia Singers and Opera Company of Philadelphia, and he was there for me when I got too stressed out with union responsibilities and demands, and he talked me back from the edge when I had mini-breakdowns during those negotiations. That’s why I loved him.

I know there are lots of people out there who were much closer to him than I ever was. But that doesn’t make me feel any less sad. It feels like a big hole has been ripped in my world. Although I have dealt with death before, mostly within my family, I have never had to face suicide so closely. And although I know that there is nothing I could have done to stop him — we were definitely not close enough for him to confide in me about any of his demons — I still have that knee-jerk feeling of guilt, that “if only” thought that I think all of his friends are having.

So, Angel, wherever you are, I hope your demons are vanquished, and that you are finally at peace. May light perpetual shine upon you.

Angel

In Memoriam: Angel Oramas
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  • Amy

    Thank you for this.

  • Kathy

    Thank you for this. I worked with Angel and am stunned and miss him deeply.

  • Lisa

    A beautiful tribute, Maren. Thanks so much. We miss him so.

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  • Mawusi

    My sentiments, exactly. Thank you.

  • Krys

    Thank you for this, Maren. I have been thinking of Angel all day. The hymn that went through my head this morning was this: “And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on…and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, and through eternity, I’ll sing on.” I hope that Angel is now singing his way through heaven (correct words or not), and has found the joy he could not find on earth. Peace.

  • Tamel

    Great tribute to a wonderful person! I worked with Angel for the past 4 years. We shared many stories, had many laughs and often complained about the same things. He was kind, generous, funny, full of life, very creative and would always lend a helping hand. In fact I will never forget the beautiful wedding programs that he created for my wedding as a gift to me and my husband. Thank you for the memories and may you R.I.P. my friend!

  • Patti

    What a beautiful eulogy. Thank you! I also worked with our Angel and miss him terribly.

  • Thank you for this, Maren. Your words, and thoughts, are perfect.

  • Melissa

    A wonderful tribute. Angel spent a day with myself and my daughters taking our photos at the Philadelphia Zoo, because he was most certainly an amazing photographer as well, and he was a wonderful addition to our family for the day. He will be missed by many.

  • DonLeroy

    Beautifully said. Thank you.

  • Jay

    Beautiful words.

  • Genevieve

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I miss him, too.

  • Krista

    Thanks for this Maren- I only got to know Angel for a short period of time, but it seems you hit it right on the nose- he was not perfect, and we loved him for that. He will be truly missed.

  • Ryan

    Oh Maren, thanks for such a wonderful tribute. That caroling video is priceless. Just the way I will remember him! XOXO!

  • Celeste

    Thanks for those words. When I saw on FB about someone from OCP I was wondering who it was. I didn’t know him well at all, but I remember him. May he rest in peace.

  • Janet Waxman

    I was one of Angel’s working friends at Einstein, and I was also impressed by his creativity and skills in putting together beautiful mailing pieces for development. He was so talented. I also complimented him quite often that he wore the most beautiful, colorful, shirt and tie combinations. He had a flair for fashion going hand-in-hand with his other artistic talents.

    I can only feel sad knowing that he was in excruciating pain psychically, and he didn’t let us help, and how we all wish that we could have saved him. His death is a terrible loss!!

  • Very beautiful tribute to our friend and colleague. I have many positive memories of Angel. I remember that he was one of the first people to introduce them self to my when I first joined the chorus. Also, I remember him telling me that “there is always something to smile about.” The irony behind that is heart breaking. Despite how sad it is, he left us a lot of positive memories with his recognizable voice and presence. In addition, he had a great sense of humor. He did great laugh imitations. Anyway, thanks for posting this.

  • Susan

    You wrote beautifully of Angel, Maren – thank you. I am one of the many who have thought of Angel all day….I will miss him very much. He was a notable member of my music family for many years and we enjoyed a gentle friendship. He was one of the last few who continued to call me by my maiden name and I found a silly sort of sweetness about that. It’s all so terribly sad. I’m selfish and wish we’d found occasion to hug at Tuesday’s rehearsal…….’bye, Angel, I’m so sorry you felt you had to go…….

  • Jeff

    Yes, what a loss. I remember him from my WCC days. He was always fun, and so talented. I still remember his senior voice recital 15+ years later; in the lobby of Williamson Hall. It was stunning!! RIP, Angel.

  • Heather Wheeler

    Thank for writing this. Angel was a beautiful inside and out. There are no words to describe what I am feeling at this time – he is missed. I loved his laugh.

  • Holly

    Maren – I am so moved to read your incredible tribute to our dear Angel. I am still in shock and my mind and heart are full as I type this. There is a hole in the universe when someone makes the decision to take his/her life, I feel. We just never know why or how one makes that choice – only they know. It renews in me an energy of love on fire – love for life – friends – family – humanity. I will continue to hold Angel, his family and all of us who were graced with his soul, in all of its manifestations, in the light. RIP, dear Angel. (and a p.s. to my friend Krys up there in the earlier post……….that hymn is extraordinary and so perfect an expression of so much…..thank you for sharing that!)

  • Susan

    THank you Maren for sharing your thoughts. It is a hole in the fabric of the local singer world. Comming too close to the heels of Jim Stieber’s stroke.

    Angel’s passing shows how devestating mental illness can be. If anyone reads this know there is NO shame, NO stigma in finding help. This is a good site to start http://www.bringchange2mind.org/. Or contact me and I can direct you. It would be my greatest honor to help anyone who needs it.

    Mental illness is just like any other disease or condition. Cancer, broken leg, allergies – it can be controlled and sometimes cured. But you must get help and HELP IS OUT THERE!

    This was a waste of an essentially good man, talent, energy. Angel I hope you found peace and are singing with the angels. I am soo sooo sorry that you were in such pain.

    A lesson – be genuinely nice and caring to everyone, you never know when you will see them again or how you may be able to help them. Life is too short for such silliness.

    Peace to you all.

    Susan

  • Susan

    Krys – thanks for the hymn it helps and i am going to post it elsewhere.

    The end of babettes’ feast – my how you will delight the angels.

    S.

  • Susan
  • Angel, you were such an amazing person– you led the Black and Hispanic Alliance group we all started with such energy and tact. Even at such a young age, you were an inspiration to all of us at Westminster. I want your family to know, you changed my life in the time I knew you and I know a lot of us feel the same. I am so sad and shocked– I am praying for your family right now.

  • Felicia

    Thank you.

  • Thanks so much for sharing this, Maren.

  • tania lepe

    I knew Angel in high school…he played my father in fiddler n the roof…i was his daughter hodel…he was a beautiful person…sometimes a bit full of himself but with a voice like an “angel” it was more than ok…a shame that he left us so soon but he did leave a lasting mark on many, i”m sure…i pray for his soul and may peace be with him now and forever…

  • Phil Doucette

    Thanks, Maren. I just found out. It’s such a terrible shame.

  • Elisa Matthews

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute.

  • Madeleine

    I used to sing Opera with Angel back in high school. We also took our first voice lessons together. I have very fond memories of him because he always made me laugh with the crazy things he used to say. I was so proud when he told me he had continued on with opera and never let that dream die. He will be missed. Rest in peace old friend.

  • Jay

    This is a beautiful tribute and even though I did not know Angel well I feel I know him better now. I will always remember Angel as a person living with zest for life, I am not sure why he lost that zest but I will always remember him for that zest.
    His artistic abilities were incrediable!
    I will treasure the moments Angel and I have spent in the short time I knew him.
    Angel I hope you are at peace!!

  • Pilar Odria

    Amazing!! Thank you because he deserved this!

  • DOC

    Thank you Maren. I have been at a loss for words, and thoughts, since I heard last week. Tears do not seem enough of a tribute to the loss of so dear a friend, and yet, that’s all I have to offer. I look forward to sharing our mutual burden of grief and loss at the memorial service tomorrow. Thank you again for articulating so lovingly you memories.

  • Patti

    Maren,
    Reading this at Angel’s celebration of life tonight brought him back to us for a brief moment and I thank you for that. We all love him and will truly miss him. Seeing so many people there who cared about him makes it even harder to understand. He has a larger family than he ever imagined, the OCP, the Philly Singers, all of us at Einstein, and we will be with him always. Angel, dear friend, rest now in peace.

  • David Groth

    Maren,

    Beautifully written. I was just one of the people in the periphery but so shocked and saddened to hear the news

    Dave

  • Yelennys

    I knew Angel in elementary and high school. He grew up just a few feet down the block from me. As a young boy he was very talented, creative, kind, and funny. He used to like to complete paint by number artwork, and other crafts. He was always very mature for his age. I remember singing a duet with him in the 8th grade at PS #3, WNY, NJ. I got stage fright, forgot all of the words, and it was Angel who kept us both afloat. Later in high school, he amazed us all with his powerful voice and made us laugh in homeroom. I pray that he is now at peace.

  • Christine

    Thank you for these comments. Angel, you will be missed, I hope you are free of burden.

  • Angel, he was my cousin. The last time I saw him was when his mom (which is my mom sister)past away and we spoke briefly. Then a few years later I found him on myspace and did get in contact with him and reply how happy he was to hear from me. After that I send him Pictures of my wife and I to see how the years past and from there he did not write again. I always think of him and wonder why he did not reply after. I even wanted to meet up with him to talk and catch up of what he was doing but never got the opportunity. I live in NJ and even called once at the Opera place where he worked so one day I will surpise him.

    I spoke to my uncle on Friday 7/16 to see what happen and the hospital papers say he died of natural causes. I’m confuse because it says here he took his own life and I don’t know which is the fact. I would like to speak with Angel freinds and give me an input on the situation of he’s death. Can you please reply to me?? I would like to know more information if that’s ok.
    Thank you and RIP Angel
    Roberto Diaz

  • i have a framed picture of buddha that was owned by angel…..it’s for sale if anyone is interested.