Fauneil (left) with family. Brandon (top), husband Luhi, Lily and baby McCaan (hope I spelled it right!)
There's something enchanting about growing up in a small town. Perhaps it's the sweet smelling air, the tighter sense of community or even just a greater chance at getting that part in the school play. My next door neighbor Fauneil (Gleason) Purcell grew up in the home her grandparents built and on land they staked claim to with their own hands in rural Fairfield, Montana. With a population of 659 people and nothing but barley fields for miles you might think that the song on a young girl's lips wouldn't reach past the tractor in the next field over. She could never have guessed as a fifth grader when she started taking voice lessons that one day her voice would be heard from stages in places as exotic as Italy, Israel and Africa.
Fauneil is a soprano. Not the usual soprano you stand next to in your church choir. She has a spectacular range, effortlessly reaching notes that I didn't even know existed. She received a bachelor's degree from BYU in Music Education and went on to get her Master's in Voice Performance and Literature at the famous Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. She has performed as "The Fire" in Ravel's L'enfant et les Sortileges among other operas and sang with the BYU Singers for four years.
On her first date with now husband, Luhi Purcell, she mesmerized him from stage in a golden sequined gown as she sang a solo in a performance of Bach's Magnificat. Fauneil and Luhi settled into the house next door on Cherry Lane five years ago. We were ecstatic to have a young couple next door with small children like we had. Luhi is a warm Polynesian man who wrestles the neighbor kids on his front lawn and break-dances at our church parties like there's no tomorrow. Would you believe that he hosts a ladies night out EVERY year in honor of Fauneil? He advertises it all year long by leaving themed invitations, gifts and even a custom t-shirt on all the door steps of Fauneil's neigboring girlfriends. This year's theme? Pretty in Pink 2009. I wear my pink t-shirt that sports the phrase "In case you're wondering, I'm superwoman" with pride. Last year he made soup and chocolate fondue and arranged for us to all have pedicures in his living room! The Glediator tells Luhi to stop shaming all of the men on Cherry Lane.
The Purcells host block parties all summer long in their front yard. We all lounge around, delighting in homemade salsa and summer salads while the grill smokes in the background. The Glediator lazily jokes with Luhi about one day being neighbors on acres of land in mansions made of stones salvaged from old buildings in Europe. But the truth is, they never want to move from their sweet little spot on Cherry Lane. I myself would sorely miss hearing the faint sound of a soprano doing scales through my kitchen window.