Thursday, March 23, 2017

In search of (another) singer…

 Three days ago, I completed the revisions of the half-a-million words that will make up my new book, VICTORIAN VOCALISTS, and sent everything required in its making, off to the publishers, Routledge, in Britain. In 48 hours, I head off to my winter palace, by the sea, at Yamba, NSW ..
So what to do for five whole damp and chilly days. Ah! Tidy my computer. What are some of these files lingering on my desktop? Bits and pieces of ‘interesting stuff’ that I’ve saved, at one time or another. Clues, and suchlike.

Ah, here’s a hard one. Wharton. ‘[William] Henry Wharton’ was a baritone from Manchester. A fine baritone. He sang in the best English companies, in America, and he became a star in Australia. But he broke down and went home to Manchester to die. When it, suddenly, was revealed (to me) that he had a wife. And there she is, travelling with the Lyster Opera Company in 1865. But not 1864. Who is she? Is she a singer? A chorine perhaps? Well, I’m still searching …  but during my scanning of the chorus lists, I gathered a handful of ‘candidates’, ladies to whom I couldn’t put a history. Miss Shirley, Miss Ainsworth, Miss Gregory and one, Mrs Andrews or Andrew, who sometimes appeared as a principal and sometimes as leader of the sopranos. I know all the other principals, even the very bit part-cum-chorus men, but who was this Mrs Andrew(s), who held the same spot in the Lyster company from 1862 to 1868?

 I guess I was looking for ‘Miss Shirley’ when I came upon a ‘Theresa Shirley’ singing in concert in Melbourne in 1853. Then, in 1858, a Theresa Andrew and in 1860, a Theresa Shirley Andrew at Loch Street, Beechworth, Vic … those all have to be my girl! So, who exactly is she? It wasn’t too hard to discover that she was, indeed, already a married lady, that her husband was named Edwin, that he became the district valuer and rate collector at Beechworth … who was he?

 Well, I dug. And I, more or less, got there. Theresa was born in Coventry, England and christened there 30 March 1835. Her baptism record, however, is in the name of Theresa Ball, her father [William] Shirley Ball, her mother Maria. Father was a sergeant in the 8th Hussars, then barracked in Coventry. He was also a scion of a wealthy and influential Irish family of Abbeylara, Longford. And Theresa was a little bastard. Presumably, out of one Maria Nolan, for, after escaping me through the census, she reappears, getting married (21 November 1852) to Edwin Andrew of Romiley, Cheshire as Theresa Nolan. With her father listed clearly as ‘Wm Shirley Ball’.
And Edwin? When one of his children was born, he posted in the Australian press that he was ‘late of Dean Water Hall, Wilmslow, Cheshire’. Sounds grand? It wasn’t. His father didn’t reside in marble halls, he was a tailor and Edwin was brought up to the same trade, before becoming a ‘clerk’.
Shortly after their marriage, Edwin and Theresa emigrated to Australia, and ‘Theresa Shirley’ made her Aussie debut. 

Probably the main reason for her invisibility, through much of the next decade, was children. Five of them, the last (which died) in 1864. By which time, Theresa had become longterm comprimaria prima with Australia’s best opera company. And in 1868, she travelled to America with them.
Did she come back?
A Mr Edwin Andrew, ‘storeman’, of Windsor, Melbourne was in the bankruptcy court, in 1867, complaining that his wife had more or less abandoned him and the children. Is that our Edwin or another one? Our one is supposed to be in Beechworth.
Well, I don’t know whether Mrs Andrew came home, and back to her husband. He died at 58 Newtown, Beechworth 12 August 1889 (though the family historians insist he lived till 1905). And she … well, now I know who she was, but not what became of her.

Maybe the family knows. The Andrews, the Whitelaws, the Diedrichs and the Macnamaras, the Southams …

Oh, and if Theresa Shirley Andrew was ‘Mrs Andrew’, who the hell was ‘Miss Shirley’? One thing leads to another. Or a mother.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Art and the Bikie Blacksmith

My house is full of art. No, I’m not in any way a connoisseur, and I’ve bought very few pictures in my life time … but Ian, in his young days, in the 1940s and 1950s, pursued the then fashionable pastime of buying modern paintings and short-run lithographs, and our London home bulged with works by folk from Marie-Laurençin, Picasso, Derain and van Dongen to Russell Drysdale, Conrad Martens, Sutherland, Procktor, Cecil Beaton, Larionov and Sidney Nolan.

When we abandoned England for St Paul de Vence, the Marie-Laurençin sponsored the move. Cecil Beaton’s drawing of Eliza Doolittle and Larionov’s portrait of Diaghilev went under the hammer, too (we lived a few metres from Sothebys!), but rather a lot of the pictures made the journey with us. I refused to live in an apartment with the Nolans, so Ian gave them to his nieces. Silly me. And then, a dozen years later, we evacuated to New Zealand …

I don’t think of them, anymore, as being paintings by reputed artists. They just make the house look nice. And familiar. Although, since Ian died, I will admit, the pecking order has changed. The remaining Sutherland has been relegated to a back corner of the dressing room, the only nice picture Patrick Hockey ever painted is over my bed, and one horsey photograph has infiltrated the living room next to the Patrick Procktor …

And my contribution to the art of the house? Well, if you don’t count a few Austrian bits, like the Matterhorn, inherited from my parents, very little. There are two sweet Ramayana pictures that I bought in Bali circa 1972 for five pounds, there is a nice local-artist collage mountain-scene which I bought to decorate our little Kiwi bolt-hole when The Collection still lived in France, and then there is my Impulse Purchase.

I don’t know why, twenty years ago, we wandered in to the little second-hand shop in Tahunanui, Nelson. We were at the stage of life where we were getting rid of stuff, not buying more. But there isn’t much else to do in Tahuna except sunbathe. And this little oil painting grabbed me. I’m a frightfully bad haggler, so when the man said slyly $120, I just paid him. Ian was amazed.

 Only when we got back to the cottage did I wonder: what is it? Who? ‘What’ was easy. It was inscribed ‘Wairau River’. And signed. H E Heffer. German? Jewish? I wanted to find out. So I got in touch with my friend Peter Downes, who was working with the National/Turnbull Library in Wellington … they had never heard of him. Strange. The painting was really art-gallery quality, and New Zealand art from the turn of the century isn’t all that prolific.

Well, Peter – through an amazing combination of circumstances, found a lot of the answers. Harry Edwin Heffer was born in England in 1878, and came to New Zealand on the Wave Queen with his parents and three siblings in 1880. His father, Samuel John Heffer of Grantchester, Cambridgeshire was, like his father before him, a brewer by trade, and during the 1880s he worked in Wanganui, setting up, eventually, the Crown Brewery in the old Academy of Music, while his wife operated a milk business. 

The venture went down the drain in 1890, and the family moved to 23 Hill Street, Wellington where, we are told ‘Harry started an apprenticeship with a coach-smith, wielding a 15lb sledgehammer for six days a week and being paid 7/6d’. He also began painting landscapes. Father must have recovered from his monetary inconvenience, for in 1898 he bought 130 acres at Paraparaumu for L1,932 and the Heffers moved north. In the meanwhile, Harry had begun exhibiting at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts: ‘Carting Shingle in Island Bay’, ‘In Porirua Harbour’, ‘On the Waikanae River’, ‘On the Paraparaumu Road’ and – yes, 1906, ‘Wairau River’. L2.10s. My picture!

Harry had a colourful life. He set up a blacksmith’s shop, married in 1902, and he and his wife became keen bikies, touring the region widely with Harry’s sketch book. After the war, he turned to farming and the painting was laid aside, but when he retired he again picked up brush. But it is his pictures of pre-war New Zealand – mostly of the southern part of the North Island and the Marlborough area, whither his parents latterly removed, which comprise the heart of his work.

 H E Heffer died at Masterton 28 December 1954, and his wife Georgina (née Howell) 2 January 1856. They had a daughter and a son, and when I first found the painting, Peter actually found the son, Francis Bentinck Heffer, living in Tauranga. Since then, he has died (aged 95), but he left us with the fascinating tale of the bikie blacksmith who recorded turn-of-the-century New Zealand in oils … I hope others of his works have survived, as well as mine.

PS A goodish family tree of the Heffers has been posted on the web, from which I learn that Harry’s brother, Thomas, made it into Who’s Who In Australia as ‘former general manager with the Bank of NSW’ for 47 years.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Kurt In Kardio or, But I'm only here for a blood test!


Night-time pain in the shoulder and chest. Called Carol the masseuse.

She did her thing and then suggested I have my doctor check it out...

Had to go to the doc for my pills anyhow, so up to Rangiora ... ECG and stuff, but its after 5pm so they can't do their blood tests. The Christchurch blood place can't do me because I'm too old (!) and once had a stroke. I have to go to Emergency at Christchurch Hospital.

Wendy turns off the stove and drives me to Hospital, where, instead of a swift blood-drawing, I find myself stripped, connected to machines, answering the same questions the doctor had asked me an hour earlier, and then .. waiting. Three hours of waiting, listening to the sounds of the truly afflicted and getting more and more annoyed.

Finally, the young and cheerful cardiologist came. Blood normal, doesn't seem to be a coronary thing, have I been pushing any heavy wheelbarrows recently?

So six and half hours after my visit to the doctor we are back at Gerolstein. Oh well, not much of an evening out, but at least I'm alive.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Persian Parrots or, a change of bookshelves ...

People's bookshelves are strange and storytelling things. They say you can read a person's character from his library. Or lack of it. But I think anyone looking at mine would be a little confused.  Certainly there are all my large stock of reference works, rendered these days rather useless by the Internet, my Dictionaries (favourite: French/Hungarian), a lot of Victorian plays, French (mostly) and English, a few favourite fiction works, from Vidal's Duluth to Catch me a Peacock and A Bullet in the Ballet, and, most often opened, a whole cabinet of books by family. Starting with more than a dozen each by brother John and myself.

 But why do I have so much Australiana on the bottom shelves? And, for goodness sake, some very odd books in German! Well, the Australian books were collected by my dear, late (Australian) partner. The German ones have descended to me from my father and my Austrian grandmother. Many of them are mountaineering books, but there are two 'strangers': a book of poems by 'Klabund' (Phaidon, 1924), which are said to be translated from the Chinese, and a book of Persian fables, published by Wolf of Vienna, in 1922. Prettily printed and illustrated, but strange things to be featured in a trunk of brought-from-Europe possessions.

I hadn't heard of Klabund. But I've looked him up and he was a well-known young chap. 1890-1928. A tubercular poet of extreme tendencies, who wrote about Rasputin, Lucrezia Borgia and Mohammed, and who died young. I don't think I'll be brushing up my German to read him. But I'm a bit miffed that my Chinesiche Gedichte aren't listed amongst his worklist on Wikipedia. He sounds like the sort of bloke academics would adore researching. But why my nana?

The other is a charmingly illustrated book of tales which seems to be a 1920s mini-equivalent of those wonderful French fairytale books of the previous century. Countess d'Aulnoy and so forth. This one would be worth a bit of German study, I feel.

And it's so beautifully printed and published. Das Papageienbuch. By Ernst Roenau ...

Penny drops. 'Roenau' wasn't a real Roenau, he was a Rosenbaum. Dr Ernst Rosenbaum. One of the bothers of famous the printing firm of Brüder Rosenbaum. He was my great-grandmother, Julie's, brother, and Pepi Gansl's uncle. And the book was printed by the Gesellschaft für graphische Industrie, founded and run by the Rosenbaum family. Oh, nana, why didn't you tell us ... all these years, it just sat there and your two writer grandsons never knew ...

Well, there's only one thing to do. Das Papageienbuch has to come off the bottom back shelf and be promoted to the 'Family' cabinet!

Hermine, die tüchtige Näherin

The family is gradually sorting itself out. Today I picked up one of my family's 1920s photo albums. Sadly, as is so common, the pictures aren't labelled with information as to who's who. Years later, someone's inked in mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, Fred .. but I know who they are: what I want to know is who are the other folk in the snapshots? There's Onkel Fred, and Onkel Max, and Minna and her lawyer husband Richard Stern ... and oh golly! Look! Here's Hermine. The wedding-dress maker. Labelled! So she obviously remained an integral part of the family...

So there's my father, his Onkel Max, Nana Rudi .. front row Minni, my great-grandma Stojetz-Baumgartner and the mythological Hermine! Not really one of my direct family, but the daughter of great-great-grandad's second wife. Yay! One more down!

Hang on, who is Minni? Not Minna Stojetz: they're BOTH in the next photo. Sigh. You solve one question, and another presents itself ...

So, Onkel Max is alive in 1923. And here he is at Easter 1926 waith Marie Stojetz ...

There's another question. My father told us that Max died in Hungary 'between the wars'. Yet one day, I guess, in the 1960s, I distinctly remember Rudi saying 'I shall write to Max' ... Mother heard it too ... is this something else we were not told ... is there another mystery here?

And what's this? A schoolgirl's autograph book. Rudi's. Begins in 1894 with Vater, Mutter, Grossmutter, Tante Hanni ... who????

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The family hits Broadway and Hollywood!

It’s Christmas day. I don’t have to do anything special. The NZ television is about as LCD as it is possible to get. So I’m just sitting at my computer playing the game of ‘find the family’. I’m quite good at this particular game, having played it for so many years with other people’s families. And I’m quite persistent. So I come up with the occasional nugget.

Funnily enough, most of the interesting folk I have found dangling from the limbs of my tree have been what you might say were of John’s and my world – a musician, singer, museum curator, anthropologist – and, although I must admit to an incommensurate number of bankruptees among the Eltern, so far I’ve found nothing worse.

I was musing, before bed-rise, today on how widely my family has spread from its European roots in even the last century. Mostly, of course, the Jewish part. Josef Sessler, Julie Gánsl’s widowed brother-in-law fled to Brasil, followed by his daughter Nina and her husband, Hans Morsten. Nina's sister, Margarethe and her husband, Friedrich Morsten didn’t move quickly enough. They perished in Auschwitz. Another sister, Pauline Bress, seems to have suffered a similar fate. Son, Ignaz Johann Sessler, also chose Brazil as his home, and made himself a name and career as president of the Associacano Brasiliera de Tecnologia grafica.

Fritz Rosenbaum had departed for Australia, and my father, Fritz Ganzl, by then known as ‘Fred Gallas’, Julie’s only grandchild, had been several years Headmaster of Wellington Technical College, New Zealand … but surely some of the Flüchtlinge must have gone to the pale-greenish-backed paradise of America.

They did. Anna, the 75-year-old widow of Julius Rosenbaum, Julie’s brother, accompanied by her two daughters, the recently widowed Mizzi (b 10 January 1890 Vienna, d New York 1979, (pictured above) and Frieda (b 21 November 1892; d Florida 6 February 1978) with the last-named’s husband, Hans Lederer (b Pfaffensteffen 4 June 1892; d New York 16 July 1963), and their son and daughter made their escape in 1942. Hans listed himself on the ship-list as ‘theatrical impresario’. That’s all I needed. Actually, I think he may have been upgrading himself a touch. Theatrical agent, maybe? Like myself? Anyway, that’s what he worked at in America, with the Clifford Fischer office, the so-called ‘International Theatrical Corp’ and Lew and Leslie Grade. I’ll have to troll through Variety one day. The son of the family, Herbert Lederer (b Vienna June 9 1921; d West Hartford, Conn 18 July 2007) did altogether better. His Obituary from the University of Connecticut, where he was Professor Emeritus of German, says that he was 'internationally recognised in the field of German studies' and directed student theatre productions. He also wrote a number of books. So is he the Herbert Lederer who wrote about East German theatre and operetta? If so, I wonder what he would have thought, had he known that the (then) world guru of Operette was his umpteenth cousin!

But poor Julius’ family was not the only Rosenbalsamic twig to cross the Atlantic. Julie’s sister, Mathilde, had married a widower gentleman by name Leopold Handl and, before she died, aged 56, she had thrice added to his stock of children. The one who lasted was son Albert (b Vienna 24 May 1885; d Los Angeles 1966) who married a Frieda, fathered a Leo, and quit Europe with his family at an apposite time. In 1940, living in New York, Leo described himself as an ‘art salesman’.

But he didn’t stay that way. Leo became an American citizen as quickly as was allowed and decent, changed his name (all our family does, I’m the only one who has changed BACK) to Leo A Handel, and went in for, you guessed it, a career as a writer, a director, a producer in … Hollywood.

Well. The credits I have found for him on the IMDb (and strange errors have been known in THAT publication) are not hugely enthusiasmic. But I know nothing about films. His main claim to fame seems to be a rape/abortion/death thing called The Shame of Patty Smith. But it got better. A Book Academic Films for the Classroom tells us his Los Angeles-based Handel Film Corporation 'produced approximately 150 titles, primarily in the subject areas of history, science and art', that he was in US Military Intelligence during the war, and spent a decade as a backroom boy at MGM. So the 'shockers' were only a sideline.

Well, that’s Christmas day. If anyone with Broadway and Hollywood knowledge knows anything about Hans Lederer or Leo A Handel (b Vienna 7 March 1914; d Camarillo Ventura Cal 8 September 2007) it would be fun to hear!

Postscript:  I see now that another part of the family ended up in America as well. Rudolf Rosenbaum's daughter Gertrude (b Vienna 3 July 1913; d Vienna 8 September 1974) married Johannes Thedor Israel Schmutzer (b 17 June 1913; d Vienna 10 April 1958) and the two men headed the famous firm through the post-war years. Schmutzer was succeeded by his son, Michael who was at the helm when in 1981 Brüder Rosenbaum finally ceased, after more than a century. Michael must be my generation, I mused, and I looked. Hello cousin!

Michael is the President at Disti Kleen Inc which manufactures cleaning systems for the printing industry
and, oh my heavens, he's got branches of his own! 

And an artist ancestor -- Ferdinand Schmutzer -- who has been the subject of a biography. It's neverendless!!

And children ... the Rosenbaums march on into the 21st century!

The fourth founding father or, poor Adolph


Of my four founding families, I expected the genealogical researching of the Gánsl side to bring in the richest results, and the Rosenbaums to be impossible to sort out. Never have expectations: they are apt to be confounded. Great-grandmother, Julie Rosenbaum, has produced a vast mass of Rosenbaums, not only sideways, thanks to all her brothers and sisters, but even backwards. I little thought that I would end up with the great-grandfather of my great-grandmother. 

But I did. Julie’s father, Adam, was the son of Napthali Rosenbaum, son of Salomon Rosenbaum ... which takes us back into the Bohemian mists of the eighteenth century and the towns of Königsberg an der Eder (NOT the Königsberg now Kaliningrad, which is miles away) and Katzengrün -- now Kynsperk nad Ohri and Kacerov, Czechoslovakia, respectively -- where I am sure a forefather or two of ours lies in the old Jewish Cemetery which is currently under restoration (see:

 I’ll return to the Rosenbaums of antiquity in due course, but first I need to tidy up Great-Grandfather number 4. Adolf Gánsl, Julie’s husband. Well, I’ve got plenty of Gánsl photographs. Adolf, Julie, their three surviving sons. But whereas Julie has all sorts of back-family, for Adolf I can blankly find none. No father’s name. Nothing. Just the bald statement that he was born in Mór, Hungary, in 1844. It makes sense. There are records of a good handful or three of Gansls born and living in Mór at the right time. But no Adolf or Adolph. And not one real clue have I found as to his background and life before he turns up in Vienna in the 1870s. I suppose he could be a relation of the Herren S Gansl and M Gansl, merchants, from Hungary (seemingly Szerdahely) who turned up in the Vienna ‘Fremdenblatt’ frequently in the 1850s, there’s a Herr A Ganzl with them in 1853, but he’d only be nine. Ooh, in 1865 there’s a Herr H Gansl from Mór! And I Gansl from Mór! Staying at the Hotel Weisser Wolf in the Fleischmarkt. I Gánsl from Szerdahely … M Gánsl from Mór … F Gánsl actor! ... and then 1869 A Gánsl, merchant, staying at the Russischer Hof. And what’s this: an Hungarian Adolf A Gánsl setting up a ?Dampfmüble-Acten-Gesellschaft with all Hungarian directors, in that year. And, oh, yes, I was expecting him ‘Herr A Gansl, Leiter des Hauses Rothschild in Californien’. But he’s not an Adolf/ph.  In 1872, Herr H is still commercially travelling up from Mór. And then it is December 1873 and there, finally, is our Adolph, launching a ‘erste und grösster Leopoldstädter Bazaar’ in the fashionable Hotel Europa … I think this was just a temporary Festive thing, it only seems to have advertised briefly.

But Adolph has already entered the story, for up in the Bohemian Spa Town of Franzenbad on the 4 February of that year, Adolph had wed the eldest Miss Rosenbaum. So did he try to become a businessman before, or after, he got mixed up with the very businessmanly Rosenbaum family? He wasn’t, alas, very good at it.

1874 (15 February) sees the firm of Gansl and Rosenbaum (Heinrich, eldest brother) fancy-goods-merchants, starting up, in the wake of the Bazar, at the Europa. By 1877 they were announced as ‘Falliments’, alongside an unfortunate manufacturer of an early type of Esky. ‘Das Firma Gansl und Rosenbaum wurde über Gesellschaftaufgebund gelöscht’. Heinrich went on to join his brothers in their printing firm, Adolph doesn’t seem to have had any more such ventures with the family.

His family life had seemingly gone sadly too. Julie gave birth to three daughters, Ida (4 June 1876), Gisela (26 July 1877) and Rosa (21 December): all three failed to survive. However, things looked up when their first son, Josef (‘Pepi’), was born (3 June 1881) at Buchfeldgasse 7, and two others followed … Max (30 December 1883) and Fritz (30 May 1886) after they moved to Währing’s Schulgasse 8.

Life as a ‘general merchant’ in Währing wasn’t, evidently, very productive. The latest shop-business was in Julie’s name, so she took the flak when things got tough … 

but then life struck again. Or, rather, death. Julie died, at the age of 45 (5 June 1888). Usually the Viennese papers got the city’s deaths from officialdom, and the cause of death (‘tuberculosis, heart-attack, lung complications’) was printed in the lists. Not so for Julie. I wonder why.

It was said, in my family, that Adolph died ‘of a broken heart’ within the year (8 April 1889). He was also in a total mess. His bankruptcy proceedings didn’t come up until after his death and they were, well, messy. And, again, the papers printed no cause of death.

So, the three little boys were orphaned. My father always said, the two little ones went into an orphanage, and the slightly older Pepi was brought up by one of the ‘Tante Rosenbaum’s. I’m not sure how to trace this … but I’ll try. Anyway, that’s the next chapter. Which starts with teenaged Pepi listed amongst the commercial clerks of Brüder Rosenbaum … and the three brothers getting ready to face the 20th century,