Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Martens family and the real story of the Cat Duet


I wrote this years ago. I don't know why I didn't post it then. Anyway, being in a precarious state of health I hear Andrew Lamb's voice echoing in my cerebellum: 'post the damn' things before you kick the bucket or all that work will be lost'!



MARTENS, Monsieur (MARTIN, Johann Heinrich) (b Liège)

MARTENS, Madame (née SCHEELE or SCHULE, Marie Elisabeth) (b 21 August  1840;)

MARTENS, ‘Mlle Gretchen’ (née SCHEELE or SCHULE, ?Marie) (b Hamburg c 1840; d New York 15 January 1897)



MARTENS, Henriette

MARTENS, Charlotte [Elizabeth] (b New York 30 November 1872)

MARTENS, Adolph (b Hamburg)


The Martens family has long fascinated me, ever since I first read the score of Offenbach’s Geneviève de Brabant, with its dreadfully high soprano ensemble top line for a lady who wasn’t even a named character. I quickly discovered that it was a vocal line written for a yodeller, and that it really had been written by the composer ‘especially for’ the lady and her two colleagues, a team who had been featured on the variety bill at the Théâtre des Menus-Plaisirs, preceding the production of the show. Madame Martens, with her husband and a ‘Mademoiselle Gretchen’. Who were they? Well, it has not been easy to find out, and I have had to rely very largely on the only piece I have ever found about ‘Monsieur’ (his first name was never mentioned) in the Toulouse newspaper, Le Casino, 8 December 1869, taken from an article by Albert Wolff in Figaro, early in their known career. 


In that piece, he vouchsafes that he is from Liège, that his real name is ‘Martin’, and that his first steps in show-business were as a singer of comic songs, in Germany. There he met and married a tyrolienne singer, and formed a three-handed act, the two of them ‘with her accompanist’, featuring a ‘tyrolienne comique’. And he changed his name to suit. From later evidence, it appears that ‘Mademoiselle Gretchen’ (who was very much a singer) was Madame Martens’s sister. Anyway, her real name, I have discovered, was Marie Scheele, so it seems Madame was a Scheele as well. If it wasn't Schule. So, the ‘Belgian’ act was really two-thirds German.


This may be they? Johann Heinrich MARTIN (by Jacob Martin ex Elizbeth Kliffmüller b 22 May 1844) married Maria Elizabeth SCHEELE (b 21 August 1840) on 15 November 1868. Joseph Stephen Martens (actor) and Marie Georgine née Scheele having a child in New York ... same couple? 

Now, the way the story is usually told makes it sound as if their success came quickly, but I don’t think it did. My first spotting of the trio is in 1867, in Paris, playing the El Dorado, the Alcazar d’Hiver and the Menus-Plaisirs.  But in 1870, already, their (?) children join the act, and the one census listing in which I have found some of them, in 1881, has ‘Gretchen’ aged 39, with husband and two London-born children, Luz Mercedes Gretchen (b 1875) and Diego Vicente Haurie (b 1876), her mother (‘D[orothea] Schule, widow, b Hamburg’) plus her nephew Adolph Martin 22 ‘clerk’, and an Emma Martin 21 who is listed as his wife but I think could be his sister. Or not. So that would mean M and Mme Martin were connubing at least as far back as ?1858. Nine years before that Paris debut. Maybe Johann/Joseph had an elder brother.

Joseph and the Scheele sisters

Tyrolean songs and singers were by no means a novelty, so it is a little puzzling that –if the Martens were so very good or special – they did not break through sooner. Was their success due to their polyvalence? Or to an individual zaniness in their ‘representations excentriques’. The fact that they sent the Tyrolean genre up? Anyhow, it was January 1867 that they turned up at the El Dorado with their repertoire – a trio tyrolienne comique apparently from Le Chasseur de chamois, Joseph’s imitation of the eccentricities of famous violinists (‘Carnaval de Venise’), and Mr and Mrs in their performance of the Cat Duet. I wondered, initially, if this was a self-made piece (others of their pieces were) or the duo glibly and wrongly credited by sopranos, today, as ‘Rossini’s’. There’s been much ink spilled over the authorship of this burlesque of Rossinian prime donne: one Gotthelf Berthold gets a mention, also Friedrich August Reissiger, a certain C E F Weyse, and an English madrigal writer (Pearsall) had a MS copy amongst his papers, so one writer has assumed that he wrote it. The most convincing answer to the puzzle was provided by an old musician named Bénédit, who heard the Martens perform it, remembered the piece from 40 years earlier, and dug out his 1824 copy. The arrangement of Rossinian tunes, and other bits, as La Félodie,was credited to one Codanini, who was, de son vrai nom, the Italian opera timpanist, Jean Madeleine Schneitzhöfer (1785-1850). If the duet was, thus, written in the 1820s, it does not seem to have been much performed, at the time, although I spot it being sung by the great de Begnis and a friend at a private party in London (1 January 1826). Unless of course it was another Cat Duet ...

Only forty years later, was it to become popular. But Ricordi still publish it under the name of Rossini. And sopranos have taken over the male lines, as the piece, arranged and altered to death, lives on 200 years later.


In March 1866, a little tale appeared in the minor French press. Arsène Goubert was auditioning for acts for the Alcazar d’Hiver, and a pair of tyrolean vocalists turned up to perform the Cats’ Duet. He didn’t hire them. The journalist was surprised. He thought they were great fun. I am pretty sure that I can guess who they were! The Alcazar and the El Dorado being rivals, it is, thus, no wonder to see the Martens team, nine months later, in residence at the El Dorado and winning success and praise for their repertoire of vocal and musical eccentricities. And the ‘Duo des Chats’ – performed in evening dress, with scores, like an oratorio -- became an enduring success. They were promptly hired for the Alcazar, a new Schott edition of their duet was published (as ‘by’ Berthold), and then they were hired for the Menus-Plaisirs, giving their trio, their duo and Joseph’s violin act between the pieces.


Offenbach had already shown a penchant for burlesquing the tyrolienne, notably in his La Belle Hélène, now he was to outdo even that. When the Menus-Plaisirs produced his expanded Geneviève de Brabant, a scene had been introduced in which a burlesque Tirol trio, ‘Le Jour point’ was featured. It was there simply to feature the Martens trio (‘La Famille Martens a merveilleusement chanté une tyrolienne’, 'Stürmischen Beifall'). Madame got another go, too. A hunting quartet for Zulma Bouffar, the star, included Mme Martens on the top line, imitating the sound of the hunting horn. Once again they scored a hit, and the press reported: ‘Le trio original des Tyroliens Martens doit prochainement intercaler dans Geneviève de Brabant les morceaux les plus excentriques de son répertoire: le trio des instruments, le duo des chats, etc’. Did they?


From the Menus-Plaisirs they returned to the Alcazar, under Hervé, and then to the Théâtre des Variétés where they were interpolated into a play and, of course, gave the Cats’ Duet between the acts.


In December 1868 they visited London and sang at the Alhambra (‘the originators of the feline vocal study’), the Crystal Palace and at the Holborn Music Hall, in 1869 the press reported them at Brussels and St Petersburg and suggested ‘Mesdames Martens et Gretchen vont chanter très prochainement, dans un café-concert, une fantaisie nouvelle, les Sœurs siamoises’. I don’t know whether they did! 

In 1870 they visited Vienna (‘protégés of Offenbach’) and played at the Neue Welt in Hietzing and the Orpheum (‘Les Parisiens Tyroliens ou Trio Brabançon’, ‘Le Carnaval de Venise’, Katzenduett, Trio parodie Tyrolienne, ‘Les Hirondelles de la rue’)-- Auftreten der unübertrefflichen französischen und deutschen komisch-parodistischen Sängergesellschaft Martens, genannt: Le trio brabançon’. And Gretchen swapped to being ‘Mademoiselle Marguerite’ (‘Trou la la’). But it wasn’t just three of them. The family came too. And the four children performed a comic Quadrille Liliputienne in the style of the famous Clodoche troupe. The dear old can-can. ‘Beifallstürm!’.


Now, I do not know precisely how many ‘Martens’ children there were. Later the troupe would use a member or two – and, latterly, more -- who weren’t kosher Martens. But at the beginning, I think perhaps they were real. Fanny, Emma, Henriette and maybe Adolph.


In 1871 the troupe progressed to America, hired for the successful Kiralfy pantomimic spectacular Humpty Dumpty at the Olympic Theatre. They squeezed their Eccentricities Tyroliennes, some ‘Russian songs’, ‘Gushes of Melody’ and, of course, the Cat Duet by Joseph and Gretchen, into the proceedings during the extended run (155th performance, the Martens family will introduce several new songs’), and at the end of their long stay at the Olympic, set off for Boston. ‘The Kiralfys appeared in wondrous ballets; the Martens Family (M and Mme Martens and Mlle Gretchen) made a huge success in Tyrolean eccentricities, including a cat duo by M and Mme Martens’). Alas, I cannot find a passenger list for either their arrival or departure so what part of the family came along I do not know. In April 1872 it is announced that ‘the two Martens children will make their debut’. This appears to be Fanny and Henrietta (sic). During 1873, I find a mention of the Martens Family performance comprising six people. They were doing the Kiralfy show again in 1874, but then I lose them and don’t pick them up till 1876, when ‘he, whom the Duo de Chats made famous’ is performing at the Folies-Bergère with Fanny and Henriette.

Which kitty are you?

Gretchen is lost to the cause. She had married a member of the celebrated French Jerez de la Frontera sherry firm, Vi[n]cente Calixto Haurie, and begun her own family. Unfortunately the ancient firm was in decline, and Vincente had to find other employment. Gretchen would go back on the stage.

In July 1876, Joseph is at the Concert de l’Horloge, alongside the American travesty performer, Charles Heywood, doing the Cats with … Mlle Jenny! I suspect it is Fanny. 


In 1878, Father, Fanny, Emma and Henriette are at Vienna’s Danzer’s Orpheum ('Célèbre quatuor de l'Alcazar de Paris'), in January 1879 the are displaying their ‘Musée Tintamarresque’ at Prague, then back at the Concert de l’Horloge with their ‘Théâtre Rigolo’ and ‘automates parlants’ and something from Les Cloches de Corneville.

1 July they are at the Folies-Marigny. Joseph, ‘the veritable creator’ (dixit Joncières) of the Cats’ Duet gave it with Fanny, who sang ‘La Perle du Tyrol’, and he gave his violinists’ parody, Fanny and Henriette did an ‘Echo duet’ and Emma joined them in ‘La Guitare en chanter’. But there were two unusual members to the Family to make up for the curious absence of mother, in a tyrolienne septet: Adolph and six-year-old Charlotte.

They toured their act 'La Musée Tintamaresque' round Europe with numbers and personnel  varying thereafter.

 In 1884, I spot ‘the Martens Family’ in Brooklyn, and later the same team of Marie, Emma and Adolph are at the Bush Street Theatre in San Francisco giving songs ‘announced with incredible quaintness by Adolph’ to ‘repeated encores’. The Cats Duet (‘in evening dress’) was given by Adolph and Marie…

1885-6 I spy the Geschwister-Trio Martens at Danzers Orpheum (‘immer Furore’ especially Charlotte aged 12) and the gossip columns rattled: 'among the eleven sisters are ten of different nationalities ... Fanny is Dutch, Alexandrine from Liverpool, Charlotte born in New York, father is French ...' hmm. Maybe. Eleven?

Adolph mother and sister

 So where is mother? And from here, where is father? The Martens family which now appears before the public as such comprises Gretchen (now calling herself ‘Mrs Marie Emes’), Emma and Adolph. They sang at some small London concerts, tripped to USA (Koster and Bials, California) with Adolph now leading the Cats Duet, and to Panama. In 1887, Adolph Martens and ‘Laura Lee’ are in San Francisco. And a squib in the American press says ‘The Martens Sisters are Caroline Rahmig and Mrs V H Emes’. Rahmig? But we know that ‘Mrs Emes’ is ‘right’… ‘Ah. Caroline Rahmig who went with the Martens Trio to Panama succumbed [there] to apoplexy of the lungs’.


But there is one more ‘Martens’ chapter to come. A new act, with the old sort of content. But all girls. ‘Les Soeurs Martens’. Four of them. The same ones? I think, mostly, so. Fanny, Emma, Charlotte and … Alexandrine. Not Henriette. Alexandrine (or Alexandra) is, I think, an ersatz Martens. She switched to being a circus-rider for a while in 1889, and a sharpshooter in 1893. Anyway, apparently, she was a ‘prix de beauté from Vienna’. Although, when Fanny got into the lawcourts for breaking her contract at the Folies-Bergère, it was she who was paragraphed as the ‘prix de beauté. Anyway, they are ‘the Quattuor Franco-Russe’. And they were good. Of course, ‘beauty’ is a taste:

‘Et puis vous entendrez les sœurs Martens; je ne vous dis pas de les regarder: il y en a une qui est trop grosse, une autre qui est trop vieille, une troisième qui est trop prix de beauté, qui a trop l’air de dire ‘Regardez, comme je suis jolie’, une pauvre petite de quinze ans, jolie comme un amour, qui fait peine à voir avec tout le mal qu’elle se donne pour chanter des ordures de café-concert. Pauvre gosse. Mais écoutez toutes les quatre et, peu et peu, vous oublierez... Vous ne serez plus rue Richer. Voyez-vous Vienne, le Prater …’

Anyhow, the Sisters Martens knew their stuff, even if one was too fat, one too old (!?), one too posy … ah, but the little one. Charlotte. Charlotte would, I think, have the best career of them all.


Charlotte Martens went from the caf’ conc’ to revue, from revue to comedy and even musical comedy (Planquette’s Rip), from the stage to the screen (Chérie, Monsieur Albert, Les vacances du diable, Un homme en habit, Luck) and the recording studio …. Presuming its all the same Charlotte Martens! Our one became Mme Lucien Serrigny on 4 July 1897, and her marriage registration kindly revealed her parents’ names. Joseph ('professor of violin') and Marie née Schule. Whether she is the music-hall/theatre one whose 1934 obituary says she was Mme Pollet, went on the stage with her parents, four brothers and one sister, as a child ... had her heyday at the Cigale … and died at Ris-Orangis …

Emma started up an act (1889) the Martens-Terzett ... 'Frau'? or a fake? Alexandrine took a very amateurish troupe around the British provinces (1896). But she was spoken of, in years to come, as  a paragon of beauty. And much photographed in her time ... there are no less than three photos of her on ebay today ..

In the 20th century, there seem to have been a few more probably fake Martens. The odd one in America, and I spy two ‘Schwestern Martens’ performing in Vienna in 1904.


And to finish, I find a long piece written in St Petersburg (Nordische Rundschau) which claims that the four ‘sisters’ are ‘weder leibliche Schwestern’ ‘wiewohl sie für Kinder des einst berühmten Tyroler-Quartett-Impresario Martens ausgegeben werden’. One, it says is from Liverpool, one from New York, one from Vienna and the fourth from Brussels … It describes Fanny as ‘die jugendliche Duenna des Kleeblatts’, Emma as having a ‘metallische Altstimme’, Alexandrine as the ‘Miss Budapest’ winner (wasn’t it Vienna?) and Charlotte … well, Charlotte, with her Puppen-Couplets and ‘Untreuen Männern’, was clearly special.

But ‘Pseudo-Tyrolienne’ and ‘Quasi-Schwestern’ though he may have dubbed them, he and the ‘tout St Petersburg’ clearly loved them. And since we know Charlotte was a genuine ‘Mlle Martens’ … perhaps, this chappie didn’t know what he was talking about…


There are an awful lot of ‘whatever happened to’s and ‘maybes’ in my exhumation of the story of the ‘Martens Family’. To start with, how come both the Schule or Scheele sisters were named Marie?  Madame Martens seems to have been known as Dorothea. 


There are a few educated guesses, too. But it’s a start. All contributions welcome.


PS 1880 Josephine Martens daughter of Joseph of Danzers Orpheum ... another daughter?

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Maltese Military Mummers ...


I have had this item on my desktop for a number of days. And so, I see, have others. It is offered for sale by at least three dealers ... I assume its an original, so how come?  Anyway, none of them seems to have taken the trouble to identify it, date it and so forth, so I thought I would have a crack before wiping it.

Not many clues, are there? Yes, it is garrison theatricals again. Date? Well, My Wife's Husband dates from 1830.

I've searched for all the officers listed, and not found a one. I have no idea who Miss Lewis was, but 'the other amateurs' turn up one recognisable name. The one civilian involved in the playacting -- the chappie who played the women's parts -- was Mr Hector (aka Ettore) Zimelli, a native Maltese. Mr Zimelli was to turn out to be a major figure in Malta, rising to be Superintendant of Public Works, director of Police, consul for Sweden and Norway, and it seems also impresario of the local theatre. He is remembered today as the architect behind the building of the Valetta Market Buildings.

I imagine this foray into amdrams would have taken place before his elevation to high places. Would the Scandinavian consul have been properly seen as Mrs Wildlove? So it seems we are looking at a date before 1843. At which stage he was 27 years of age and working as a government clerk.  (I am presuming here that there were not two Hectors!).  Well, 4 February fell on a Wednesday in 1835, 1840 and 1846 ...

Over to someone else to find out which regiments were garrisoned in Valletta in those years. 

Greyhound racing ... 1858

I wonder what they used for a lure. 'Good hares'.

Is a slipper the starter? And does that say 'paid judge'? It sounds a pretty money-making affair ... if you wanted to race your hound you had to buy a dinner ticket as well as pay your 'entrance money'. And it cost a shilling to get in, or 2s6d if you came on horseback .. £3.12.6 times 16 ... plenty of profit there with the stakes being £36 ...

Ah well, a day of 'gentlemanly sport' and a jolly social beanfeast at the end ... country pleasures!

I regret to relate that owing to the 'unfavourable state of the weather' (in other words a hard frost) the meet did not take place on the day announced ...

Well, they got full fields, ran the following week  ... and look! the Earl didn't win!

Well, I guess a good time was had by all. And how much more joyful to spend a day in the lovely grounds of the Ferrers Estate than in the barren surrounding of 21st century dog tracks ..


Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Shapwick Monster


Today I happed on a fun piece of ephhemera. An original 1841 copy of the tale of the Shapwick Monster. I had never heard of Shapwick, nor its Monster, and hoped it might be another Dragon of Wantley ...

I soon discovered that the Monster and its story were well known .. the William Barnes Society relates

The Shapwick Monster

On October 12th 1706, in the parish of Shapwick, a travelling fishmonger from Poole bound for Bere Regis dropped a crab on the outskirts of the village (a farm nearby commemorates this event adeptly named "Crab Farm").

The villages, who had never seen a crab before and believed it was some kind of Devil or monster, armed themselves with sticks and pitchforks in attempt to drive away the creature.

The fishmonger eventually returned in search of his lost crab saw the commotion caused by the villagers. Amused by their ignorance he casually picked up the crab, put it back in his basket, and continued on his journey, spreading the word of the dim-witted villagers of Shapwick.

Since then, the villagers of Shapwick were looked upon as a bit simple and daft. That no one from the famed village dare visit a fishmonger stall at the local markets in fear of being ridiculed. Therefore, the stigma remains today - at least that is what some may like to believe.

John Symonds Udal's publication "Dorsetshire Folklore" includes a similar tale, although the monster is identified as a tortoise or lobster. Interestingly he also mentions that, as a proverbial saying, "A Shapwick Monster" is something too extraordinary to be explained.

The story is best remembered in this amusing poem published in 1841, written and illustrated by East Anglian artist Buscall Fox (1818 - 1887), whilst lodging at the home of Mary Harrington and her family at West Street, Sturminster Marshall, Dorset.

So there we are. Yes, the 1841 census shows Fox boarding in Dorset, But who was he? He doesn't seem to have written more of the kind ..

Well, Buscall FOX was born in Merton, Norfolk, and christened there 3 March 1818. He was the son of farmer Edmund George Fox and his wife Susan née Wallman of Watton. In later life father became a post messenger between Watton and Ovington.

I don't know how long Buscall stayed in Dorset, but, in 1855 he married in Norfolk ..

and by 1865, he was living in the Norfolk village of Barton Mills, advertising for pupils and commissions.

'Pupil of the late J. F. Herring, Harry Hall, and B. Haydon (Student and Exhibitor of the Royal Academy), gives Lessons in Drawing, Oils and Water Colors, China, Painting and Drawing from Models and Nature. Attends weekly, Newmarket, Bury ...'

He seems to have done all right. The web has a number of his works ...

I like the country gent best. The posh people seem to be painted from photographs. Ah, I see some are merely copies of old paintings.

Buscall Fox died at Barton Mills 16 February 1887, leaving his widow and a son George James Buscall Fox (1855-1940) who I see collected stone tools 'from UK, Africa and the Middle East' and donated them to the British Museum.

Well, I guess that The Shapwick Monster is out of copyright now ...  but I am glad to have made his aquaintance.

The mini-mystery of Miss Farrar (vocalist)


I researched and wrote this little piece some years ago as part of my Victorian Vocalists project. Needless to say, Miss Farrar didn't make the final cut. But today I came upon a grand piece of ephemera in the amazing shop of 'Antiquates Fine and Rare Books' ... and there she was!

So I thought this was the moment to post what I have on her ..

FARRAR, Mary Ann (b ?Halifax, c 1807; d 17 Kildare Terrace, Paddington  September 1871)
‘Miss Farrar’ didn’t really make it into the Victorian category of vocalists. But she should have.
Her story has been really difficult to unearth: but I have got some of it. And it’s worth telling.
Mary Ann Farrar was born in Yorkshire. At various times she was said to be from York, from Leeds, more convincingly from Halifax, and she herself claimed Bradford as her birthplace. I know that she lived in Halifax in her youthful years…
It would help if her breeding were known, but the only document that would have told us whether she was daughter of John, William, Samuel, Simon or A N Other Farrar ‘of Halifax’ is her wedding certificate, and on that she has written tersely just: ‘dead’.  
Perhaps she was related to the Mr Farrar whom I spot in the 1810s and 1820s playing horn, oboe and Patent Kent bugle solos, with a Mr John White from Leeds. Why? Well, Mr White (1779-1831) it was – an eminent Yorkshire musician – who gave Mary Ann her early lessons. Ah, me, I’ll shelve the mystery for the moment.
I first spot Mary Ann as a performer as early as 1820, playing the violin (Mr White was a violinist) in concert in Leeds, and, as a vocalist, in the 1823 York Music Meeting, where she is part of the Halifax chorus. On 6 December 1824, she makes a ‘first appearance’, in White’s concert in Leeds, singing ‘Come, be gay’ with Miss Travis (‘gave great satisfaction’), again on 5 January 1925, and 21 January 1825, she is on the bills with Mr Linley jr at the York concerts. Soon after, she made a debut in Manchester.
It was noted that she was ‘eighteen years old’ when she sang alongside Henry Phillips in Manchester in March 1825. So be it.
In September of the same year she appeared as a soloist at the year’s York Festival (‘a native of Yorkshire of whose talents much commendation is abroad’). She sang ‘Oh, had I Jubal’s Lyre’ and a duet with Deborah Travis, and was deemed to have ‘much promising talent’.
Young Miss Farrar seemed on a fast track to fame. Next February she was engaged for the Covent Garden oratorios and ‘acquitted herself to admiration and was loudly applauded’ in the company of Miss Paton and Miss Stephens. She sang in The Thanksgiving, the Bridesmaid in a Der Freischütz selection, ‘Wise Men Flattering’ in Judas Maccabeus, joined the Cawse sisters in Meyerbeer’s ‘Giovanetto cavalier’, Miss Paton for ‘Come, be gay’ and took a supporting part behind Miss Stephens in Acis and Galatea. Weber was reported to have been quite taken with her.
The conductor of the series was George Smart, and, like most young shooting-star sopranos who came into his orbit, Miss Farrar quickly ended up being billed as ‘pupil of Sir George Smart’.
She took part in a few concerts in London, and then returned north where she sang in the Yorkshire Musical Meeting, a Selby Festival and the Liverpool Festival, in the concerts at Bold Street Music Hall with de Begnis and Sra Cornega, and, in November, made up a quartet for Mr White’s concert at Leeds. She sang, with Knyvett Vaughan and Miss Travis, then picked up her fiddle and played with White and two of his daughters (piano and harp)!
1827 followed the same plan: London for the Covent Garden Martyr’s Day concert and the Drury Lane oratorios under Henry Bishop (‘encored in ‘Marvellous Works’’), a few concerts, then back north for a Selby Festival, as a deputy for Harriet Cawse at the Norwich Festival, and at the Liverpool Festival, in the company of Pasta, Miss Stephens et al. She took part in Joseph, Haydn’s second mass, a Linley anthem, Hummel’s Mass, a selection from Israel in Egypt (‘Thou dids’t blow’ ‘tolerably well’), gave ‘Wise men, flattering’ ‘evidently under much embarrassment’ at Norwich, and at Liverpool featured ‘Though from thee I now depart’ and repeated her ‘Marvellous Works’ ‘very agreeably’. At Selby (12-13 September) she shared the soprano music only with Mrs Austin.
She cancelled her engagements for the early part of 1828, but was back 7 May, to take part in the concert given by another of her tutors, the pianist Mrs Anderson, singing alongside Caradori Allan and Mme Stockhausen, and returned to Leeds for the Yorkshire Music Meeting (‘her ‘Ah! come rapida’ excited no less delight than wonder’) and the local Subscription Concerts, before in 1829 repeating the cycle once more – Martyr’s Day, the oratorios, Choral Fund and New Musical Fund concerts, the Societa Armonica, then north for concerts with John Binge, a Wakefield and an Ecclesfield oratorio, and the Chester Festival alongside Malibran, Miss Paton et al.  Wakefield averred ‘[she] now stands in the first rank of excellence’, Ecclesfield was less positive and commented on her ‘moderate talents and unaffected manners’.
At the end of the year, she took a Benefit ‘in her native town’ of Halifax. Amongst the audience were the Bronte sisters, who duly recorded the occasion for posterity. And in 1830 she sang at Reading with Margarethe Stockhausen and Henry Phillips, largely billed as ‘pupil of Sir Geo Smart’, and in a Halifax Festival. It seems it was a farewell to Yorkshire. 
The following year she removed to Leamington, where she settled as a music teacher. Subsequently, she took over the business of Elizabeth Wagstaff in that town. She appeared occasionally in concerts – and was still worthy of ‘breathless admiration’ in a rare Yorkshire appearance in 1837.
On 1 July 1837, Mary Ann Farrar married a London hatter from Leeds, by name James Walsh. She gave birth to a son, James, and two daughters, Emily (b Belinda Terrace, Southwark 22 February 1840) and Mary Ann (1841-1910), in quick succession, and sometime in the 1850s was widowed. In the 1861 census, her daughters are living with an ‘aunt’, in 1866, Mary Ann jr married (Mrs H R Eyers), and, in 1871, Mary Ann sr can be seen living in Westbourne Park with Emily and four live-in music pupils.
She died just a few months later, allegedly aged 62. Emily seems to have thereafter run a small school in Paddington .. and oh! is that she in 1901 'paralysed'?
Miss Farrar is just a wee bit of a mystery. She left behind a lot of ‘whys’. For example: after such a fine beginning in the musical world, why did she suddenly close up shop, quit Yorkshire and virtually stop singing in her early twenties?
Maybe I’ll discover why eventually.

Monday, May 6, 2024

The Seventh of May ... My special day.


May 7 is a special day for me. 

In 1919, on that date, was born, at Everton NSW, Ian Archibald BEVAN. Ian was my 'partner' for over 30 years, until his death ...  well, it will be 20 years ago soon ...

This is my favourite latter day photo of him.


Tonight, we will light the valedictory candles for him on his 105th birthday.

I was hoping for a quiet day, you know, when you are being valedictory. But .. well, anything but ..

Today the 'fire lighting ban' under which we have suffered for months and months was lifted. I was actually in touch with the fire department two days ago, asking what was happening. They told me 'get a new browser'. FENZ get a new website, a new system ... if I can't contact you, then I ignore you.

Anyway, early this morning, I had to take my little car up to the garage, for a 9am appointment. And what?! My neighbour had a huge bonfire going! When I got home, Nick McPherson and Max Macmillan from the Balcairn/Sefton page had spread the news. Ban over. I rushed outside waving a box of what are accounted matches in the 21st century and set alight the reeking six-months old fire pile. 

Oh dear. I am still suffering from my fall. I fell twice into the fire pile. Fortunately, the bit I had not lit. Wendy had an acupuncturist appointment, so I was Fire Chief for two hours ...  I normally cannot stand for two hours, but a pitchfork helps. And I was sort of mesmerised by the fire ...  it was the Gates to the Other World, clothed in fire and smoke ... those buried in the grounds of Gerolstein would rise again, phoenix-like, through the flaming chasms ...

Boofie, Sally and ... Ian.

Wendy emerged after my two hour Feuerwatch ... and I was able to wobble, well-toasted, across to the Acupuncture Room. 

I was a mess. My fall of last week had apparently thrown my body (such as it is) into all sorts of chasms and spasms.  Work began ...

An hour later ... magic!  So much better! 

And 5pm ...

The valedictory candles ... 

Ever remembered, darling man xxx

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Lost Cartesians: more bits of the jigsaw


The days are getting colder. I dont have much impetus behind me to get outside and pretend to pull weeds.And I'm not finding much on e-bay to inspire grand researches .. so, I've turned back to the jolly old Cartesians to see if I can squeeze a few more answers out of the remaining mystery-folk ... even if it's just a birth-date, a death-date, a marriage or, most desirably, a real name behind a stage-name.

Well, much to my surprise, I've found a number!

So here are the first results.


SAMUEL REED (b Massachussetts August 1855; d East Boothbay, Maine 11 April 1924) seems to have taken a few years to get into the professional theatre. I see him first in the Baltimore German theatre (ahha! is 'Reed' a pseudonym?) in 1884 in Bettelstudent with the contralto-ised Alice May, prima donna of G&S's original Sorcerer, and her new husband, and a young German soprano of several years leading lady experience, Marie Böckel. At some stage Herr Saml Reed and Fräulein Böckel were wed. And they remained married until Sam's death forty years later.  Both of them would have sound careers, as vocalists, and then as character performers. 

I popped into the Ws, and while I was there, I had a go at Josephine WOODWARD. I doubt that was her real name, but  she came from Edinburgh. I see her  there in 1878 singing in little concerts and acting in amdrams, before she joined the Carte companies (see David Stone's archive). David loses her after the Carte stint, but I don't. She played in Polly (1885) with a heap of other ex-Cartesians, fairy in Robinson Crusoe (always a part for A Vocalist),, with the touring troupe of Falka (1888), and then in a series of good supporting roles in and around Scotland (Mattie then Jean McAlpine in Rob Roy, Lady Margaret in The Lady of the Lake, Miss McKillop in Robert Burns, Tibbie Howieson in Holyrood, Mrs Cregan in The Colleen Bawn, Claire Ffoliott in The Shaughraun). She appeared as Margaret Hay in The Bonnie Briar Bush with Durward Lely at Manchester, and again when the production ventured for 3 weeks to London, and spent three or four years with William Mollison's company, appearing in everything from Shakespeare to death. I see her at Derby in 1912-13, as Ellen Dunlop in Bunty Pulls the Strings ...  And that's it. It's hard tracking down someone when you don't know their real name!

Still W.  Walter Olivant WILKINSON (b Manchester 1852; d NYC 18 May 1908). His participation in the Carte company seems too have been a rare venture. He professed thereafter to be an organist.

William Thompson WRIGHT (b Aldeburgh 1848; d West Ham 1911). After finishing his time with Carte, he worked as a travelling salesman.

Grace Pauline WOLLASTON (b Allahabad 27 July 1867 ; d 29 Spencer Rd, 2 March 1952). Born and married (Ernest Ouseley ELLIOT) in India. Returned to England, some time after 1899 (when she can still be seen prominently in concert in India)  after which she made her foray into the theatre. I sight her little after her Carte stint, only that she stopped being Mrs Elliot after one short-lived child and he went back to India where the child died (in whichever order) ... 

Pause for sherry, saucisson and sleep.

Harry [Henry] PEPPER (b Nottingham 10 October 1857; d Philadephia 29 December 1945). I am assuming this is the right Harry. There can't be many Harry son of Harrys who married a Susan ....

If so, he was a framework-maker in Nottingham, and didn't work in England before he got a job in 1882 at the Boston Museum playing Dunstable in Patience. He repeated the role at Tony Pastor's and with Lillian Russell and from there it was theatre and concerts ('not a better ballad singer in New York') all the way. Apparently the move was not definitive, because Susan gave birth back in England in 1888 (infant died), and Harry would latterly claim to have moved to the USA in 1888 ..

When his busy performing career was over, Harry apparently went back into fabrics. He is latterly listed as 'knitter in a hosiery mill'.

Pause for merlot, marketing and horse racing

Noone seems ever to have looked into 'Miss Twyman' of the original Princess Ida cast. Well, I have, and I can tell you that she was Lily TWYMAN born in Margate  in 1868; died Canterbury 13 July 1920, one of the large family of a seagoing man and his second wife. She allegedly attended the RAM from a pre-teen age, practised as a vocalist for a few years both on the stage (Savoy, Tommy at the Avenue, Croydon in panto, An Adamless Eden  at St George's Hall) and concert platform before in 1905 married Henry Fairbrass, a farm worker, and had a son ...

Next day. I have failed to find the real name of Arthur MARCEL, a man who seems to have lived much of his life in the 'bohemian', woman-less clubs of London. He was clearly a competent performer, touring between 1884-1888, much of the time, as leading man to Mrs Bernard Beere. Inn the musical theatre (he was the possessor of a fine baritone) he played, as well as his Gondoliers Luiz, in the musical comedy Iduna, and for a lengthy tour in Hayden Coffin's role in Dorothy. In 1891, he essayed the music-halls but  the death of his father, that year, seems to have put an end to his career, if not his frequenting of the clubs.

I did rather better with "Mr W D Marks" who played the Pirate King in America. He was in fact, an Englishman, born Woolf David MARKS or Marx in 1846, to a Jewish East End cap-maker, Isaac MARKS and his wife, Phoebe. Woolf worked as a book-keeper after the family emigrated to America in about 1849, and began singing, it seems, around 1876, at New York's Caledonian Club. That same year, he made appearances with an English Opera Company built around one Gertrude Corbett, with a not wholly negligable cast (Alice Hosmer, Christian Fritsch, Eugene Clarke, Alcuin Blum). Blum, of course, was primo basso. Apart from his Pirates of Penzance engagement, I see he played Lt Montgomery in the 1880 production of Deseret, and sang in occasional concerts in Brooklyn (''Honour and Arms', Rigoletto  quartet). Is he the same W D Marks (there were a few of them about!) who thereafter arranged and conducted music for Booth, Barrett, Irving and Margaret Mather?  Well, by 1891 he was listed as an 'agent', then once more a bookkeeper. The theatre adventure had not lasted very many years. He married a lady named Leah, had a daughter christened Phoebe (1905-1966) and died in 1915. It's not much, but more than we had before!

Four years ago, I renounced finding out the 'who was' of 'Mr G J LACKNER'. Now I have assuredly, if accidentally, cracked him.

LACKNER, G J [LACK, George Joseph] (b 60 Tottenham Court Rd, 14 February 1843).

Mr Lackner first appears on the musical scene in 1876 (25 October) at the Alexandra Palace, singing with Alice Sugden and Edith Bacon the music of Macbeth as an accompaniment to Mrs Stirling's reading. I see him on of the Crystal Palace afternoon concerts then in 1877 at Duncan Finlay's Scots concert, and at Drury Lane in a modest Benefit performance of Der Freischütz. He appeared again at Crystal Palace, Alexandra Palace ('Arm, arm, ye brave', 'Honour and Arms') and for Finlay, and in 1878 at Rivière's Proms ('Nazareth') and at a Venetian Fête on the lake at Alexandra Palace with no less than Charlotte Russell.  Then, in 1879, he joined the Carte. He played Bobstay in Pinafore, the Notary in The Sorcerer and Samuel/the Sergeant in Pirates ... after which, August 1882, he disappears from the English press.

So, who was he? Well, the 1881 census of Preston shows Mrs Emeline Neild (married, vocalist) sharing digs with John Joseph LACK, vocalist, 38.  In 1871 George J Lack is a crape dresser in the Tottenham Court Rd. In 1861 he is a shopman for a greengrocer, and tiens! Here is George Joseph LACK born at 60 Tottenham Court Rd, father Jackson Lack (carpenter), mother Elizabeth Mary, on 14 February 1843! Gotcha my lad! Alas, my success stops there. He seems not to have married and not to have died. 

But at least we have half his data! oh the 'accidentally' bit. I was looking for Ms Neild or Nield ... who may have been Mrs Williams and certainly wasn't baptised Emelina ... and who wasn't around as either for long.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

High Society Amdrams: Vienna 1869.

Often, in the past, I've found that some wonderful photographic records have survived of Amateur Theatricals... when they have been the sport, especially, of the aristocracy or the military. 

Such as this 1864 York set from Garrison playacting ... which I was able to tie up with a newspaper report of the occasion

Or this, from Algeria in 1865

Well, I've just happed on the loftiest lot of all. Vienna, 1869. It really was a lucky strike, because it was just a matter of strolling through an ebay shop (the 20th or 30th today) until something caught my eye. Lots of aristo photos. Normal. There are always lots of aristopix. Apparently folk bought them. But one of them was labelled 'Baron de Bourgoing Treumann'. Treumann? In 1869 there was only one Treumann in Vienna for me ... the great Karl Treumann of the Theater am Franz Josef-Kai. I looked at the photo ... Well, unless we have a very bent Baron on our hands, that fat lady is none other than he!

So the Baron did Amdrams. But wait, there's a whole bunch of photos labelled and unlabelled, all evidently from the same photo session. 

Anna Strachwitz

Anna Walkenstein

Gräfin Salbe

Marquis de Vauquelas

Prince de Polignac

Prinzessin Scylla

Prinzessin Furstenberg

Alice Flarnoncourt

Seems as if they all attended the same 'do', and that a society photographer was brought in to record the affair ..

So I looked, and I found this ...

My German is to put it politely ropey. It was forbidden in our childhood home, from which everything German and Austrian was carefully excluded. But I can tell that we have a 'Benefit' performance at the Schwarzenburg's Palace at which the lofty Lustpielers got to do their stuff. Either playing or parading.

The opened with a vaudeville in which Vauquelas was featured, followed up by a pantomime -- evidently the source of the unlabelled Pierrot picture above. I see Mrs Salve and Furstenberg had 'thinkiing' parts. The third piece was a vehicle for the Baron, with Mmes Furstenberg and Strachwitz and the Marquis in suport. 

A Gräfin with a nice voice sang Gounod, Schumann and Mozart, to gloved applause, and proceedings ended with the Baron and Treumann performing a German version of Fleur de ligne et Perle d'Alsace (music: Strebinger) in which Bourgoing played a Regimentstambour and Treumann ... an old market woman. Well, none of the Gräfins and Prinzessins wouls have wanted to play old and ugly and low comic!  And that, of course, is the photo above.

So, I think I can safely say that this is the occasion on which were taken the set of photos for sale from Bits of Our Past, in dear old Stockport ...