Saturday, March 25, 2023

Shrimp Fish Net Girls St Leonards on Sea


Ebay is fun. I really enjoy going through the new postings with my morning Milo, and -- since, at my age, I no longer buy things -- pointing out to my specialist collector friends the little jewels which are posted there, for sale, on a quite regular basis. 

Some times, those little jewels, are well-and-truly dissimulated. In my particular 'area of expertise' -- the theatre - I would say 'often'. Vendor's descriptions are sometimes quite simply dishonest (FAMOUS ACTRESS .... name unknown ... but still 'famous'?), sometimes utterly ignorant, sometimes lazy (just google it, for heavens sake!). But, more often, its just a case of 'didn't know and didn't try'.

This morning's giggle was a case in question. I don't usually look at and into the offerings of the vendor known as andygüyük. His items are disfigured by distorting 'spoiler' stamps. But this picture, labelled SHRIMP FISH NET GIRLS, caught my eye. Interesting eyes ...?

I turned the card over. BOING!!!!!!

Edith and Violet Barnes.

This aged theatrical historian's antennae twitched furiously. Violet Augusta Mary Barnes. Sister Edith Helen Barnes. Know them ...

This is a childhood photo of a really 'famous actress'. Violet became Violet VANBRUGH, regarded as one of Britain's outstanding dramatic actresses of her era. Edith became Dame Edith BARNES.

Must have been holidaying at the seaside in the ?late 1870s. I wonder if this photo of the pretty sisters is generally know.

Friday, March 17, 2023


This is a book that should have been (and almost was) written decades ago. I remember being ‘in’ on an early tryout ... some twenty-plus years ago ... when the late and sadly-missed New Zealand music and theatre scholar, Adrienne Simpson, first began to tie together the pieces of the puzzle. I was working on my Emily Soldene biography at the time, and we helped each other with little discoveries and bits of research, from our respective sides of the world. So much did I admire Adrienne’s work, that I commissioned her to write a biography of Alice May, for my series ‘Forgotten Stars of the Musical Theatre’ (Routledge, NYC).

Alas, soon after that, cancer claimed Adrienne, my Soldene mega-two-volumes were published, and I moved definitively into the 19th century and, largely, out of the world of the Simonsen family. Particularly generations two and three.

But, little did I know that the project had not died. Now, two decades later, this fine multiple biography, from the pen of Roger Neill, has finally appeared. I have just read it, greedily, in one long sitting, with only a wee break for a nice Thai lunch (no booze). Splendid. Both book and lunch.

OK, my Soldene opus may be 1,500pp plus in length, but it is the life story of just one subject. This opus may be rather less exhaustingly vast in size (372pp), but it is a triple header. A Cerberus biography of the prime donne known to me as Fanny I (Fanny Simonsen), Fanny II (Frances Saville) and Fanny III (Frances Alda): mother, daughter and grand-daughter. Something like a century’s worth of celebrated soprano Simonsens, taking in the operatic world of the 19th-20th century from Australia to Austria to America, from Belgium to Britain; bristling with lashings of famous and less famous names and events ... no wonder it has taken a time to come to fruition. The work involved! Three generations of knowledge and background with which an author has had to imbue himself. But now, in 2023, it is here for us, and for this we must all be extremely grateful.

The book falls naturally into three parts. One for each lady. Life is not long enough, as I have myself discovered, to study in huge depth the whole history of the world and all who sang in it, so one segment is always going to be more convincing than another. It is not difficult to guess which third appealed to me the most. And I have a feeling that it appealed most to the author as well. Of course, it is the tranche—the third—Fanny III—about whom I know (or, now, I should say ‘knew’) the least. Alda wrote her own memoirs (as did Soldene) but I can assure you, that doesn’t make her any the easier to research and write about. Weeding out the disingenuous, the ‘improved’ and the just plain mendacious from a memoir can be harder than starting from scratch. But I felt, when I had finished reading the Alda story, here, that I now ‘knew’ her. The author has done a first-class job.

By far the most difficult tranche to write was, surely, the first. Fanny I. Françoise Dehaes (?). And our author hasn’t pretended otherwise. Instead of bluntly ‘stating’ ‘information’ from dubious or unknown sources, he has clearly said when a ‘fact’, hitherto accepted or hinted at, is possibly not factual at all. And there are, inevitably, a fair number of these. Including such basics as birth- and marriage-dates. But how does one find such things, in Denmark, for example, especially when the lady’s birth name is not confirmedly known? Yes, it’s a whole lot easier now than it was 20 years ago, but ... folk told and tell such lies. Fanny’s education? Allegedly at the Paris Conservatoire. When? Under an improbable mixture of buzzword professors? How come, then, that she is not listed in the minutious Conservatoire records? There is no Françoise anybody, born Feb 1835, in the registers. Next, so it is claimed, she sang the Opéra-Comique. When? Again, performances are carefully recorded. And the author has (as I have) obviously checked. Very peculiar. Very suspect. Fanny I’s early life is difficult to decipher.

We can see that husband Martin Simonsen was ‘the Sacramento violinist’ in the early 50s, in Hong Kong in 1858, and I see them both sailing from St. Lucia, in 1861, with a valet and Willem Coenen ...  but otherwise ... Well, I think there is a fair bit of mythology floating about in those waters. How to filter it out?

Anyway, here, in this delightful tripartite volume, we have pretty well all the so-far known Fanny-the-First facts gathered together. There are still many, many more to find! But, until and unless we have yet more documentation, there are still as many questions to be elucidated as there are proven facts. Fannies II & III are much more straightforward. But no less interesting.

The tale of the Simonsens of St Kilda (and a lot of other places!) make up into an extremely worthwhile book. And an enjoyable book, too. With invaluable appendices of performances and recordings. All I can say is: Opera fans, Australian theatre fans, devotees of biography the way it should be writ: Buy it.

Grumbles? Picky as I am, I really can find nothing to get querulous over. I, personally, have grown to loathe footnotes and don’t read them. I feel they reek of an undergraduate’s homework. But they seem to have become a sine qua non in certain circles. There is the usual ration of typos and misspellings, but given the breadth and width of the subject, surprisingly few. So, ‘nothing whatever to grumble at!’.

Here we have another mighty step in the chronicling of Australia’s musical history. The bared bones of this fascinating family history have been definitively assembled for you here. So, who will pick up an ancient review of a concert in Brussels featuring Mdlle Dehaes? Or Mme Dehaes ... or a wed cert, or a birth cert ...from ... where? Roll on the next generation of Roger Neills and Adrienne Simpsons.

But the Simonsens, who they were and what they achieved, are now much better known than they have ever been, thanks to Mr. Neill ... and it’s a big YES from me!

Thursday, March 16, 2023

MY SHIP, or 75 years on ..


She was launched at Christmas 1949, my ship. A few days before the birth of my little brother, John. I don't think she ever had a name: she was just 'The Boat'. But she resembled remarkably, even to the colours, the steamers which passed by our windows, in Wellington Harbour ... was it daily? Probably not.

She was a favourite toy built not of tin, but a good solid New Zealand native wood, and made not by a fashionable toymaker, but by our father ... father could do anything ...

Here is Kurt, just a couple of months short of his fifth birthday, and John (not yet one), constructing harbourworks for The Boat in one of the Wellington bays (Worser Bay, I think) in 1950.

Of course, The Boat, latterly gave way to other toys ... such a list of toys ... quite a few of them from the workshop of Dr Frederick Gallas (né Fritz Ganzl) PhD, B Sc, MA etc etc. Like the Jungle Gym (oh, how we loved that!) and the Sandpit in the top garden ...

I wonder. Do fathers build their children's playthings anymore? They meant all the more to us because 'Daddy made them'. Did we want a Disney dolly? Plastic and tulle? No way. 

I had a 'teddy' bear (hard to get in post-war NZ, and I suspect Austrian), a friend of the family sent a big red and yellow rabbit from England, I think mother sewed the white flannel duck of which I was so fond ...

But At two I was already a sporty boy

That was the rubber kayak in which our father had paddled down the Danube from Vienna to Prague ...
50 years later, the rubber finally perished ...

Teddy and Ducky and Rabbit have gone (mother you HAVEN'T given them away!!!!!? Some other child will love them ...). But one thing hasn't perished. On my study window sill, three-quarters of a century on is ...

The Boat ....  <3

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Launceston, Tasmania 1870, or dolly came too


So much information. I wonder who inscribed all that ... to send it back to Ireland? In 1870, aged 12, Mary Grace was a fatherless child of a well-established (maternal) Tasmanian family ...

Her father was William Shaw Madden the son of Dr William Ryves Madden of Celbridge, near Dublin. The Dr was a medical, not churchified, label. Father Madden had studied medicine in Edinburgh, had an LRCS after his name, and rooms in London. Young William (born 1831) was educated at Dungannon College, Rugby School and passed a year (and his exams) at Caius College ... and then ... I don't know what caused him, in 1850 or soon after, to change course. My next sighting of the lad is in 1854, in Melbourne, then in Launceston, in barracks. 1857 (6 June) he married Eliza Atkinson (b Launceston 14 December 1834), daughter of John Atkinson, a local worthy, and 17 April 1858, in Upper Charles Street, Mary Grace was born. On 28 July, W S Madden died, at the age of 27. 
Widowed Eliza apparently moved in with her brother in High Street. I see in 1863 them being named in a letter by a dismissed servant, and the following year Eliza advertising for another. 'Mrs Madden and child' appear regularly taking ship from Tasmania to Victoria or New South Wales. 

Mary Grace was eventually, however, to have a stepfather. Eliza's sister, Charlotte Hope Atkinson had married John Francis Hobkirk (b Rio de Janiero 2 August 1829) and spent most of her life thereafter pregnant until, at the age of 35 (25 November 1871), she cried enough, leaving her husband with the remnants of their large brood. On 2 May 1877, Eliza married her sister's widower. She took up where poor Charlotte had left off and, 15 August 1879, produced a son, Neville. Mary Grace's half-brother, however,  died at the age of five. Hobkirk (d 11 September 1912) and Eliza (d 9 May 1918) both survived into the new century.

And Mary Grace herself? Where did she spend the next 20 years? I don't know. But in 1892 she married. Her husband was a grazier in Queensland, by name Herbert Charles Richardson and there they lived until 1920 when they bought a property at 11 Airlie Avenue, Armadale, near Melbourne. Herbert 'of Wunnadoo Downs, Longreach' died there in 1925, intestate, and Mary Grace was removed to a hospital for the insane. She died 9 February 1932.

Their one surviving child, Eileen Mary (23 April 1898-30 October 1944), wife of Alan Herschell Geddes (d 1956), can be seen living at Airlie Avenue after her parents' death.

Well, I wanted to know. I wonder what became of Dolly.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

A Wonderful Week of Birthday, or 77 and still standing

Who would have thought it...

76 years on from this day

My best birthday ever! And it lasted a whole week!

Why was it so wonderful? Because Paul and Wendy were both with me ... my 'husband' and my 'wife' ... and we have shared some delicious 'adventures' over the past days...

Paul (yes, that's his one time alter ego being a fish!) arrived on Sunday, ferried from the airport by Wendy and the Boofie-car, in the company of Schnidibumpfl, the Berlinois dragon from Rosenthaler-Platz (Paul and I had our first coffe'n'cake date in the Rosenthaler-Platz, fourteen years ago ...)

and bearing a pair of my favourite slippers from Maclean, NSW

The first thing was to introduce Paul to the animals. Starting with the immediately friendly cats and the horses .. Paul, meet Kurt junior .. 1 year old .. no cake ...

Then to Motukarara, to visit the lovely Emily, now back in training ..

We stopped on the way home for a nice snack ...  Wendy and I never eat out. Wendy cooks better than most restaurateurs, and getting dressed to go out, after a 6am start to feed the animals, is a bore ...

But this week we did!

We visited the Brick Mill and the Old School, but the best of all was LEMONGRASS, a Thai restaurant, situated near us, in Loburn. And it serves vegetarian alternatives. Wendy and I had talked, ever since it opened, about trying it, but ... well, we never got there. So, on day one I got out the little red car and Paul and I ventured forth ..


We promptly booked the same table for three for the Big Birthday Lunch!  Hoho. They didn't know what they were getting! One former chef, one former restaurant critic ... but, result: full marks! Then we came home to a delicious smorgasbord supper from our resident chef ...  Oh, bliss!

Of course, its not all holiday, even when its Birthdays! Wendy had the eighteen animals to care for, the lovely Richard Marrett had installed a keyboard for Paul who was able to spend time each day composing and orchestrating .. and I, well, my days seemed to fill themselves, as they usually do, between Victorian vocalists and snoozing ...  it was all perfectly, gorgeously grand, with a real 'family' feel ... I was so very and fondly happy.

But there was one more highlight to come. The Rangiora Harness Racing Club, with which I have been connected for over 20 years, was having a special raceday to mark its 75th anniversary. Racing at Rangiora still has the flavour of 'sport' which got me into the game in the 1950s, and back again in the 1990s. It is one of the few racetracks I still visit for pleasure. Daytime racing, sunshine (though years ago I was there in the snow!), jolly folk having a really good time, country atmosphere ... and in my 60s, when I was able to take an active part not only on the committee, but as an amateur driver .. what fun times, and what grand folk. Several of them are still my closest friends in New Zealand...

Well, racing is New Zealand is going through a bit of a crisis. It has become an 'industry' rather than a sport. And it has suffered hugely from its running being taken largely out of the hands of the clubs, and put into the hands of government and the gambling moguls. So, recently, the moguls declared a reduction in stakes. Yes, once again the poor bloody owners pay the gamblers' bills. Well, a couple of we old (and non-gambling) stalwarts decided not to lie down and let the Powers-That-Shouldn't-Be ruin our anniversary meeting. So, over a bottle of nice chardonnay, we decided to dip into our own pockets. Robin and Geraldine Wilson dug deepest, to keep up the prestige of the principal race, the revered Rangiora Classic which for some reason Authority is trying to downgrade. (Guys, could you just abolish 'Sires Stakes' instead?). I volunteered to sponsor the main trot.

All of which to say why I (accompanied by Paul, a harness racing virgin!) were honoured guests at yesterday's meeting, and its beautifully organised luncheon for the veteran (40-70 years!) members of the club. 

The Classic was a marvellous race, won by 9yo HOMEBUSH LAD, a specialist of Country Cups victories, in a thrilling finish. Then it was Our Race.

The field was a full one -- already a thrill -- fourteen trotters, yum! And not one whom I wouldn't be pleased to see win. Although, I was a bit orf a horse called after that dreadful MARTHA STUART. But hey, we've had LENIN and SARAH PALIN and, Lord forbid, there may be a Jacinta Ardern, so ... its not the horses' fault!

I sha'n't relate the race. You can see it here ....

What you can see only here is ...  well, Paul was filming my reaction watching the race ...

They've all got away?  Brilliant!

Favourite's galloped!!!!  (Not MY favourite, but I'm not allowed to have one!), weeeeelll .. friends, you know!

(trying to upload video!)

Come on! Come on! 


The very famous orange and chequerboard colours of the late Sir Roy Mackenzie and the pretty famous gold hat of Ricky May, zoom past the line in first place. Thrilled I am ... Paul helped me down the stairs and into the birdcage to shake the hand of good friend Chris McDowell, the horse's trainer ...

What a splendid end to a splendid day...

And now its 3am, Paul and Wendy head for the airport ... the flights towards Berlin go in the middle of the night ...

And I wobble on into my 78th year accompanied by trumpets and euphonia ...

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The (rest of) the American musical: did you know ...?


Nice American ephemera to hand this morning.

I've always been a tad irked by the expression 'Broadway musical' as used to describe musical plays produced all round America (not to mention those from other countries, borrowed or butchered and then played in New York -- from Brooklyn to the Bowery). I mean, the first significant original American musical, by my counting, was first played in Boston. Yes, it was subsequently played in New York, as part of its touring life ... for that's what New York was, in the first heyday of the musical theatre: just another tour date, like Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore et al.

Anyway the misnomer has become, with the help of the moving pictures, part of showbiz lingo, and it isn't the likes of Gänzl who is going the changed that, any more than first-night advertising for a new show as 'the hit musical'.

Anyway, all that as prelude to this little selection of goodies from a few C19th and early C20th shows that didn't play 'Broadway' or, in some cases, New York at all 

The first I came on was An Easy Mark, produced by C A Burt and Edward Simmons at Lebanon, Pa 31 August 1899

Produced with some tarara, to feature James T Kelly as Zebediah Maloney and Charles A Maloney, the piece seems to have been a semi-remake of author, Henry du Souchet's, My Wife's Husband. Du Souchet had penned rather more successful plays (My Friend from India, The Man from Mexico), but success in the musical theatre rather eluded him.

Samuel H Speck, named here as composer, was the manager of the Standard Theatre in Philadelphia. He ventured into the field of the sentimental ballads ('I Miss You More Than Words Can Tell') and the odd non-sentimental piece ('Hannah Go Hide Your Bloomers') in the early 20th Century.

Burt and Simmons advertisedly spiced their show with 'numerous strong specialities' as it headed for the Bijou Theatre, Brooklyn accompanied by mendacious puff paragraphs: 'Wherever An Easy Mark has been presented it has scored much success'. Wherever? Less than 3 weeks ago it was at Lebanon.  Annie Ward Tiffany who played the unintended bride, and Kelly as the foolish JP, came out the best, but the play was found old-bones fleshed out with variety acts. At one stage a boxing match was staged between the acts.

The producers quit, the stars took over, the cast began to disintegrate, and the show 'went to pieces out West'.

Here's another, also from Pennslvania. Yama. What is Yama? Well, it is a bit of Japan, I think. And a suffix. And it rhymes with a lot of things. 

The show was credited for its book to the prolific George Totten Smith, who had butchered a cople of other pieces into touring successes for him. Robert B Smith was debited with the lyrics. The music was the work of Seymour Furth, and the song here shown (not by Smith, but by Edgar Selden) was sung by leading lady Helen Redmond. 

This was a different level of enterprise to An Easy Mark. Aarons had a certain credibility as a producer of easily digestible entertainment and Miss Redmond, as Princess Lola Koo, was a veritable New York leading lady -- notably as Dolores in Florodora -- here returning to the stage after a pause for matrimony. The show opened 4 November 1907 at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre. My notes tell me that it was possibly the first musical to feature a drug addict among its characters. Oddly, none of the three songs listed on this music sheet are mentioned in the reviews. Miss Redmond's big solo was 'My Honeymoon', Jeannette Lowrie gave 'Love in the Zoo', Cain and Mitchell did their vaudeville act and the hit of the evening was the Pony Ballet, culled from the previous Aarons production of His Honor the Mayor and plonked ubiquitously into the proceedings. But this time it didn't click. After seven weeks in Philadelphia, Aarons announced the show would be taking in a few on nighters and then heading into New York. I see it at the Broad Street, Pittaton on Christmas day, then Wilkes-Barre, Williamsport, Scranton, Hazelton, Reading (14 January) but New York never came. The costumes and scenery were packed away, and in 1909 Aarons brought the show out for another 7-week season at the Walnut. 

By this time, however, its title was famous. The Three Twins had opened, with Bessie McCoy doing her pierrot-acro-bogeyman routine to a song entitled 'The Yama Yama Man' and taken the town. I have read a charming story which relates that the authors originally called their hit song 'The Pyjama Man' and changed it because ... I wonder. Oh, by the way, 'Yama' rhymes with 'farmer' and not with 'hammer'.

Not all out-of-town musicals were flops. Here's one which ran all tound the country for years and spawned a series of sequels ... a musical comedy version of the wonderful George P McManus cartoon strip Bringing Up Father.

Mr Aarons might have learned a thing or two here. No ponies, no ten tons of scenery ... this one was laughs, laughs, laughs all the way! The 'score' was attributed to one of the actors ...  I'd rather like to have heard 'Husking Time in Iowa'... 

Here's another which didn't make it from the Shubert Theater, Brooklyn

In spite of the names involved this was a first class disaster. 

DAVIS, Owen (b Portland, Maine, 29 January 1874; d New York, 14 October 1956).

 The Harvard-educated Davis made himself a highly lucrative career as the author and sometime producer of sentimental melodramas (Nellie, the Beautiful Cloak Model, Tony the Bootblack etc) -- rousingly lowbrow back-blocks pieces which often included the occasional musical number, to which Davis was happy to provide such lyrics as were required -- before the market for such shows was killed by the rise of the movies. He moved on to try his talents in the profitable purlieus of Broadway and there made his mark with a number of successful comedies and later with some more serious pieces, one of which (Icebound) won him a Pulitzer Prize (1923). 

 His few purpose-built musicals did not range as widely in value as his plays. In fact, they were flops. His earliest such piece was a little sketch for Laura Joyce Bell The New Prima Donna or Up Goes the Price of Milk which prompted a critic to sneer of the future Pulitzer winner ‘Davis obviously knows more about the price of milk than writing plays’ and the next a showful of vaudeville acts tacked together with a bit of plot for producer Gus Hill. He then turned to compiling the kind of touring musical farce comedies and melodramas with interpolated songs and specialities played on far from the best circuits. One of these, Anita the Singing Girl,‘combining the better features of melodrama and comedy-drama with those of musical comedy’ and put out by Spencer and Aborn with the intent of bucking the usual cheap melodrama houses which Davis’s plays had filled so effectively, and playing nothing less than dollar houses, proved to have several seasons of upwardly-striving life in it. 

 His first attempts at conventional musical comedy fared poorly. The lowbrow Cupid at Vassar had a short tour and the the Broadway-bound Shubert production of his Page Mr Cupid, with Ernest Truex starred, folded in tryout. However, he had a major musical theatre success, at one step removed, when his play The Nervous Wreck (1922) was used as the source for the hit musical Whoopee (New Amsterdam Theater, 4 December 1928) with Eddie Cantor in its leading rôle. As a result of this hit, the next musical theatre months brought two further Davis adaptations. His Easy Come, Easy Go (1925) was turned into Lady Fingers (Vanderbilt Theater, 31 January 1929) for Eddie Buzzell (132 performances) and he adapted his own Shotgun Wedding as the text for the Rodgers and Hart musical Spring is Here (104 performances). 

 A second collaboration with Rodgers and Hart, and with producers Aarons and Freedley, on a piece called Me for You, folded up after a fortnight's try-out and was transformed by other hands into Heads Up! (1929), whilst a final return to the musical theatre, eight years later, brought another failure with the 60 performance run of Virginia.

1897 The New Prima Donna, or Up Goes the Price of Milk (uncredited) sketch Pleasure Palace 13 June

1899 Over the Fence (various) Derby, Conn 28 September; Milwaukee 3 December (new version)

1901 Circus Day (George E Nichols) Majestic Theater, Utica 17 September; Metropolis Theater 30 September

1905 How Baxter Butted In (various) Lyceum Theater, Elizabeth, NJ 14 August; Murray Hill Theater 13 November

1907 Cupid at Vassar (A Baldwin Sloane/w George Totten Smith) Poli’s Theater, Waterbury, Conn 23 August

1907 Anita, the Singing Girl (Harold Orlob) Auditorium, Baltimore 26 August 

1908 The Battle of Port Arthur (Manuel Klein) 2 scenes Hippodrome 13 January

1909 Back Again (Karl Hoschna/w Otto Hauerbach) Olympic Park, Newark 7 June

1909 Sal, the Circus Girl (various) Brooklyn 7 August

1920 Page Mr Cupid (Jean Schwartz/Blanche Merrill) Crescent Theater, Brooklyn 17 May

1929 Spring is Here (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart) Alvin Theater 11 March

1929 Me for You (Rodgers/Hart) Shubert Theater, Detroit 15 September

1937 Virginia (Arthur Schwartz/Albert Stillman/w Laurence Stallings) Center Theater 2 September

Autobiography: I'd Like To Do it Again (Farrar & Rinehart, New York, 1931), My First Fifty Years in the Theater (Walter H Baker, Boston, 1950)

SCHWARTZ, Jean (b Budapest, 4 November 1878; d Sherman Oaks, Calif, 30 November 1956). Multi-hit songwriter whose numbers often proved the takeaway tunes of other fellows' shows of the early 20th century.

 Schwartz had his earliest musical education from his sister, a sometime pupil of Liszt, during his youthful days in Hungary. He moved to America with his family at the age of ten and was soon on the work market, holding jobs in a cigar factory and a turkish bath, amongst others, before his earliest musical engagements as a band pianist at Coney Island, a song-plugger at the Siegel-Cooper store on Sixth Avenue and for the music-publishing house of Shapiro-Bernstein, and later as a rehearsal and pit pianist for Broadway shows.

 Schwartz formed a songwriting partnership with lyricist William Jerome and the young team (`a pair who have risen from the obscure variety halls') soon succeeded in getting their songs placed in a number of touring farce comedies (Topsy Turvy, Andy Lewis, In Spotless Town etc) and Broadway shows, notably Weber and Fields's Hoity-Toity (1901, `When Mr Shakespeare Comes to Town'), a show for which young Schwartz was employed as an on-stage pianist and The Billionaire (1902, m’When the Stars are Shining Bright’). Their first big song successes came with `Rip van Winkle Was a Lucky Man' sung on Broadway in J J McNally's Sleeping Beauty and the Beast (1901) and in London's The Cherry Girl (1903), `Mr Dooley', one of several songs interpolated in the Broadway production of A Chinese Honeymoon (USA), and `Bedelia' as sung first by Blanche Ring in the short-lived The Jersey Lily (1903) on Broadway and in London by George Grossmith jr (who had done well with `Mr Dooley' on the halls) in the very much more successful The Orchid.

 The pair provided fresh material for the americanized version of the English musical An English Daisy (1904), they wrote the songs (one of which was `Bedelia') for a vehicle for the Ellmore Sisters, Kate and May, called Mrs Delaney of Newport and, shortly after, the now established songwriters were able to show off their first full Broadway score in Fred C Whitney's production of Piff! Paff! Pouf! (‘Cordelia Malone’) billed as `a musical cocktail', at the Casino Theater. Piff! Paff! Pouf! had a fine run of 264 performances, and its composer and his partner were set up to such an extent that they provided or contributed largely to the scores for no less than five musicals -- principally the vaudeville-style shows or spectaculars that their frankly popular songs suited best -- over the next year. Their biggest song success of that year, however, was again an interpolation: `My Irish Molly O', one of several of their numbers performed by Blanche Ring in Sergeant Brue.

 Over the next 20 years a vast stream of numbers issued from Schwartz's pen -- `Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat', `I Love the Ladies' etc -- but his main and most successful activity was still in the theatre. He wrote a large amount of revue material, including the basic musical scores for such pieces as The Passing Shows of 1913, 1918, 1919, 1921, 1923 and 1924, The Shubert Gaieties of 1919, the Shuberts' The Midnight Rounders and its 1921 edition, The Whirl of the Town, The Mimic World of 1921, Make it Snappy (1922), Artists and Models (1923), Topics of 1923 and A Night in Spain (1927) as well as providing odd numbers for shows such as the Ziegfeld Follies of 1907 (`Handle Me With Care' w William Jerome) and 1908 (`When the Girl you Love is Loving'). 

 Over the same period he also supplied scores both for regular musicals and for shows which ran a fine line between revue and musical comedy for Blanche Ring (When Claudia Smiles), Eddie Foy (Up and Down Broadway in which `Chinatown, My Chinatown' was first heard, and three songs in Over the River), Eddie Cantor (Make it Snappy), Julian Eltinge (The Fascinating Widow) and Mistinguett (the 1924 revue Innocent Eyes), and in collaboration with J J McNally, author of the successful Rogers Brothers series of variety musicals, he also wrote the songs for vehicles for the popular blackface duo McIntyre and Heath (The Ham Tree, In Hayti) and for Lulu Glaser (Lola From Berlin). However, he found the most effective successor to Blanche Ring as champion purveyor of his songs when Al Jolson introduced his `Rum Tum Tiddle' (ly: Edward Madden) in Vera Violetta (1911). Schwartz subsequently wrote the basic score of the `spectacular farce with music' The Honeymoon Express for Jolson but, more notably, he supplied him with four songs for the hit-filled Sinbad (1918), including the durable `Rockabye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody' and `Hello Central, Give Me No-Mans Land' (ly: Joe Young, Sam Lewis).

 He also, throughout, continued to supply individual numbers and special material for use as interpolations in musicals both imported and native, amongst which were The Prince of Pilsen (1903, `In Cincinnati), The Little Cherub (1906, `My Irish Rose'), The Rich Mr Hoggenheimer (1906, `Any Old Time at All'), The Silver Star (1909), The Echo (1909, ‘The Newport Glide’), Modest Susanne (1910, ‘Peaches’, ‘Tangoland Tap’), A Winsome Widow (1912), The Wall Street Girl (1912, `Whistle It' for Blanche Ring), The Sun Dodgers (1913), Hands Up (1915), Pom-Pom (1916), Betty (1916), Oh, My Dear! (1918), Tangerine (1921) and The Rose of Stambul (1922, ‘Why Do They Die at the End of a Classical Dance?). In the 1920s, although he continued to turn out happy songs for the Shuberts and other producers, Schwartz generally fared less well, and in 1923 all three musicals for which he provided the score closed during their out of town tryout. His last Broadway score was written in 1928 for the musical Sunny Days, in which some of it was favoured by the fresh voice of the young Jeanette MacDonald.

 Schwartz also paired with Jerome in ‘a singing and talking act’ on the vaudeville stage (Hammerstein’s, December 1908) and again as a music publisher, and, for a period, with the Hungarian variety artist Jenny Dolly (née Janszieka Deutsch) of the Dolly Sisters as a husband.

1903 Mrs Delaney of Newport (William Jerome) Collingwood Opera House, Poughkeepsie, NY 15 September; Grand Opera House 3 November

1904 Piff! Paff! Pouf! (Jerome/Stanislaus Stange) Casino Theater 2 April

1905 The Athletic Girl (George V Hobart) 1 act Colonial Music Hall 15 February

1905 A Yankee Circus on Mars (w Manuel Klein/Jerome/George V Hobart) New York Hippodrome 12 April

1905 Lifting the Lid (Jerome/J J McNally) Aerial Gardens, New Amsterdam Theater 5 June

1905 The Ham Tree (Jerome/Hobart) Lyceum Theater, Rochester 17 August; New York Theater 28 August

1905 Fritz in Tammany Hall (Jerome/McNally) Herald Square Theater 16 October

1905 The White Cat (w Ludwig Englander/Harry B Smith, Jerome/ad H B Smith) New Amsterdam Theater 2 November

1907 Lola from Berlin (Jerome/McNally) Liberty Theater 16 September

1908 Morning, Noon and Night (Jerome/Joseph Herbert) Opera House, Hartford, Conn 31 August; Yorkville Theater 5 October

1909 In Hayti (Jerome/McNally) Circle Theater 30 August

1910 Up and Down Broadway (Jerome/Edgar Smith) Casino Theater 18 July

1912 Over the River (w John Golden/Hobart, H A Du Souchet) Globe Theater 8 January

1912 The Fascinating Widow (w F A Mills/Otto Harbach) Chestnut Street Opera House, Philadelphia 3 April

1913 The Honeymoon Express (Harold Atteridge) Winter Garden Theater 6 February

1913 When Claudia Smiles (Jerome/Leo Ditrichstein) Illinois Theater, Chicago 13 April

1914 When Claudia Smiles (revised version by Anne Caldwell) 39th Street Theater 2 February

1918 See You Later (Loute) new score w William F Peters/ad Guy Bolton, P G Wodehouse Academy of Music, Baltimore 15 April

1919 Monte Cristo jr (w Sigmund Romberg/Atteridge) Winter Garden Theater 12 February

1919 Hello, Alexander (revised The Ham Tree) (Alfred Bryan/Edgar Smith, Emily Young) 44th Street Theater 7 October

1920 Page Mr Cupid (Blanche Merrill/Owen Davis) Shubert Crescent Theater, Brooklyn 17 May

1923 The Bal Tabarin (w Fred J Coots/McElbert Moore/ Moore, Edward Delaney Dunn) Apollo Theater, Atlantic City 30 April

1923 The Courtesan (w Romberg/Atteridge/Harry Wagstaffe Gribble, Atteridge) Parsons' Theater, Hartford, Conn 17 October

1923 That Casey Girl (Jerome/Hobart, Willard Mack) Lyceum, Paterson, NJ 22 October

1926 Nancy (William H Clifford) Mission, Long Beach 16 May

1928 Headin' South (A Bryan et al/Edgar Smith) Keith's Theater, Philadelphia 1 October

1928 Sunny Days (w Eleanor Dunsmuir/Clifford Grey/William Cary Duncan) Imperial Theater 8 February

1942 Full Speed Ahead (Irving Actman, H Leopold Spitalny/Rowland Leigh) Forrest Theater, Philadelphia 25 December

The show opened on 17 May 1920 to poor reviews: 'the music is better than the comedy' 'Page Mr Cupid has not yet been quite whipped into shape' which largely contented themselves with detailing the paltry plot and listing the players. Scheduled for New York, it was announced instead to go on the road for a bit. As far as I can see, it didn't.

This one didn't either. Said to have been a version of the 1926 film The Whole Town's Talking (the authors are the same, the plot seems different), and premiered in Oakland it 'proved a dud'. Arthur Freed's songs were junked in favour of some by Byron Gay, the cast was altered and Clarence Kolb and Arthur Dill relaunched their vehicle at Chicago's Studebaker. About as far to the 'effete east' as a 'Western show' was deemed palatable. It limped as far as Los Angeles and died.

The barometer has hit 35 degrees. I can no more. And there are so many more ... When I was trying to persuade Gerry Bordman to expand his American Musical Theatre to include cities other than New York, I made him (very, very pre-Internet!) a list of non-New-Yorkish shows ... it has survived multiple computer disasters and I still have it. It runs to 56 pages ...

Off to the lving room. My office doesn't have air-conditioning ..!

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Hecate: saved from the Styx!


100 or so of you Kurt'n'Kitty lovers have read my account the sad life of our little Hecate.

It is now about day 50 of his treatment, and he is lightweight, smaller than his three litter-brothers, but the swelled tummy has gone down, and energy has returned  ...

By rights, he should have been dead weeks ago ..

I have been pestering Wendy to take him back to the vet for an interim check-up, but she quite rightly said that the vet said 'only bring him back if something is wrong'. So ...

But today he had matter coming from his eye ...  and we decided that that was 'something wrong'. Bundle him into the kitty-carrier (no easy task!) and off to Rangiora ...

Yes, he'd got a scratch or something in the eye (the little boy has been gallivanting in the gorse with his new found strength). He's got to have eyedrops twice daily. Arrrrrrggggh. As if the daily pill weren't enough of a battle! 

Well, that's his credit card now nearly $3000 in the red.  But it was worth every cent to get the other result from the visit: 'he seems perfectly healthy'!

So all you worldwide kitties who clapped your paws ...  I think you may have made a miracle ....

Hec is snuggled up on the sofa with small sister Tibby ...

And my heart is half a ton lighter ...

19 March 2023. Hecate has finished his 100-day course of treatment. He seems lively and well and ... in three days he goes back to the vet for a check-up ... 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Music-making in Northamptonshire: 1881


Nice little piece of musical ephemera ...

A 'charity' concert for that eternal money-seeker ... reparing the local church roof.

Grendon, Northamptonshire ...

I guess that's 'the parish church' in the background.  Which means it is probably this one 

Bits of this go back to the 12th century, so I guess its 'the Parish Church'. Just one? I see references to St Mary's and also to All Saints ... 

This one seems to have been mended quite a bit. Anyway, in 1881, it was the roof that needed fixing. This seems to have been the festivity surrounding the occasion ..

The concert doesn't seem to have got a mention, although a couple of the participants are listed as Notable Attendees.

The Irish-born Rev Arthur Henry Cole Hamilton (with or without his hyphen) (b Ireland 17 April 1846; d Castle Ashby 15 December 1886), Rector of Castle Ashby, was an enthusiastic amateur baritone who appeared in concerts charity, church or other frequently round the county. 

Mr A J James, ?wife and ?son F ... well Mr F is in the concert, along with Miss E D James ...

Among the other participants I spot Mr Charles Edmund Thorpe from Uppingham (b 30 April 1856; d Northampton 1 March 1936), another busy baritone. Mr Thorpe was an auctioneer, and a decidedly successful one.

The Misses Terry and their brother were among the children of Northampton solicitor and county coroner, William Terry (16 June 1903).  William Edward (b 24 June 1862; d 6 January 1929), who played the 'cello became a clergyman; Florence Louie (b 8 November 1863; d 1 January 1927) played the violin, and Mary Katherine (b 16 December 1865; d 8 October 1949) the piano. Kate became Mrs Herbert Fortescue Fryer, wife of a Chatteris farmer. Florence stayed a maiden lady.

Alas, 'Miss Adam' I cannot trace, yet. Nor 'Mr Lawrence' (who had the temerity to essay Edward Lloyd's tenor piece from Sullivan's new Martyr of Antioch) nor 'Mrs Hall'.  

Ah! I do see 'Mr Lawrence tenor' at Higham Ferrers in 1878, 'much admired' for his 'Every Valley'. There's a Miss James of Wellingborough on soprano ...  and there is Mr Lawrence singing 'Love sounds the alarm' and 'Goodbye, Sweetheart' at Rushden (1879), and, good heavens, the Rossini Stabat Mater at Kettering (1880) ... and here is Miss James, again ..

and, blow me down, here he is singing in my once-home-village of Rothwell!  So is he the Mr C Lawrence of Kettering? Yes! Here he is at Higham Ferrers again in Gaul's The Holy City (1884). And in Kettering 'a well-known local tenor'. 'The old favourite'. 1891: 'Come into the Garden, Maude' .. 1904 'conductor of the Kettering choir' ... Mr Charles Lawrence. Mr Charles Lawrence, sometime worker in the local footwear industry, born Higham Ferrers c1846, 61 Lower Street, Kettering: wife and 8 children. Died 1910. Guess that's he! 

So let's pop down to Wellingborough and see if we can dig up Miss James. Yes, there she is in 1874 singing 'Bid me discourse' at the Board School. So is she the Miss [Edith] James headmistress of the Park Street Infant School? A 'Miss James' is ubiquitous around the Wellingborough concerts in the later 70s .. and there she is singing 'When the heart is young'. Dudley Buck seems to have been very popular in Northants! A Miss James is taking a sol-fa class at the Congregational Church ..  a Miss James singing 'Let the bright seraphim' and 'With verdure clad' with a taste and confidence rarely attained by an amateur'. A Miss James, leader of the Congregational Church Choir ... Soprano in The Messiah and Christ and his Soldiers and Daniel ...  Oh. Miss James the schoolmistress resigns. But Miss James the soprano is still around! Ah! Higham Ferrers 'Miss James of London'! So are the soprano and the schoolmistress [Edith] the same? ' Miss James who was formerly a resident in Wellingborough now devotes her entire energies to music and is now a medallist of the RAM'.  Miss K[ate] A[melia] James! So not Miss E D James. And who is Mr F? Oh dear, I've taken a wrong turning. Too many Miss James.

Mrs Hall? At Rushden ('The Children's Queen') and Weedon in 1883 -- Mrs J[ohn] S[later] Hall -- , Wellingborough in 1883 singing 'Golden Love' and 'Tit for tat'... Weedon in 1886 .. is she Mrs Hall the vicar's wife from Wilby, formerly (he) of Draugton? St Luke's, Wellingborough ('Love's old sweet song' etc), 1888 leading selections from The Mikado at Cogenhoe and at Wellingborough with Florence Terry .. who is Mrs Hall of Moulton? The Rev J S Hall wed Isabel daughter of Rev H Dale rector of Wilby ..  She was 30 years his junior, born Stoke, Notts ... He sold up the family estate and they removed to Devon around 1890, and Mrs Hall disappears from concert programmes. Well, maybe I've done the Miss James thing again, but I suspect I'm right! 

Miss Adam?  I leave her to you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Captain Corcoran ... billionaire!


Yes. It's true. And I didn't know it till the other day, so it's been a fun story to investigate.  

The burialplace of a baritone

I popped into David Stone's WHO'S WHO IN G&S website the other day, too see if my newly-found details on William HAMILTON would also be news to him (they are!!), and on the same page was an entry for one Stuart HAROLD. Odd. Why had I never investigated this chappie? Admittedly, I've concentrated mainly on the British Cartesians. But I've had a wee go at most of the Americans too.

A wee go? Two whole days. And the story just kept on getting bigger and bigger and curiouser and curiouser ...  it's a story which would make better reading if I peeled it like an onion: each discovery leading to the next ..  but here's the result anyhow.

HAROLD, Stuart (STOCKER, Harry [Randolph]) (b Philadelphia 12 January 1857; d Los Angeles 15 April 1918). Randolph was his mother's surname and an elder brother was christened with it as his middle name. Harry may have acquired it later.

His parents were Dr Anthony Eugene Stocker (b 5 March 1819; d Pennsylvania, 23 May 1897) and Jane Fitz née Randolph (b 9 July 1823; d 27 December 1892), and they were a family, it seems, of some little substance. Two servants and a coachman (for urgent night calls?) in 1860. I notice sister Caroline (Mrs Jones Wister, ironmaster) gets into one of those books of American 'noble' pedigrees. Anyway, I see the family is well represented on the splendid findagrave site ...

Anyway, young Harry apparently found a nice high baritone voice, and whatever he did in his teens, he was doomed to the musical (mostly) theatre from the beginning of his twenties.  

I see him first 17 March 1879 taking part in the the first professional prodcution in Washington, at Ford's Theatre, of HMS Pinafore. A 22 year-old Corcoran. Zipporan Montieth was Josephine, and future  buffo A W F McCollin was Ralph. The company went on tour and I see them in April in Richmond, Va. and Cincinnati

Later that year, the company played the musical comedy Electric Light. Next, he was seen as Samuel in D'Oyly Carte's Pirates of Penzance alongside Furneaux Cook and Rosina Brandram, apparently covering and playing Corcoran. In late 1880, he was engaged by R E J Miles's Revellers, playing jeune premier in a lightly cast pasticcio piece (including some Sullivan) named That Awful Child. Miles was also manager for Alice Oates, so several of the cast were then diverted into her version of Les Bavards. In November 1881, Mrs Oates dropped anchor at the California Theatre, San Francisco. And among her company was 'Mr H Harold', baritone). They played La Mascotte, Le Petit Duc, Giroflé-Girofla, Les Cloches de Corneville and Harry seems to have played baritone and tenor roles. In particular Pippo to Alice's Bettina.

However, it was in San Francisco that he met his future. She was a thrice-wed and at least once-divorced lady named Clara née Baldwin. Daughter of property developer and racing man Elias Jackson ('Lucky') Baldwin of Baldwin's Theatre, Baldwin's Hotel etc. Clara, whom the press had labelled 'a woman of easy virtue', had hit the headlines with her latest marital escapade when, a year and a son into her second marriage, she had eloped with the famous harness-racing driver, Budd Doble (13 May 1873). They had a daughter before she divorced him. Number four husband (14 November 1882) was to be Harry. Oh, on her wedding certificate Clara professed to 26 years of age.  She was born 14 May 1847. A decade before Harry. The marriage lasted, and ultimately made Harry's fortune, but for the meanwhile he was still a travelling comic-opera baritenor.

However, most of his work in the next years seems to have been around California, although he visited Boston to play opposite Blanche Corelli in the local piece Arctic. He appeared in Pop!, rejoined Alice Oates for another round (La Mascotte, La Jolie Parfumeuse), played with Selina Dolaro in Louis Nathal's production of The Bridge of Sighs, and with Adelaide Randall in the Bijou Company, and in 1886 a summer season in Baltimore (La Fille du Tambour-major, Satanella, Fantine, Giroflé Girofla, Rodolpho in La Sonnambula, Umberto Spinola in The Merry War, La Mascotte) which he left to go to the Boston Museum to play le Comte de Flavignac in Audran's Love's Vow (Le Serment).  Allbaugh's, Washington hired him to repeat his Spinola with its song 'Dreaming'. I wonder if that was an Americanised 'Nur für Natur"? The season continued with more Mascotte. And then 22 November 1886 made an unaccustomed appearance in New York, as Florian in Princess Ida.

He stayed in New York to play his Pippo opposite the Bettina of Lillian Grubb and the Lorenzo of Nat Goodwin and appear in Goodwin's Big Pony and Thames Darrell in his version of Little Jack Sheppard.
Then it was back on the road with Jeannie Winston playing the Prince of Palermo in Boccaccio, before he joined the company presenting the weat coast musical Said Pasha, and partaking of another Baltimore summer with 'The Thompson Opera Company', and Laura Bellini's production of La Jolie Persane. Except it was Laura Bellini's production. The co-producer was Mr Stocker. The company fell to bits, and Mr and Mrs Stocker headed for New York.

The next years were still fairly prolific: more Said Pasha, more Mascotte, the short-lived Jacinta with and the so-called Louise Beaudet Company, Norcross's company, further ventures at management at Milwaukee's Schlitz Park ... but his 'day job' was closer to home. As 'Lucky' Baldwin aged, Harry, although most especially Clara's ?uncle, Hiram Augustus Unruh, had effectively taken over the management of his (and his daughter's) now vast Californian property and financial and business holdings, including the Baldwin Ranch where they lived. And when Baldwin died in 1908 ...

Of course, the usual crooks surfaced, claiming to be Baldwin by-blows, but -- I suspect largely due to Hiram -- they were all seen off, and Clara as his only surviving legitimate child, and her younger (pre-marital) half-sister, Anita, got the lot. And it was a lot. The two girls split over twenty million dollars.  In 2023-speak ... how many billions is that?  Clara was 'one of the wealthiest women in the United States' spoken of as 'California's diamond Queen' ...

Harry had a decade of being a billionaire. He died after a stroke in 1918. Hiram had died in 1916 and Clara's son (by Snyder) immediately went to court to gain control of his 'incapable' mother's fortune. He didn't get it. Until she died. All of which family history would make (and probably has already) a book of its own. And in which Harry Stocker is largely a marginal character. 

But this is D'Oyly Cartesian article and therefore Harry is the central figure.