Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Liverpool prima donna for the people ...

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SMART, Laura (b Plymouth 4 July 1857; d 3 Mount Street, Liverpool 11 October 1913)

This article started out to be a little piece on Miss/Mrs/Madame Smart, generally recognised, in the 1880s and 1890s, to be the outstanding soprano in the Liverpool and Manchester area. But then it grew, to take in her husband and his/their musical world, and it has ended up as a glimpse at a whole home-grown part of that world and its music-making population. But let’s start with Laura.

She was born in Plymouth, but I think that may just have been because her peripatetic parents were passing. Her elder sisters were born in Leamington and Canterbury, and her younger brother in Chepstow. And why were her parents peripatetic? Well, father Fred (b Brighton; d Shaftesbury Rd, Allerton 12 July 1888) was ‘a professor of penmanship’, and I guess he went where the business was. Fred and Fanny Smart seemingly decided, in the late 1850s, that the business was in Lancashire, and, soon after, they set up house in Chorlton upon Medlock. By 1859, ‘Smart & Co’ ‘of London’ was in action at 18 Victoria Street, Manchester, giving tuition in writing and book-keeping. The history of Smart & Co is a long and successful one. It spread to branches in Liverpool, Blackburn et al, Mrs S came in to teach the ladies, and it seems to have survived, under Fred’s son, ‘Professor’ Ernest Smart, up till the Great War. By which time it was teaching typewriting, rather than handwriting. The girls in the family apparently didn’t go in for calligraphy. Clara began teaching piano from a young age, Florence married (13 November 1878), and Laura … well, she did both music and marriage. To their mutual benefit.



I first see Laura singing in public in February 1875, in Staffordshire, then in 1876 at the Kirkburton Band Concerts. She is billed as being ‘of the Liverpool and Manchester concerts’, so I imagine she’d put a quiet toe into the pool somewhere. She sang a vocal waltz (unnamed) and a piece called ‘The Ray of Hope’, previously favoured by local soprano Mrs Billinie Porter, but otherwise unknown (to me). Shortly after, I spy her at Golcar, going the whole hog: ‘Bid Me Discourse’, ‘The Nightingale’s Trill’, ‘Il Bacio’ and at the National School Room, Meltham, with local Tom Law, repeating ‘The Ray of Hope’. Over the next couple of years, I spot her occasionally in the surrounding counties (repeatedly at Simpson’s concerts at Hanley, ‘sang very well’), ‘Bid me discourse’ at Burslem, Longton, Tunstall and Stafford, The Creation at Preston with Bernard Lane, and at Harrogate Spa, while at least one of the (other, presumably) Misses Smart was temporarily looking after the handwriting ladies at 2 Brown Street, Manchester. Mrs Fanny Smart, previously her husband’s assistant, had died at Grafton Street 24 May 1877, aged 47.

In 1879, Laura’s career and life took a definitive turning. The man who entered her career was Mr William Lea, son of the schoolmaster at Harthill, Cheshire. The young William was apprenticed to a gardener, but took a bent for music and set up as a music teacher in Liverpool. From teaching, it was but a step to buy and selling musical instruments, and Mr Lea took that step, in 1871, with great success. In the 1870s, his depository at 56 (and then 56 and 58) Melville Place, Myrtle Street, for the sale of harmoniums and pianofortes, flourished. So Mr Lea took the next traditional step: into concert management. On 11 July 1877, he presented the musician W H Jude at the second-level Hope Hall, in the ‘east end’ of Liverpool. Mr Jude was a triple-threat performer. He played serious music on Mr Lea’s harmoniums and pianos, he sang comic songs, imitated Henry Russell and John Parry, and he was, as they say, ‘a host in himself’ for an evening’s entertainment. This experience of management was obviously a positive one, for 23 September 1877 Lea launched a series of Saturday Nights at the same Hall. Jude was the centrepiece, whether singing, playing, conducting, or all three at once, but Lea filled his bills with local artists, professional, semi-professional and barely professional: the Misses Harriet Leders, Marie Ternan, Laura Jane Haworth, Lily Moulsdale (once the juvenile ‘Nightingale of the North’), Linda Cuthbert (‘pupil of Schira and the London Academy’), Alice Jackson, the Messrs George Barton (tenor), T J and J L Hughes, Emmanuel Spero, ‘Sydney Gladwynne’, Inman Moore, J Busfield, George A Paris, T H Harrison. And the result was highly successful.
On 21 September 1878, he and ‘W H Jude’s concert company’ began a second season, and in week two he scored a major hit by introducing into the programme a large selection from the latest London comic opera hit, HMS Pinafore. Jude was Sir Joseph Porter, Marie Ternan was Buttercup and Miss Moulsdale sang Josephine. This seems to have been Liverpool’s first hearing of the Pinafore music, and the fame of Lea’s concerts was sealed. He repeated Pinafore to a ‘crammed hall’, then mounted The Sorcerer with Jude in the title-role, alongside Miss Moulsdale (Alice), Miss Jackson (Constance) and Gladwynne, then more Pinafore, No Song No Supper plus Romberg’s Toy Symphony in which the singers played the ‘toys’, then more Gilbert and Sullivan. The company remained largely the same, but in the listings for the performance of 28 December (52nd concert) a new name appeared. Mr Josef Cantor.

Mr Cantor was a young Jewish gentleman from London, who had just arrived in town. He was the son of a Rotterdam-born market porter and his English wife, Charlotte Solomons, and he had worked until recently as a cigar-maker. Unfortunately he had got mixed up in some neighbourly brawling, which had ended in his killing his aggressor with a poker. Justice gave him one month. After which he left town. Maybe they didn’t make cigars in Liverpool, but Josef decided on a career change, and when Lea found that he, like Jude, could play, accompany, sing and put over a comic song, he was hired for the Hope Hall company. His solo, on this first occasion, came after the comic opera selections: he gave Mendelssohn’s ‘O give one tender token’. Next up, The Spectre Knight was given, with Josef as the Lord Chamberlain and Laura Haworth as Rita, then, at the 58th concert Princess Toto.

Then, at 61st concert, on 1 March 1879, there was another cast change. Miss Moulsdale having sadly seceded, Harriet Leders returned and a new soprano was hired. Miss Laura Smart. She sang ‘Bid me discourse’, ‘Il Bacio’ and Wade’s ‘The Wanderer of Dreams’ with the experienced George Barton, and promptly took her place at the head of the Hope Hall’s bills. At concert 62, she ventured ‘Al dolce canto’, the famous Rode’s Air and Variations of Catalani, and Josef played the accompaniments.
The ‘comic opera selection’ made up the whole of the first half of the evening, while the second half was given over to a more straightforward concert, so when The Sultan of Mocha was given, Laura Haworth sang Dolly, while Laura Smart gave ‘L’Ardita’, but when, at the 65th concert, Il Trovatore was selected, Laura S sang Leonora to the Manrico of David Inman Moore  and the Azucena of Miss Ternan, while Laura H joined the father and son Hugheses in the concert. At number 69, the two Lauras shared the soprano music of Princess Toto and Josef sang the show’s comic hit ‘The Pig with the Roman Nose’, and when (11 April) Edith Wynne, Liverpool’s prize vocal export, visited, she took pride of place for one Saturday, but Laura S still sang ‘Bid me discourse’.

The Lea concerts being only on Saturdays, there was opportunity for other dates in the week (Bootle, Blackpool, Birkenhead &c) but it was the suddenly glorified Hope Hall that attracted the attention and audiences with its stout repertory team and its excellent programming. During 1879, The Lily of Killarney, Robin Hood, Maritana, Princess Toto. The Spectre Knight, Il Trovatore, and The Bohemian Girl were selected, and a Bishop concert was given in which Laura gave two pieces from Henri IV. At Christmas, the Hope Hall team gave The Messiah and Laura sang ‘Rejoice Greatly’ and ‘I Know that my Redeemer Liveth’.

When the Hope Hall season was finished, Mr Lea was decidedly not, and Mr Lea’s concert parties and their members voyaged to Manchester, the Isle of Man or Wales, when the season was ‘on’ they, including Laura and Josef, were back in Liverpool, he now being effectively a mini-Jude and she singing selections from pieces from Lurline to Les Cloches de Corneville.

Laura and Josef were married in 1881 in, of all places, Birmingham. I suppose there was a reason for it’s not being Liverpool. Probably because the bride was largely pregnant. Josef Eugene Francis Cantor was born, at Liverpool’s 84 Edge Lane, a few months later. After which Laura was promptly back on the platform.



On the occasion of Lea’s 150th night, she topped the bill at Hope Hall with a now largely unfamiliar cast, singing ‘Bid me discourse’ and Ganz’s ‘Sing, sweet bird’, at no 156 she is there doing the Miserere with Howard Welch, but the original repertory idea which had been so successful had dissolved somewhat. In the months in which she would normally have been resident at Hope Hall, I spot Laura at Morecambe with the Paggi Family, at the Sunderland People’s Concerts, at Chester for the Cricket Club concerts, at Hull for Holder with the Grenadier Guards Band, at Ripon with an umpteenth cricket club, at the Blackburn Pops … more often than not with Josef in support. At Christmas, she gave Messiahs at Hope Hall and in Douglas, Isle of Man. Now billed as ‘Madame Laura Smart’.

The 167th concert took place 7 January 1882 and there was again a guest. But Signor Foli had to take place behind Madame Smart, billed in the biggest type and singing Balfe’s ‘My task is ended’ (The Enchantress) and Bevignani’s ‘The Flower Girl’. Josef sang comic songs and threatened to steal the show. At the 200th (30 December 1882) Laura sang Les Cloches de Corneville and Josef sang the ‘Modern Major General’. Inevitably, Lea’s concerts, bit by bit, changed their original character. By the 220th concert Sims Reeves was the guest artist, and Lea was now giving monthly concerts at the more upmarket Philharmonic Hall (Laura sang). The ‘repertory’ feel had gone.

Laura (and Josef), their reputations made (‘our best local singer’, ‘beautiful voice and cultivated style’), performed far and wide in the early 1880s.  During 1882-3 I see Laura at Preston (‘It was a dream’, ‘Sing sweet Bird’) with Joseph Maas and (‘Angels ever Bright and Fair’) with Herr (!) William Ludwig, then at Darwen, Mold with James Sauvage, Cleckheaton (The Creation, Lobgesang, Stabat Mater), Matlock (Judas Maccabeus, Elijah), Liverpool (Samson), Wirksworth (St Cecilia’s Day), at the Morecambe Winter Gardens with Josef ‘the celebrated buffo vocalist ... every afternoon and evening’, at the Wrexham Corn Exchange Horse Guards Concerts, at Garston for the Mayor of Liverpool, at Burnley Mechanics’ Institute, at Warrington, at Nottingham (Messiah), at Manchester for the Philharmonic Society, at the Sabden Ballad Concerts, Chester and Salem for The Messiah, Birmingham for the local Pops, heading the bill for the Liverpool Rovers Bicycle and Tricycle Club concert, and singing for what seemed like every tiny cricket club concert in the county.

On 26 February 1883 the couple topped the bills at the Wrexham Music Festival alongside a new baritone, Mr Eaton Batty, RAM. Robert Eaton Cordeux Batty (1852-1908), son of a well-known late clergyman of the area, would be a colleague for much of his and their career.

William Lea, however, was still going strong, and Mr and Mrs Cantor were regulars on his bills at the Philharmonic and at Hengler’s Circus, where he staged a series of Proms. I spot them at the Philharmonic Hall a number of times in 1883 and 1884, Laura singing her Enchantress aria, and a Pinsuti piece entitled ‘We’ll gaily sing’, which introduced ‘The Last Rose of Summer’, Serpolette’s song from Les Cloches de Corneville, ‘When the Heart is Young’, Jude’s Milkmaid’s Song, the Esmeralda Swallow Song, ‘Sweet spirit hear my prayer’ etc, and Josef specialising in the Bumpti ra-pa-ta from Boccaccio, the Major General, Princess Ida’s ‘The Ape and the Lady’. The Philharmonic programme of 19 April 1884 was entitled ‘Gems from the Operas’.

Laura largely disappeared from the bills for a considerable while in 1884-5, and produced a second son, but Josef beavered away, spreading himself around with amazing vigour. He performed, he conducted, he played, he was a judge at the Mold Eisteddfod, he fixed orchestras, he was appointed conductor of the Wrexham Philharmonic, he supplied concert parties, instrumental and vocal, he returned to Hope Hall, he played and organised countless masonic musical dos, and finally all his tentacles came together in one octopus. On 11 April 1885 he produced his own ‘Gems of the Opera’ programme at Hope Hall. Laura topbilled alongside Edith Eborall, Emilie Young, Kate Nono, Jessie Annie Breakenridge, Mary Ellen Cottier, and the quartet (or quintet!), Messrs Samuel Kirkham, Edward Edwards, J A Muir, Nathaniel Frederick Kirkhoff Burt, and Batty. It started slowly, but Cantor’s ‘Gems of the Opera’ were to become an institution.

He brought his ‘operatic concert company’ out again at Leeds on 9-10 May with Laura as the star of the troupe (Pinsuti, ‘Banks of Allan Water’) and the Misses Eborall, Nono and Breakenridge and Eaton Batty leading the rest. Josef sang Trial by Jury, Miss Nono sang the popular Olivette song ‘The Torpedo and the Whale’. Come summer, it was the Llandudno Pavilion with another change of cast: but Laura still, of course led, and Messrs Kirkham, Batty and Edwards were joined by Mr Edward Grime. Grime would go on to have a career in provincial opera.

Next, Laura went off to sing Acis and Galatea in Macclesfield, Josef to conduct at the Wrexham Festival for Georgina Burns and Leslie Crotty, but the click was coming. J A Cross hired the ‘Gems of the Opera’ party for his Manchester Popular Concerts, and Laura and Josef, accompanied by Annie Hallwood, Lucie Ann Jones, Kate Nono, Emilie Young and the Kirkham/Edwards/Burt/John Peate team appeared on 31 October with a programme featuring largely the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. This time, at last, they played to a crowded house and the ‘Gems’ was launched. The team was re-engaged by Cross, booked for Preston, and in the new year for the Leeds Coliseum …  ‘Gems from the Opera’ was still alive and booking, with Laura and Josef at its head, into the 20th century, and Cross was still booking the outfit as late as 1901, and Laura, after her husband’s death, as late as 1907.

In between the bookings of the Cantor company, from the Isle of Man to Manchester to Worcester to Blackburn, Leeds, Huddersfield or Preston, and while the Cantor quartets racked up further engagements, sometimes with Laura making up the bill, she continued with the more normal life of a Lancashire concert prima donna – The Messiah at Wrexham and Mount Pleasant, Samson at Brighouse, St Paul at Huddersfield, The Rose Maiden at Everton, The Creation at Bootle, a jump-in for Alwina Valleria with the Liverpool Philharmonic Society (‘With Verdure Clad’, ‘The Bird that came in spring’, ‘It was a dream’). ‘She has made gigantic strides in her profession of late’ judged the press at the end of 1886.

In 1887, she had time out again for the birth of her third and last child, and when she returned she largely limited her appearances to engagements with the ‘Gems’ company.  In the latter part of the year, I spot the troupe playing several dates at Leeds, at Huddersfield, Preston, Blackburn, Worcester, then in early 1888 more repeated Leeds (where they took advantage of the release from copyright of Maritana to give a large selection), more Manchester (the local The Sultan of Mocha) including a first booking at the Botanical Gardens, a date which would be much repeated, Blackburn … Laura sang everything from I Puritani to Les Cloches de Corneville, Josef gave Balfe’s ‘Travellers All’, the Boccaccio, General Bangs’s song from Polly …

In 1889, she visited the Glasgow Saturday Concerts and reverted to ‘Bid me discourse’ and ‘Sing sweet bird’, she sang Elijah at Douglas and The Messiah at Burnley, in 1890 it was Elijah at Burnley in 1891 St Cecilia’s Day and The Bride of Dunkerron at Leeds, The Creation at Mount Pleasant, the Lobgesang and The Revenge at Liverpool … and all the while the ‘Gems’ played on. ‘Casta Diva’ and The Enchantress for her, ‘From Rock to rock’, ‘Non piu andrai’ for him, and The Sorcerer duet for them. In January 1892, when the ‘Gems’ fufilled an umpteenth engagement for J A Cross, Laura was ill and could not play. It was ‘like playing Hamlet without Hamlet’ sighed the press. There was, however, another to-be-celebrated name hidden among the company: the clarinettist of Cantor's band was Frederic Norton, two decades later the composer of Chu Chin Chow.

Illness got in the way later in the year, and Laura took time out in Madeira to recover from a bronchial ailment, but she was back in town in October, heading the ‘Gems’ round the usual dates (the company numbered 20, so small dates were out of the question!). At Leeds she gave ‘Al dolce canto’, so her voice must have thoroughly returned. Then at Manchester ‘Non piu mesta’ and ‘Son vergin vezzosa’, and at Tom Barrett’s concerts ‘L’Ardita’ and Sullivan’s ‘Let me dream again’ …

But Josef was not eclipsed, and when they visited Glasgow for the Saturday concerts in January 1893, it was he, with Andrew Black, who got the star billing.  When they returned with their company, the next month, Laura was back on top of the list of 13 singers and 7 instrumentalists, and Josef was listed just as ‘pianist’. He wasn’t, of course, ‘just’ anything of the sort. He was the life and soul of the party, just as his wife was the star – except on the occasions when Josef stole the starlight with his Gilbert and/or Sullivan (‘Ribbons to sell’, the Grand Inquisitor’s and Lord Chancellor’s songs, ‘The Beautiful English Girl’) and buffo songs. ‘Her vocal powers show no signs of decay’ confirmed Manchester in 1894 after her Enchantress aria, while Josef tackled ‘Largo al factotum’ with delight.

Through the 1890s, they continued their concerts round and round the main centres: why should one pay 7/- to hear Madame Jeanie Sadler-Fogg give the first act of Walküre at the Free Trade Hall, when up at the Association Hall, for a shilling, you could have a numbered chair to hear ‘the beautiful soprano voice and admirable style’ of the best soprano in the district plus nineteen others, including an hilarious buffo…

Laura still trotted out ‘Bid me discourse’, ‘It was a dream’ and ‘Sweet bird’ at will, and gave the Miserere with yet another tenor, but there was plenty of fresh material. She sang in C T Reynolds’s new cantata The Childhood of Samuel at Birkenhead, Josef added another string to his lute with a translation of Cesare Ciardi’s ‘The Nightingale’ with flute obbligato, which Laura gave with the troupe’s flautist, V L Needham, she exhumed ‘Bel raggio’ and ‘The Mocking Bird’ and gave a song from the musical Kitty Grey … as they went from the Tynemouth Proms to Blackpool’s Victoria Pier, to the Isle of Man and the Cross concerts, to Wrexham, to Darwen …

Inevitably, the pace slowed, as the new century arrived. And then, in early 1903, Josef fell ill. He died a year later. Laura continued to give the odd performance – J A Cross called upon her again and again – but at the age of fifty she called it a day.

Laura Smart Cantor died in 1913, at her home in Liverpool. If her name was wholly unknown south of Watford, it assuredly meant plenty to a generation of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Welsh concert-goers. She had been their popular Queen of the Operatic Gems for more than two decades, and at the centre of both William Lea’s and Josef Cantor’s ‘local’ concerts, which, in their turn, had done much to provide a superb shillingsworth for the people of the Midlands.


None of Josef and Laura’s collaborators at Hope Hall and in the Gems would merit an article in this collection along with the century’s great and grandish. But they fascinated me, so I dug just a little… and I’m going to put the results here. In no particular order, as they say on the TV …

NONO, Kate [NONO, Catherine Mary Theresa] (b Lancashire 27 May 1859; d Waterloo, Lancs 22 June 1929) was, for much of her local career as a singer, a ‘Madame’, the wife of Irish borough clerk David W Cangley. I spot her first at Lea’s 125th, in 1880, and for the last time as a member of Josef Cantor’s Opera Concert at Glasgow in 1895.

HAWORTH, Laura Jane (b Liverpool 1 October 1856; d 32 Buckingham Avenue, Sefton Park 4 May 1943)
A professional soprano vocalist, she married ship’s store dealer Edwin Thraves, but continued a career in the Manchester and Liverpool concerts from 1876 up till the end of the century.

MOORE, [David] Inman (b Old Church Yard, Liverpool 1853 x 8 May; d Wavertree 13 October 1902)
Mr Moore (originally billed as D I Moore) sang tenor for half a dozen years in the Liverpool concerts while pursuing a career as a banking clerk. He was one of Laura’s partner’s in the Miserere.

MOULSDALE, Sarah Elizabeth (‘Lily’) (b Everton 1857 x 25 October; d Liverpool 1880)
Lily first emerged in 1868 as a child soprano, labelled ‘The Nightingale of the North’, under the tutelage of a frightful fraud of a musician (?) calling himself Henri Cardini Cole. Then she re-surfaced as leading lady at the early Lea concerts, only soon to vanish. Lily died aged 22. Later, her younger sister Clara (Mrs Hawkins) became a member of the ‘Gems’ company.

GREENWOOD, J[ohn] H[enry] (b Manchester 1846; d 11 Lime Grove Oxford Rd Chorlton  20 September 1909)
Organist and choirmaster who made a name as a buffo vocalist: ‘the eminent Pianist and Buffo Vocalist. The only successor to the late John Parry’.

TERNAN, Marie (Mrs Mary Elizabeth Partridge) (b Franklin Place, Everton 8 September 1852)
The first contralto of the Lea company, pupil of Edwin Reeves of Liverpool, she sang everything from Azucena to Little Buttercup. She was still to be seen in the ‘Gems’ in 1884, and my last sighting of her is in 1885 singing The Messiah in Llandudno.

HUGHES, Thomas Jones (b Stanfyllin, Montgomeryshire 1831; d 72 Queensland Street, Liverpool 26 October 1880)
HUGHES, John Lot (b Myrtle Street, Liverpool, 1855)
Father, T J Hughes, was a pupil of Mr Saqui and a bass-baritone soloist with the Liverpool Harmonic Society and in local concerts, while holding down a day job as the collector of Liverpool’s sanitary rates. He appeared beside Edith Wynne, Eos Morlais, Lewis Thomas et al in Welsh concerts (Y Tylwyth Teg) and Eistedfodds, and in the Hope Hall concerts up to his death.
His son, J L Hughes, began performing as a boy soprano while working as an apprentice grocer. As an adult, he sang tenor at the Lea concerts while conducting the choir at St Cuthbert’s Everton until 1883 when he apparently left the area.

BREAKENRIDGE, Jessie [Annie] (b Seaforth x 17 May 1866; d Hampstead 1952)
For several teenage years, a featured mezzo-soprano in the Liverpool and Manchester concerts, 19 year-old Jessie also sang in the choir of Trinity church, Eccles. Until she eloped with the (married) Rev William Mules, allegedly to America. But I spy the couple – the Rev is now a golf club maker – in Wales in the 1901 census, and in Kensington in 1911. Jessie stayed in the music business: she is, in both censi, ‘teacher of singing’.

COTTIER, Mary Ellen (b Edge Hill, Liverpool 4 March 1866) An intermittent member of the Gems troupe between 1885 and 1889, Miss Cottier worked otherwise as a servant girl.

JONES, Lucy (‘Lucie’) Ann (b Liverpool 22 May 1865)
JONES, Dora [Helena] (b Liverpool 1869; d Holywell 31 December 1944)
JONES, Ethel (b Liverpool 24 November 1871)
Three of the daughters of Liverpool Welsh coal merchant Thomas Jones, who each took part in the Gems. Ethel became a primary school teacher, Dora a nurse back in Wales, but Lucie carried on a while as a professional singer before I lose her.

MEREDITH, Kate
Miss Meredith ‘of Birkenhead’ was one of the durable members of the Gems team. A multiple Eisteddfod winner, she brought her rich contralto voice to the ‘Liverpool and Manchester concerts’ from the mid-1880s and to the Gems in the 1890s. Wed in the early part of that decade, she continued to sing as ‘Madame Kate Meredith’ into the new century.

ROLAND, Amy (‘Aimée’) Theodora (b Liverpool 3 March 1869; d San Mateo, California 16 June 1957).
A prominent member of the Gems from 1887 until her marriage to African trader Thomas Scott Rogerson, contralto Amy would seem to have been one of the last survivors of the company.

GRIME, Edward (b Wigan 24 May 1857)
One of the most widely seen concert basses in Lancashire from the 1880s to the 1890s, Grime latterly sang both in musical comedy (A Trip to Chinatown) and in opera, with F S Gilbert’s company (Don Jose, Arnheim) and later with ‘Madame Marie Elster’, late of the Australian stage and (briefly) the Carl Rosa, with a fit-up of his own.

HALLWOOD, Annie (‘Annetta’) Jane (b Appleton, Cheshire 1858; d 1933)
Annie Hallwood appeared both at Hope Hall and with the Gems, and married the widowed Nathaniel Frederick Kirkhoff BURT (1843-1910), a longtime member of the Cantor quartet, and by day an electrician and telephone engineer, 8 October 1891.

KIRKHAM, Samuel (b Liverpool 1850; ?d 1912)
Kirkham grew up as the neighbour of the Ternan family in Liverpool’s Coleridge St, and went to work as a clerk in the sanitary department of the council, with T J Hughes. He also became a member of the Liverpool Dramatic Lodge, like Cantor and most of his merry men. He sang with Jude’s Sacred Harmonic Society (with the Hughes) and at the Concert Hall in 1876, and he was one of the longest-serving singers in the Lea and Cantor teams, topping the male-voice quartet for most of its existence.

LEDERS, Harriet [Neale] (b 62 London Rd, Liverpool 23 May 1848; d Kent 1923)
A leading local soprano in Liverpool from the mid-1860s (‘decidedly the first among local artists’), Harriet Leders sang in some of the earliest Hope Hall concerts. She taught singing for many years thereafter, latterly in Sidcup.

SPERO, Emanuel (b Denmark 1854; d Gloucester Place, London 25 September 1927)
The son of a Russian ‘clothes-broker’, Emmanuel Spero spent the first part of his life in Liverpool, where he made good use of his fine tenor voice, singing in concert, during 1878. He moved on to London thereafter, and became chezan in a synagogue, and then chief precentor in the Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street. He composed music for the services and intoned the solos ‘exquisitely’ on occasions such as the funerals of aristocratic Jews … and it was all a long way from the Hope Hall and its ballads and operatic selections. When he died, ‘the Sweet Singer in Israel’ was commemorated in the press from the Solent to Shetland.

BARTON, George (b Cockermouth, Cumberland 1843; d 83 Riley Street, Blackburn 16 May 1926)
Barton began singing in Liverpool in the late 1860s and established himself as one of the best tenors around – although he apparently retained his day job as a printer and compositor for some time. But by 1871 he was already bannered as ‘the eminent tenor of the Manchester concerts’ and by 1875 ‘now our most popular tenor’. Over the next two decades he sang round and round the area, including stints in Lea’s and Cantor’s concerts, while teaching music from his base in Blackburn.

There are more, of course, where those came from. But these are doubtless enough to show where ‘local’ music-making made its home in Victorian days … with folk like Josef Cantor, Laura Smart and William Lea to lead the way.


Those of you who have read right to the end ... if you have any additional information, please do get in touch ..
And photos! I've pinched Laura, Josef and their three children from a rather iffy family post on the web, but can I find anyone else? Not even the Rev Spero. And the Hope Hall? circa 1875? Even Wikipedia ignores its heyday and says it turned from a chapel into a cinema to a playhouse. And then got knocked down. Bah! There's a shiny new theatre now where the prima donna of the people used to sing to her shilling audience ...

1 comment:

Carol said...

Hi there we would love to make contact with you re Fred, Fanny and Josef. If you can respond back to us via joanna.mckinnon@xnet.co.nz that would be great