Friday, December 30, 2022

Mrs Howard Paul: even megastars have first night nerves!


When you record history, and especially biography, in the way I try to do -- original sources only, no oft-repeated anecdotes, no University thesis or Wikipedian patchworks of fifth-hand material (erroneous or even correct) -- you, necessarily, miss a dimension in an the portrait of an artist. Any after-the-event biography does. The personality of your subject ...

Thus, today, I was particularly thrilled to come upon, this week, a four-page letter written by one of my very favourite Victorian vocalists: Mrs Isabelle Paul. 

Mrs Paul ... aka Isabelle Hill, aka Miss Featherstone in her early days .. was probably the most outstandingly talented actress-singer of her generation. Nip and tuck with Priscilla Reed. Everything from opera, opéra-bouffe, spectacular and oratorio to high comedy and Shakespeare.

I'm not going to describe her career. I've done that, in detail, in more than twenty overflowing pages, in my book Victorian Vocalists. 

I'm just going to preserve this little bit of the 'real' Mrs Paul. Words from her own pen ... 

There is more than enough internal evidence to date the note. Chatterton, Phelps, 'the change', tradition ...

It is February 1869, when Isabelle Paul appeared at Drury Lane as both Lady Macbeth and in the singing (bass) role of Hecate, king of the witches. Which apparently involved that '90 second change'.

The first night wasn't perfect ... she was right! 

Soon, however, she got into her stride, and her tour de force was recognised as just that.

So, to whom was the letter written. Charlotte somebody? Small pencil scribble. Miss Lister? Omigod ... Leclerq. Carlotta Leclercq ... Lottie ...

 What a super piece of 150 year-old theatrical ephemera!  


Thursday, December 29, 2022

Babil and Bijou (1872): a photograph at last!

In the nearly half a century that I have been involved with the history of the musical theatre I have dug up, collected, and handed on, vast amounts of photographs, music, scripts and other ephemera relating to, in particular, the British musical theatre.

One show which interested me perversely was the 1872 Babil and Bijou, a Covent Garden attempt to out-spectacularise the great French opéras-bouffes-féeries of the times. It had everything money (Lord Londesborough's, as it happened) could be wasted on in the way of scenery and over-casting and it had some big names attached to it -- Dion Boucicult, J R Planché, Mrs Howard Paul, Mrs Billington, Lionel Brough, the rising juveniles Joseph Maas and Annie Sinclair -- and, after a forced run, it lost a fortune. 

It produced, however, some colourful music sheets, depicting scenes from the show: most notably the highlight of the night Rivière's little chorus of trebles 'Spring, Gentle Spring'

There were programmes and playbills by the dozen in my boxes, and other ephemera ... 

but ... not one photograph.

Well, today one floated across the blue skies of ebay. At first glance, it was wrongly labelled ('Miss Victoria Vokins'), but I wasn't fooled! Oh no! That costume ... Julia Vokins, the takeover of the little role of the Queen of the Bees ...

A closer look at the second layer of handwriting confirmed my idea ... in pencil 'Babil and Bijou'. 

So where did this treasure surface? Why, in Melbourne, Australia. Thank you Douglas Stewart Fine Books ...

VOKINS, Julia (b Lambeth 3 November 1854; d Chelsea 24 February 1933). Daughter of a musician, Henry Vokins and his wife, Eliza, Julia spent her whole working life on the stage; at first in roles combining singing with an enviable plastique (La Vie Parisienne in London, Babil and Bijou, Ixion Re-wheeled, Les Brigands) and later in comedy with such as Charles Wynham and Henry Neville. She played in pantomime at Covent Garden, in burlesque at the Opera Comique ...

PS here is an earlyish photo of 'Helen Barry' (SHORT, Elizabeth) unfortunately not in costume as the Princess Fortinbrasse ..


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Ignace Begrez: a pre-Victorian vocalist

This article is one of the stack of leftovers from my book Victorian Vocalists. These were, I thought, safely stored on external drives. Safely? They weren't. I am rescuing the hundreds of articles from an old back-up, and am going to put them on this blog. Wikipedia will have an embolism ... but at least I will not have worked in vain.

If anyone has any pix which I can add to these stories, I'd be grateful.

Here's a lovely chap to start with. A rather camp tenor with a glorious drawing-room voice ....

BEGREZ [Pierre Joseph] Ignace [Marie] (b Namur, 23 December 1783; d 38 Sloane Square, 13 December 1863)

A Belgian tenor, who lived for over half a century in London, making himself a formidable figure on the fashionable concert circuits in the years preceding the reign of Victoria. I will, thus, treat him summarily (though not too summarily), although he was active for a quarter of a century after the young Queen’s succession, mostly after his retirement from performing, as a teacher and a personality in the British musical world.

Ignace Begrez (ignore all texts which refer to him as Pierre) was born in Namur. His date of birth has gone down as 1787 -- enshrined thus in Choron and Fétis and copied widely thereafter – but he was, tale-tellingly, said to be 79 at his death.

A childhood friend penned a jolly little memoir about a feckless father, and a musical son, but unfortunately didn’t get round to recording any actual facts.

One is wary, very, of internet genealogists, but apparently he was one of the sons of Jean-Pierre Begrez and his wife Anne Catherine Josèphe Velart. Therefore, he can’t have been born in 1787 because his sister was. GeneaNet goes for 1784, and I go back a few weeks more. I have little doubt that I am right.

So, Choron and Fétis have begun poorly, and thus we must take their other sayings with a wee touch of salt and pepper. Young Ignace was ‘at the age of six’ entered as a choirboy at St Aubin’s Cathedral, Namur. At some stage he moved to Paris, and, in 1804, entered the Conservatoire as a violin major. He was also engaged as a violinist in the orchestra at the Académie Royale. He began to study voice seriously, under Pierre-Jean Garat, in October 1806. He was awarded a deuxième prix in 1813, and a premier prix in 1814.

Oh, I should add somewhere that, at some stage, he seems to have become the husband of one Catherine Françoise Augustine Gormet. In 1817, she turns up starting a business as 'plumassier-fleuriste' with a friend. He was, at this stage, a member of the Paris Opéra troupe. She doesn't seem to feature much thereafter.

Now, somewhere in here must be slotted one of those stories which doubtless has some truth in it, but has been made into a much-repeated jolly Cinderella tale. Cherubini was, it is related, rehearsing an Offertorium of his composition when his tenor went sick. He asked the ‘violinist and amateur vocalist’ to step in (why?), he made a great success, threw away his fiddle and became a singer.

If I hesitate unhesitatingly to believe these sources, it is because they insist that he gave up opera in 1821 or 1822 after being a ‘permanent member’ of the company at London’s Italian Opera for 6 years. Both statements are simply untrue. But that’s coming.

Anyhow, so far, my only sighting of young Begrez in these early years is singing the grand aria from Joseph at the old Lycée Marboeuf in 1811 (2 May). Presumably after he had thrown away his fiddle.

Following his conservatoire prize, he was obligatorily indentured to the Académie Royale, the Paris Opéra. It is documented that he made a début as Renaud in Gluck’s Armide 7 March 1815. So, I suppose that he did. It is thereafter copied extensively that he played in a reprise of the Les Bayadères of Conservatoire professor Catel, and of Cherubini’s opera-ballet Anacréon, ou l’amour fugitif, ‘with great success’, but of these performances I can find no record.

His success, if such it were, at the Paris Opéra was shortlived, however, for before the year was out, Mons Begrez was engaged for London’s Italian Opera, at the King’s Theatre. He left for England, and, although evidently still under contact to Paris for a while, there he would stay.

The King’s Theatre billed four tenors that season. John Braham loomed large at their not-very-Italian head, and underneath came the Spanish Pablo Rosquellas (‘Rosquelli’), the Walloon Begrez and a certain Signor Geni, who had spent most of the previous season 'severely indisposed' and just may have been Italian. Anyway, he lasted only a few performances as primo tenore.

Begrez (tiresomely billed as ‘Begri’, unless they forgot) was put up first as the Marchese Gaultiero (Lesbino) to the Griselda of Josephine Fodor in Paer’s La Griselda, ossia, la virtù in cimento (13 January 1816) (‘He executed some of his airs in a very pleasing manner, and if his action were equal to his musical powers we should but have little to wish for’) and, while Braham naturally took on most of the season’s best roles thereafter, followed up as Nerestan in Zaira (‘sung in his best stile’), and as Guglielmo to the Ferrando of Braham in Cosi fan Tutte, alongside Fodor, Vestris and Naldi.

Of the four Opera House tenors, only Begrez would return the next year, in fact he appeared at the King’s Theatre for the next three years. If Braham was no longer there, however, the ageing but effective Signor Crivelli and the younger Signor Garcia came to join the theatre’s tenor ranks, and it was Crivelli who was cast as England’s first Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Garcia who was the first Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and the two shared the tenor limelight in La Clemenza di Tito. Begrez was cast as Annio, sharing the celebrated duet ‘Deh, prendi un dolce amplesso’ with Garcia.

In 1817, Begrez repeated his Griselda and Cosi, and added the parts of Don Callandro in Paisiello’s L’Amor Contrastato ossia, La Molinara (8 March 1817) (‘sang and acted very agreeably the part of the young Baron’), and Ernesto in Paer’s Agnese (16 May 1817) (‘[he sang] with skill and judgement; his voice is of very good compass but wants power’) both opposite Mme Fodor, and played in Ferrari’s Lo Sbaglio Fotunato (8 May) at Camporese’s Benefit and Elisabetta regina d’Inghilterra (30 April) for Fodor’s. When a selection from the latter piece was sung at one of Naldi’s concerts, Begrez sang the leading role of Leicester, but at the King’s Theatre Crivelli took that part, with Garcia as his rival Norfolk, and Begrez was Guglielmo, the captain of the Guard.

1818 included more Molinara, Elisabetta, Cosi and performances of Tito and in 1819 he took the part of Monastatos in Il Flauto magico (25 May) and succeeded the departed Crivelli in the part of Don Ottavio. ‘Though his voice proved occasionally too feeble to find its way through the united powers of the orchestra, [he] conceived the part justly and conveyed the prevailing sentiment of the character with much truth and tenderness’, ‘with the exception of want of power the very person required for Don Ottavio, the walking gentleman’.

At the end of the year he performed with some of the Opera principals at the Dublin Theatre Royal, but he did not return to the King’s Theatre for the 1820 season.

When John Ebers took over the management of the Italian Opera, in 1821, Signor Begrez was recalled to the company. He gave more performances of Agnese, and La Clemenza di Tito, and sang Ruggiero in Tancredi but he retired during the season when the managers insisted on replacing him with the ‘primo tenore’, Torri, in Don Giovanni, in spite of the vigorous support of musical director, William Ayrton. The real ‘primo’ of the company was Curioni, and Begrez was effectively third string, which did not stop him appearing the next season, and – after Torri’s departure and during one of the new star tenor, Curioni’s illnesses -- holding the fort by himself as principal tenor. And the diverse notices continued: 'Signor Begrez has a very fine voice, and the selection of Cimarosa's celebrated aria spoke well for his taste, which, when time has a little more mellowed it ...'
Monsieur Begrez had been, since his debut, always well if not extravagantly noticed for his sweet voice and his tasteful and accurate singing. His acting – mild and somewhat prissy – was not harped upon any more than Garcia’s ‘ranting’. But occasionally someone took exception.

Thus, when he got up as Narcissus in Il Turco in Italia during Curioni’s absence the Morning Post ventured: ‘He, however, performed it very satisfactorily and gave both sweetness and expression to his part. We are glad to find that he is returned to this theatre for he is a singer of very pleasing powers accompanied by prepossessing manners’.

But the New Monthly Magazine found him ‘too brimful of tastiness; his acting and singing are so full of douceurs, so candied, that we are cloyed by the superabundance of sweets; and although the connexion and blending of notes, the filer les sons, is a good effect when properly used Signor Begrez is an ultra in that respect too. He seldom goes from one note to another but the breath is drawn through all the intermediate quarter tones, something like the occasional shift of Mr Spagnoletti’s violin’.

As Lusignano in Pietro l’eremita he ‘had little to do’, as Ottavio he sang ‘everything very correctly …’ ‘very satisfactory’, ‘good’ and as Rodrigo to Curioni’s Otello in the first London performances of Rossini's opera, he caused little comment.

The Quarterly Magazine summed up the reason why Begrez was ‘an auxiliary rather than a principal’ like Curioni. ‘His voice is fine, and we prefer his manner of forming, producing and sustaining his tone to that of any tenor in London . It is more pure and at the same time more perfect which are the legitimate objects of the Italian school... It is scarcely exceeded in brilliancy even by Mr Sapio while, in finish and uniformity, it outgoes that professor ... he should fall in love with greatness …but ...'

This is where we are told by the biographists that Begrez ended his operatic career, but he didn’t. In 1823, he went with Bath to sing under the management of De Begnis, and in 1824, when the management of the Opera House was let down by Curioni – ill again – and Torri, and they hastily recalled Begrez to supplement Garcia. He played in Otello and his detractor had another go: ‘A good musician with an indifferent voice well trained and cultivated. He thus always gives satisfaction in his endeavours to please the audience and he would succeed still better if he tried less to please himself by a style of ultra-tastiness and sugary douceur bordering upon effeminacy’. He played in Don Giovanni, in Il Turco in Italia, and in 1825 added the role of Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. He played opposite Eliza Vestris and they were both judged ‘very fair where better cannot be had’. Really?

In 1826, ‘the year of Velluti’, he seems to have been around but not performing, in 1828 he took another turn to Ireland with Madame Cornega (Don Giovanni, The Castle of Andalucia) and in 1833 Alfred Bunn, unexpectedly deprived of Joseph Wood, called upon Begrez to play his Ottavio in English at Drury Lane. But he didn’t do it. He dropped out in rehearsal, on the excuse that his English was not good enough, and Templeton took over. And now his operatic career was over. And a thoroughly respectable one it had been.

However, it was as a concert singer that Begrez reaped his greatest success: on the platform (often with the same material he had sung on stage) where he had not the vastness of an auditorium to fill, and where his collar-and-tie swishiness was more at home than in a toga or Venetian frills.

During his first years at the King’s Theatre, Begrez began to appear in the London concerts, both public and in the homes and at the parties given by the aristocracy, the wealthy and even royalty. Often, these people hired a whole section of the Italian opera principals of the season for their programmes, and the buffo Naldi was an adept organiser. Begrez was frequently of their number, but he also appeared, from the first, in other more ‘English’ concerts, beginning with the Choral Fund, progressing to the concerts of the Philharmonic Society, the Drury Lane oratorios and taking part in the Birmingham Festival of 1820.

The lucrative private functions – dinner parties, fëtes, ‘fashionable parties’ -- were often not reported in the press, but I spot him singing for the Duchess of Sunderland, the Marchioness of Salisbury, Mrs Edmund Boehm, the Marchioness of Cholmondely, Prince Leopold, Lady Shelley, the Duke and Duchess St Carlos, Countess San Antonio, Lady Owen, the Marchioness of Lansdown, Lady Hobhouse, the Duke of Devonshire, the Hon Mrs North, the Marquis of Hertford and His Majesty the King at Carlton Palace.

The public concerts were a different thing, and a list of even just those I have found in Begrez’s quarter of a century of London singing fills an impressive number of pages. One of his earliest engagements was with the already lofty Philharmonic Society (26 February 1816) performing a ‘very beautiful’ Cimarosa quartet with Le Vasseur, Naldi and Rovedino, and he contributed to three others of their performances of the season with the Cosi fan tutte trio ‘Una bella serenata’ (Naldi, Le Vasseur) which win an encore, Idomeneoî’s ‘Placido è il mar’ and ‘Pria di partir’ (Fodor, Miss Goodall). Farinelli’s duo ‘Al mio dolce e vivo ardore’ (Mrs Ashe). He would perform regularly at the Society’s concerts for some 15 years. (Mozart’s ‘Parto’ ‘in a very chaste and impressive manner’, ‘Pria che spunti’ and the ensembles ‘Son io desto’, Nozze di Figaro trio, Zelmira duet, Medea quartet, ‘E fia ver’, Mount of Olives duet, Donna del lago duet, Ricciardo trio, Barbiere di Siviglia quartet, ‘Perfida Clori’ &c) harmonising with the great and the good of the London music world.

The body of his public work was, however, in the personal concerts staged by musicians, and a number of the most popular artists included Mons Begrez on their programmes every year for numbers of year. The first, was the Opera conductor Spagnoletti who billed Begrez in 1816, and thereafter yearly into the 1820s. Guiseppe de Begnis was another whose guest list long included Begrez with whom he delighted to sing comic duets which the press found odd, opining that the tenor didn’t have a funny bone in his body. In Martini’s laughing trio (‘Vadasi mia di qua’) ‘if Signor Begrez could be induced to forego a little of his dignity on such subjects as these he might take a hint from the unaffected good humour of de Begnis’. Begrez was still singing for de Begnis in 1838. The violinist and impresario, Mori, featured Begrez in many of his London and provincial concert, into the 1830s, the flautist Nicholson was another regular, the ultra-fashionable Puzzi’s frequently invited the now fashionable Mr Begrez to their annual gala, Bochsa, the Bishops, and latterly Susan Bruce, the guitarist Huerta, and the pianist Kollman were all takers.

Begrez also mounted, annually, a concert of his own. Initially, it was a fashionable do at the private home of Mrs Colonel Hughes, or at the mansion of the Duke of St Albans -- 400 or so society ladies and some gentlemen paid a guinea for an evening’s entertainment. However, latterly, he went public and held his annual in the concert room of the Opera House. The cast lists became more and more starry: in 1836 his guest artists were Grisi, Malibran, Bishop, Shaw, Novello, Assandri, Rubini, Ivanhoff, Guibelei, Lablache, Balfe, Tamburini and Parry. He didn’t sing himself, pleading a cold, but still collected the money.

The tale is told that the last concert given by the dying Weber took place on 26 May 1826, to a half-filled house. The fashionable world was at the Duke of St Albans house, where Mons Begrez was giving his concert.

Amongst the events of Begrez’s busy career were included the 1819 Edinburgh Festival alongside Braham, Ambrogetti and the Misses Corri (‘who to a melodious voice unites the finest and most delicate taste’ ), the 1820 Birmingham Festival at which he and Ambrogetti were the only non-British soloists, and the 1821 Westminster Abbey Festival at which he, Angrisani and Mme Camporese were the non-British artists, and the same year’s Bristol Festival top-billing with Catalani, Mrs Salmon and Sapio. He sang in the Covent Garden oratorios of 1822, in Bochsa’s The Deluge and a ¾ hour selection from Burghersh’s ‘dull’ Bajazet, and in 1824 took part in the concerts given by Rossini, duetting with the composer's wife Isabella Colbran and delivering the Italiana in Algieri trio ‘Pappatacci’ with Remorini and Rossini himself.

In the West of England concerts he essayed oratorio – which he had done in his student days -- 'Signor Begrez is a cultivated singer of the Italian school. In English he gave ‘Thy rebuke’ in a stile extremely chaste and pathetic’, and he also began essaying with success the English song ‘Oh no, we never mention her’.

In 1829 he sang the role of Damon in Acis and Galatea at Bochsa’s concert, in 1831-2 he sang the music of the picturesque Mary-Ann Jervis ‘with unusual effect’ chez Mons Oury and the Viscountess St Vincent and in 1832 he appeared in the Exchequer Court, where he pleaded diplomatic immunity (we are not told for what) as a servant of the Bavarian ambassador. He had long been a member of the Bavarian Chapel Choir. He proved his point, and the case became a precedent.

Begrez sang in several languages. Among his favoured items, however, there were originally few English pieces. He favoured ‘Pria che Spunti in ceil l’aurora’ (Il Matrimonio segreto) and the ‘Fra tante angoscie’ of Carafa, but was particularly successful and in demand as a duet partner, and regularly partnered most of the most famous performers of the time from Fodor, Camporese, Pasta, Cinti, Catalani to de Begnis, Seguin, Caradori, Colbran, Mrs Balfe and Mrs Salmon. He was equally popular in operatic ensembles of which a particular favourite ‘La mia Dorabella’. Latterly, he favoured Beethoven’s ‘Adelaide’. Only on occasion did he bring out his English repertoire, or a French romance accompanying himself on the guitar.

Begrez sings 'Adelaïde'

This was all the more surprising because Begrez was, from pre-Opéra days, a prolific composer of ballads and songs, many of them to English words: ‘The Village Maid’, ‘Per Pietà bell’idol mio’, ‘Emilie’. ‘ L’età del contento’, ‘Amour et toi’, ‘Le pouvoir de l’Harmonie’, Le troubadour fidèle’, ‘Adieu, plaisir, adieu’, ‘Hearts Ease’, ‘Amplesso soavi’, ‘The Flower of Avon’ and, most successful, ‘Say you’ll remember me’ and ‘Say but the Word’, sung by Susan Bruce at the Norwich Festival. Miss Bruce was particularly loyal in her support of Begrez’s songs, which he himself, however, seemed to perform but little.

His songs were given at the Melodists club, a bastion of the English church singer, of which he became a rare foreign member. But by that time, he was practically an honorary Englishman.

In the last decades of his life he continued his highly successful teaching activities and moved widely and highly in English musical circles, and when he died he left a fortune of 13,000 pounds to be managed by John Ella and the royal musician G F Anderson. He left 1000 pounds, at his executors' suggestion, to the Royal Society of Musicians, to which he had made over 30 donations in his lifetime. It was widely reported. Less widely publicised was a donation to his native city of Namur.

One critic rather cruelly summed Begrez up as a ‘tip-top mediocrity’. A Liverpudlian critic wrote ‘Mr Begrez is a complete Italian, and a little foppery is pardonable particularly when associated with such talent as Mr Begrez possesses’. On the occasion of his 1833 concert the press commented if his singing of Rossini’s ‘Si egli e ver’: ‘[it was] given with all the intensity of feeling and elegance of expression which have combined so long to make Mr Begrez one of the most favourite singers we have’ .

Favourite indeed, successful undoubtedly. He was not a star in the Braham or Curioni league, but he never pretended to be. He just made his way as a vocalist and music teacher in a fashion which made of him a thoroughly worthwhile member of the – eventually – Victorian music world.

Begrez is not a frequently found name, so when I found another Mons Begrez, as a tenor in the ranks of the Paris Opera chorus for a long period in the 1810s, 1820s and 1830s, including the original productions of Le Philtre and Robert le diable) I suspected that this was one of Ignace’s brothers. Was it?

Begrez's sister Antoinette Victoire Begrez (b Namur 1787) seems to be the soprano Mlle Begrez who turns up at Marseille and Aix in the 1840s. Although I see another sister, Jeanne Françoise Joséphine Begrez, and another Marie Catherine Josèphe ... I guess one of them was the Mme Begrez-Bernonville with a big dramatic voice ... or maybe the 1840s lady was (given the dates) a niece ...?

Monday, December 26, 2022

Victorian Vocalists: 'the Rose of Erin'

Some Victorian vocalists live on in memory thanks to their talent. Some, from 'Nikita' to 'Ugo Talbo', thanks to their (self-) advertising ...  Miss O'Toole was one of the latter ...

D’ERINA, Rosa [Cecilia] [O’TOOLE, Rose Anna] (b Armagh, 22 February 1848; d 1503 Clinton Avenue, Minneapolis, 13 April 1915)

Pretty Miss O’Toole from Armagh, who dubbed herself – among a long list of other glorious titles – as ‘the Rose of Erin’, ‘Erin’s prima donna’ and ‘the Queen of Irish song’, made a lifelong career in music, but that career was perhaps a little less glamorous than the publicity, the advertising and the tales (usually involving associations with high society, aristocracy and even royalty) which she circulated freely and diligently, from the very earliest days of her career as a pianist, organist and most particularly a singer .

The daughter of one Michael L O’Toole of Armagh and his wife Miss Donnelly, Rose did her first singing in Armagh and Dublin – I spot her in June 1865, still as Rose O’Toole, singing at the Dublin Ancient Concert Rooms in support of ‘The Grand National Entertainment – Ireland its Scenery Music and Antiquities’.  

Later the same year she can be seen performing at P W Gormely’s Prize Concert and giving ‘Barney O’Hea and ‘That Rogue Riley’ as illustrations to Professor Glover’s ‘Illustrations of the music of Ireland’ and again as a supporting artist (‘the celebrated Irish vocalist’) to pianist Willie Pape on his Grand Concert Tour of Ireland through Newry, Banbridge, Lisburn, Dungannon Court House and Magherafelt Court House in April/May 1866. I see her sharing the billing with Alfred Cellier at Ulster Hall (11 May 1867, 'Softly sighs', 'Ave Maria' of Cherubini, 'Rich and Rare') then appearing  at the Star Music Hall in Liverpool 'under the patronage of the Lord and Lady Lieutenant' (May 1867) -- before being sent to Paris for study. 

She claimed to have been a pupil of Gilbert Duprez, and there doesn’t seem to be too much reason to doubt the truth of that. She claimed also, at the age of twenty, that she was ‘vocaliste by command to the Irish court. 18th May 1867’ (ie between Ulster Hall and Liverpool!) which seems a little more problematic, and that she had sung in opera in Paris (where? what?), before the Empress Eugénie, who had personally dubbed her with her cute nom de théâtre.

Willie Pape

The newly christened Rosa d’Erina turned up in London in the spring of 1868, having advertised largely, from an address in the Rue Faubourg de St Honoré, the fact that she had sung at the recent Paris Exhibition (and making it sound as if she were Ireland’s official representative) and printing translations of her concert notices. I can't find any original notices, but she gives chapter and verse.

That from L’Art musical (30 January 1868) was typical: ‘Mdlle Rosa d’Erina on Monday evening last gave a grand concert in the beautiful salons of the Grand Hotel under the patronage of the English and American ambassadors, where were found the most elegant society of Paris. Vocaliste to the Viceroy of Ireland, accomplished musician, Mdlle Rosa d’Erina sang in seven languages and in as many different styles of music with the greatest success..’

Le Temps went, apparently, so far as to aver, after another concert in which she mixed Irish songs with Verdi arias, ‘She is certainly the rival of the late Catherine Hayes as an Irish vocaliste and has a most brilliant career before her’.

He was wrong.

Rose apparently made her first English appearance at the Press Club, alongside Mathilde Enequist and Lujza Liebhart in June 1858, before, on 18 July 1868, promoting a matinée musicale at 34 Dover Street, the home of Captain and Mrs Washington Hibbert, and for which the list of aristocratic ‘patrons’, topped by the Duchess of Sutherland, the Countesses of Dudley and Buchan, a Duke and a couple of Earls, took up more advertisement space than the names of the performers: Frederick Osborne Williams and his wife, Mary Sedlatzek, harpist Boleyne Reeves and the Nobile Signora Adele Fryer della Lena Raineris (who seems, after all that lettertype, to have scratched). Most of the programme, however, was taken up by Rosa, whether singing English, Irish or Spanish songs, rattling out the Freischütz scena ‘Softly sighs’ or taking to the keyboard to perform morceaux of her own compositon.

There don’t seem to have been very many more such metropolitam events, but in October of the year the trade press printed a paragraph reporting that the Princess of Wales had ‘commanded’ the young singer to Marlborough House for a concert of Irish and other native music. ‘She sang with her usual talent and brilliancy several pieces of favourite and difficult music’ reported one who was not there. ‘At the conclusion of her performance [she] was warmly congratulated by the Prince and Princess who, on her departure, honoured her by shaking hands’. Later, the story would be that ‘she was requested to sing at Marlborough House before the Queen, who presented her with a handsome bracelet set with diamonds and emeralds.’

In August I spot her at Dover, where she seems to have relinquished the big billing to Miriam Bistghi, juvenile pianist

In September she can be seen concertising at the New Grand Hall, Brighton, ‘under the distinguished patronage of Col Shute and the offices of the 4th Dragoon Guards’, and in December she sang alongside Mrs Howard Paul at the French Dispensary dinner, before, on 23 of that month, getting what seems to have been the only employment of the London part of her career. A year’s solid employment as the ingénue at Mr and Mrs German Reed’s entertainment at the Gallery of Illustration. Mrs Priscilla Reed’s ‘illustrative gatherings’, originally featuring just herself and her husband in a series of impersonations and songs, had grown somewhat in size as they had grown, equally, in success, and the programmes hasd for some years now included 1-act operettas, involving more than just two characters. The Reeds had employed some splendid young singers as their soprano (Mrs Reed being definitively contralto and character) in past years – Susan Galton, Augusta Thomson, Emily Pitt, Robertine Henderson, Emmie d’Este – and the most recent, one of the best, the very young Annie Sinclair. But after twelve months Miss Sinclair moved on, and it was Rosa who was hired to take her place as ingénue Florence in the operetta Inquire Within alongside the Reeds and Frank Matthews. She also took part in the second half of the bill, a very bouffe operetta entitled The Last of the Paladins, an English adaptation of Offenbach’s Croquefer. Rosa, too, completed twelve months at the Gallery, during which time the programme was varied with a revival of A Happy Result – otherwise Offenbach’s Lischen and Fritzchen in which she paired with Reed, a new operetta written by Reed and Mr W S Gilbert entitled No Cards in which she again played ingénue, and a revival of Cox and Box in which she did not. In No Cards she was given what approximated a hit song, for Gilbert slipped into the proceedings the ballad ‘Thady O’Flinn’ which he had written with J L Molloy and which Helen Lemmens-Sherrington had introduced in concert shortly before. Rosa performed it, apropos of nothing in the show, seated at the piano, accompanying herself. Half a century later, ‘Thady O’Flinn’ would still be turning up in Irish concerts.

After a brief tour to seaside and spa town (‘her accomplished vocalisation and charming appearance gained for her much applause’) with the two operettas, her contract with the Reeds finished, Rosa left London and returned to Ireland to fulfil what she called ‘a six months’ concert and opera tour of Ireland’. Concerts I have spotted, but I have yet to find evidence of her appearing in an opera. Maybe Lischen and Fritzchen? Its very hard to tell with Mdlle d’Erina. Anyway, after the said six months, there came another announcement. Rosa was going to America to make, of course, ‘an extensive operatic and concert tour’ there as well. The ‘extensive’ part was well and truly correct. Rosa d’Erina O’Toole left Britain on the S S Columbia on 4 September 1870, she made her first appearance in America apparently on 1 December at a concert that was to have been for the benefit of the Foundling Asylum Fair, under the aegis of the Hon A Oakey-Hall, Irish Mayor of New York, but ended up being for her own, at the Steinway Hall, before setting off on the American road. Ten years later she was still on the American road. She made her home and her life in America and in Canada, and she never returned to the other side of the ocean.

Things did not start as they might have. The Clipper reported ‘a house crowded to excess’ to hear the singer who had never played an opera but who was nevertheless billed as ‘the Irish prima donna’ but also remarked ‘The performance as far as the prima donna was concerned was rather a failure; although possessing a good natural voice she sang neither in time nor tune’. The Alta California noticed 'She is short of stature, stout and apparently about thirty, though she claims to be twenty-two ... She dresses very richly and carries her little head very high, as the only singer of any excellence in the world. I have listened to her several times trying to discover in what her excellence consists, and I think it is noise. Her voice is wonderfully powerful and it is fairly well cultivated, but it is not melodious as at all ... She makes such frightful mouths when she sings, that to enjoy her singing, you must get behind her. Her piano playing is marked more by noise than music...'

She doubtless found time and tune, if not eternal youth, as she set off round the country, sometimes as a one-woman band (accompanying herself) in an evening’s entertainment of ‘The Songs and Music of Ireland’ or ‘Songs of Many Lands’, ofttimes with another singer – in 1871, it was fellow Irishman Gustavus L Geary – sometimes apparently playing unspecified ‘operettas’. And always with the newspaper puffs about the Empress Eugénie and Queen Victoria and always billed glamorously: “The great lyric star Rosa d’Erina in her charming original and entertaining Musical evening illustrating the music of many lands. 50c and 75c reserved.’ She obviously sang and played well enough not to make the descriptions ridiculous.


In the early years, she on several occasions took out on the road with her an ‘assistant’, a ‘pupil’. There was Christine Dossert of Buffalo, a New York church singer. and there was Alice Davis, who actually changed her name to Alice d’Erina before she became Mrs Alice Lewis. But,whether alone or accompanied, she trouped. At $50 wages a concert. Or, apparently, $30 if fifty was a problem. And the list of approving quotes grew to include President and Mrs Grant and Lord and Lady Dufferin, the gubernatorials of Canada.

The endless touring ultimately palled, and Rosa settled down to a job as organist to the Church of the Holy Innocents in New York.

And then, in 1884 (17 May), she got married. The New York Times printed her handout. "Mlle. Rosa d'Erina, the 'prima donna of Erin' was married last evening to Prof. G. R. Vontom, Vicomte De Ste. Croix, at the Church of the Holy Innocents in West Thirty-seventh street, near Broadway. The groom is Professor in the St. Louis College, in Thirty-seventh street, and belongs to an influential family of France, whose seats are St. Marie, near Rouen, and in St. Etienne. They also have a seat in the Isle of Jersey.’

George Rudolph Morris Joseph de Perchard Vontom was the son of a customs officer from Alderney. And by profession he was a schoolteacher, by predilection an amateur tenor, songwriter and conductor. He’d been an assistant teacher at the Truant Home Union in Brooklyn, but got himself into trouble for excesses in the corporal punishment department, and departed (1882) after being publicly inquired into, taking up, instead, the said job as a French and music teacher at St Louis College. He was also a handful of years younger than Rosa.

The pair carried on in much the same spheres. Rosa played organ, George conducted amateur groups, they gave little concerts together. Year in, year out. Decade in, decade out.

‘Rosa d’Erina will give a recital for the Catholic Church. Mme. Rosa d'Erina, the famous Irish Prima Donna, and her husband Mr. G.R. Vontom, the well known tenor and humorist, have arranged to give one of their charming recitals in Garey's Hall, [Terrytown, Pa] Wednesday evening, October 7th [1896], under the auspices of the congregation of the Catholic Church. The reputation of these artists is worldwide and only a rare chance enables our citizens to have the opportunity of hearing them. Their summer home is at Towanda and they give their recital here before going to Philadelphia where they open on the 10th. Rev. Father Kaier and his people are to be congratulated on their enterprise and they are assured of a crowded house. Admission 25 cents’. 

For 25cents you got Rosa (advertised as 'one of the most remarkable musical marvels of the age') singing 'With Verdure Clad', 'Ave Maria', 'Gratias Agimus Tibi', a number of organ pieces, a duet with husband, who also delivered a couple of solos. The evening (usually in a Church) ended with 'The Stars and Stripes'.

Around 1907, the Vontoms moved their headquarters to Minneapolis where Rosa was employed for three years as organist at the Holy Rosary Church.

‘The choral union of Holy Rosary church last evening presented before a large audience Dubois’ sacred oratorio "The Seven Last Words of Christ." The entertainment was given for the benefit of the sufferers in the recent earthquakes in Italy, and the receipts will be forwarded direct to the Pope to aid in the work which the papacy is carrying on for the victims of the disaster.

The oratorio was rendered under the direction of Prof. R. de P. Vonton and Mme. Rosa d’Erina and in addition to the sacred element being maintained throughout, the singing and the music were highly appreciated. Mme. D;Erina presided at the organ and at the conclusion of the oratorio a concert was given in which the following took part: Professor Vonton, Miss Tenie Murphy, Miss Clara Williams, D. Alving Davies, and Francis Rosental.’

‘At Holy Rosary church Sullivan’s comic opera, Trial by Jury, will be given under the direction of Prof. Von Ton, while Irish music and songs will be given by Madam d’Erina and others. Similar programs will be given at St. Anthony of Padua church, St. Charles church, and the Church of the Ascension. While the Irish societies will have celebrations of their own they will cooperate with the churches in duly observing the national festival of Erin’.

But at sixty years of age and more, Madame d’Erina had not given away being ‘the Irish prima donna’. She was still travelling her entertainment round the concert rooms of America and most especially of Canada. Still carrying her advertising with the quotes from Empress, Princess, Queen and President, still purveying her stories of social and vocal glories to a small-town press which dutifully printed them. She was still on the road, in Canada, in 1915 when she was taken with her last illness.

Rosa d’Erina died at her home in Minneapolis in her sixty-eighth year. But she was buried in St Boniface Catholic Cemetery, Hilton Township, Ontario. I’d love to know why. Her husband joined her there in 1928.

The glory she had invented for herself lived after her. The Minneapolis Morning Tribune gave her a fulsome obituary: ‘Mme. Rosa d’Erina, ‘Rose of Ireland,’ as Empress Eugenia named her, died Tuesday night in Minneapolis. Between the time of her first appearance in this city and the day of her passing thirty-five years went by; and those years were marked by the plaudits, the successes that the greatest artists know. For ‘the Rose of Ireland’ was herself one of the greatest of artists in her prime—famous the world over as dramatic soprano and as pianist. Her operatic debut was made in Paris before the Empress Eugenia in 1868. Later in London she was requested to sing at Marlborough House before the Queen, who presented her with a handsome bracelet set with diamonds and emeralds. In 1876 Mme. d’Erina gave a series of organ recitals at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and at that time Dom Pedro, ruler of Brazil, was so impressed with her playing he insisted on buying the organ on which she performed. Mme. d’Erina was in the Chicago fire in 1871 and was the last great artist who appeared there before the catastrophe.’ Well, well.

‘Famous the world over’. I wonder where they got that one from. And ‘great artist’. Rosa d’Erina’s greatest achievement was her twelvemonth with the German Reed entertainment. And, of the fine list of Reed sopranos, she probably in the end achieved the least. But she stayed in the business of music for something like half a century, and she spread her legend so well that even now one finds her described as ‘great’ and ‘famous’ and, well, I fell for it too, didn’t I? She’s got into this collection.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Yeoman's Wedding; or, General Stanley's daughter?


American sheet music of the 19th century. Once upon a time I had a vast collection of the better quality stuff of the kind. It's now happily enshrined in the Harvard Music Library: since my 'accident' I can no longer play the piano.

But I still love to linger over the items that turn up on the web, and have a bit of a giggle over the mendacious title pages and credits. Today, I giggled a bit too soon. And stopped mid-giggle....

Prince Poniatowski and Maria Hayes's extraordinarily popular baritone song 'The Yeoman's Wedding' seemed to me to have been around a long, long time. But I checked. And it came out in 1871..

And Mr Ditson does not lie. I don't know about it's being 'composed expressly for' Charles Santley, but Santley was the first to sing it in public. Place: St James's Hall, London.  Occasion: Boosey's Wednesday Concerts Date; 8 February 1871.  He sang two other familiar items ('The Bell Ringer', 'The Vagabond') and duetted the famous 'All's Well' with, of course, Sims Reeves. The Era reported that the new song was 'received heartily .. and will assuredly become very popular. It is extremely effective and Mr Santley sang it with so much spirit and animation that it was .. encored'.  The encore was apparently a song titled 'The King and I'.

The press was quite right. With the enormous aid of Santley ('he sang [it] as no one else can', 'He has made this song his own') the song became a part of every lusty baritone's artillery, just as songs such as 'The Village Blacksmith' had in earlier days, and gave the musical Prince a popular success he had not previously had.

It was still being sung, around the world more than half a century later.

Oh, the words? They were by Maria X Hayes. Otherwise Miss Maria Ximena Stanley Hayes or Heys. Born in London around 1841 under whatever name and of whatever breeding I wist not. I can find her only in the 1881 census, where she describes herself rather fulsomely as 'lyric author translator of poetical works musical composer'. She is living at 20 Edwardes Square in the company of another maiden lady.

Well, yes. She was a lyricist. I would say something of an impenitent lyricist. And a translator from a selection of languages. She must have translated (or adapted) day and night for over her dozen years of impenitence to have turned out the amount of songwords that she did ('Sixty songs by Schubert ...'). She had a go at French opera and opérette too. 

How she linked up with the composer Prince, Lord only knows. But he was the least of the names with whom she shared a title page! Her original efforts, in the early 70s,were 'noted for their great simplicity' and 'decidedly commonplace', but she carried on ... songs with Crouch, Balfe (he was dead), Pinsuti, Massé, Gollmick ... and a host of versions of musicians Russian, Italian and even superb songwriters such as Wekerlin. Well, if you are game to tackle 60 Schubert songs ...

Miss Hayes or Heys died at the age of 44, in 1885. Her ashes lie in Brompton Cemetery. But I still have no idea who she was or whence she came. Clergyman's daughter? Some Iberian connection (given the 'Ximene'?), one of the General Stanley's daughters ...  Watch this space. And 'help!' if you can.

 Addendum: Bryan Kesselman has found our lady in the 1871 census. At the same address! 'Aged 30, lady literary'. She is confirmedly HEYS and has a Spanish boarder. (So maybe not a clergyman's daughter. Maybe the offspring of an Englishman and a Spanish lady ...?). Anyway that leads me to Maria S Heys, 23, public singer, boarding in Birmingham in 1861, who is vraisemblably the Miss Heys, soprano, singing at Burnley in 1863, and Sunderland, Bradford and Newcastle in 1868 ... 

Second addendum: The lady wasn't Spanish. Nor was she married. Maria's mother's name was Rosa Isabella Heys. She admitted all when she had Maria christened, aged 20 ... 

Saturday, December 10, 2022

A wonderful gift ....


About a year ago, brother John Gallas, and I authored a translation of the poetry of the French show-off Petrus Borel, published by the celebrated poetry house, Carcanet...

It is the only time in our forty years as writers that we have collaborated on a whole book, and we are immensely proud of it. 

If I knew how to, I would enter it for some of the grand translation prizes available in Britain. John and I have won lots in the past. I even got an accolade from America when I was a beginner. But that was thirty-much-plus years ago. And I'm rather 'old-hat' now. Anyway, prizes ar'n't what we did the project for: it was two devoted brothers, on opposite sides of the world, searching for a novel and interesting subject to work on together.

And we most surely found it.

Yesterday, a slim cardboard envelope arrived at Gerolstein. John's handwriting. He is a dear. He got all the Viking/Highland blood in our family. I got the Jewish. He does things like Christmas: I don't. But there's always a little something in my letterbox round this time of the year. 

Well. He's scored a hit this year! An original copy of the ancient lithograph of Petrus which we used for our volume's cover.

It had to have a special frame! And, yes, I had one. Tortoiseshell and gilt. It had originally held a dedicated photo of Nellie Melba, who apparently gave music lessons, at some stage, to Ian's mother. I gave the photo to Melba-collector, Brian Castles Onion, but I kept the frame, and for many years it held a photo of Ian as a young man. Then I got a better, other-sized photo of Ian in 'my' years (now on the living room wall).

The frame made a return to the sideboard when our darling kitten, Minnie, died ...  but now Minnie and her friend ChiQi have a lovely little silver (Burlington Arcade) twin frame ....  

and Petrus has taken the tortoiseshell ...

And, of course, his place on the bookcase among all our other books ...

Oh, lordy!  It ISN'T tortoisehell at all. It only took me 50 years to find out!  It is some kind of beautifully-grained ?tropical wood ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Kurt of Gerolstein and Little Emily


Yesterday, Gerolstein got a new inhabitant.

He's one year old, and he's a little horse.

Since I took him over from my friend, Steve Allen, he's been down at Motukarara with the Edmonds family and Michael 'Howie' Howard, getting broken in, gelded and all the other things we and Wendy used to do here in younger and less body-battered days.  And yesterday he came home.

Wendy put him into a nice, green paddock with plenty of goodies (he's not quite sure about the hard feed yet!), and with 23 year-old Boofie (Kotare Atom) as a neighbour. They seem to have mated up nicely ... so far so good! Boofie can tell Kurty all about his six wins and his 100-1 victory at Motukarara (was it really 16 years ago?)

So while big cousin Emily, after her beastly treatment by HRNZ, and a fine third at Addington on Sunday, goes out for a nice restful spell at Bank's Peninsula, little Kurty starts his career ... with his first visitors!

PS Anyone who missed the tale of Emily's gross mistreatment by the authorities ... read here:

"As you all know, we have a little filly named EMILY. She has raced 12 times, for 1 win, 2 seconds, 2 thirds, much interference and one ghastly whoopsie when she had to change trainers because of our beloved Murray's death. It was Murray's dream and ours that she would qualify to run in the Group 1 NZ Oaks ... and she did! Except someone at Harness Racing New Zealand decided that qualifying ratings should be altered to suit -- well, who knows who -- and EMILY was evicted from the field in favour of an erratic horse (failed to finish 3 times in its last 5) and another, which last time we raced it, also finished last. Our last start we ran a fine 2nd. 7 lengths back to 4th. Oh, easy race, sniff the pundits. Really? Will they say that when Master Class (who beat us a neck) runs in the Derby?
Either HRNZ needs to be purged of its old lags (with old connections), or the rules need to be made unbreakably firm. If you are going to have a rating system, stick by it. Don't ignore it to give a friend a start (there's a $1750 start premium, by the way).
SASSY STAR R40 (the serial galloper) and MISS YO R42 are both rated below us. So who's cherrying up (or down, depending on one's preferences) to the field-making department?"
I have written to the responsible person at HRNZ. He has not deigned to reply.
So. They've trodden on the last dreams of Murray, and a few of those of Wendy, myself and our partners Frank and John, trainer Howie ...
Harness racing in NZ has always been crooked (read Trevor Payne's self-published tell-all book ..), but mainly as concerns the trainer and drivers ... when we find our theoretical governing body doing jiggery-pokery ...

Who is the Minister for Racing (yes, can you believe NZ HAS one!) ... I'm not going to let this one go. Nor its story."

(Addendum: SASSY STAR galloped late in the piece, finding the pace too hot. 11th. MISS YO overraced, was responsible for knocking out the second favourite, fought to stay with them and ended up 9th)

Watch this space for the latest ... things are moving ...

Well, the first thing I did (on advice) was to write to The Metropolitan Trotting Club/Addingtom Raceway. There, surely, I would get, if not satisfaction, at least a reply. Wanna bet? Alas, they work on the same policy as our government. 'Just ignore him, he'll go away'. Well, I can't do anything can I, except go to law, which, given legal costs, would be biting off my nose to spite my upper lip.

So, after ten days of waiting for a polite explanation or even an acknowledgement, I here append the letter they have chosen to ignore:



Well, one of you is an old friend

The other one, according to my friend, E**** is ‘a good bloke’.  (They’re hard to find these days)


So which one of you is ready for a social media lambasting, and probably will have the need for a lawyer. Playing with people’s lives can be hazardous.


Doubtless you have seen my communications with Andrew Morris (waste of time), HRNZ (only old friend Maria Harris acknowledged) and Mr McAnulty MP. And the subsequent facebook hoohaa which occurred when a private post of mine was shared widely by four other friends and has travelled to the other side of the world.


If you hav’n’t, let me (or half the harness racing world) know …


In 20 years of owning horses, I have never had any personal problems with the Met. Although I must admit to disliking your elitist policies. Well, and a few other things …


Well, now I have. You have made a culpable error, depriving the EMILY family (minus Murray) of sporting joy, not to mention financial loss … and no one has answered my cries and complaints. So, as I said I would, I am going public and if necessary to law to have this damage minimised.


As a high-up in the trotting world says: ‘If only someone could give you an explanation!! Or even admit they stuffed up…'

Anyway, by the time you get this the race will have been run. I hope for Gay Luke’s sake that Sassy (a relative of my dear old Davey Crockett) doesn’t gallop, but be prepared for a crucifixion if she or Miss Yo finishes down the track.

Oh, by the way, I think you owe us a starter’s stake, yes? Should I or my lawyer send you an invoice?

Have a nice night.

We won’t.


Follow up:

EMILY was given a start at the Met's 'leftovers' meeting 48 hours later. She drew one from the outside, over a mobile sprint distance (not ideal) and the weather had had the delightful idea of opening its sluice tanks since Oaks night, so the track was officially 'slushy'. Well, it turned out to be more of a 'race' than some of the posh ones!  Thanks to the brave LI'L MISS MUSCLES (who would also have had the right to a place in the Oaks) who set a stinging pace, before the favourites got into the act, and the All Stars' WY FI scooted right away. By the time they got half way down the straight, everyone was going backwards, excepting the winner. WY FY. And EMILY. She ran past the favourite, past MISS MUSCLES and into third place. Ahead of the other three fillies in the race ... and in a mile rate of 2.01.9!!! Way faster than any trotter I have owned has done in New Zealand. Imagine, if they had had the track conditions of the Friday!

Well, she's leaving them to it and going for a nice rest chez Edmonds. So, we'll say cheerio to the glum precincts of Addington for a while. And I know you will all understand me if I say,  'Bye Bye and A Spit in your Eye'. Roll on, Rangiora ...

Meanwhile, little SHOOOSH (I own one hoof) had her first run down south for a close 5th (less than 2 lengths from the winner!) ... I am sponsoring the trot at the Rangiora meeting ... I'm not going to let the Lordly Boys spoil my horsey times for me ...

Umpteenth post scriptum (well, I said watch this space!). The TAB (ie government-approved gambling) which is at the source of much of NZ's harness-racing stake money has announced (well, we have huge inflation, you know) cuts in the available funds for the coming year.  Well, Addington!  That's the end of your obscene million-dollars race days. And perhaps the end of such anomalies as maiden races with a stake of $10k (to keep horses in New Zealand, you know) on programmes with intermediate class races at $9K and less ...   And maybe you could slim your excessive staff ranks ('They are a bunch of mediocre numpies' quoth one of the many harnessworld reactors to my original post) ....

Ah! That feels GOOD.  Cocktail time. And watch the fiasco called the NZ Trotters (Gallopers?) Derby once more. 

Follow up December 29: WY FY ran 5th in the Derby. L'IL MISS MUSCLES has had three starts for two seconds and, today, a fine win ... SASSY STAR has had another last :-(. MISS YO, like EMILY, has not been sighted ...

SHOOSH had a fine 3rd, and then two horrendous displays of non-trotting. It's there, but she seems to be Miss Airhead ...