Friday, February 11, 2022

Elsie Joel: From Mabel to the music halls ... and men.

This week, I came upon a 1905 variety programme from the once lofty Oxford Music Hall.

By the 20th century it was just another Hall rather than the crême de la crême of the genre it had been decades earlier. Rather a lot of comedians, dancers, acrobats of whom I have never heard -- 

Only the to-be-great Harry Tate with his 'Motoring' sketch ...

But wait. There IS one other name that is familiar to me ... spot 5 ... Elsa Joel, ballad vocalist ....  twenty years on, its the Mabel of D'Oyly Carte's children's Pirates of Penzance company, fulfilling a twenty-year career in the middle to lower echelons of Britain's music halls. Why, and what happened in between? 

Elsie Blanche JOEL was born in Birmingham 2 May 1872, the second of the two daughters of a Jewish-Welsh commercial traveller, Michael Joseph Joel (1830-1893) and his wife Catharine Charlotte (née Kemp). 
She seems to have made her first appearances in public at the Royal Aquarium, with her teacher, mezzo-soprano Jenny Pratt (see  in February 1884, and sang on the programmes there, under Dan Godfrey, with Redfern Hollins, Arthur Oswald and various unknowns for a number of weeks. So she was not entirely a novice when chosen to play Mabel, in December of the year, at the Savoy Theatre.

'She was decidedly successful: 'In her pretty little embroidered white satin dress she won all hearts by her engaging ways and modest demeanour while her singing which is of a florid style, full of trills and runs which she executes with perfect ease, was graceful and effective in the extreme ...' (Daily News). Alas, it was not to last. After just weeks of the run, she fell sick, and had to be replaced by Amy Broughton. Apparently it was a genuine illness. It was related later that she had fallen prey to small-pox.

Children's Pirates: I'm pretty sure that's Elsie as Mabel

It seems that it was six years before she returned to public performing. Sam Adams, at the Trocadero, gave her a spot in the small print on his programme. She sang 'Una voce poco fa', 'Bird of Winter' and 'Home Sweet Home' (and 'God save theQueen') and was very well received: 'now a tall and handsome young lady .. without hesitation we may say she is the most brilliant vocalist heard on the music hall stage in recent years'. Elsie looked set for a good career. But real life intervened.

Cuthbert Edward Clark was assistant md at the Empire, Holloway. He was also newly married to music-hall chorine Elizabeth Hoby. He and Elsie emigrated together to Manchester, when Cuthbert took up the musical direction of the local Palace of Varieties and where Elsie gave birth, over the years that followed, to three children - Kate, Cuthbert Victor (21 July 1895) and Gladys - before the relationship subsided. When Elizabeth later came (somewhat tardily) to divorce Mr Clark in 1910, Elsa was quoted as evidence, rather than his subsequent paramour, but that's another story. 
Cuthbert went on to play and write for provincial theatres, Tiller shows, and scored a hit with the song 'Susie -ue' as sung by another Jewish lady, Ada Reeve, while Elsa ...  Elsa married!  The man was 21 year-old mechanical engineer Herbert Tetlow Francis and it was a mistake. Within weeks she was suing for divorce.

She did not, I suspect, stay 'single' for long, but the next documented 'husband' of whom I have proof occurs around 1917. And it was again the music halls that provided her with this partner. He was, of course, married.

Alfred Bernard Joseph Vincent Bayley, known as 'Monte Bayly' (alleged to be entitle to the rank of Count de Krauchy) was a performer, but was later to become better known as an administrator with various music-hall societies. He had been married, in 1902, to Di Bloustein (ka 'Diana Hope') a Jewish performer from Ballarat, Australia, and they had had a daughter, Mathilde Judith Josephine, 4 October 1906. The marriage seems to have been a rocky one, and Monte wrote on his wife's 1911 census entry 'talks too much'. They divorced in 1919, with Elsa again quoted as the scarlet woman, and Diana dragged Mathilde off to Los Angeles, and a new father. Elsa is supposed to have lived with Bayley until 1928, but when he died in 1928 his partner was an illusionist 'Mdlle Margot' ie Mabel Jarman.

'Mdlle Margot' married someone else soon after. And so did Elsa. Yes, actually 'married'. Charles Valnetine Barker was a young(er) jeweller's assistant. And they seemingly lived happily ever after. Well, until 1944, when Barker died (21 October, Clapham). Elsie seems to have lasted to the age of 80, and her death is registered in the Thant region in 1953.

Her singing? Well, she made up a bill conveniently and agreeably in variety houses through the years. In 1896, she even made a trip to America as a support act to Albert Chevalier ...

European theatres and music halls?  Can find no trace ...  'all the principal..'?  Poppycock.  

So, a modest career, from a child starlet to an adult make-weight ... and an apparently mobile private life ...

The children? After Elsa's death, Cuthbert ('mechanic') and his wife Rose emigrated to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he died in 1970. A daughter, Jean V Clark, was born in London in 1930.  The girls ...? Well ...

End of story. For now.

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