With some free time this summer, Michele and I have been sorting through boxes of “stuff” and throwing out a lot of it. While going through a box today and came across a set of letters. But included among the letters was a Reader’s Digest from January 1999. I’d had a small story published in RD during the 1990’s and I wondered if this was the issue, which would explain why it was saved. So I opened it up to look inside. It was not my “issue.” But as I looked over the Table of Contents, one story caught my eye. There on page 84 for was a story entitled “Are We Ready for Bioterror” with the subtitle, “A major attack could happen with a decade.” When I turned to page 84, the banner photo that spread across pages 84 & 85 was a shot of lower Manhattan featuring the World Trade Center! This article was specifically about bio-terrorism, but this was nevertheless an eerie find as we approach the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
Below is a Eulogy I wrote in 1997 shortly after my teacher, mentor and friend, Margaret Harshaw, died. She passed away after a very short bout with pneumonia. I was singing Aida in Dallas the day she left us and knowing this, I was not informed of her death until after I arrived home a day later. I was devastated. I had seen her only a few weeks earlier, before leaving for Dallas and I had a lesson scheduled with her a couple days after getting home. I would be attending her Memorial Service instead. It was hard going back on the stage to sing the next time. But her voice was in my ear all along – and it still is.
Here is what I wrote in 1997:
IN MEMORIAM: MARGARET HARSHAW
May 12, 1909 – November 7, 1997
On a recent sunny November day we laid to rest a titan whose roots were deep in the fertile soil of the golden age of opera singers. Margaret Harshaw was an extraordinary woman by any reckoning. As a singer, she had a long and eminently distinguished career, first as a mezzo–soprano and then as a Wagnerian soprano. She last sang at the Met over thirty years ago, and yet she still holds the distinction of having sung more Wagnerian roles than any other artist in Met history. Not content to be merely one of this century’s great singers, Margaret Harshaw retired and became one of the truly great teachers of all time. I was fortunate to have been one of her students and to have known her for nearly twenty–five years, more than half of my life.
November became very sad with her passing. Sad for several reasons. On a personal level because I have lost a teacher, mentor, friend and guiding light. And sad also for her legion of students, some like me who measure their apprenticeship in multiple decades, and others whose training was just at its beginning. Singing is a lifelong quest and five to ten years is just a beginning, especially when the teacher has so much to offer. More than the quick fix, more than the easy compliment, more than just singing. And Miss Harshaw gave much more than singing instruction. She taught us about life. If we were smart we listened.
But there is another reason that I have been especially sad. We have lost in her passing one more irreplaceable master from that Golden Age of Opera that peaked during the 1950s. There are precious few remaining and the world is immeasurably poorer with each passing year. And I fear that when the last of them is gone we will have lost forever a large part of their knowledge and wisdom. Why that should be I do not know. But I fear it is true. Perhaps the world changed in a way that was not conducive to opera. The arts, in their efforts to find their place in contemporary society, have too often forsaken their roots in an effort to attract patronage. Opera has suffered especially.
And so it makes me very sad to lose yet one more human resource. Singing was the lifeblood for Margaret Harshaw. Through years of experience, hard work and considerable innate talent she was able to understand something that is tremendously complex. And beyond understanding she was able to communicate it, both onstage and in her studio. Rare talents, indeed. She will be missed by her students and by the countless others who heard her sing. If I close my eyes I can hear her singing. And listening to her is a voice lesson in itself.
OK, so every time I hear someone opposing same-sex marriage, I hear something along the lines of how it will destroy or adversely affect traditional marriage and how the children will be negatively impacted. I love children. I have two of my own and one grandchild. They are precious and they need adult protection from so many things. And, yes, they need two parents who love them unequivocally. Unfortunately, in our current culture, many do not have two married parents and even of those who do, not all of them love and protect them. There are many children who are sadly abused physically and/or emotionally. Now, there are straight and gay people in our society. That is a fact. There are significantly more straight people than gay. Do opponents of same-sex marriage imagine that if it were legal that straight people would suddenly turn gay? Surely not, that is an absurd argument. Are they afraid that there are hordes of latently gay people in straight marriages and that they will all suddenly forsake those sham marriages if gays are allowed to marry? Well, there may be a miniscule number of such marriages. There always have been some. But this has been happening anyway; allowing gay marriage won’t have a discernible effect there. So, what do they fear will happen that will lead to the downfall of traditional marriage??? Men and women will continue to marry, have children, raise them and so on…those people that are gay will continue to be gay and live in their gay relationships as they do now, many of them would marry if allowed to and therefore create more stable relationships, just as straight marriages do. They will also divorce and have bad outcomes, just like straight people do. They might have children (adoption or by other means) and some of them will mistreat their children, just like some straight people do. It is sad, but it is reality. So, other than a religious intolerance of this behavior, what am I missing? I cannot see how this will affect traditional marriage in the least. I just do not buy the argument that allowing gay behavior will create more of it. There is no logic there.
I just wanted to pass this along to my students and anyone else interested:
Candid Concert Opera will be holding auditions for their 2011-2012 season in Madison, WI and Chicago, IL.
To schedule an audition, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please schedule your appointment by Friday September 9th, 2011
CCO will be casting principal roles for a concert version of “Il barbiere di Siviglia” and “Le nozze di Figaro”.
Auditions will be held at the following locations and times:
September 17th, 2011 2pm-4pm
St. Paul Lutheran Church
2126 North Sherman Avenue
September 24th 11am-2pm
5252 West Devon Avenue
Chicago, IL 60646-4100
Auditions are held by appointment only. Singers should prepare two arias in their original language and key by memory. Arias from “Il barbiere di Siviglia” and “Le nozze di Figaro” are encouraged.
Please bring a resume and head-shot to your audition.
Pianist Provided: Yes. May bring own.
All singers will be paid a stipend for their performances.
I attended a dress rehearsal on Tuesday evening for The Student Prince, presented by Chicago’s Light Opera Works and featuring my student, tenor Bill Bennett in the title role. It was a very well-produced show with a wonderful cast of talented performers and a great chorus. The orchestra was ably led by Roger Bingaman and played well. I was very pleased for Bill and proud of his accomplishment. There will surely be better things in his future. The role of Kathie was played by Danielle Knox and it is hard to imagine a better choice. She and Bill had great chemistry and she sang with ease and a great deal of vocal attractiveness. Likewise, Bill was easy on stage and as affable as the character required. In a non-singing role, Dale Benson, was a comic standout. He created an appealing and fun character. Bravi to all. (http://light-opera-works.org/Prince.html)
Welcome to my website. This is a work in progress. In time I hope to have a fairly complete record of my activities as an opera singer, and information about my teaching and other music-related ventures.
As a singer, I was very fortunate to have only three voice teachers in my entire life. The first two, David Blackburn, with whom I studied for several months in high school, and Robert Simpson, my teacher during my undergraduate schooling at Westminster Choir College, instilled in me a great respect for the music and drama of what I sang. They also trained my voice in a rather “natural” way, so that when I went on to study as a professional, my voice was something of a clean slate.
It was the legendary teacher Margaret Harshaw who trained my voice and instructed my mind in the manner of singing that served me well during the course of my career. I was fortunate to have studied with Harshaw from 1974 until her passing in 1997. Her legacy was handed down from the great 19th century teacher Manuel Garcia to her teacher, Anna Schoen-Rene. It is now my honor and duty to pass this knowledge on to the younger generation. I hope I am worthy.
During my many years as an opera singer, I worked with many great musicians. Some, like Georg Solti, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Bernard Haitink and Julius Rudel, are well-known musicians, but I also had the pleasure to work with many other of the finest musicians of our time who were not such public names. I hope that in all of this I have learned from them what it is to make music from the notation on the page. This, too, I think I can pass along to my students, because to sing well and beautifully is only the beginning.
Making music out of the breath we inhale is the noble art form that I love.