• Irish tenor John McCormack adored Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, and early in his career he bought a photograph of Mr. Caruso and forged on it an inscription from Mr. Caruso to himself. Later, he met Mr. Caruso and told him about the forgery. Amused, Mr. Caruso produced another photograph of himself and wrote this real inscription on it: “To McCormack, very friendly, Enrico Caruso.”
• As a teenager, Ella Fitzgerald lived on the streets of Harlem. One day, although she was wearing ragged clothing and had gone without a bath for weeks, she entered a talent contest at the Apollo Theater. The audience loved her, and she won first place, but she never received her prize. The prize was the opportunity to sing at the Apollo Theater for a week, but theater management thought that Ella was too physically dirty to be an entertainer. Soon afterward, Ella became recognized as a great jazz vocalist.
• The theme song of the United States Navy is “Anchors Aweigh,” whose music was composed by Navy Academy bandmaster Charles A. Zimmerman. Every year, bandmaster Zimmerman was given a medal by the graduating class in recognition of the excellence of “Anchors Aweigh.” According to the official Annapolis history, because of his many medals bandmaster Zimmerman would have drowned instantly if he had ever fallen overboard.
• Singing at outdoor concerts while wearing fabulous, elegant gowns does have a downside. In 1995, at Radley College, soprano Leslie Garrett discovered that her dress, because of its width, would not permit her to use a portaloo (in America, the term is “portapotty”). For the first half of the concert, she sang with her legs crossed. In the meantime, the concert organizers set up a tent, complete with a bucket, for her use during the interval (in the USA, the term is “intermission”).
• Famous violinist Szymon Goldberg had some unusual talents. Once, he was disturbed during a concert by some background noise, so he stopped playing and requested a wrench. He went backstage, fixed a continuously running toilet, and then resumed playing.
• Movie clichés sometimes come to life. Opera singer Mary Garden started her career at the top. She was in Paris studying singing, and she attended an Opera-Comique rehearsal of Louiseand fell in love with it. She acquired a copy of the score, and began studying it intensively. She attended performances of the opera, and she took notes on where the singers stood on stage and all the details of acting she could jot down. On Friday, April 13, 1900, she received a note telling her to go to the Opéra-Comique, where she received the news that the woman who regularly sang the title role of Louisewas ill and might not be able to perform, and so she was given a ticket and asked to sit in the audience that night just in case she were needed. Act 1 passed well, as the title character sang little in it, but during the intermission the star singer rushed out of the opera house. Ms. Garden took her place, made a huge hit, and signed a well-paying contract at the Opéra-Comique.
• Buffy Sainte-Marie became a professional folk musician by accident. She had learned to play a second-hand guitar as a child, and in 1963, during a visit to New York City, she sang and played for fun at a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. A music critic for The New York Timeshappened to be in the audience, and he gave her a glowing review. Soon she was performing concerts and making records. Despite her long-term success, Ms. Sainte-Marie says, “I never expected to last more than a year or two.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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