David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 2 — Education, Fans

Education

• Conductor Arturo Toscanini could get the best out of an orchestra. Occasionally, the members of one of his orchestras would be amazed at the beauty they had created under his direction. After a rehearsal of Debussy’s La Mer, a violinist in the NBC Symphony said to music critic B.H. Haggin, “You can quote me on this: We come here to go to school.”

• Emma Calvé was impressed by the upper notes of the castrato Domenico Mustapha, and she asked him how she could produce those notes. He told her that for 10 years she must practice singing with her mouth closed. Ms. Calvé was discouraged at first, but then she began practicing in that way. After two years, she discovered her “fourth voice.”

Fans

• American-born tenor Richard Tucker greatly impressed Pietro Moranzoni, retired conductor of the Chicago Civic Opera. Sitting with theatrical guru Danny Newman, Maestro Moranzoni listened to Mr. Tucker for a while, then asked Mr. Newman, “Theesa tenor, he ees Eetalian, no?” Mr. Newman replied, “No, Maestro, he’s American.” Maestro Moranzoni listened a while longer, then he asked Mr. Newman, “Eesa poppa and mamma, they Eetalian, ah?” Mr. Newman replied that Mr. Tucker’s parents were Romanian Jews. Maestro Moranzoni listened yet a while longer, then he asked Mr. Newman yet another question, “Eesa stody in Eetaly, ah?” Mr. Newman replied that Mr. Tucker had studied in New York City. At this point, Maestro Moranzoni said, “Ah donta care, eesa the best Eetalian tenor ah ever hear!” By the way, Luciana Pavarotti stated in his foreword to the book Richard Tucker: A Biography, by James A. Drake, that the career of Mr. Tucker definitely showed that even non-Italians could become “great Italian tenors!”

• John Lennon had many, many fans, including some in positions of authority. Kim Polson was a long-time fan of Mr. Lennon and the Beatles, and she lived only a block from the Dakota apartment building where Mark David Chapman murdered Mr. Lennon on Dec. 8, 1980. Four months before he died, Ms. Polson saw him in a coffee shop, so she stuck around to hear him talk to a companion. Doing this meant that she arrived two hours late for her job. Her boss was understandably irate, so she said, “Ask me why I’m late.” He did, she explained that she had been listening to Mr. Lennon talk to a colleague, and her boss was no longer irate.

• Like many, many other young girls, Lilie Ferrari had a crush on Beatle George Harrison, and like many, many other young girls, she wrote him a fan letter. Fortunately, she received a reply to her letter — from George Harrison’s mother, who happened to be a fan of Lilie’s mother, a writer of romance novels. The correspondence continued for a while, but slowed as Lilie grew up, although she continued to be one of George Harrison’s fans. Eventually, Lilie married, and her husband, Colin, was OK with her fan-adoration of George Harrison. He even signed his cards to her with “Love from George and The Other One.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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