Sunday, March 6, 2011
Great Singers Unrecognized: Eric Cedergren
This edition of Great Opera Singers is a personal dedication to a fine gentleman and excellent singer you are not likely to have heard if you live outside the Chicago area. His name is Eric Cedergren, and I have known him off and on since a very long time ago, somewhere around 1962. Eric is now 87 years old.
[UPDATE: (September 3, 2011) In Memoriam. I wrote this article and posted it on March 6, 2011. I learned a week ago that Eric passed away on June 6. I was sad, of course, but so very glad that he had been able to see this piece, and to have read the many comments that came in from viewers. I spoke to him, and he made it very clear that this meant so very much to him and his family. It is most gratifying to be able to give flowers to the living when possible. E. StAustell]
Not every person who has all the qualifications for a great musical career ever gets the chance to have one. In fact, this happens more often than not. Other things get in the way. We saw a particularly tragic instance of it a while back when we discussed Florence Quartararo. With all the voice and talent in the world, she made a decision, after her marriage to Italo Tajo, to be a mother and housewife. The loss to great singing was unavoidable.
Eric Cedergren, even in his youth, had what I would call an exceptional voice. A bass-baritone with an immensely rich and powerful voice, he was always applauded when he sang, and was simply better than many who went on to major careers. Eric did the traditional round of auditions, and was heard by important people, who showed interest. City Opera offered him work at one point, but Eric was married, with 4 children. He had a decision to make, not just regarding the City Opera offer, but regarding others as well. He was not the kind of man to make a selfish decision, and he returned to Chicago, to his family, and has sung in and around Chicago ever since, essentially. He now has a large family of children and grandchildren, and they are well settled. All decisions have not only their costs, but also their rewards.
Eric's family gathered tapes of his singing and have posted them on Youtube to honor their father and grandfather,a good-hearted and appreciative gesture I would like to participate in. I think you will understand what I am doing here when you hear Eric sing "Old Man River."
See what I mean?! This was quite a voice in its day, no doubt about it! The unrelenting intensity of the singing is in the best tradition of this highly dramatic music, and serves it very well indeed. This is more power, intensity and color than many voices can muster in service of any kind of music!
Here is the lovely "All the things you are":
Finally, an ancient operatic favorite certainly not conceived of for a bass-baritone, but which nevertheless works perfectly well as such:
Eric, I want you to know you have not been forgotten by those who knew you, heard you, and care about you. You were a wonderful singer, with a great voice, and I hope you read this some day. You made the right decisions when it mattered and when others were concerned.
at 3:11 PM