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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:



Just beautiful!

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.

31 comments:

VoiceTalk said...

What a great voice! This is a voice that would have been a great Wotan. Thank you for posting this.

JD Hobbes said...

The mature person knows himself and, like Candide, does not need to chase about the world looking for meaning and importance. His accomplishment is higher than that and he knows how to tend his own garden, so to speak. Now, thanks to the Internet, he can have his worldwide audience and know that all is well.

VoiceTalk said...

I am very curious: with whom did Mr. Cedergren study?

Edmund St. Austell said...

What a lovely sentiment, Mr. Hobbes! I really appreciate that, and I know Eric would also. Well said.

Edmund St. Austell said...

To "Voice Talk: Thank you very much for your comment. Much appreciated! Yes, that's quite a voice, isn't it! That intense, dark color is really thrilling!

racheleleeba said...

What a fine tribute to Mr. Cedergren, whose gorgeous voice we are fortunate to hear on YouTube. I happened upon "Old Man River" by chance, and I wondered then why he didn't have a major career. His "All the Things You Are" is to me the most sincere, moving and romantic rendition of this song I have heard. Thank you, Edmund, for sharing his story and lovely voice.

Edmund St. Austell said...

Thank you so very much, my friend. I really appreciate your comment, and I love "All the things you are as well."

Edmund St. Austell said...

For "Voice Talk" I am not sure with whom Eric studied. I will ask him and email you when I find out. That will probably take several days.

Anonymous said...

wow! Great! One of the best voices I've heard in a long time. Thanks for posting!

Sally said...

Hi Edmund:
Really enjoyed this. Thanks a lot. I am still smiling at that voice!
Sally

Edmund St. Austell said...

Thank you very much, Sally. Yes, it's a wonderful voice, and that "Old Man River" is quite stunning!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the article; it is moving. Mr. Cedergren is definitely a great singer; his voice is absolutely classic – the timbre is beautiful and clear, there are no unpleasant sounds in it. The voice is simply gorgeous. All the recordings are at the same level with the best performances of famous singers, or even better. It’s easy to imagine that he would have been very successful if he decided to make a ‘big’ career. At the same time it’s great that his life is good even without international fame. His family can be proud of him .

n.a.

Edmund St. Austell said...

Thank you very much indeed! That is a great comment, and you are exactly right. The voice is right up there with the voices of famous singers we could all think of. So many other factors come into play. There is something very wrong here when people with great voices can't afford to get started. We have always worked on the so called star system here in the US, and in practical terms that means that most people who prepare for a musical career never get the chance to have one. In the case of opera, in particular, it is almost always the foreigners who get the breaks, because they are exotic. Opera was established as an exotic plant here in America, and for a long time almost all the stars have been largely Italian, Spanish or central European. I think you have a much more humane system in Russia. I know that politics play a part, but at least native Russians aren't the last ones to get considered as singers.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit like the corpse being able to speak his own funeral. For this I am very grateful and thankful for your being able to not hear all the vocal flaws that I hear in every piece. My voice teachers were Pietro Marchi, Henry Veld, Bernard Taylor, Dimitri Onefrei, and Robert Long. Each taught me something. Eventually, what you hear, happened. I really wish that I had been sure enough of myself to teach.Eric C.

Edmund St. Austell said...

Ha, ha! Corpse at your own funeral indeed! I see that age has not withered that wicked sense of humor of yours, my old friend! I think any flaws you hear in your own singing are largely imaginary. I have a pretty refined ear by now, and I don't hear them. What I hear is what I wrote about. You're overly modest, as always. That voice of yours is extraordinary--always was. Thanks for reading the piece, it was a pleasure for me to write it!

Jing said...

Thank you so much Edmund, and now Mr. Cedergren himself! All these selections are so wonderfully sung and so moving. What a voice indeed, and what a human being. In addition to what you selected, Edmund, I also listened to "Soliloquy" from Carousel. When performed as powerfully as Mr. C does here, it never fails to send chills down my spine. That selection is about as close as musical theatre comes to opera, and I am so glad he recorded it. As I listened to all these recordings, I thought of Howard Keel - someone who, it seems to me, always sang with equal integrity and artistry. Also, Mr. Cedergren's artistic journey reminds me of a singer you are well-acquainted with, Edmund, the Welsh tenor, Dan Beddoe - who came to find his special place in the musical culture of Cincinnati, Ohio. But in celebrating Mr. Cedergren's gifts, I recall something an old Vermonter once told me - He said that as he strolled down his small-town street, he admired the beautiful red roses in a neighbor's lawn, growing behind a white picket fence. And he thought to himself, "The roses we enjoy and comment on are only the ones we are able to see. But if we look carefully, we may be surprised to discover that the most beautiful of all are those that are most hidden. So it is surely worth the effort to look (and in this case listen) patiently and carefully where others may not be. Great pleasures await.

Edmund St. Austell said...

Beautifully said! I agree with you absolutely. I am genuinely touched by the quality and sentiment of the comments I have received on this story. I really can't add anything, only to say that "great opera singers" doesn't have to mean "famous opera singers." There is a very real difference.

Anonymous said...

'I think you have a much more humane system in Russia. I know that politics play a part, but at least native Russians aren't the last ones to get considered as singers. '

This is very interesting, I didn’t know that Americans have such difficulties in operatic world. In the USSR good artists in provincial theaters had difficulties with recordings. Recordings usually were made mainly by the Bolshoi and sometimes by the Mariinsky. Provincial artists could have a very good career, prizes and titles, but it was very difficult for them to record anything.

n.a.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add that Mr. Cedergren’s voice is of a rare type, as it seems to me. I read many times that such powerful dark baritones are rare. At least they became very rare in Soviet theaters from the 1960’s.

n.a.

Edmund St. Austell said...

Thank you very much. Yes, Eric's voice is of an unusually dark color. It is heavily covered, and in some ways similar to that of Giuseppe Giacomini. It's that same kind of production.

As to Russian provincial singers, Поверьте мне, друг мой, most American singers would be thrilled to have at least the chance to have a good career, never mind the recordings:-) I think the Russian system is better. You take better care of own artistis, and don't constantly push them aside in favor of foreigners. Here, it's just the opposite.

Bernie said...

Thank you for this lovely and moving post - and for sharing the work of this great singer. I especially enjoyed the Ombra mai fu - what an amazing voice. And I love the great photograph of Mr Cedergren with his granddaughter - a rich voice and a rich life.

incubo80 said...

thank you for sharing, edmund. a lovely story we can all learn from.

Edmund St. Austell said...

Thank YOU, my friend, for a lovely and touching comment!

Dolly said...

Nice videos, thank you for sharing :)

Doug said...

my boy bill is an amazing piece of work...i love it

Edmund StAustell said...

Yes, I agree. If I had had more space, I would have put it up also. Thank you.

Lieber ein eckiges Etwas, als ein rundes Nichts said...

Erec Cedergren ist nicht vergessen.
Ich habe eine Plattensammlung von ihm.

Gruß lieber Edmund
Alfred

Edmund St. Austell said...

Wirklich! Darf ich fragen, wo Sie sie haben! Ich wusste nicht, dass Eric irgendwelche Aufnahmen gemacht, mit Ausnahme der Videos, die auf Youtube sind!

Gerhard Santos said...

WONDERFUL VOICE!!! Sir Ashot, this is such an interesting article. Thanks for sharing. *GOD BLESS*

Anonymous said...

What a voice!...It is so wonderful! I just heard him singing "My Boy Bill" on YouTube. (The posting was entitled: My Boy Bill performed by Eric Cedergren in "Carousel")

Edmund St. Austell said...

Thank you very much. Yes, Eric was a very good friend of mine, and a wonderful singer. That voice was one of the very best. Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it!