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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Great American Tenor Richard Crooks

Born: June 26, 1900 - Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Died: September 29, 1972 - Potola Valley, California, USA

Richard (Alexander) Crooks, studied with Sidney H. Bourne and Frank LaForge in New York. Richard Crooks first visited Loon Bay, the lake expansion of the Saint Croix River, in 1923. Crooks was a guest of the musical accompanist and arranger Frank La Forge. La Forge had built a studio on his father-in-law's 2700-acre summer estate, and operatic proteges such as Lily Pons and Gladys Swarthout not only honed their talents but also enjoyed camping forays along the river. The grassy knoll overlooking Loon Bay was a favorite camping spot.

After several busy concert seasons as an oratorio and song recital specialist, including participation in the American premiere of Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, Richard Crooks traveled to Germany where he made his operatic début in Hamburg as Cavaradossi in 1927. His career took him to the Berlin State Opera, Belgium, and Sweden.

Following appearances in Berlin and other European centers, Richard Crooks returned to the USA, making his American debut in 1930 in Philadelphia as Cavardossi. In February 1933 he made his Metropolitan début in New York as Massenet' s Des Grieux and remained with the company for the next ten years as well as singing in other houses.

Although limited in the upper register, Richard Crooks possessed a voice of uncommon sweetness mixed with virility, and he learned to produce the top notes as cleverly mixed head tones. Max de Schauensee remarked that Crooks was "admired for [his] consistently high standard of tone and [vocal] production. He was a sound musician but an indifferent actor." On this latter point, Peter Davis remarked in The American Opera Singer that "from his photographs at least, Crooks always gave the impression of a friendly insurance salesman. But the voice was by far the most attractive among the American tenors of his generation."

Here is the lovely "Songs my Mother taught me"

Here is Richard Crooks' most famous recording, "The Holy City"

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dan Beddoe, The Great Welsh Tenor


The Welsh operatic tenor, Dan Beddoe, was born in Aberdare, Wales, UK on March 16th 1863. He died in December 1937 at the age of 74.

A Cincinnati Enquirer review of a May 1931 performance stated that he "stole the show with voice clear and ringing" with "countless" calls for encores and "with the entire audience of many thousands rising en masse to pay him special tribute."

A December 1931 New York Evening Post article, recalling his singing in the Messiah and the Elijah for the Oratorio Society of New York, noted that he had "been singing for a generation" since his first appearance there in 1903 and described  how he was "in marvelous voice and received a standing ovation after each aria he sang.

A New York Times review of the same performance noted that "For Dan Beddoe it was the fortieth year of public appearance. He has become almost indispensable to the Society's performances of the Messiah. The 64-year-old tenor sang as always in keeping with the spirit of the work and with fine musicianship. Age does not stale the many resources of his art."

Here is the great Welsh tenor singing "O Danny Boy:"

And here is "A Moonlight Song:"