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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"


Edmund St. Austell said...

please let me know if the Comments Section is working for you. It should be fixed now. Thank you,Edmund

Unknown said...

Crooks gave Trenton as his point of origin, but he was actually from just across the river from downtown Trenton in Morrisville PA. As a boy chorister, he sang first at St. Michael's then at Holy Trinity, both Episcopal churches in Trenton, riding his bicycle over the old bridge at the foot of Calhoun St.

Thanks for remembering this fine artist.

VinylToVideo said...

I wanted to send you a video, Edmund, though it seems I am unable to send it directly to YouTube users as I used to be. First video I've posted in a year and a half; Crooks at 24 years old!

Richard Crooks - "Charity" (James G. Macdermid / Emily Dickinson)