You may have noticed that my father is not mentioned much in the pages of Piano Dance. The book is about music, and he was a supporter, but not a performer. In an era when husbands did not often encourage their wives’ activities outside the home, my father was very supportive of my mother’s singing. She always had church choir rehearsals one night per week, but when she was rehearsing the annual Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, she would be out a total of three nights per week. After working all day, my father babysat three children in the evenings. It took a great deal of effort for him to do all that, as he suffered from a chronic progressive case of Multiple Sclerosis. He always encouraged my mother in her singing and performing, so in that he was an integral part of her success.
My father was very accomplished himself, but not in the field of music. He earned a PhD in chemical engineering from Columbia in the 1930’s while working in the Brooklyn post office at night sorting mail. He worked his entire career at DuPont inventing machines to make products from DuPont plastics. For example, he designed the first machine that made tapered nylon paint brush bristle. My brother saw the same machine, with modifications, working decades later. I think most Americans at one time or another have used a paint brush with tapered nylon bristle, my father’s invention. Eventually, my father’s disease progressed to the point that he could no longer work, but he would still tutor neighborhood children in math in our home.
When my parents visited Tanglewood, they had just purchased a minivan with a tailgate lift for my father as he sat in his wheelchair. After the tailgate rose up, he just rolled into the van and stayed in the wheelchair during the trip. Before the purchase of the minivan, he had not had much chance to get out of the house for the previous 5 years, so this trip was exciting for him.
My mother’s voice might be best described as perfect for singing the arias of Handel’s Messiah. It was very clear and accurate, with beautiful tone and not large or dramatic. The expression of beauty in singing is not done by manipulation of the voice. It is something that arises simply by intension. She was amazing in her ability, and people loved to hear her. Here is a publicity portrait from the 1940’s:
Here is a recording of Mom singing The Lord’s Prayer on New York radio in 1948: LINK
There is some wavering volume due to the warping of the 78 rpm record. After the recording, just press the back button to return to this page.