Soprano  Helen  Boatwright

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


Helen Strassburger Boatwright (November 17, 1916 – December 1, 2010) was an American soprano who specialized in the performance of American song, recorded the first full-length album of songs by composer Charles Ives and had a career that spanned more than five decades.

Born as Helena Johanna Strassburger in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, she was the youngest of six children in a large German American family. After high school, she studied with Anna Shram Irvin and earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music from Oberlin College. Her operatic debut was as Anna in a production of Otto Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor at Tanglewood.

During her career, she worked with many important figures in the world of music, including conductors Leopold Stokowski, Erich Leinsdorf, Seiji Ozawa and Zubin Mehta. She also performed with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood in the 1940s, sang opposite tenor Mario Lanza in his operatic stage debut, and performed for President John F. Kennedy in the East Room of the White House in 1963. In 1954, she became the first person to record a full-length album of Ives' songs, 24 Songs, with pianist John Kirkpatrick. She also studied with composer Normand Lockwood. Another particular favorite composer of hers was Hugo Wolf. She knew his songs intimately, and in her later years she nearly always included a set or even an entire half of a recital of his work.

She met her future husband, violinist, composer and musicologist Howard Boatwright (1918-1999), in Los Angeles in 1941 when they were to perform in a National Federation of Music Clubs competition. They married two years later, on June 25, 1943, and had three children. They performed together throughout their married life in North America, Europe, and India. Many of her husband's compositions for voice were written for her. Other notable orchestral and choral groups she sang with were Paul Hindemith's Collegium Musicum, Alfred Mann's Cantata Singers, and Johannes Somary's Amor Artis Chorale.

In 1964, her husband Howard became the dean of the Syracuse University School of Music and she joined him teaching there. In 1969 the Boatwrights established a university-sponsored summer program, L'École Hindemith in Vevey, Switzerland. They taught and performed there every summer until 1988. She was a professor of voice at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester from 1972 to 1979, and was a guest professor at Cornell University and the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University. She also gave master-classes at Glimmerglass Opera, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of North Carolina and Washington University in St. Louis.

In 2003, Syracuse University presented Boatwright with an honorary doctor of music degree. Boatwright continued to study music and teach, and in 2006, she celebrated her 90th birthday with a standing-room only concert at St. David's Episcopal Church in DeWitt, New York. Her achievements were honored during the 2011 Grammy Awards.

==  Names which are links in this box and below refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website.  BD  

In the fall of 2003, my wife and I were on a road trip marking the 100th anniversary of the same trip my grandfather had taken in a Columbia car, which established the record time from Chicago to New York and then Hartford (where the Columbia cars were built).  We were not in any hurry, however, and I arranged to do a few interviews along the way.  At Tanglewood, I chatted with Phyllis Curtin, and in Syracuse we met Neva Pilgrim.  It was she who set up two other interviews for me, one with composer Daniel S. Godfrey, and the other with soprano Helen Boatwright.

We met in her lovely home, and she was charming and thoughtful throughout our discussion.  At times she would reminisce about various details, and wander off the specific topic.  But it was all fascinating, and I have included many of these stories in this transcript, which was made early in 2024.

As we were setting up to record, the conversation turned to Carlisle Floyd . . . . .

Helen Boatwright:   Carlisle was a graduate of Syracuse, and we honored him with an honorary degree several years ago.  So we all got to meet him again.  He was a pupil of Ernst Bacon.

Bruce Duffie:   How long have you been teaching here in Syracuse?

Boatwright:   Since 1964.  I have taught everywhere.  When I came, I was singing at Tanglewood with Erich Leinsdorf.  The brilliant young Phyllis Bryn-Julson was there the following year because Gunther Schuller had discovered her in North Dakota.  His wife was from Fargo, and he went out to do a masterclass at Concordia.  He heard Phyllis, who read everything, and sang everything in perfect toot pitch, so he invited her to come to Tanglewood that summer.  Leinsdorf and Gunther both thought she should be under better tutelage, and they asked her where she thought she’d like to go.  They mentioned me, and she chose to come here.  When we moved here, Howard had to move all by himself for the first month because deans have to be here on July 1st, and I was at Tanglewood.  So my children and I moved from New Haven.  We were at Yale for 19 years.  Then we moved on August 1st.  That first year, I was very haughtily told that there would be no teaching for me here.

BD:   That was a waste of a valuable resource!

Boatwright:   [Laughs]  Well, I thought so, but I was singing so much that it didn’t matter.  Then the next year, this thing happened with Phyllis in the summertime, and it started my teaching here.  I was never a full-time faculty member ever.  I was always an adjunct, or an extra, or whatever.  But I attracted students, and that was nice.

BD:   [Mildly shocked]  I would think that the university would be happy when your name brought in a few students.

Boatwright:   [With a grin]  Well, universities are funny, especially music faculties.  They have their little priorities. Then I had this opportunity to substitute at Eastman for a semester.  This was for a great opera singer at the Met, the bass-baritone Julius Huehn [see box below], because he was ill.  That started my affiliation with Eastman.


Julius Huehn (January 12, 1904 - June 8, 1971), professor of voice and chair of the voice department at the Eastman School of Music from 1952 to 1971. He studied at the Carnegie Institute and Juilliard. Mr. Huehn made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1935, and performed regularly with them until enlisting in the United States Marine Corps in 1942, where he was a captain. After his military service, he returned to the Metropolitan Opera for the 1946-47 season. He was noted for his Wagner and Strauss roles, particularly for his portrayals of Orestes in Elektra and Jochaanan in Salome. Mr. Huehn also performed as a soloist with the Rochester Oratorio Society, the Worcester Festival, the Chautauqua Opera Company, the Philadelphia Opera, and the Chicago Grand Opera.

Photo at right shows Huehn as Wotan in Das Rheingold and Die Walküre.

==  Text of this biography from the Eastman School of Music website (with correction).  
==  Photo is from another source.  

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[Another singer mentioned by Boatwright much farther down on this webpage is Chase Baromeo.]

Chase Baromeo (August 19, 1892 - August 7, 1973), operatic bass-baritone, was born Chase Baromeo Sikes, son of Clarence Stevens and Medora (Rhodes) Sikes in Augusta, Georgia. He received B.A. (1917) and M.M. (1929) degrees from the University of Michigan. Before going to the University of Texas in 1938 to head the voice faculty in the music department of the new College of Fine Arts, he had a highly successful operatic career. He made his debut in 1923 at the Teatro Carcano in Milan, Italy. From 1923 to 1926 he was a member of La Scala in Milan, where he sang under Arturo Toscanini.

Because of the Italians' difficulty in pronouncing his last name, Sikes became known professionally as Chase Baromeo, and he used that name for the rest of his life. He also sang at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1924, with the Chicago Civic Opera Company from 1926 to 1931, and with the San Francisco Opera Company in 1935. From 1935 to 1938 he was with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York. He also performed with many of the leading symphony orchestras in the United States. He was married to Delphie Lindstrom on May 12, 1931; they had three children, one of whom predeceased him. At the University of Texas, Baromeo directed and performed in many university-staged operas. He left the university in 1954 to join the University of Michigan faculty. He died in Birmingham, Michigan.

==  Text of the biography is by Eldon Stephen Branda from the Texas State Historical Association.  
==  The photo at right as King Henry in Lohengrin is from a commercial source, hence their watermark.

BD:   He was mostly a Wagner and Strauss singer.

Boatwright:   Yes, and I was quite different of course.  One of my students was Julianne Baird for one semester.  Then there was Robert Freeman [see box below], who came to be the director of Eastman.  He invited me to be on the faculty.  That was my first professorship for teaching.  I commuted from here in Syracuse, and I taught here on the days that I wasn’t at Eastman.  So it was a busy life.

BD:   You also kept up the performing, the singing?

Boatwright:   Oh, I did that.  My children were grown up enough to understand.  They always had to put up with our careers, sorry to say, but they’ve survived.  I did that for seven years, and in 1980 I’d had enough of the commuting.  Howard had also had enough of cooking his own suppers, so I gave that up.  Then I taught a full schedule here, though I was never a full faculty member.  I did go to faculty meetings, and I had as many as 16 students.  Besides Phyllis, Margaret Chalker [also see box below] has, since the late
70s, been a prima donna in Zurich.

freeman Robert S. Freeman (August 26, 1935 – October 18, 2022) was an American pianist, music educator, and musicologist who is known for leading several music schools in the United States. He was director of the Eastman School of Music from 1973 to 1996. Freeman was senior educational liaison to Music in the Air (MITA) at UCLA, and he served on the board of the National Center for Human Performance at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas.

Born into a family of musicians, Freeman grew up in Needham, Massachusetts and attended Milton Academy. His paternal grandfather played trumpet and cornet in Sousa's Band. His father was a double bass player in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, ultimately principal bass. In his youth he studied the oboe with Fernand Gillet in addition to studying the piano with Gregory Tucker. He went on concurrently to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in music with highest honors from Harvard and a diploma in piano performance from the Longy School of Music in 1957. He also studied privately with Artur Balsam and Rudolf Serkin during the summers of 1955 and 1956. In 1957–58 he held one of Harvard's Sheldon Travelling Fellowships. He went on to pursue graduate studies at Princeton where he was awarded both an MFA and PhD in musicology. A Fulbright Scholarship enabled him to pursue further studies in Vienna in 1960–1962. He was also awarded a Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation Award in 1962 and later an honorary doctorate from Hamilton College. In 1984 he was awarded Rochester, New York's Civic Medal, in connection with his work on downtown development.

In 1963 Freeman joined the music faculty at Princeton, leaving in 1968 to join the music faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1972 he was named director of the Eastman School of Music (University of Rochester), a position he held for 24 years. From the fall of 1996 through the spring of 1999 he served as president of the New England Conservatory, then as dean of the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin till 2006. In 2015 he retired from the Susan Menefee Ragan Regents Professorship of Fine Arts at UT Austin, where he taught courses on the history and future of music.

A Steinway artist, Freeman performed in concerts and recitals throughout North America and Europe. He also made several recordings, mainly with colleagues from Eastman and the University of Texas. As a musicologist, his publications focused on 18th-century music history and on the history and future of musical education. His book, "The Crisis of Classical Music in America; Lessons from a Life in the Education of Musicians," was published in August 2014. He was awarded an honorary degree in April 2015 by the Eastman School of Music, which named the atrium of its Sibley Music Library in his honor. He was an emeritus professor of musicology at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as the senior educational liaison for Music in the Air (MITA), a revolutionary computer-mediated means of learning music, developed by UCLA's Robert Winter and Peter Bogdanoff and published by ArtsInteractive Inc., designed to develop broader audiences for music of all kinds while extending human attention spans.

*     *     *     *     *

chalker The American soprano, Margaret Chalker (born 1958 in Waterloo, NY), comes from a family of musicians. She first studied flute and piano, originally intending to be a teacher, until her voice was discovered. She obtained her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Baldwin Wallace College, Ohio, (Studio of Sophie Ginn-Paster), and studied six months in Italy. She also studied in New York with Marlena Malas. She returned and taught intermediate and high school music for a year in the Seneca Falls school district before receiving a Graduate Teaching Assistantship to Syracuse University to study with Helen Boatwright. She obtained her Master of Music degree in Music Performance from Syracuse University in 1979.

Her career that took her to many concert halls and opera houses in the USA, and in Europe beginning in 1985 at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf. In 1987 she made her debut at the Zürich Opera as Jemmy in a new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell. Since then she has appeared in more than twenty roles in over four hundred performances of works by Mozart, Puccini, Strauss, Wagner, Menotti and others. In 1991-1992 she sang Fiordiligi and Donna Anna, and in 1995 sang her first Donna Elvira. She has appeared as a guest artist at the State Theatres in Meiningen, Leipzig, Zürich, Dresden and Prague, with her debut in 1998 at the Hannover State Theatre.

She has worked with distinguished conductors and in contemporary music has sung Luigi Dallapiccola’s Concerto per la notte di Natale dell’anno 1956 with Zürich Opera, and Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with the Opera Nova Ensemble. She has also performed works by Henze and Ligeti.

BD:   Does it please you to know that you’ve had a hand in the success of many of your students?

Boatwright:   It certainly does, and it’s pleasing me even more now, because they have to come to my house to study with me.  I have a very big private class, and I’m teaching wonderful talents.  This may shock you, but several are just children.  I have a 12-year-old that’s very gifted.  People ask me how I can teach such youngsters, but I’m very glad to be doing it.  These days, every child is so hooked up with music-theater that they go to hear things, not realizing that they can’t sing that stuff with a good sound without forcing their voices.  They need to know what they’re doing.

BD:   So you give them the basics?

Boatwright:   I give them the basics.  I have a little girl who is 10, and when she vocalizes she’s just as straight as can be.  I do about 20 minutes of vocalizing or warm-ups, and her mother gets a kick out of that.  She’s singing Care Selve [from Atalanta by Handel], and she and her cousin, who is also very gifted, do Over the Rainbow or other things they want to do.  They are going to do a CD, and will include the duet from Lakmé.  It’s beautifully in tune, and that thrills me.

BD:   When you encounter a voice this young, are you able to really shape the sound, or do you have to wait for the voice to develop in the throat?

Boatwright:   A little of both.  Certainly, the development has to come with the body, but learning how to breathe and focus is what they really need.  They need to learn not to sing here [points to the throat], but to sing with facial nasal resonance.

BD:   And have lots of support from the diaphragm?

Boatwright:   Lots of support, but the throat is important, too.  At my age, I have gleaned so much from so many different kinds of teachers.  I still hang on to the wonderful concepts that my teacher gave me at Oberlin.  It was a humming concept, and we did this for months before we would even sing.  It is very important for any student to find out that this is where the focus comes.

BD:   In the mask?

Boatwright:   Yes.  

BD:   This keeps the sound pure?

Boatwright:   Pure, yes.  Moving the palate like that gives a new kind of flexibility to the interior of the mouth and the sound, and the kids love it.  We’re in such a time of realization because we’re no longer in the 20th century.  Gershwin was the height of it all, and then Lenny Bernstein.  We have to merge and do both.  It’s like a dance step from one century to the other.  I can’t be a stuffy classical music teacher.  I have to embrace everything.  I embraced Ives way before anybody else did, so that was a good start.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Tell me a bit about the songs of Ives.

Boatwright:   As you know, I recorded 24 the first time [shown in the CD re-issue at right], and 25 the second time for Columbia.  They never brought that second record out except in its LP form at the time of Ives’ centennial.  [It was re-issued later, as seen in the photo below-right.]  So, I am very familiar with about 50, and I know more.  I have taught different ones because John Kirkpatrick brought out two other books of songs that were not in the 114.  Howard was a charter member of the Ives Society because he had edited Ives
book Essays Before a Sonata.  After Howard lost his leg in 1987 because of diabetes, he couldn’t travel to New York alone.  So I was allowed to go to the Ives meetings, but never to vote on anything.  I had to go out when they voted.  However, I was invited to be a member of the Society after Howard died.  They are doing a great work, really trying to make Ives apparent and available.

BD:   Is it special for you to sing the music of Ives?

Boatwright:   Oh, yes.  Right now I’m doing a project.  They’re asking for to evaluate 30 or more songs so the teachers can read what I say.  Then they will not be afraid to give an Ives song.  I can say which ones are good for such-and-such a voice, and why a particular text is important.  They should know this.  They should know that some of them are fun things.  They might always be off-beat.  One might be 1, 2, 3, but then slipped a bit.  [Laughs]  He loved to do that.

BD:   Did Ives write well for the voice?

Boatwright:   Good question.  He didn’t think about the voice.  He only thought about what he was putting down.  In some cases it’s beautifully written for the voice, and in others the voice has to adapt to what he put down.  I just worked yesterday on two songs for a woman that wants to make a CD.  I’ve always liked one because it starts with a high note.  It
s very hard to find songs that really exhibit what a voice can do, and that is one for a soprano.

BD:   Then it’s the singer’s responsibility to make it music?

Boatwright:   Exactly.  I learned so much about them with John Kirkpatrick.  I started singing The Greatest Man, and John stopped me.  He said,
“You’re telling this story, so you need to read it for me.  So, I read it and then I sang it, and that was a revelation.  I learned that you need to take each text and make that mean something with the music.


John Kirkpatrick
(18 March 1905 – 8 November 1991) was an American classical pianist and music scholar, best known for championing the works of Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Carl Ruggles, and Roy Harris. He also played and recorded music of Hunter Johnson, Robert Palmer, and Ross Lee Finney (among others). He gave the first complete public performance of Ives's Concord Sonata in 1939, which became a turning point in the composer's public recognition. Kirkpatrick played an important role in Ives scholarship, and he was leader in the Charles Ives Society. One important example is his role in the editing of Memos, which is a collection of Ives's autobiographical writings.

At the time of his death Kirkpatrick was a professor emeritus at Yale University, where he had also been the curator of the Charles Ives archives.

[The image below shows Kirkpatrick with the Yale Symphony in 1974]



BD:   The texts, of course, are peculiarly American.

Boatwright:   Yes, that’s right.

BD:   Would they work well for a European or Asian audience?

Boatwright:   Europeans love them.  I never sang a recital anywhere without music of Ives, and then later Howard Boatwright, too.

BD:   Did you sing much opera, or was it mostly concert work?

Boatwright:   It’s a good question.  Lots of people ask me if I was an opera singer, and I always say,
“No, I’m a musician, but I have sung opera.  I’ve sung the Countess (Marriage of Figaro), and a very interesting Haydn Opera at Yale.  I wish I could remember the name, but it was just for four singers.  It was very charming.  Haydn did so many different things.

BD:   He wrote music for the Esterházy court.

Boatwright:   Yes.  I also did Gretel, and I’ve done a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan.

BD:   I think you’d make a charming little Gretel.  [Note that in the recording shown in the box below, she sings the Dew Fairy.]

Boatwright:   [Smiling]  I was.  I was much younger then, but I could make myself look really young.  [Laughs]  I love Hansel and Gretel.  That opera has beautiful music.  Mostly, my way went with Howard.  We were a team.  We did programs for violin and voice.  I had this interesting experience because I was sort of Cornell’s soprano when we were at Yale.  That was when Donald Grout was there [also see box below].  We were very good friends.


*     *     *     *     *


Donald Jay Grout (September 28, 1902 – March 9, 1987) was an American musicologist. He is best known as the author of A Short History of Opera, first published in 1947. The fourth edition was published by Columbia University Press in 2003.

Grout was born in Rock Rapids, Iowa. He attended Syracuse University and graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1923. He took his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1939. He taught at Harvard from 1936 to 1942, at the University of Texas from 1942 to 1945 and at Cornell University until 1970.

Early in his career, Grout's main body of research was in opera. After 1960 he became more interested in philosophies of music history, due in large part to his publication of a general music history textbook, A History of Western Music. A ninth edition of the book was published in 2014. After Grout's death, the new editions were revised by Claude Palisca and J. Peter Burkholder.

Grout also performed as a pianist and organist until the early 1950s. He served as editor of JAMS from 1948 to 1951, and was president of the American Musicological Society (1952–54, 1960–62) and the International Musicological Society (1961–64).

A reassessment of Grout's historiography was published in 2011 in the inaugural volume of Journal of Music History Pedagogy.

[Continuing]  Did you know that Donald was turned down by Harvard for tenure?  [Both laugh]  At that time, he was a young man.  His wife had a job in Cambridge, and he took this job at Texas.  Meanwhile, Putnam Aldrich, who was a pupil of Wanda Landowska, had gone to Yale and studied piano with Bruce Simons, our beloved dean and a Myra Hess student.  Putnam had studied with him, and had gone to England and played a recital.  He was of the Aldrich family of Chester Aldrich and all those great people in our history.  The reviewer said he accomplished musical playing, but with spaghetti fingers.  There was an English technique for the piano.  You patted the keys to make the right tone instead of articulating.  Putnam went to Landowska and got a really fine technique.

BD:   Of course, with her harpsichord, she had to be very delicate and very exact.

Boatwright:   Yes, and she was.  So, Putnam also was hired.  There was a very interesting dean down there, a young man who was just starting the school of music at the University of Texas in Austin.  His name was Bill Doty [see box below].  He had been at Michigan.

doty Doty, Ezra William [Bill] (1907–1994). Ezra William “Bill” Doty, music educator, scholar, and organist, was born in Grand Ledge, Michigan, on April 29, 1907, to William Ezra Doty, a Methodist minister, and Fannie A. (Daniells) Doty. Doty attended Western Michigan University and the University of Michigan, from which he received four degrees from 1927 through 1936: Bachelor of Arts in Education, Bachelor of Music, Master of Arts in Philosophy, and Doctor of Philosophy in Aesthetics. In 1931 he studied in Paris with Joseph Bonnet, and from 1932 to 1933 he studied at the University of Leipzig under Karl Straube. At the University of Michigan he was a pupil of the eminent organist Palmer Christian.

Doty taught at the University of Illinois and at the University of Michigan. In May 1937 the Texas legislature passed a bill authorizing and funding the establishment of the University of Texas College of Fine Arts. The college had to be activated by the academic year 1938–39 or the funding would lapse. Doty was selected as dean after a nationwide search, and he moved to Austin in April 1938. As dean of the College of Fine Arts, chairman of the music department, and professor of music, Doty assembled a renowned faculty in art, drama, and music; wrote a catalog; purchased equipment; prepared a budget; and organized curricula.

Doty taught courses in form and analysis, music literature, American music, aesthetics, philosophy, and fine arts administration. He also taught a number of distinguished organ students. Additionally, he taught classes in church music at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin. He served as organist at several Austin churches and performed solo organ recitals throughout the country, also frequently appearing as a lecturer or consultant. Doty composed several musical works, and in 1947 his text, The Analysis of Form in Music, was published by D. Appleton Crofts.

From 1955 to 1958 Doty served as president of the National Association of Schools of Music; for six years, he was that organization’s representative to the American Council on Education. He served as president of the Texas Music Teachers Association from 1947 to 1949, and he served two terms as president of the Texas Association of Music Schools between 1949 and 1955. Other memberships included active roles in the Music Teachers National Association, the Music Educators National Conference, and the Texas Federation of Music Clubs. Doty was an honorary life member in the National Federation of Music Clubs.

In addition he was a board member of the Texas Fine Arts Association and the Greater New York Chapter of the American National Theatre and Academy, and he was a charter member of the National Council of the Arts in Education. He organized the International Council of Fine Arts Deans in 1964 and served as its first chairman. He was also instrumental in founding the American Association of the Arts in Higher Education. He devoted his professional efforts to teaching, administration, and the establishment of accreditation standards and procedures, and he was an examiner/consultant for numerous schools throughout the country. Acknowledged for his consultant skills, Doty served as executive director of the Office of Cultural Affairs in New York City in 1964–65 during a leave of absence from the University of Texas.

He was a member of numerous honorary societies including Phi Kappa Phi, Pi Kappa Lambda, Phi Delta Kappa, the Philosophical Society of Texas, and the Bohemians. He was also active in civic and cultural affairs in the city of Austin. Among his major accomplishments as dean of the College of Fine Arts and chairman of the music department was the construction of the university’s first music building in 1941–42. The structure was also the first air-conditioned building on campus. A drama building was dedicated in 1962, and the art building and Archer Huntington Museum in 1963–64.

In 1965 Dr. Doty retired as chairman of the music department but retained the titles of dean of the College of Fine Arts and professor of music and continued to teach. He retired in 1972. Doty was married to Elinor Wortley in 1934 and had three children. He was an Episcopalian. E. William Doty died on June 16, 1994, and was entombed at Memorial Hill Park Mausoleum in Austin. A scholarship fund had been established in his name in 1962. In 1998 the E. William Doty Fine Arts Building on the UT campus was named in his honor.

==  Biography by John H. Slate, from the Texas State Historical Association website.  

[Continuing]  He got Putnam and Donald, when their wives weren’t with them, to be a team eating together outdoors under the trees.  Howard Boatwright and Helen Strassburger met in 1941 in Los Angeles.  This was at a biennial competition of the National Federation of Music Clubs. It was for strings, piano, and singing.  There weren’t any winds in it.  [Aside: [Laughs]  This is fun to talk about!]  I was in Ohio, and I took a job when I got my bachelor’s at Oberlin outside of Cleveland in a girls’ school because I wanted to get into Boris Goldovsky’s opera class every Saturday at the Cleveland Institute.  Boris just happened to like my singing, and after two years of that, he got me a scholarship to Tanglewood.  I sang Anne Page in Nicolai’s Merry Wives of Windsor, and my Fenton was a young overweight Mario Lanza.  He was gung-ho for girls. Anyway, that was an operatic experience I
ll never forget.  I learned so much from Goldovsky.  He made it very clear that Mozart never wrote a phrase for his operatic thinking without a gesture in his mind.  That’s also very important in song literature because you can’t sing a song without understanding.  You don’t make a lot of physical gestures, but your mind has to make a lot of gestures.

BD:   Your voice has to do the gesturing for you?
Boatwright:   Exactly right.  So, Boris was a great influence on me.  I met Howard and we fell in love.  I was just starting my master’s at Oberlin, and he was preparing a Town Hall recital.  His teacher, Israel Feldman, was a pupil of Franz Kneisel [founder of the Kneisel Quartet, and concertmaster of the Boston Symphony], and he wouldn’t let Howard go to college.  He had to stay at home and practice six hours a day to get ready for the recital.  Feldman said that if Howard went to a conservatory or a college, he wouldn’t practice.  He’d do all these other things.  He was very strict about that.  Of course, Howard’s parents were shocked.

BD:   He was preparing Howard for a solo career?

Boatwright:   Absolutely.  Mr. Feldman was Jewish, and there were no American violinists that weren’t Jewish... not that it puts any onus on anything, but he heard Howard and his gift, and he wanted to present him to the world as the first American violinist like this.  The Town Hall recital was on December 29, 1942.  We had met in June of ’41, and I started my master’s at Oberlin in September.  Howard had to see me, so he took time off from his practicing to come by bus to Oberlin.  He wanted to do the best he could for American music.  He had a friend in Hampton Virginia named Harold Chapman.  He learned a concerto by Chapman, and played it with Allan Sly, a British pianist who taught at William and Mary.  [Digressing]  Here’s a little Ernst Bacon connection.  Ernst and his wife Annabelle, who was a beautiful cellist, gave a concert as part of their tour at William and Mary.  This was when Ernst was at Converse College.  Allan Sly had Howard turn the pages, so our acquaintance with Ernst Bacon started way back there.  Getting back to my story about the Harold Chapman concerto, my guru at Oberlin, and a man that made so much difference to my musical thinking, was Normand Lockwood.

BD:   Lockwood wound up in Colorado, and I had a very nice interview with him on the telephone.

Boatwright:   The last time I saw Normand was when I sang with the El Paso Symphony quite a few years back.  He was charming and knowledgeable, and as part of a course he introduced me to old music.  The seven of us all stood around the piano, and we had to read.  He found out that I could read anything.  My father taught me that.  He insisted that you don’t sing notes out of tune.  You sing them correctly.  So I sang many first performances.  Norman had a big mustache, and I told him that Howard was coming, and that he had learned this concerto.  I had a roommate who was a pianist, and so we made this project.  Normand had a soirée for us.  Norman’s mother was a very elegant lady.  She was visiting, so she was the hostess.  His wife was a very funny little lady named Dolly.  She stayed upstairs the whole time.  His father was Samuel Lockwood.  He and his brother were great pianists, and they founded the University of Michigan Music School.  It
s all kind of interesting, isn’t it?

BD:   Very much so!  There’s such a nice network of connections between people, and teachers, and children, and students, and parents.

Boatwright:   Here in Syracuse there’s Neva and her husband, Dick.  They were at Yale, and Neva took theory from Howard.  Anyway, Norman had this soirée, and he invited the whole string faculty.  Howard played this concerto, and it was [giving the word
formidable a French pronunciation, for-me-DAH-bluh].  I don’t remember a note of it, but I know it was excellently done and interesting.

BD:   In a way, perhaps it’s better not to remember the details, but the impact.

Boatwright:   Exactly.  Much better.  [She then related a brief story about two faculty members who had had a tryst, and were fired.  Remember, this was during WWII, but the problem (and its solution) has come back in the first quarter of the 21st century with dismissals for sexual harassment.]  

BD:   Let me stop you just for a moment.  We are talking momentarily about propriety and morality.  In this day and age [the year 2003], have we relaxed propriety?

Boatwright:   Too much, perhaps.

BD:   Have we also relaxed it perhaps too much in the performance of music?

Boatwright:   Maybe.

BD:   Is there any way of getting it back?

Boatwright:   If you have a mean teacher like me.  [Both have a huge laugh]  It depends on the conductors, don’t you think?

BD:   Yes, a lot.

Boatwright:   My singing career with conductors has stopped, but I think you’ve got a good question there.  Take a woman like Renée Fleming.  She hasn’t relaxed at all, or relapsed.  I think she’s fabulous. Then I know some others singers that aren’t so well known.  Bill Sharp hasn’t let his standards down.  Teachers in universities have relaxed.  I don’t think they demand enough anymore.

BD:   Is part of your calling to make sure that the standards are upheld?

Boatwright:   [With a smile]  It sure is, and I’m going to go to my grave doing it!  Some mothers come with these young people... I have a 16-year-old that has now learned the aria from Fledermaus.  When she first came to me, her mother said she couldn’t believe she could sing that.  The youngster was so oriented to the music theater, and now I have her singing what she loves, including songs of Hugo Wolf.  It’s fun to see that.  Now she sings in shows.

BD:   Are you optimistic about the whole future of music performance and its reception?

Boatwright:   Yes.  We are certainly facing big problems with our symphonies, but ours here in Syracuse is in very good health right now.  Our young conductor is Daniel Hege [see box below], and we also have a very splendid resident conductor named Grant Cooper [also see box below], who has just gone on to be the maestro in Charleston, West Virginia.  
Neva contributes so much because we have this society for new music.  She brings everybody here, including you!  [Much laughter]  Louis Krasner [also see box below] was here for more than 20 years, and we got to know him very well.  He introduced the Berg Violin Concerto.  Schoenberg was so put out about that, he said he’d write a concerto, and Krasner would have to make the first performance of that!  So they did it in Spain of all places.  Louis started something here called Friends of Chamber Music.  We have every fine quartet or string chamber group come for a series of six or eight concerts a year.  I love it, and wouldn’t have moved to any other place because I can hear wonderful music right here.  And we have an opera company, so hooray, hooray.  It’s really a fine situation.

hege Daniel Hege is an American orchestral conductor. He is currently the music director of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and the Binghamton Philharmonic, and is the principal guest conductor of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra. Hege previously served as the music director of the former Syracuse Symphony Orchestra (which went bankrupt in 2011. The following year it was re-constituted and re-named Symphoria.) He also makes numerous guest appearances with orchestras and music festivals across the country.

Hege was born in Colorado and raised in Idaho to parents Carl and Anne, who he names as his role models. He attended the First Mennonite Church in Aberdeen, Idaho. He began piano lessons at the age of nine and realized at that age that music would be his ruling passion.

He had majors in history and music at Bethel College, graduating in 1987. His senior seminar paper was about how the composer Dmitri Shostakovich worked under the repressive Stalin regime in Russia in the mid-20th century. He went on to obtain a master's degree from the University of Utah in orchestral conducting, where he founded the University Chamber Orchestra. He studied at the University of Southern California with Daniel Lewis and at the Aspen Music Festival with Paul Vermel.

In 2004 Mr. Hege received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Le Moyne College.

He is active as a guest clinician and adjudicates various musical competitions nationally.

His positions have included

  • Music Director of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra (September 2010 – present) 
  • Music Director of the Binghamton Philharmonic (May 2018 – present) 
  • Principal Guest Conductor of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra (September 2015 – present)
  • Music Director of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra (April 1999 – April 2011)
  • Music Director of the Haddonfield Symphony, New Jersey (1997 - 2000) (Now known as Symphony in C)
  • Music Director of the Encore Chamber Orchestra in Chicago (1993 - 1997)
  • Music Director of the Chicago Youth Symphony (1993 - 1997) (was honored twice by the American Symphony Orchestra League for innovative programming while in this position)
  • Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony (1995 - 1996)
  • Assistant, Associate and Resident Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony (1996–2001) 
  • Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Young Musicians’ Foundation Debut Orchestra in Los Angeles (1990 - 1993) 
  • Music Director of the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra  (1993 - 2004)
  • Director of Instrumental Music at the Orange County High School of the Arts (1991 - 1993)
  • Assistant Conductor of the Pacific Symphony (1991 - 1993)

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Grant Cooper was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1953. His early childhood was filled with music, as his mother was a member of Opera Technique and, later, a soloist with the New Zealand Opera Company. His exposure to a wide range of music through his mother’s performances was formative in that it defined music for him primarily as a communicative language. Seeing his mother in roles as diverse as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and Julie in Showboat helped to avoid any impression that music could be defined by genre. This desire to connect with the public through musical utterance has defined Grant’s professional musical life as a performer and composer.

cooper Grant graduated from the University of Auckland in 1974 with a degree in Pure Mathematics. He was, at that point, heavily involved in the commercial recording industry as a freelance trumpeter, appearing for several years on the weekly television programs Happen Inn and Sing.

In 1975, Grant toured Great Britain and China as a member of the National Youth Orchestra, during which time he performed as principal trumpet of the International Youth Orchestra under Claudio Abbado’s direction as part of the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall. Maestro Abbado invited Grant to join the orchestra of La Scala as solo trumpet. Instead, Grant accepted a fellowship from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council for study with Bernard Adelstein and Gerard Schwarz in the United States, where he has lived since 1976.

In the United States, Grant serves as Artistic Director and Conductor of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. For ten years, he was Resident Conductor of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, where he conducted close to 600 performances. Grant is especially passionate about creating works designed to introduce young audiences to the orchestra, including such works as Rumpelstiltzkin for narrator and orchestra, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Boyz in the Wood, for coloratura soprano and rap singer, and Song of the Wolf. His educational music is an eclectic blend of modern and established styles with interactive participation of the audience, a compositional style that reflects his belief that orchestral music is a living, vital, and relevant part of our society, able to be appreciated by all.

In their March 2009 Pops concerts, the WVSO premiered Grant’s original scores for two Charlie Chaplin films: The Immigrant and Easy Street. His original concert work for soprano and orchestra entitled A Song of Longing, Though…, with poetry by Tom Beal, was premiered by the orchestra in April 2007 and was performed by the Chautauqua Symphony in 2010. Cooper was awarded the National Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Commission following competitive adjudication as part of the 2010 American Residency program of the NSO. His new work, Octagons, was premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC in May 2012 and was included in that season’s concerts by the Montclaire String Quartet. In 2013, Grant traveled to New Zealand on four occasions to conduct the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in a national tour of a newly commissioned work by composer Gareth Farr for orchestra and theater ensemble, titled Sky Dancer.

As a conductor, Grant's CD devoted to the premier recordings of the string music of New Zealand composer Douglas Lilburn has been enthusiastically received. Recently, he released Points in a Changing Circle, featuring himself as trumpet soloist in works by New Zealand composers and a CD featuring three of his own works recorded with the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra on a disc titled Boyz in the Wood. In September 2015 Grant announced that he would retire from the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra in 2017, to focus on family and composition.

In 2012, Grant was honored by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia as the recipient of a Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service in the Arts.

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Louis Krasner
(21 June [O.S. 8 June] 1903 – 4 May 1995) was a Russian Empire-born American classical violinist who premiered the violin concertos of Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg.

Louis Krasner was born in Cherkassy, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire (now part of Ukraine). He arrived in the United States at the age of 5, and graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1922. He continued his studies with Lucien Capet in Paris, Otakar Ševčík in Písek, Czechoslovakia, and Carl Flesch in Berlin. His concert career began in Europe, where he championed the concertos of Joseph Achron and Alfredo Casella.

In 1935 he commissioned Alban Berg's Violin Concerto, which he premiered on 19 April 1936 in Barcelona, with Hermann Scherchen conducting the Pablo Casals Orchestra. He also premiered Arnold Schoenberg's Violin Concerto in December 1940, with Leopold Stokowski leading the Philadelphia Orchestra. Among the American composers whose works he premiered were Roger Sessions, Henry Cowell, and Roy Harris.

Krasner retired from solo performing to become concertmaster of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, a position he held from 1944 to 1949. From 1949 to 1972 he was professor of music at Syracuse University. In 1976 he joined the faculties of the New England Conservatory of Music and the Berkshire Music Center. He won the 1983 Sanford Medal from Yale University and the 1995 Commonwealth Award.

boatwright BD:   Ignoring the financial problems and the day-to-day twitterings that always come up, what for you is the purpose of music?

Boatwright:   For me, the purpose of music is life itself.  I think people that don’t have music in their lives are just so unfortunate.  My thesis is to make people realize its importance, not just of 19th century European composers, but also our own American creators.  For example, we had Horatio Parker who taught Charles Ives, and it all continues right along now with the younger composers, up to Nixon in China by John Adams.  The only thing that I worry about a lot is the synthesizers.

BD:   Why?

Boatwright:   Because they’re composing on them.  What kind of music can they produce?

BD:   Synthesized music?

Boatwright:   Yes, but it has a funny, echo-y sound.  [Musing]  We’re never going to have another Bach...

BD:   Look into your crystal ball a little bit.  300 years from now, will people talk about someone who was the Bach of the synthesizer?

Boatwright:   I don’t know if there could be one...  [Pauses a moment, then continues]  There is something very special about the voice, because you can change instruments, you can retool them, you can add new things, but the voice is the voice is the voice.  Look how it has developed through the ages.  There will always be a healthy way to sing.  When Puccini came along, he was more difficult on the voice.  I wait a very long time to give students any Puccini.  He was gutsy and down to earth.  He dealt with subjects that people wanted to know more when they see these characters on the stage.  Puccini is not my favorite, however, he was important.  Debussy came along at the same time.  [Smiling]  Today is Debussy’s birthday!  I heard that this morning on the radio.  Also, look what Ravel did.  This was all at the turn of the last century.  That’s why I’m very thrilled to be living at the turn of another century to see what is coming along.  Maybe you’re right that synthesizers are coming in, but it’s not going to be part of my culture.  [Laughs]

BD:   I hope we always keep understanding the voice.

Boatwright:   Oh, we will always keep the voice!

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   As we move into this new century, what advice do you have for composers who want to write for the voice?

Boatwright:   In a little while you’re going to interview Dan Godfrey.  He’s written some nice songs.  I think composers are still interested in poetry enough to write songs.  They should take the trouble to know the limitations of different kinds of voices.  Certain male voices can do specific things, sopranos can do others, and the mezzo still others.  I don’t think composers should be opposed to learning about that.

BD:   Should the composers take a few voice lessons?

Boatwright:   Yes. I think it’s a good idea.  I tried to make Howard take voice lessons, but he heard enough of me to always put some nice high notes in for me.  [Pauses a moment to reminisce]  Three things have happened this year. There was a performance of Howard’s Canticle.  Then on Good Friday, a young organist at our cathedral did his St. Matthew Passion, and then a student of mine did his Six Prayers of Kierkegaard.  That was all in the spring, so I think I did pretty well for Howard.

Howard Boatwright (March 16, 1918 - February 20, 1999) was an American composer, violinist and musicologist.

boatwright Born in Newport News, Virginia, Boatwright studied the violin with Israel Feldman in Norfolk, Virginia, and made his début at New York Town Hall in 1942. He was assistant professor of violin at the University of Texas, Austin from 1943 to 1945. He then studied music theory and composition at Yale University (BM 1947, MM 1948), where he met Paul Hindemith, with whom he studied the viola d'amore. Hindemith urged him to stay at Yale to teach as assistant professor in music theory.

He planned to become a violinist instead of a composer, but began writing music in 1941 as a way to court the soprano Helen Strassburger. They were married in 1943 and performed and recorded new music, standard vocal works, and early music together for many years. Helen Boatwright continued to have a distinguished career as a teacher and performer, sometimes in collaboration with her husband and sometimes independently. The couple had three children: a daughter Alice and two sons, Howard III and David Alexander.

Howard became the music director at St. Thomas's Church, New Haven, Connecticut, in 1949, a position he held until 1964. It was there that he established a reputation as a pioneer in the performance of early choral music. While in New Haven he also served as conductor of the Yale University Orchestra from 1952 to 1960, and he was the concertmaster of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra from 1950 until 1962.

In 1964 he became the dean of the school of music at Syracuse University, and from 1971 he also served as a professor of music in composition and theory. At Syracuse, he transformed the music school, making it an important center for composition and the performance of new music by presenting festivals and establishing an electronic music studio. He also introduced non-Western music to the curriculum, and expanded its early music programs by acquiring collections of antique instruments. From 1969 to 1988, when he stopped teaching, he also directed a summer music program in Switzerland.

He was a Fulbright lecturer in India during the year 1959–60 and received a Fulbright grant to study in Romania, 1971–72. A pioneering scholar of Charles Ives, he was elected to the board of directors of the Charles Ives Society in 1975. He demonstrated an unusually wide breadth of erudition as a scholar, publishing writings on music theory, ethnomusicology, Charles Ives, and Paul Hindemith.


[Continuing]  Let me tell you about Howard going to Texas during the war.  There was a fine Belgian-born violinist named Raymond Cerf [(1901-1978) who had studied with Ysaÿe] who auditioned for the position because the man who had the position was being drafted.  Anyway, they were thrilled with Cerf
s playing.  He was a wonderful violinist, but the Board of Regents of the University of Texas did not allow a foreign-born person to be hired.  So they asked Cerf if he knew of someone else, and he said he had heard one at Oberlin but only knew his fiancée’s name.  Whereupon the Dean called me in, and I thought, “Oh, what have I done?  [Both laugh]  All he wanted was the name and address and number of my fiancé.  So Howard got on the train right away and went to Texas with his violin.  They wanted him to play immediately on a Saturday, but he said he couldn’t because he’d just been traveling too much.  They had a very good pianist there named Helen Haupt, and he played for them Sunday afternoon.  Mr. Cerf had told them that Howard had gotten seven fine reviews for his town hall recital.  In those days you could get seven!  Now you can’t even get one.  Howard had those reviews with him.  Dean Doty, and the head of the voice department, Chase Baromeo [see box farther up on this webpage], who had been at the Met, was there.  They took counsel together, and then told Howard he could start teaching the next day!  [Laughs]  He had an associate professorship with only a high school diploma!  How about that?  [Coming back to the previous topic]  So you see, synthesized music will certainly come if certain funny things can happen like that.  The evolvement of strange things can go on forever.  In his way, Schoenberg was a complete change, but Hindemith wasn’t so much, in that he kept a structure in his music.  You must look at Howard’s book called Chromaticism.  He developed his own theory of chromaticism.  At that time, life was difficult in composition.  Apropos of this synthesizer idea, Hindemith was rated very poorly after the 1950s.
BD:   Why?

Boatwright:   His music was thought to be too
German.  He left Germany because Hitler didn’t like his music.  It wasn’t that kind of German, but it was sought out.  Then here comes Schoenberg with the freedom of 12 tones, and rows, and things like that.  Howard suffered from that because people all said his music sounded like Hindemith.  It didn’t really, but that was just an onus which was put upon him.  So Howard developed his own system.  He thought Schoenberg’s was too confining.  I don’t know enough about it, but he changed things, and made very interesting sounds.  Now look at John Adams.  I came to Chicago to hear him right after Howard died.  Henry Fogel [President of the Chicago Symphony] got me some tickets.  John conducted the whole concert as well as his piece.  I thought it was very interesting.  [Adams conducted two weeks of concerts in May of 1999, and Boatwright is probably referring to one or both.  Besides the Adams works which concluded each performance, the first concert also had the Piano Concerto of Copland, and the second included music of Philip Glass and Lou Harrison.  Each concert also had music of Ives.  Soloists in the first week were pianist Garrick Ohlsson and tenor George Shirley, and then violinist Vadim Repin, organist Mary Preston, and trumpeter Mark Ridenour were featured in the second week.]

[At this point we stopped for a moment to take care of a few technical things.  Being in radio, I always asked my guests to say their name so I could hear it pronounced correctly.  This led to another anecdote.]

One of my best friends is a woman named Antje Bultmann Lemke (1918-2017).  She was head of the library here, and is the daughter of the great theologian and religious thinker in Marburg, Germany, Rudolf Bultmann.  He was a great friend of Albert Schweitzer, so Antje has just translated Schweitzer
s letters.  When I was reading Schweitzer’s biography and those letters to his wife-to-be, my thoughts were about the name Schweitzer, which means he’s Swiss.  My original name, Strassburger, means I’m from Strassburg.  My family left Strassburg.  In the biography of Schweitzer, it implied people left because the Catholics and the Lutherans didn’t get along at all.  If you were a staunch Lutheran, you wanted to get as far away from that Alsace area.  So the Strassburgers left Strasbourg and went to Germany.

BD:   It’s always interesting to find out why people wind up where they do.

Boatwright:   Exactly, and that’s apocryphal.

BD:   But wherever people go, they bring their talents and their music.

Boatwright:   That’s right, and you make new contacts.  [Pauses again]  Here’s another Ernst Bacon story.  Howard was then on the faculty.  He and I weren’t married till June, and he took that job in January.  Donald Grout, Putnam Aldrich, and Howard Boatwright were a trio of talk, and they found out what a brilliant thinker Howard was.  It wasn’t that Howard had just a high school diploma.  He had all that training on the fiddle, but he read and listened to everything.  Howard’s concert was December 29th.  Ernst Bacon was in New York on a sabbatical.  He had the most wonderful apartment on Riverside Drive, and he had a party.  Otto Luening was there, and he asked Howard what he was going to do.  Howard had Charles L. Wagner as manager, and he knew that the Cleveland Orchestra needed good violinists because they were all being drafted.  I was at Oberlin getting my master’s, and I had a church job in Shaker Heights.  Howard and I hadn’t had much chance to see each other, so if he went to Cleveland it would mean I’d be coming in every weekend.  In those days it was very different to see each other.  You didn’t
see each other as the kids do nowadays.  [Both laugh]  We would hold hands and go places together, such as concerts.  So, we hopped on the train and went to Cleveland.  His father had a fit!  He said, Son, I’ve trained you all these years to be a violinist, and now you’re going off to Cleveland!  But he paid for it all, and Howard took a little room.  He found out that in order to join the union, one had to be at least six weeks in a place.  So this job came along and he took it because that was much better than waiting to try to get into the Cleveland Orchestra.  Then, when meeting those two distinguished gentlemen, Putnam and Donald both said he’d have to have an academic degree, and he should go to Yale and study with Hindemith.  We were married in June of 43, and were at the University for two years with our baby beginning in ’45.  This was a new world with Paul Hindemith.  I was singing my best, [with a wink] as I have always, and Hindemith had me sing as his soloist on those Collegium concerts.  They started with music from the 14th and 15th centuries.  In the program they gave me billing as big as Hindemith!  [Laughs]  Everybody came to those concerts because it was so unusual to have this music performed.  There were people from Washington, New York, Providence, and Boston, so I was heard by everybody, and I was therefore hired by everybody.  I sang the Brahms Requiem, and Messiah, and Bach, and every kind of a thing up and down the coast, because they’d heard me sing.

BD:   You have a wide repertoire, and yet you’re remembered now for mostly the new music.

Boatwright:   [Feigning surprise]  I am???  I was really a baroque singer.

BD:   Is that why you did the new music so well?

Boatwright:   Yes, you’re right.  I had a very good background in learning intervals.  Here’s a story from Tanglewood.  Lenny was there, and we did Porgy and Bess of Gershwin.  This was in ’42 , and it had only been written in ’35.  Lenny trained us in a practice room half the size of this room where we are now, and he smoked.  All of us opera singers had to learn the music, and I sang Summertime.  We did it with piano, and Lenny was conducting and flying all over the place.  I was so thrilled.  The big deal of my being there was Aaron Copland.  Hindemith was Koussevitzky
s first choice, and the reason for his being at Tanglewood.  Aaron had Saturday afternoon composers’ forums, and here comes Helen who could read anything... not quite as good as Phyllis Bryn-Julson, but probably with a little more passion.  Phyllis is so clean with everything, but I added a little more German substance.  I sang anybody’s songs.  Alan Hovhaness was there, as was Lukas Foss, and Henry Cowell.  There was also a fine Mexican composer named Blas Galindo, and I did his Paloma Blanca.  He loved it and wanted us to come to Mexico, which Howard and I did when we went there on a tour when we were in Texas.  [Pauses again, then continues with another anecdote]  Let me tell you about the Cos Cob Album.  Cos Cob is a place outside of New York where the train stops on its late night runs back to New Haven.  Aaron, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, and Marc Blitzstein were all enraged that Schirmer wasn’t publishing their stuff, so they got a rich woman in Cos Cob to put a book together.  [Ten songs by a variety of creative artists compiled by Aaron Copland in 1934 and published by Alma Wetheims Cos Cob Press.  The volume includes works by Copland (“Song”), Roger Sessions (“On the Beach at Fontana”), Theodore Chanler (“These, My Ophelia”), Charles E. Ives (“Where the Eagle”), Virgil Thomson (“Susie Asado”), Isreal Citkowitz (“Gentle Lady”), Marc Blitzstein (“Jimmies Got a Goil”), Irwin Heilner (“The Tide Rises”), Alexander Lipsky (“Lilac-Time”), and Paul F. Bowles (“Ainsi Parfois Nos Seuils”).]  I learned about all the composers in that book with Normand.  I used to sing The Beach at Fontana all the time.  Aarons Song was set to an E. E. Cummings poem.  One afternoon when there wasn’t anything else going on, I asked Aaron if he would like me to sing it.  He played and I sang, and when he got through he said, Helen, when I wrote this in 1926, I didn’t think anybody could sing it.  In 1926, a singer wouldn’t have dreamed of singing a tritone or a minor 7th.  He was so surprised that I could do something like that.

BD:   [Noting the time]  Thank you so very much for all of the music, and for your gracious hospitality.

Boatwright:   It was indeed my pleasure.  Thank you for coming to see me and talk with me today.



© 2003 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in the home of Helen Boatwright on August 22, 2003.  This transcription was made in 2023, and posted on this website at that time.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.  To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.

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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.