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[personal profile] lurkitty
My mother waxes poetic about one of her favorite entertainers: Florence Foster Jenkins.

Born in 1868, Madame Jenkins had a dream. She so adored music that she wished to travel to Europe to train as a singer. Her wealthy father refused to allow it, as did her husband, whom she divorced in 1902. With her fathers death in in 1909, her inheritance allowed her the means to pursue her lifelong goal.

Undaunted and unaware of her lack of pitch, rhythm, or tone, Madame Jenkins began giving annual concerts in 1912. The musical elite soon flocked to hear her because of her hilarious audacity, shouting Bravo! at her worst notes. She appeared complete with elaborate costumes and sets and a pianist who could adjust to her unique sense of rhythm.

Quoting American Heritage blog: The people lucky enough to get tickets cheered her to the rafters, but the critics were, predictably, less enthused. One described her as “undaunted by the composer’s intent.” Another wrote, “Only Mrs. Jenkins has perfected the art of giving added zest by improvising quarter tones, either above or below the original notes.” Robert Bager of the New York World-Telegram was more gentle: “She was exceedingly happy in her work” he wrote. “It is a pity so few artists are. And her happiness was communicated as if by magic to her listeners . . . who were stimulated to the point of audible cheering, even joyous laughter and ecstasy by the inimitable singing.”

Yes, she really was all that they say. Consider yourself warned - here is a link.


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August 2011

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