I sang other concerts after coming home, and they were contracts from Columbia Artist Management. (Book 7 page 00
..I had a couple of pages left over from book 6 and added them here)
I sang in Los Angeles, and also I sang a “Messiah” in Washington D.C. Columbia had arranged this one, (book 7 Page 01) and it was in Constitution Hall. What a beautiful auditorium, and good acoustics, and a fine orchestra.. Howard Mitchell was a fine symphony conductor who had not had much experience with this work.
The choir was composed of several choirs together; the First Baptist, First Congregational, First Methodist, and even the Presbyterian choir from New York. They were good for only having a couple of combined rehearsals before hand. With all these choir conductors they all had their own ideas about how Handel should be performed. That is always a question, should it be performed as Handel did in a totally Baroque style with a small chorus and orchestra, with faster tempo’s , or in the grand style with big chorus and orchestra.
Well, here we already had a big orchestra and chorus, and so the tempo’s were going to be slower, and they were using the Mozart orchestration, bringing it into another style. The conductor got conflicting suggestions. And at the last moment he told me I should add ornaments and cadenzas as I felt I wanted. There were the appoggiatura’s too, he said to add them in the recitatives. Well, I had sung them before for other conductors, some wanted them all over the place, some didn’t want any, just “come scritto” (as written on the score). So, at the last minute I added a few high notes and ornaments, and some appoggiatura’s. The other singers, though, were thrown off a bit by this new suggestion, and they didn’t do much different than what was rehearsed the day before.
The performance went well, and I was thrilled to be singing in that Constitution Hall and got a good one liner; ”The lightest and brightest voice of the quartet was that of Ewan Harbrecht”
Then, of course I went back to L.A. to sing the 6th time for the Southern California Oratorio Society, December 17th, recorded, a broadcast, December 24th ... of..yes..”The Messiah” and there was a narration in this one by Ronald Colman a fine actor. It was fun to record this and then hear myself seven days later. I feel this was one of my best performances as I was in very good voice after the Choir tour and the Washington D C performance. It was hard in my early years to sing the “I Know My Redeemer Lives” with a full tone, more dramatic timbre is needed for this and a light clear tone for “Rejoice, Daughter of Zion” for the coloratura, and then a lyric sound is right for the “Come Unto Him” and other parts. As I sang this I grew in the part, and that year, my voice had become more dramatic in quality and the “I Know that My Redeemer” really came off like I had wanted.
Then there was the Castro Valley, the Oakland California concert, the Akron Ohio duet concert with Ted Uppman (described before) and others, but the high point of the 1956 year was the dedication of the chapel in Cambridge with President McKay dedicating the building. that was to be the New England Mission Branch Chapel. (Book 7 page 2 and 3)
This was one of my most spiritual experiences, not only because on page 2a the “spirit of testimony” was there, but because of the association with the President while I was staying at the Mission Home there in Cambridge. The people there, missionaries, the Mission President and wife, and I were called on to fast and pray for a lady missionary who had been stricken with polio. Read about the details in my #8 second part of the Holy Ghost and the miracle I experienced while there that week end.
But later, I saw how the President had prophesied about the building, and I was witness of this fulfilment 50 years later. He said in the prayer that “ You have lost yourselves in this effort for the good of those who will come after you.” He said, “When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when these stones will be held sacred vecause our hands have touched the, and men will say, as they look upon the labor and raw substance of them,’ this is what our fathers did for us.’”
Fifty years later , to the very date, I returned there to be with our grand daughter, Valerie Larsen and attend a meeting with her in that very building. It no longer is a chapel for the mission, but is used constantly for the C E S program and meeting for the university students there who are L D S. Valerie was preparing a dinner for the students who come there for Sunday services and stay for lunch and have nice socials there. It is a refuge for them, and a sacred place of worship. So, it came to pass as the prophet said it was built for the future. I was thrilled to be there with George and Valerie, and we took our picture on the stand by the organ where I stood fifty years before and sang “Bless This House.” It was testimony meeting in the Relief Society and I bore testimony that when this was dedicated I sang “Bless these windows shining bright, bringing in God’s holy light, Bless these walls firm and stout keeping want and trouble out , bless the folk who serve within, keep them pure and free from sin...” And that is what this place will be to them and when they are pondering what to do in their lives, when trouble comes to them, they can come here for peace and inspiration, and it will be like a temple to them for refuge.
The little autograph by President Mc Kay was sweet, “Thank you for your inspirational singing this day.” I now treasure all that I learned and experienced in my association with this marvelous man.
Then he wrote to me in February of 1956 to see if I was free to sing at the dedication of the Los Angeles Temple. (book 7 page 4), well, no matter what I was doing, of course I’d make myself free to do that! And I did, (book 7 pages 4a - 8) This again was a glorious experience. I felt the presence of many previous prophets and leaders, and I felt I sang better than ever, ans this was the last time I sang for the prophet at a dedication. It was special because I had previously been a stake missionary in that very area, and going from house to house, I felt I had in a way prepared the way. However, I never saw any of them baptized, but I had taught some in their homes. It also was dear to me because of being born there, and I always hoped there would be a temple in my home town. I had gone past that spot many times on the bus going to the beaches to swim. In Westwood one of my teachers, and girl friend, Benjamin and Betty Summerhays lived there quite close to where the temple is. It was like home to me, and a thrill to sing at the dedication.
One of the last performances of 1956 was the Mormon Choir of Southern California’s performance of “ The Messiah” (book 7, page 19a and 20) I was married by then, and they asked me AGAIN for about the 7th time, and it was so nice to sing again under Frederick Davis and with Katherine Hilgenberg and all my friends. It was, as usual, very well sung by the choir, and it wasn’t long afterward that Mr. Davis passed away, and that was the end of the choir. They still have reunions though, and he will always be remembered. (Review 35a book 7) On Page 35a you will see one of my concert formals that was black velvet inserts and black bodice at the waist, with white top and modest white short sleeves, with white latin and lace over the hoop skirt.. That’s the only picture I have of it, it was quite striking.
During the years of 1957, and 1958 I was a new mother, and still had contracts to fulfill, and I toured with Community Concerts those years, and I was determined to always be a mother first, so I took my little baby, Elizabeth along with me to my concerts and opera engagements. I traveled mainly in the western states those years, and was very fortunate to have my mother-in-law, Joan Mitton with me to help with the baby. I had a basket with a big handle and off we went on the airplane (sometimes there was a little holder to put her in with a safety strap and all, and she was just a few months old and was a good baby and slept a lot on the plane.
Johann. My mother in law seemed to enjoy coming and hearing the concerts, and how she loved Elizabeth.(book 7 pages 40a)
Some of the high points of my concerts were, Walla Walla Washington, Burns Oregon, Blowing Rock, Hanford, Walnut Grove, The Messiah again in L A. and the Opera excerpts I did in New York with James Lucas in Carl Fischer Concert Hall on 57th St.. It was called “Opera 57" which was named after the street, and it happened to come in 1957.l I sang in “Werther” of Massanets’s the role of Sophie, and then in “La Boheme” for the same company, the role of Mimi when one of the singers became ill.
That was also the year I sang “Count Ory” of Rossini, with the New England Opera Company.
(book 7 page 39) I was on tour for the Columbia concerts, and this came right in between them so I had to stop in Boston to coach with Boris Goldovsky en-route. I stayed at his home for a few days as he coached me in the role of the Countess. I was carrying Elizabeth in her little basket again on this trip cross country, and when I came to their home, they were so nice to the baby, and Mrs. Goldovsky was so happy to tend her while I went to his studio to practice my role.
When I left for the rehearsal, I handed Mrs. Goldovsky a bottle of milk for her to give to the baby while I was gone. The Goldovsky’s were curious about that formula, it was watery and different from any they had seen. I told them it was my milk and that I pumped it so I wouldn’t be uncomfortable and so the baby could still be on my milk. This was something they had not heard of before. And he still remembered it years later when I came to a seminar for him, and he told the class about that. But I wanted to give Elizabeth the best start in life, and wanted to keep nursing her for at least a year or so, therefore I had to bring her along. Besides, it would have killed me to leave her behind, I loved her so.
ADD THE COUNT ORY REVIEW HERE
Next, came the Summer of 1959 and my engagement in “Sand in Their Shoes” of Crawford Gates. (book 7 pages 41-43) It was a premier in Utah, and, again, I brought along Elizabeth. This time, it was my mother who came to care for the baby. I was still nursing, and we had a little apartment upstairs to use during the rehearsals and performances. My mother found the stairs difficult and to top it off, she got her back in spasms and she had a hard time, but didn’t complain, and loved hearing the show.
We were feeding Elizabeth, and she started chocking on a cracker. She couldn’t breath and I was in a panic...what a horrible thing to happen, so I grabbed her out of her high chair, turned her upside down and patted her back, and out came the cracker...what a relief!!
The performance at BYU Stadium was a success, but not as much as his “Promised Valley” show. and so it hasn’t been produced again, as far as I know...but I enjoyed singing Anna, with Lael Woodbrey as my husband. We later were on the board for the auditorium in Provo and I enjoyed planning that with him. He was wonderful as Abraham in the short film about him just recently. Also, the part of Ned was played by Howard Ruff, and 50 years later we crossed paths too, as he was very helpful to me in starting my Opera Company here in Provo. He knew Gilbert and Sullivan so well, and played many parts in these operettas, and directed some.
So I took to the road again, and one of my accompanists was New York’s pianist, Stuart Ross, who was one of the finest on the tour, (book 7 p. 44) and he was very nice to say such sweet things about our work together. It was so good to bring my accompanist from New York with me, we were a team, a duet, and so important to have that expert at the piano, but most of the time I had to send the music ahead to the accompanist (especially if he were in the west, and I in New York) and then get in a day ahead, rehearse once or so, and go on. Not the best arrangement.
The next tour took me all over the country, from East to West,(book 7 P. 45-52) and even into Canada. And an Opera to boot..Another performance of “Rigoletto”, Gilda, (book 7 pages -48) I was really busy, but by this time I was seeing George and the children not as often as I would have liked and missed them a lot.
One concert of note was the Vancouver one in Canada. I had sung along the West Coast, Oregon, Washington, and then in Canada, Kamaloops and other cities, and they were very warm and responsive and I got good reviews, and for these I picked up an L D S man, Evan Davis for this tour, and I was glad to have a male accompanist that was a gentleman. Columbia Management insisted I use men and not women for my accompanists. They were bigoted I felt, because they said it is more professional for a man to be on the stage with a woman, that two women look less professional. Weird!! And when I traveled with a man once, there was the fighting them off and keeping them in their place...so my solution was to take gay accompanists...they never bothered me, and one I really liked who was just like a girl friend to me, and that was my solution to that problem. So, when I heard of this L D S accompanist I was
so happy, and didn’t have to worry anymore
In Canada it was in the winter, and I was wondering if the weather with all that snow storm and all if the people would come out. In Timmons Ontario. I remember getting off the train into knee deep snow. I was glad I had my high top boots on and did OK. Well, they all came out, packed house, and I was especially blessed that I had a priesthood holder with me, because I came down with a bad case of laryngitis. He was able to bless me, and I had the good blessing of being able to sing that concert. It turned out to be one of the best of that season, I know because of the help of the Spirit that carried me through it. (Book 7 Pages 49-50) I had wonderful reviews as you can see, and I felt very blessed to know the Spirit was there to make it all possible. I give it all to the Lord who sustained me that day.
I had a very good concert tour that season of 59-60 and I was fortunate that I was able to get different accompanists in that tour where I couldn’t afford to bring my own accompanist, like Evan Davis to all of them. I had complained to the Columbia Management that I really needed one with me through the whole tour because the singer and the accompanist are a team, like an orchestra. You wouldn’t think of touring with the strings, and pick up the wind’s along the way and have a good performance. That was the hardest thing I faced with these tours.
One good accompanist I “picked up” along the way was Robert P. Sheltonassociate professor of piano from the University of Missouri, Columbia. (Book 7 Page 52) I had sent my music ahead as usual, and with one or two rehearsals, we pulled of a good one. (see review P. 52)
I include here on Page 52 a sweet letter sent to Grandpa Roy from George for father’s day,.June 19, 1959 ( Book 7 Page 53) It was so wonderful for him to support me in my career. Here I was away at Father’s Day, and he said such sweet things to dad “I am so grateful you approved of our marriage. Ewan is the dearest girl I can imagine, and her love has brought such great joy into my life. I shall be eternally thankful for her and will always try to make life enjoyable for her and be a comfort and help to her.” I really didn’t deserve that, but how grateful I am for HIM. HE has been the one that has been such a patient, loving husband, and now that we will celebrate 50 years together, I realize just how much he has done for me, and blessed MY life.
Another appearance that season was in the Logan Tabernacle (Book 7 p. 55)
I really enjoyed singing there. The acoustics are so good, and it was an honor to sing where George’s grandfather conducted many years ago, his Logan Tabernacle Choir. It was at the same time as Evan Stephen’s was directing the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir, and they were good friends. His grandfather Samuel B. Mitton wrote many poems and set them to music in many songs and hymns for the Church. The older Hymnals have several of his Hymns in them, and our children really enjoy playing them on their string instruments and singing them.
Under the direction of James Lucas, I sang several opera vignettes, and one program of Werther by Jules Massenet is in Book 7 Page 56. They would be produced in the Carl Fischer Concert Hall in New York, and we would present the main arias and ensembles, in costume and he would be the narrator. They were well attended, and I actually got some engagements from those showcases.
I was singing in New York in the Metropolitan Synagogue under the direction of Isadore Freed (1900-1960) (Book 7 Page 57) For several years it was my great fortune to learn under this man as I was one of the two soprano’s there. He only had an octet of voices., two on each part, one a big voice, dramatic, and the other a lyric voice. The dramatic voice with my lyric one was Angelina Rasmussen. Who was to be my very dearest friend for life. Her husband was director of Opera at the Adelphi College in Long Island. In May of 1961 I was hired by Lawrence Rasmussen to sing the part of Susanna in the “Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart along with his wife, my dear friend, Angelina as the Countess. Because our voices were so well suited, we made a fine duet and ensembles in that show.
How I loved the role of Susanna! It is, they say, note for note, the longest role for soprano in opera, but what marvelous music. The orchestra was superb, some students, but he hired many of the professional musicians from New York, and what a thrill to do this. The photo is (Book 4 Page 73) of me with the Figaro, but, to my sorrow, I can’t locate my photo with Angelina. But these were happy memories.