December 18, 2009

Philatory for Garcia

Off the wall and onto the scanner- my relic of Garcia, which consists of a letter that the Father of Voice Science wrote on his 100th birthday. I had it matted with green velvet and tucked into an antique oak frame.




Mon Abri, Cricklewood. March 17th, 1905

Dear Sir,

Accept my sincere thanks for your very kind congratulations.

Yours truly,

Manuel Garcia 


Unfortunately, Garcia did not include the name of the gentleman he was addressing. Of course, there may have been many 'sirs', considering the occasion and the celebration that accompanied it. Whether it was personal or an early 20th century form letter, I am imagining what it must have been like to be feted and lauded as the greatest living voice teacher (Garcia out-lived his rival Francesco Lamperti by 14 years), and then return home and write umpteen thank-you notes. Garcia obviously had superb manners and a great deal of energy.

Anna E. Schoen-René (1863-1942), who studied with Garcia and his sister Pauline Viardot-Garcia and taught Margaret Harshaw, Risë Stevens, Mack Harrell, Paul Robeson and many others musical luminaries, noted Garcia's vitality during their first meeting in 1901.


During the short time that I had to wait, my attention was attracted by two vibrant speaking voices which came to me from the next room, the door of which stood slightly ajar.  I could not see the speakers, and was convinced that the patriarch was not with them. Then the door opened wide and two men emerged. One, young and vigorous, I was later to know as a Chicago voice teacher of considerable reputation and unusual modesty, still active; but imagine my amazement to learn that the other clear voice belonged to an elderly man, quite bent and infirm, whose feet dragged a bit as he walked across the room.     From America's Musical Inheritance by Anna E. Schoen-René, 1941
What accounted for Garcia's longevity?  In an article in Henry Finck's Success in music and how it is won (1909) titled How Garcia Helped Singers,  Garcia is quoted as saying...

Most singers and teachers eat more than they should. A man with moderate teeth, such as I have, can grow old on sponge cake and milk.

Apparently he did. He lived to be 101. 

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