November 5, 2015

The Lamperti School: George L. Osgood

George L. Osgood (1844-1922) 
I must thank Justin Petersen of Boston for reminding me of a fascinating book by George L. Osgood—a tenor student of Francesco Lamperi—that is now available for download at Archive.org. 

I'd read Osgood's Art in Singing: Based on the Reliable Traditions of the Italian School of Vocalization and Practical Developments of Modern Science at the New York Public Library a decade ago when the research division was relocated downtown and the library at the Lincoln Center campus was being renovated. Back then, the NYPL database wasn't as sophisticated as it is now, and it behooved one to conduct a search through the music library's large black books. (In fact, I still use them from time to time since it's always good to double-check everything). Be that as it may, I didn't do much research on the book since Osgood did not mention Lamperti in his manual (not an unusual thing actually), though he did mention that he followed "the traditions of Bernacchi of Bolgona" which is Lamperti's school—which I somehow overlooked (hand-to-forehead), and had not yet full-developed and adhered to a research checklist. (Learning curve anyone? Give me a name or title now, and I will go to town.) So when Petersen floated Osgood's book before my eyes, I did what I should have done years ago, and found Osgood studied with Lamperti in Milan for three years after first studying with another important old school voice teacher in Berlin—Ferdinand Sieber! Moral of the story? Keep impeccable records, and keep digging until you find your gold—the bright torch of teachings passing from teacher to student being an important matter. 

Word was received in Boston last evening of the death yesterday in England of George L. Osgood, for many years prominent in musical circles in this city. He retired some time ago and had lived in England for the last 13 years. 
Born in Chelsea 78 years ago, the son of John H. and Adeline Stevens Osgood, he graduated from Harvard in 1866. He was director of the Harvard Glee Club and after graduation he went to Berlin and studied with Haupt and Sieber. After three years in Germany he went to Italy and studied there with Lamperti for three years. Later he gave a series of concerts throughout Europe. 
His first wife was Jennette Calot Farley, daughter of the late James T. Farley, well known stock broker. His eldest son George L. Osgood, Jr., who at present lives in Newton Centre, was born in Italy. In 1872 he returned to America and toured with Theodore Thomas's orchestra at that time the leading musical organization in America.
Later he came to Boston and became director and solo tenor of Emmanuel Church, Back Bay, where remained for 12 years. He also led several singing organizations, including the Boylston Club and the the Boston Singers Society. 
Besides George L. Osgood, Jr., he had two other children by his first wife; Farley Osgood, vice-president of the Public service Electric Company of New Jersey, and Mrs. Frank Oydelotte, wife of the president of Swarthmore Collge.
His second wife was June Bright, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Bright of Cambridge. By her he had two sons, Lowell and Hamilton, who live with their mother in England.
—The Boston Herald, Wednesday, December 13, 1922: 2.  

George L. Osgood, who's middle name was Laurie, also wrote quite a few songs, some of which you can find here. And yes, Osgood not only sang at Emmanuel Church in Boston, but also directed the choir. Dig through historical newspapers, and you will find that Osgood was a first-rate musician and teacher whose students also became voice teachers. Lastly, for those who know their way around the pedagogical block, Osgood's book has all the tell-tale signs of being a product of the Lamperti School—which you can find yourself when you plumb its depths (the voice being based on chest voice is a huge matter—which is what Lamperti meant when he said that [a] had to be taken at the very bottom of the throat). Great stuff, I was thrilled to learn more about it. You see? Research is a never-ending proposition. You just have to exercise your curiosity.

It is frequently the case that an author is not the best interpreter of his own works. Geo. L. Osgood the well-known tenor of Boston, some years ago, went to Robert Franz with the view of studying some of his songs with him. While singing one of them, Mr. Osgood inquired as to the proper breathing-place in one of the phrases. "Breath," says the somewhat irritated Herr Franz, "breath, of course, when your wind gives out—what else would you?" 
The Voice, June 1885: 92. 

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Photo Credit: Boyschoirs.org 

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