March 30, 2014

Janet Spencer found her way to YouTube

Janet Spencer 

That's the short and sweet of it, which actually means that I've uploaded the Janet Spencer contralto recordings made for The Hermann Klein Phono-Vocal Method Based Upon The Famous School Of Manuel Garcia (1909) to my channel at YouTube (after having uploaded them at SoundCloud), formatting them with photos that were found after a big of digging. You'd think I'd know a lot about Spencer, but she has proven to be somewhat elusive, as all not-exceedingly-famous singers are. I do know, however, that she was born in Boston in 1873, and died in Hollywood in 1948, where she taught voice, having had resounding success as a concert and oratorio artist, which explains why Herman Klein chose her for the Phono-Vocal Method. She was good. 

Those who have heard those recordings should really hear her in another context, which you can do here and other channels at YouTube, if only because one obtains a fuller picture of her voice and art.  

What does one glean after all this listening? I can think of several things, one being that Spencer really had a major instrument. Her song recordings reveal a voice of great presence, which is not the first thing that comes to mind when listening to the Phono-Vocal Method recordings. Of course, the purpose of Klein's manual was to educate rather than entertain, the vocal production undoubtedly being tempered with concerns of execution. The recording process itself may have something to do with it, since the bulk of her recordings were made in the years after the Phono-Vocal Method recordings, the voice then making a much larger imprint on the ear, technology having improved. 

The many reviews I have read of Spencer's art show her to be every inch the serious artist. She lived during a time when a singer could have a career on the concert platform, which is what it was called then. The stage? That meant opera, the doors of which Spencer did not darken. Theatre? Spencer did that with her voice, observant readers noting that makeup doesn't seem to touch her face in the photographs on this page, which says something in itself.

I hope to learn more about Klein's contralto, and when I do, you'll be the first to know. 

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