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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Most Wonderfully Awful Singer

I have just spent the afternoon reading about the weird and wacky world of Florence Foster Jenkins, about whom a new movie stars Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. I have to see this movie as soon as possible.

I was introduced to Florence Foster Jenkins (not to her personally!) by a college professor who brought a recording of Jenkins singing the Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute by Mozart. That opera is one of the most sublime I ever saw. My literature professor had enjoyed a brief career as a professional violinist earlier in her life and had played in an orchestra for that opera once. She had discovered the music of Florence Foster Jenkins during her college years, and as we had had a film of the opera by Ingmar Bergman playing on campus during the week before, she thought we would enjoy hearing this strange performer of the classic aria.

She did not prepare us for what was coming, except to say that we would never have heard anything like this, and we would likely never hear anything like it again. And she put the record on the record player, and down went the needle into the groove.

I thought there was something wrong with the needle or with the turntable, but the professor was grinning at her little joke on us, and everybody looking around at each other began to laugh, and groan, and some even to howl softly. Here is a little bit of what we heard. You can go to the wikipedia entry on Florence Foster Jenkins to hear more, and You Tube has all of her recordings. I have them all too. They are available on CD and for download. In fact, they have never been out of print!

Mrs. Jenkins loved music and was extremely enthusiastic about her performances. That she had no tone, no timing, no rhythm, no pitch, and no judgment were never considered. She simply loved to share what she loved.

I can hardly wait to see how Meryl Streep interprets this macabre honesty.

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