V0691. FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, Olive Middleton, Natalia de Andrade, Sylvia Sawyer, Vassilka Petrova, Mari Lyn, Tryphosa Bates-Batcheller, Betty-Jo Schramm, Alice Gerstl Duschak, Rosalina Mello, Norma-Jean Erdmann-Chadbourne, Sari Bunchuk-Wontner, Cosme McMoon (Reminiscence of Florence Foster Jenkins) & Homophone Orchestra: The Muse Surmounted – Florence Foster Jenkins and Eleven of her Rivals. Homophone 1001.
"Read no further if you find the unique vocal flights of Florence Foster Jenkins an artistic profanation. If, however, you do respond to her siren call, you’ll be treated not only to her rarest record and spoken commentary by her accompanist, Cosme McMoon, but also to an assortment of voices that not only compare with but often surpass the legendary singer herself…. Should you be of the inclination to find joy in such goings on, then I would suggest ordering this immediately as it is sure to sell out quickly."
- Lawrence F. Holdridge, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2004
“I suspect that most of us who don't sing fail to appreciate how hard it is to navigate classical singing. Well, these hilariously bad performances by the redoutable Florence Foster Jenkins (1866-1944) will surely cure that deficiency!
‘Madame Jenkins was born in 1868 in Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania), as the daughter of a rich banker. She was crazy about music, even in her younger years, but neither her father nor her husband of later years - a businessman who was worth millions - did much to encourage her interest in music and singing. Following her wedding she was appointed chairwoman of a Verdi Club, which she soon supported financially, and she organized a major ball once a year under the title of 'The Ball of the Silver Larks' - staging the event with a great deal of pomp, tulle, and even more kitsch!
She soon began performing herself at these annual events, presenting her vocal talents in a number of settings and usually wearing self-designed costumes, which were magnificent but at the same time totally ridiculous. Throughout the years she started staging these performances with an increasing amount of professionalism and even booked the large ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton in New York once a year, presenting her vocal performances in front of an audience she had usually picked herself. Tickets were very much in demand and amazingly these events were always sold out, in spite of the shocking admission fees. Her performances were legendary and not one of Jenkins' vocal recitals came to an end without at least three changes of costume!
As a woman of considerable weight her matronly figure seemed to float onto the stage. She then positioned herself - totally convinced of herself and her vocal abilities - in front of the concert grand and started to sing - or started to create the sounds that could almost be described as singing! She normally wore long flowing robes with huge angel's wings sewn onto the back, with a crown of flowers in her hair. On other occasions she was covered in tinsel, sequins and tulle and would throw flowers from a small basket into the audience.
"Following her divorce she took a risk, going all out for major success - she hired the Carnegie Hall! Her performance took place on 25 October 1944 and she was able to present her bizarre show to a major audience - for the Carnegie Hall was completely sold out weeks in advance, in spite of the horrendous ticket prices, and the concert grossed some six thousand dollars!
It seems the fuss surrounding this affair was too much for the seventy-six year old, for just one month later - on 26 November 1944 - Florence Foster Jenkins passed away. Unfortunately, there are very few recorded examples of her vocal performances so that future generations of music lovers have to make do with the rare and precious samples of this very individual but equally unique singing star.
It remains to be said: Florence Foster Jenkins was convinced of herself and her vocal abilities and she truly considered herself to be an artist of great standing. Her audiences, however, considered the whole thing to be more of a huge joke’.
About the only thing I can add to that is: ‘Cosme McMoon’, Jenkins' piano accompanist who reportedly played from behind a large screen (such modesty!), is rumored to have been Edwin McArthur (born 1907 in Denver), who made many ‘legitimate’ recordings as both pianist and conductor. Ironically, he was the favorite accompanist of another singer of somewhat greater distinction - the Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad!”
- Jeffrey Lipscomb
"…we have here 12 women singers, all well past their prime, including Florence Foster Jenkins….We sat here holding our sides to reduce the intensity after an evening of these – and we found it hard to decide which was the most remarkable….Florence Foster Jenkins sings a piece written for her by Cosme McMoon, who accompanies at the piano and then reminisces about her on the final track."
- Donald R. Vroon, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, March/April, 2005