B1308. (McCORMACK) L. A. G. STRONG. John McCormack, The Story of a Singer. New York, Macmillan, 1941. 301pp. Discography; Photos.
“Perhaps the best way to realize just how good a book L.A.G. Strong has made out of the life of a tenor is to imagine what this life could have been in different hands. And to that rare reader who knows nothing of Mr. McCormack's art the surest proof of the taste his biographer claims for him is that he chose so skilled a man of letters for the job of writing this book.”
- Horace Reynolds. THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 Jan., 1942
“Leonard Alfred George Strong was a highly popular English novelist, critic, historian and poet, and published under the name ‘L. A. G. Stron’. He served as a director of the publishers Methuen Ltd. from 1938 to 1958.
Strong was born in Plymouth, Devon, England, of a half-Irish father and Irish mother, and was proud of his Irish heritage. As a youth, he considered being a comedian and took lessons in singing. He studied at Brighton College and earned a scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford, as what was known as an Open Classical Scholar (studies in literature and the arts). There he came under the influence of W. B. Yeats, about whom Strong wrote fairly extensively. Their friendship lasted for twenty years. He gained a wide interest in literature and wrote about many important contemporary authors, including James Joyce, William Faulkner, John Millington Synge, and John Masefield. He was a director of the publishers Methuen Ltd. from 1938 until his death. For many years he was a governor of his old school, Brighton College.
John Francis McCormack was born in Athlone the son of mill workers with a family of eleven children. He was educated by the Marist Brothers in Athlone before studying in Summerhill College, Sligo. From an early age he was a talented tenor and he won the Feis Ceoil gold medal in 1903. Among the competitors was James Joyce who later become more famous as a writer. Both men became good friends. In 1906, McCormack met Lily Foley and the couple married and had two children.
Recognition of McCormack's promise as a tenor and a fundraising drive, enabled him to travel to Italy where he was trained by Vincenzo Sabatini, perfecting his famous breath control. McCormack made his operatic début in Savon, and the following year perfomed in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA at Covent Garden, London. In 1909 he began performing in the United States and became a naturalised American citizen in 1917.
During the Great War 1914-1918, McCormack recorded the popular song ’It's A Long Way To Tipperary which was sung by Irishmen who fought with the British Army. McCormack was also an Irish nationalist and recorded rebel songs and ballads, supported Irish Home Rule and later supported Irish independence from Britain which was achieved in 1922 after a violent conflict. McCormack was one of the first artists to record the popular ballad ‘I Hear You Calling Me’ written in 1908 by Harold Harford and Charles Marshall; he recorded it twice for Odeon starting in 1908 and a further four times for Victor between 1910 and 1927 – it became his best seller. He was the first artist to record the famous World War I song ‘It's a Long Way to Tipperary’ in 1914. He also recorded the song ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’ in 1917, though he was not the first to do so. He also sang songs expressive of Irish nationalism - his recording of ‘The Wearing of the Green’, a song about the Irish rebellion of 1798, encouraged 20th century efforts for Irish Home Rule—and endorsed the Irish Nationalist estrangement from the United Kingdom. McCormack was associated particularly with the songs of Thomas Moore, notably ‘The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls’, ‘The Minstrel Boy’, ‘Believe Me if all Those Endearing Young Charms’, and ‘The Last Rose of Summer’. Between 1914 and 1922, he recorded almost two dozen songs with violin accompaniment provided by Fritz Kreisler, with whom he also toured. He recorded songs of Hugo Wolf for the Hugo Wolf Society in German.
McCormack became fabulously wealthy and hugely famous with a global audience. He owned apartments in London and New York. At different times he lived in Hollywood, California, England and Moore Abbey, Monasterevan, Co. Kildare. McCormack lived in luxury, collected art, owned race horses, motor cars and yachts, enjoyed tennis and befriended Hollywood movie stars. He became a philanthropist who supported many Catholic charities. McCormack made recordings of religious hymns and sang at the 1932 Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. He was made a Papal Count by Pope Pius XI in 1928 and also received several papal knighthoods.
In 1938 he officially ended his career at the Royal Albert Hall, London but the outbreak of World War II, saw him sing in support of the Red Cross and to boost morale. But in the early 1940s his health was failing and he died in September 1945. He is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin.”
- Ned Ludd