I remember walking into her disheveled room not sure if she was any good at what she advertised. Her name was Marie Broadmeyer and she was to be my new vocal coach. Although in the 70’s the term was called “voice teacher”.
My Mom had signed both my sister and me up for lessons. We are six years apart; at the time she was 20 and an alto–I was 14 and a soprano. Together we had the sweet harmony that happens when sisters sing together.
Music comes naturally in our family; my Dad’s father had a beautiful baritone voice I’d only heard on a 45 rpm record made of one of his church solos at Roger Williams Baptist Church in Rhode Island. It was rich and soothing as he sang. He always said he loved singing so much he hoped he would die in the church choir. Prophetic, that’s exactly what happened. He gave his final solo performance, sat down in his seat and had a massive heart attack. I barely knew him, but I understood his love of music.
Back to Mrs Broadmeyer.
She was a large, old woman from Germany. Her strong facial features supported her rich contralto voice. We learned she was lauded all over Europe by reading the hundreds of newspaper clippings taped to the faded wallpaper surrounding her baby grand piano.
We had only 30 minutes with her per lesson, so there was no time to hear her story. She had us warm up with vocal stretches that always made me feel self-conscious, but what 14 year old isn’t self-conscious? After she was confident our vocal cords were ready, she would have us sing, O Danny Boy. Her baggy eyes watered as our voices filled the musty room. I used to believe our voices are what brought the emotion, but now I wonder if it wasn’t memories this song brought to mind.
I’ll never know.
Last night I went on-line to see if I could find any information about her life. Was she married? Did she have children? How did she end up in America? Was she born here or did she immigrate? How did this famous soloist end up in a dilapidated row house in downtown Orlando having to squeak out a living by giving voice lessons?
Once again, my immaturity didn’t lend me to ask such questions.
I did find out that she died in 1977 here in Orlando only four years after our time in her living room. She had 4 children, as far as I can tell, the last one dying in 2015. She was born in Germany in 1908 and died in 1977 at the age of only 69. I guess she wasn’t as old as I assumed.
Her husband who was 16 years older, proceeded her in death in 1969. She was widowed only 4 years when we started our weekly visits. I also found several arrival and departure dates of when she sailed to New York Harbor from Europe and vice versa. All in the 50’s confirming her frequent tours to Europe to perform.
This memory was vague as I started to write. But with a little research I was able to piece together quite a story.
Revisiting the lyrics of her beloved song, it seems appropriate to honor her memory with this final verse…
“But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!” – – O Danny Boy
I’m grateful to have known Mrs. Broadmeyer. This ave is for her. May she Rest In Peace.
This is post #12 in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.