q Florence Foster Jenkins | Anne Hodgson

Florence Foster Jenkins

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She kept us in stitches at college. You haven’t heard of Florence Foster Jenkins? She couldn’t sustain a note, and her sense of pitch and rhythm was off, but she was totally sincere about loving music and had loads of fans attending her recitals. Wikipedia writes: “After a taxicab crash in 1943 she found she could sing “a higher F than ever before.”” She performed in elaborate costumes with wings and things, and she gave everything she earned to charity. At 76, on 24 October 1944, she sang at Carnegie Hall. A month later it was curtains for Florence. Meet an old friend:

See the Guardian article of 2005, “Playing the Diva of Din“, which I’m taking to one of my classes:

“Word got out, and soon people were battering the doors down to get in. Some people did laugh at her, and she was aware of this, but she had a wonderful blinkered outlook on life, she was so ingenuous, it seems, that she just blocked out the sound of laughter. And the real aficionados would applaud loudly to try to mask it. Any notices she did get would say things like: “You will never again hear a voice like this at Carnegie Hall!” Everyone was in on the joke. But was Florence in on it too? Was her lover/ manager the English actor Sinclair Byfield? Was her accompanist, the deliciously named Cosme McMoon? A tape recording exists of him saying: “No one can do what Florence Foster Jenkins did because they all try to send her up. She was totally sincere. …
Her story is one of triumph over embarrassment.”


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