Song of the Lark
ONE afternoon in April, Theodore Thomas, the conductor of the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra, had turned out his desk light and was about to leave his
office in the Auditorium Building, when Harsanyi appeared in the doorway. The
conductor welcomed him with a hearty hand-grip and threw off the overcoat he
had just put on. He pushed Harsanyi into a chair and sat down at his burdened
desk, pointing to the piles of papers and railway folders upon it.
"Another tour, clear to the coast. This traveling is the part of my work that
grinds me, Andor. You know what it means: bad food, dirt, noise, exhaustion for
the men and for me. I'm not so young as I once was. It's time I quit the highway.
This is the last tour, I swear!"
"Then I'm sorry for the `highway.' I remember when I first heard you in
Pittsburg, long ago. It was a life-line you threw me. It's about one of the people
along your highway that I've come to see you. Whom do you consider the best
teacher for voice in Chicago?"
Mr. Thomas frowned and pulled his heavy mustache. "Let me see; I suppose
on the whole Madison Bowers is the best. He's intelligent, and he had good
training. I don't like him."
Harsanyi nodded. "I thought there was no one else. I don't like him, either, so I
hesitated. But I suppose he must do, for the present."
"Have you found anything promising? One of your own students?"
"Yes, sir. A young Swedish girl from somewhere in Colorado. She is very
talented, and she seems to me to have a remarkable voice."
"I think it will be; though her low voice has a beautiful quality, very individual.
She has had no instruction in voice at all, and I shrink from handing her over to
anybody; her own instinct about it has been so good. It is one of those voices
that manages itself easily, without thinning as it goes up; good breathing and
perfect relaxation. But she must have a teacher, of course. There is a break in
the middle voice, so that the voice does not all work together; an unevenness."
Thomas looked up. "So? Curious; that cleft often happens with the Swedes.
Some of their best singers have had it. It always reminds me of the space you so
often see between their front teeth. Is she strong physically?"
Harsanyi's eye flashed. He lifted his hand before him and clenched it. "Like a
horse, like a tree! Every time I give her a lesson, I lose a pound. She goes after
what she wants."
"Intelligent, you say? Musically intelligent?"
"Yes; but no cultivation whatever. She came to me like a fine young savage, a
book with nothing written in it. That is why I feel the responsibility of directing
her." Harsanyi paused and crushed his soft gray hat over his knee. "She would
interest you, Mr. Thomas," he added slowly. "She has a quality--very individual."