WINIFRED LUGRIN FAHEY ACHIEVED SUCCESS BY BRAINS AND DILIGENCE
After Making a Moderate Success as a Singer This Remarkable Canadian Girl Started Again at Beginning and Soon Won Enviable Reputation Which Carried Her to Pinnacle of Success.
GERTRUDE E. S. PRINGLE
Women and their Work
"WINIFRED, do give up this absurd idea. Why should you, with the standing you have,
humble yourself by becoming a beginner? My child you can get all the concert engagements you want. You are applauded and encored everywhere. What more can you ask? So why cut short a successful career to study, and with an unknown teacher, too?”
Before answering her father’s vehement questions, Winifred Lugrin Fahey let her dark, luminous eyes, so like his own, dwell on the blue sea sparkling in the summer sun, the little islands that dotted the Gulf of Georgia, and a stately incoming steamer with sea gulls wheeling over it. It was all so beautiful, so tranquil, just as her life up to then had been. And yet, she must deliberately turn away from it all, giving up pleasure and ease.
“Father, dear, if I could only make you—all of you— understand. There is something within me that urges me to make more of my voice —to gain greater musical understanding. You see, it has been too easy all along, just singing everywhere because I happened to be born with a voice. But a voice alone is not enough. It must be used artistically. In a few years’ time I shall be a far better singer because I shall sing with understanding.
But don’t think I’m taking this step without thought. It is not going to be easy for me.”
Indeed, it was the hardest decision that Winifred Fahey ever had to make—all the more so because of the wellmeant but outspoken opposition of her family, her friends —even of her indulgent husband, who thought his young wife was being unnecessarily hard on herself. For banished now were to be the pleasant days on the golf links, the little bridge games, the teas and leafy garden parties. Even the frequent trips to Coast cities were to be indefinitely postponed until that day came when she would be satisfied with her mastery of her voice. And with the fervor of a whole hearted ature she was willing to spend years in study, if necessary, before ' again appearing as a public singer.
How strongly they all felt she was making a
great mistake. And, oh, how surely she believed she would yet make them acknowledge—the dear kind ones—that this period of preparation had been worth while. But if she found it hard to go
against everyone’s opinion, if she renounced the days on the links with a sigh, more difficult still was it to hand over her duties to a paid housekeeper, and to entrust to a nurse the daily care of her two adorable babies. But perhaps it would come easier after a while.
Setting Herself a Stiff Course
SHORTLY before announcing the decision that caused such a stir in her circle, Winifred Fahey had awakened suddenly and violently to a most disturbing and disagreeable fact—a fact indeed that hurt her self-esteem greatly. Although her public that loved and admired her might not perceive it, she realized she was not making the most of her powerful voice. She was producing it in a faulty way. Its very bigness had proved almost a handicap. For she had always been listened to with such attention and appreciation that the need of systematic vocal training had never presented itself to her. A term or two of lessons now and then, to teach her how to interpret her songs, had been the extent of her preparation for public singing. Yet many would have been satisfied with what she had accomplished. She was soloist in a leading Victoria church. In Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, Prince Rupert and other western cities she was in constant demand for concert and oratorio engagements, while so great was her popularity in Victoria that her appearance there meant a house full to overflowing. So that in deciding to refuse all engagements until her voice was trained, to renounce the prestige she had gained and a quite substantial income, while at the same time incurring considerable expense, called for moral courage and determination of uncommon degree. But the vision, idealism and capacity for self-denial she thus showed have put her where she is to-day—in the front rank of singers.
About the time she found herself at the crossroads and made her difficult decision in the face of family opposition, a notable teacher of singing arrived quietly in Victoria, with the intention of settling there. This was R. Thomas Steele, a Canadian who had gained a reputation in New York for his very practical and successful method of voice production. She realized this spelt opportunity to her, and began at once to study with him. And even as Jacob served seven long years for Rachel, so did Winifred Fahey spend seven years in pursuing the mastery of her art.
Gradually she improved until she was delighted to find she could render a long, exacting programme without the least fatigue, and with absolute breath control. And when she began again to sing for her intimate circle, she felt rewarded for her hard work on hearing their enthusiastic comments as to the progress she had
But even a finished technique did not satisfy the indomitable singer. She must gain musical appreciation and understanding. So she went to Toronto and for two years studied interpretation with Maestro Carboni, learning leading roles
in such grand operas as Aida, La Gioconda, La Tosca, Cavalleria Rusticana, -i La Juive, Faust and Norma. When the Toronto Operatic Society produced Aida , and La Juive in Massey Hall, Madame Fahey took the title roles. With her fine physique, dramatic temperament and beautiful voice she is well equipped to sing in grand opera. She was also soloist ‘ with the Elgar Choir and Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. New York has « heard her in recital at Aeolian Hall, also with the Canadian Club and on various other occasions.
SO FOR nine strenuous but happy years she worked at her art as faith’ fully as any student who goes to Italy with visions of eventually gaining world « fame. True, Madame Fahey reversed the usual process. The majority of talented girls study and achieve, then marry. But there are undoubted advantages in tae method she has pursued. Marrying when 0 very young, her two children, of absorbing interest to her, are now of companionable • age. While yet only in the middle thirties, she has advanced to a high place in her profession, and will go farther, for she is a thinker and a worker.
Every singer becomes associated with one particular song which the public never tires of hearing, as for instance Tosti’s • “Good Bye” at once recalls Madame Melba, while "Mother Machree” brings , to mind John McCormac. Madame Fahey’s public has chosen “Leave it with Him” for its favorite in her whole repertoire. A number of little stories cluster about this number which our Canadian singer has made so popular from West to ■ East. On the first occasion of her singing it in Vancouver, seventy-five copies of the . song were sold the next day by one music
In Victoria she first gave "Leave it with Him” at a church service. A lady present decided to attend a recital Madame Fahey was giving a few days later in the hope of hearing this number again. She was too shy to request the singer to render it, but, as she later explained, prayed earnestly it might be on the programme. However, Madame Fahey had no intention of singing it. It was a sacred number, and the concert would be a fashionable one. So when her husband suggested her including this song she responded "Hardly suitable, I think.” Next day her accompanist telephoned her and asked coaxingly, “I say, Win, dosing‘Leave it with Him.’” “But it’s a sacred piece,” declared Madame Fahey, wishing very much to sing it, hut doubting whether it would prove acceptable. “I know,” said her friend, “but if you sing those negro spirituals, why not this?”
Madame Fahey did sing it, and with pronounced success. Here is one result. The same week Mrs. Shaw, a sister of Madame Fahey, was in the store of a noted candy maker, buying some of his famous chocolates when she noticed rolls of paper piled neatly up on the counter. The proprietor chatted about his enjoyment of the concert, and particularly how much better he had felt for hearing “Leave it with Him,” so much so, indeed, that he had purchased a number of copies —here he indicated the rolls of paper on the counter—so that he could slip a copy into the hand of anyone who looked in need of the thoughts contained in that song. It may be explained that this candy maker is rich and able to indulge such little philanthropies.
The first copy of this song ever used by Madame Fahey is now at Sing Sing. She left it there for the prisoners because after she sang it for them, so many crowded around to tell her how much it had meant to them.
At the close of her farewell concert in Victoria, a very fashionable affair at which the Lieut.-Governor and party were present, a neatly-dressed workman pressed forward to speak to her. He said, “I just want to say your singing was great, and no matter how famous you get to be, you deserve it all, for you always speak to a man, even when he wears his work clothes.” This honest tribute came from a street cleaner employed in the neighborhood where the Faheys lived, with whom Madame Fahey always exchanged pleasant greetings as she went by.
. An Englishman, belonging to a family famous for its artistic talent and himself no mean amateur musician, remarked after hearing Madame Fahey in recital:
“She has all the qualities of a prima donna and should be heard abroad.” After a concert given in an Eastern city, a staid elderly citizen came up to the singer and exclaimed enthusiastically, “Say, Madame Fahey, I felt like throwing my arms around you, for your singing made us all love you;” A busy city doctor, on hearing her voice broadcast in his home, remarked to his wife: “It is like the voice of an angel, and that one song is worth the price of the radio.” And an inveterate concert-goer, who never misses hearing the world’s great singers when they come to Massey Hall, exclaimed, “I would just as soon hear Madame Lugrin Fahey as any singer in the world.”
The following remark was made to a resident of the Coast by a globe-trotter there—a man who has travelled all over the world, hiked with Kipling for months “on the road to Mandalay,” a relative of Melba, and a fair musician himself. In discussing singing he said: “I have heard all the best singers in the world, but I’m going to surprise you. The best singer that I ever heard in my life I heard right here in Vancouver, and that was Madame Fahey.”
No amount of success could ever turn Winifred Fahey’s level head, for she is so wholesome, so genuine, that she is spoilproof. Brought up as one of a large family, whose members made their own amusements, _ she is still quite girlishly enthusiastic in her enjoyment of simple pleasures. At the Lugrin’s summer camp at Esquimalt near Victoria, the combined artistic talent of the six sisters was used to produce little comedies. Not only did they write them, but they painted their own scenery, made their own costumes and filled all the dramatic roles, thereby extracting much fun and hilarity for themselves and their friends, who visited the camp in large parties.
Two stories of Winifred’s childhood are amusing. When she was a small girl, just beginning to attend Sunday School and seized with interest in religious matters, she was taken to see a new arrival in the family, a little son born to her eldest sister. Bending over the infant with an air of great solemnity as befitted an aunt, she remarked, “We’ll bring him up on the ten commandments, won’t we?” thereby showing a willingness to shoulder some of the responsibility. This disposition to take hold and help things along was manifested in an incident that happened when she was fifteen. Fire broke out in the Lugrin home, with smoke issuing from the roof. When the firemen arrived, Winifred, a big, strong girl for her age, rushed into the midst of them and to their amusement helped them to carry the hose up the stairs.
The death recently in New York of the Archduke, Johann Salvator, heir to the throne of Austria, recalls an interesting incident in Madame Fahey’s life. Before her father became editor of the Victoria Colonist, he was editor of the Seattle Times, and the Lugrins lived in an old, rambling house on Queen Anne Hill. Winifred Lugrin was in her early ’teens when the family removed to Victoria. A few years later, shortly after her marriage to Macdonald Fahey, she visited Seattle with one of her sisters and went to see the old home. They found its tenant was a Dr. Orlow, an elderly gentleman of distinguished appearance who, with two young nieces, led a quiet, retired life. When being conducted over the house, Winifred found he had established his study in her old room, and remarked, “I dreamed such dreams there, and cherished such ambitions and ideals, I feel they must somehow take shape and flower into something, for surely they cannot be lost entirely.” She did not revisit Seattle until two or three years later. This time Dr. Orlow showed her her old room filled to overflowing with beautiful paintings.
“These,” he said, with a courtly bend of his fine grey head, “these are the result of your dreams and thoughts in this room. As I never took a lesson or painted before,
1 must have been inspired by the atmosphere of the place. Now will you do me the honor of choosing one for yourself?” She did so, and treasures it to this day, not because she afterwards found that its donor was the Archduke Johann Salvator, but in memory of a most delightful, cultured and interesting personality. Dr. Orlow soon afterwards left for New York, where the merits of his pictures enabled him to sell them at good prices, which helped to retrieve his declining fortunes.
Six Talented Sisters
WINIFRED LUGRIN FAHEY is the fifth born of the six daughters oí the late Charles Lugrin, who for more ;han twenty years was the editor of the Victoria Colonist. Her birthplace was Fredericton, N.B. The Lugrin family is artistically gifted, each member excelling in some art. N. de Bertrand Lugrin (Mrs. A. de B. Shaw), an older sister, is a well-known writer whose stories have appeared in MacLean’s. Then there is a musician, an editor, a poet, an artist and a talented amateur actress and stage manager. Had the kind fates not seen fit to bless Winifred Lugrin with a voice, she would still have come to the fore by reason of her talent for painting and design. Her studio is hung with water color paintings from her own brush. But her voice she inherits from her mother, Mrs. Lugrin being in her younger days well-known in New Brunswick as a singer.
A friend once asked Madame Fahey what her sensations were when, after her long course of training, she first came out as a singer. Madame Fahey’s beautiful eyes looked reflective; in memory she was going back a few years. Then she said, “It was in Vancouver, a crowded church. Hundreds had been turned away, they told me. The choir entered, I among them, with a desire in my heart to be inconspicuous—to be a part of the service. But, oh, what an inspiring sight, with every corner of the big church filled. People were standing, sitting on the steps, crowding into the vestibules. It was wonderful.
“A feeling of satisfaction, almost of pride, filled me. To think that such a crowd had come to hear me sing! For it had been widely advertised that Winifred Lugrin Fahey, the young Canadian prima donna, was to sing that evening. Presently I experienced a totally different feeling, one of intense nervousness and fear. I realized that feeling so, I might forget the song I was to sing—that a dozen things might happen to mar the evening’s success. How to overcome this was the question.
“I began to analyze the situation during the prayer which preceded my first solo. Why had these people come to church? The real reason was that they were searching for good. Ah! Now I was free, if I could just make myself a channel for good and get away from the mere personal element. Realizing that I could do nothing of myself, that these people must receive the blessings they had come to get, that all good comes from God who is able to supply the poise and intelligence necessary to every performance, I lost all sense of nervousness and a great joy filled me as I lifted my voice to rejoice and praise Him who had delivered me from my fears. This experience proved a great blessing to me, starting out on a career where many subsequent occurrences of a crowded church were mine.”
Winifred Fahey loves to sing, as birds love to sing in Spring. Especially does she love to sing out on the rocks around Victoria. One July night she was enter-
taining a family circle with “An Open Secret” the refrain of which is “Rejoice, be glad, the Spring is here.” Her song was suddenly taken up by an approaching baritone voice, which proved to be that of her nephew. He told her that when he got on the street car one mile distant from the camp he heard her distinctly, even to the words. On another occasion, knowing that Alexander Sklarevski, the famous Russian pianist, was on a steamer putting out from the docks more than a mile distant, en route to the Orient, she sang “Hark, hark, the lark.” On concluding her song she could faintly hear clapping and cheering. Later came a letter from Sklarevski, dated from Manila, remarking on the wonderful carrying quality of her voice and how much he had enjoyed her song. The passengers had crowded to the side of the ship to hear it.
Speaking of broadcasting, Madame Fahey’s voice is peculiarly well adapted to the radio, its full rounded quality making it carry well. A few_ months ago, when singing in Convocation Hall with the University Glee Club, her songs were borne even across the Rockies and heard distinctly in a remote lighthouse on the northern end of Vancouver Island.
No singer before the public has a more stately and appealing presence than Winifred Fahey, her face noble in its spiritual beauty, her body regal in its lines and pose. Not a hint of self-consciousness or a trace of nervousness can be found in her, even when she faces a huge audience. But fearlessly and full of love to the world she sings from her heart, and somehow those dulcet tones bring the quick tears to her hearers’ eyes. Perhaps the reason for her appeal as a singer, apart from her beautiful voice and artistic way of using it, may be found in her ardent intensity of feeling.
“I feel within myself an intense love of humanity, a keen sympathy with its joys and sorrows, and also the world’s great need of happiness. This helps me to sing,” she declares.
While Madame Fahey from her home in Toronto goes hither and thither to sing— to Montreal, New York and many towns throughout Ontario, few women spend more time with husband and children than she. A most congenial quartette is the Fahey family, endowed with a lively sense of humor, Nora and Billy finding in their parents real pals and companions. Proof of this is seen in the fact that the children prefer to spend their Saturday holiday with their mother and father than with any school companions. To see them starting off on a hike or taking the slides at High Park is to realize they are all very young together. Yet notwithstanding the constant companionship of the four, there is none of that familiarity that produces disrespect or disobedience on the part of the children, who are noticeably well-mannered, and though quite at ease in meeting strangers, never forward in any way. Altogether no happier home could be found than that presided over by Madame Fahey, who thus shows that domestic life and maternity may not be incompatible with a career.