Last week I was invited to be one of the guest speakers for the Nelson Eddy Appreciation Society because of my love of operetta. What ties this into AVA is that this lovely group gives an annual scholarship to a resident artist baritone to help with his career.
I became involved with them during the summer of 2005 when my group, Concert Operetta Theater produced a concert called "The Music of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy", featuring four AVA singers. It just happens that I had that year’s winner, Markus Beam, and the next year’s winner, Eric T. Dubin in the same concert. Also featured in the concert were sopranos Evelyn Pollock and Ariya Sawadivong.
When I got a call from the Society, they asked if Eric would come to their annual retreat, which is held near Erie, PA and sing for them. I did one better, and sent both soprano Ariya Sawadivong and Eric to sing selections from the 2005 concert.
By nature a small group, they did have members from South Africa, Australia, the UK and over 15 states represented. Local writer Steve Cohen joined us as a guest speaker discussing the interview he did with Nelson Eddy just before his death, and a video of composers Wright and Forrest (of Kismet fame) discussing their affection for Nelson.
Both Ariya and Eric “blew them away,” as we say with their concert, ending with a sing-a-long to “When I grow too old to dream”. I know that it was a highlight of the group’s weeklong stay.
I am happy to say that the Nelson Eddy Appreciation Society will be offering another deserving baritone from AVA the scholarship this year. President Diane Flaherty, and scholarship director Gloria Pollock, has chosen the baritone, and I’ll release the name in a future blog.