The Contralto Arrives: Look, Watch, Listen

Posted by Penny in Uncategorized

Dame Clara Butt (1872-1936) was an English contralto with a successful recital career on both sides of the Atlantic. Her physique (she was 6 feet 2 inches tall) and her technique gave her a booming voice that could be mistaken for a man’s in some recordings. She married a baritone, Kennerly Rumford, in 1900. The couple performed together in concerts. They also had three children, Joy, Roy, and Victor.

Dame Clara arrived in New York City with her children in the 1910s and was greeted by news cameras (as were many famous arrivals at the port). Here’s the Bain News Service photograph of the occasion:

Bain News Service, publisher
Clara Butt and children, ca. 1910 to 1915
Library of Congress: ggbain 16086

Okay, family photo, not great art; one of the kids is grimacing, as kids will do. But here’s the cool part: British Pathé film cameras were also present at the occasion. Here’s video of the newsreel they made, showing nearly the same moment. If you ever wished you could see some of the Flickr Commons historical images “in action,” this is a case where you can.

And as long as you’re looking at and watching Dame Clara Butt, here’s audio, in case you want to hear her, too.

3 Responses to “The Contralto Arrives: Look, Watch, Listen”

  1. Tweets that mention indicommons» Blog Archive » The Contralto Arrives: Look, Watch, Listen -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Indicommons, Penny Richards. Penny Richards said: Latest by me, @indicommons: The Contralto Arrives: http://www.indicommons.org/2011/02/21/the-contralto-arrives-look-watch-listen/ [...]

  2. Penny Says:

    SLIGHT amendment! In comments at the photo, swanq points out that they’re probably photographed leaving for London, not arriving in New York City. The video’s caption confirms that the family is getting on a ship, not leaving a ship. So, consider this retitled, The Contralto Departs!

  3. Penny Says:

    And one more amendment. Arden from the LOC says in comments at the photo that the images may actually be from opposite ends of the same trip: the Pathé film shot in England, the Bain photo in New York. That makes a lot of sense. I’ve also noticed since writing this post that, while most of the traveling clothes are identical, Joy is wearing a heavier, darker coat in the Bain photo than she seems to be wearing in the film clip. (It’s like those old children’s magazine games, “what’s different between these two pictures?”)

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