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- Owen Brannigan - Janet Howe -
- Astra Desmond - Eva Turner -


   LINKS to other pages in this site and to other sites in the Travelling Days series:

Autographs Home Page:      Bedford 1939 onwards:      BBC in Bedford:
BBC Symphony Orchestra Personalities:      Bedford Miscellany:       Bedford School (1940s):
Composers:      Conductors:       David Gentleman:      Glenn Miller:       Instrumentalists:
Personalities of the 1940s:       Pianists:       The RAEC in Cornwall:       Religion and Drama:
Singers Part 2:       BBC in Cornwall 1949:      Colin Day's List-O-Links:
America West Home Page:      Guest Book:

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OWEN BRANNIGAN, who became a much admired bass-baritone singer, was born in Northumberland, England in 1908 “A chance event launched him into the world of opera. He was working as the foreman on a building site in Hampshire, south east England, when he took the morning off work to sing three short songs for BBC radio in London. On returning to the building site the same afternoon, he received a phone call inviting him to become the principal bass with Sadler's Wells Opera Company, London, solely on the evidence of those three songs. Few operatic careers can have started in such a fairy-story way.” (BBC radio interview with Richard Baker in 1972).

    Brannigan had a particular interest in North Country folk songs, and his recordings of these songs, particularly the Tyneside song, “Blaydon Races”, together with those made by his contemporary, Kathleen Ferrier, who hailed from nearby Cumberland, became very popular during the 1950s onwards. Starting in the 1930s he sang in oratorio, opera and operetta, including Gilbert and Sullivan, and performed frequently on radio. brannigan.jpg - 33485 BytesHis recordings are still much sought after. He became closely associated with the music of composer Benjamin Britten.

    Brannigan made his Glyndebourne début in 1946 (as Collatinus in Britten’s, The Rape of Lucretia), and his Covent Garden début was in 1948. He received the Order of the British Empire in 1964. He died in 1973.

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ASTRA DESMOND AND JANET HOWE were prominent singers in the 1930s and 1940s.
    Both were associated with opera, operetta, oratorio and were well known recitalists and broadcasters. Recordings of opera, oratorio and the works of Gilbert and Sullivan in which both singers made a significant contribution are still available.

    Astra Desmond became a Professor of Singing and wrote several books on the subject. Her fame was also perpetuated in a climbing rose named after her.
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EVA TURNER was born in Oldham, England on 10 March 1892. She was the product of a very musical family and her parents introduced her to music at an early age, including taking her to performances of the Carl Rosa Opera Company when it visited the North of England. Eva took up singing seriously at the age of eleven and in 1911 started studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London where she was described as 'the most talented member of her class'. In 1916 she joined the chorus of the Carl Rosa company. The talent of the young singer soon began to show and be appreciated.

    While with the Carl Rosa company Eva Turner was offered major parts in ‘Tannhauser’, ‘Il Trovatore’, ‘Madama Butterfly’, ‘Tosca’ and ‘Fidelio’. On 25 November 1920 she made her Covent Garden debut as Santuzza. In 1924 she was offered a contract to sing with the La Scala Company and she made her debut at La Scala, Milan in Wagner’s 'Das Rheingold' on 16 November of that year. She then toured in Germany and Austria, returning to London in late 1925 to study the Italian repertoire. Although she sang her first ‘Turandot’ at the Teatro Grande in Brescia in December 1926 (only 7 months after its première with Rosa Raisa) her return to Italy did not meet with the success she had hoped for. In 1928 she came back to London where she appeared in ‘Turandot’ on 5th June and received a standing ovation for her performance. Soon after this she was offered a contract with the Chicago Civic Opera which she quickly accepted saying, "Italy can wait. I've waited for Italy long enough!"

    On 3 November 1928 Turner made her debut with the Chicago company. She was received enthusiastically by a capacity audience. A critic wrote, "(Eva Turner is) the greatest singer known to Chicago. Pure singing is the basis of her claim to great distinction.” She was invited to return the following year and appeared meanwhile at La Scala in late March for a single performance of ‘Turandot’. Over the following years she was in much demand and gave performances thoughout the world not only in opera but also in other singing roles.TurnerTurandot.jpg - 34870 Bytes In October 1938, for instance she sang in Vaughan Williams' ‘Serenade to Music’. In May 1939, Turner sang two performances of ‘Turandot’ at Covent Garden and on 5 June she sang her farewell to the Covent Garden company in a performance of ‘Aida’. In November, again with a performance of ‘Turandot’ she sang her farewell to at Bologna.

    She spent the WWII years in London where she often appeared as soloist at services for the Royal Air Force and at other charity events. On 3 July 1944, her flat was bombed and a most of her memorabilia was destroyed, ‘a loss that she bore with her usual stoic restraint and optimism’. Her opera singing in Britain continued for several more years and included tours of ‘Turandot’ (sung in English).

    In 1949 Turner was offered the position of Visiting Professor of Voice at the University of Oklahoma - the visit lasting a full nine years. After her return to London in 1959 she was appointed Professor of Singing at the Royal Academy, a position she held until well into her eighties. She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1962.

    Eva Turner died on 16 June 1990.


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