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Command performance

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TWENTY-FIVE years ago my life revolved around three youngsters, a small blue Ford Falcon, and a rather undefined job with a fledgling public relations firm in Milwaukee. The Falcon was frequently unre-liable and offered very little in the way of creature comforts. I mention it because it plays a role in this story.

My boss had accepted the challenge of managing the nascent Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. A minimal staff and limited resources made it necessary for me to wear many hats. One was a chauffeur's cap: Frequently I had to meet, greet, and escort the guest performers who came to town to appear with the symphony.

My little Ford was no sleek limo, but it was an improvement over its predecessor, an ancient Volkswagen ``Beetle.'' (On two occasions Arthur Fiedler had abandoned all pride, cautiously ducked his silver-crowned head, and ridden in it from hotel to concert hall without complaint.)

An evening arrived when my enviable assignment was to provide safe passage for the great baritone William Warfield. At zero hour my baby-sitter reneged. Promptness was imperative, so I bustled my three lively children into the back seat of the Falcon and set out to pick up the artist. I issued directives on good behavior en route, fortified with mild threats in the time-worn manner of mothers the world over.

Warfield was, at that time, known, loved, and admired throughout the world. A few years earlier he and soprano Leontyne Price, who was his wife, had appeared in the title roles in a State Department production of Gershwin's ``Porgy and Bess.'' The tour had taken them to 29 countries in Europe, Asia, and South America and was warmly received and critically acclaimed.


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