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[Preface] [Orville's Worlds] [Family] [Young Orville ] [To New York] [To London, and back] [The Second Marriage, 1913 – 1917] [The Third Marriage, Rehabilitation] [The Met Years, Two careers 1920-1924] [Photogallery]
 
 Young Orville

John William Harrold married Emily Chalfant in 1872, owning a farm on Richmond Road in Cowan, Indiana, just south of Muncie. Orville was born in their brick farmhouse on November 17, 1877, which is the date in the family bible and the date that Orville used on official documents. (An incorrect year has seeped into numerous references.) He was their only surviving child, and there is no indication that he had a middle name or initial. Farming was tremendously hard physical work before engines came to farm equipment in the 20th century. At the least, Orville learned early of disciplined labor and long hours, becoming physically fit, which he valued throughout his life. According to a later interview with his father, both family sides were musical, Orville’s mother’s maternal family (the Jacksons) apparently having excellent voices1. Orville’s grandmother had been an able singer, and at age 65, his mother could hit a clear high C with an exceptional voice. Orville’s father was also a singer and church chorister in the village2, and Orville was present for family choir practices, his father claiming that by age three Orville had learned the hymns and could sing them at home. It was also claimed that by age five Orville sang songs for patrons in local stores3.

The family moved to Lyons, Kansas when Orville nine, the child’s first great adventure4. While a small random town, Kansas was booming during the late 1880’s, and Orville’s father managed a livery in Lyons, the connected being “a sort of distant relative” named Lee Stanford5. The family had relocated to larger Newton, Kansas by 1891 or 1892, when Orville was about thirteen, exposing him to new opportunities. A school music supervisor there was Mrs. Gaston Boyd, an English lady who had graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston6. Local lore claims that she passed by young Orville on the street as he was shooting marbles and singing taunts at his companions7. Taking the boy in hand (at least figuratively), she gave him singing lessons and encouraged him to participate in choral activities.

In 1893, Orville placed in a group of combined Kansas choruses that performed at the Chicago Columbian Exposition. More than just getting out of Newton, singing had earned a trip to a major city and a world fair, having a mile-long cultural bazaar called the Midway and Mr. Ferris’s huge new wheel-shaped ride. Orville gained special mention there from choral director, Professor Frederick Archer8, and was recruited to join the choir of Grace Church in Chicago (which his mother refused). This judge appears to have been Frederic Archer, founding conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1896, who is known to have played organ at the Columbian Exposition9. Archer was succeeded, after a few years at Pittsburgh, by a rising Victor Herbert.

Mrs. Boyd also encouraged Orville to participate in regional singing festivals, including the State Jubilee competition in nearby Hutchinson, Kansas. He finished prominently in one of these, receiving his first newspaper notice for his nascent talent. This was in May of 1894, after the economic crash of 1892, being his last year in Kansas. His voice was changing then, presenting a period of musical limbo (though by no means an absence of music), but his voice had earned him notice, and a glimpse of the larger world to be considered and sought.

At that time, Orville also sang with a Newton, Kansas group who fancied themselves as the Pumphouse Gang, as the father of one allowed them to use the basement of the town pumping station. They sang and played a variety of instruments, and others would occasionally drop in, such a fellow announcing one evening that they would soon hear news of him. The group later learned that their acquaintance was Emmett Dalton, youngest and only surviving of four Dalton brothers after their much publicized shootout while simultaneously robbing two banks in Coffeeville, Kansas, near the Oklahoma border. The Pumphouse Gang reportedly visited Emmett in jail at Coffeeville, moving from there down through Oklahoma and Texas, playing at barrooms and local spots, passing the proverbial hat10. The Coffeeville shootout occurred on October 5, 1892, when Orville was approaching age fifteen, raising the question of whether he really went with the group, or was simply around when the event occurred. But, Orville was a free-flying and unmotivated student who may have trekked off for a period. Another version of Orville’s wandering is that he ran away from Kansas in 1894, at age sixteen, for the family had lost everything there during the depression11. Whatever actually happened, the later Kansas period is when he reportedly played music with a group of wandering companions, sometimes traveling by railroad boxcar, and independently wound his way back to Indiana, where the family joined him within a short time12. Corroborating at least a fragment of the legend, Orville told a Hutchinson, KS audience in 1913 that he had once nearly broken his back hopping off a train in the local rail yard12.5.

Back in Cowan, Orville remained unsettled and unfocused during adolescence and early adulthood, although never far from music. He led something of a Bohemian lifestyle, with a roaming disposition, but was affable and well liked. He described another brief adventure after his return to Indiana, during which he played clarinet in a local country band. With the outbreak of the Spanish American War, the band traveled to nearby Indianapolis in order to enlist in the army as a group, and as a band, arriving complete with instruments13. This quite confounded the enlistment office, which concluded to house the band overnight in their stables, sleeping as best they could on straw and saddles. As many of the youth had never spent a night outside their beds, they reconsidered their quest and began slipping away under cover of darkness. The only three remaining by morning struck out for home, Orville having concluded that he would be dismissed in any event for being under enlistment age.

Orville worked at odd jobs in Cowan, and according to family lore, sometimes plucked chickens at the Neil Barefoot farm. A later article reiterated that he worked at poultry packing, and that he sang during this period in a Cowan barbershop group called the Chicken Pickers’ Quartette13.5.  Orville’s parents arranged for him to learn violin, which he later taught in Muncie14. He extolled the violin as excellent training for a singer, being a fretless instrument that forced the musician to constantly be attuned to pitch and strive to control it15. Once in Muncie, Orville was again singing in church choirs, his voice settling into a high tenor. His mother reportedly wanted him to be an evangelist, but he got no closer than the choir at the Jackson St. Christian Church. He did not graduate from high school, but worked at a variety of minor jobs, including the shipping department of the Ball Jar Company. He was also commuting by train to Indianapolis to play violin in an orchestra, but as his associates there were more impressed by his voice than his violin, he found himself becoming a popular singer in Indianapolis German social clubs16.

Orville worked for some time as a Muncie grocery clerk, which was something of stability for him, so that on October 22, 1898 he married Euphamia Evelyn “Effie” Kiger (1878-1963). She was a childhood friend from Cowan, and an energetic outgoing woman who had perfect pitch and played piano by ear. She was a hometown sort of girl who likely found an attractively exciting character in long-haired Orville. Orville taught violin, while Effie taught piano, and would play while Orville sang, for he was known as a natural voice who would sing on about any occasion, to the extent that his last wife scolded him for giving away his talent.

Various characters wandered through 19th century Indiana, spreading their messages and goods. Most famous was John Chapman, known simply as Johnny Appleseed. As rustic was a homegrown Indiana character named Ginseng Johnny, who, along with his brother, gathered wild roots and herbs that were sold for their healing powers. A more refined sort was Alexander Ernestinoff (1853-ca.1930), who spread music throughout central Indiana. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, he graduated from Conservatory of Music there. Having a fine voice, he was pursuing a music career in Berlin when several Americans recruited him to New York to lead a German opera company for a complete tour of the United States. Having met his wife in New York, he relocated again in 1876 to take charge of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, also leading there several German choruses. From this, he was engaged in 1881 to lead the Indianapolis Maennerchor, still extant as a fine men’s chorus. Ernestinoff spent the next forty years cultivating music and music education throughout the region, forming and directing the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, as well as numerous area choruses and local choral events. No isolated mid-westerner, Ernestinoff was known in American music circles, especially among German clubs, singing organizations (Lyra Society and Music Verein), and opera performers.

When he married, Orville was participating in Ernestinoff-led Muncie choruses, where Ernestinoff would certainly have recognized Orville’s talent. Orville’s passion was obvious when Effie had their first child, in 1899, naming the girl Adeline Patti Harrold (always known as Patti), after Italian operatic soprano, Adelina Patti, who rivaled Jenny Lind as one of the most famous 19th century singers. (Adeline is the daughter’s name in the family bible and on legal documents such as passports, and Orville used that spelling. She went briefly by Adelina when first working in New York.) A second girl was named Marjorie Modjeska Harrold, after the Polish-born dramatic actress, Helena Modjeska, and their son was Paul Dereske Harrold, after Polish-born Paris opera tenor Jean deReske. (Effie complained that she could not pronounce her own children’s names.) Sometime after the birth of Orville’s daughters, Ernestinoff took him for two days to Cincinnati for performances by the New York Metropolitan Opera of La Giaconda and Parsifal17, his first real experience with grand opera. By one account, not necessarily to be believed, he heard Caruso sing on that occasion, to which he responded, “I can do that17.5

The other two children followed in 1901 and 1903, along with a pit bull terrier named Moses (commonly known as “Mose”), shortly after which Orville was an officer, and Ernestinoff was director, of Muncie’s newly formed Apollo Club, a men’s chorus in which both Orville and his father participated. The Apollo Club practiced weekly, and gave occasional performances at the Wysor Grand Opera House, where Orville was groomed as a soloist. Ernestinoff was coaching Orville, but Orville was of a roving disposition and was resisting persuasions to settle down. On Monday, May 16, 1904, the club presented an afternoon recital, at which Orville sang the finale from the early Wagner opera Rienzi, and for which Ernestinoff had arranged for well-known Metropolitan Opera contralto, Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink, to perform. (She was still singing occasionally with the Met when Orville arrived there fifteen years later.)

After hearing Orville, Mme. Schumann-Heink proposed that he study in Germany for two years to complete his musical education, for which she would arrange employment in order that he could support his family there18. The event made news around town, sparking public speculation regarding what he would do. One newspaper later reported that Mme. Schumann-Heink occasionally made such offers, but that little really came of them19. Even if a genuine opportunity, it would have entailed a myriad of practical difficulties, for while probably hearing German language regularly, the family was unlikely to cope with sudden total immersion. More restrictive, Effie would not have considered such a trip, whatever Orville’s thoughts. She never wanted to leave Muncie, and never did. Orville stated years later that Mme. Schumann-Heink may as well have advised the postman to purchase a steam yacht20, and the offer was never acted upon. Orville might have had the itch in 1904, but Germany was too far, too complicated, too soon.

After beginning as a gospel singer and becoming popular entertainment at local clubs, Orville suddenly had elevated credibility and determined desire. Having been taking singing lessons with a Muncie vocal teacher named Harry E .Paris21, who had arrived from DePauw University in the 1890’s, Orville began training seriously with Ernestinoff in Indianapolis. Ernestinoff advised him to get in front of audiences at every opportunity22, and encouraged him to go to New York by any possible means, for any significant vocal career was going to happen outside of Indiana. No huge move was planned immediately, and Orville and Ernestinoff were pictured in the newspaper, together with Apollo Club officers, nearly a year after the Schumann-Heink encounter. Life went on while dreams gelled into plans. Orville worked during this period as shipping clerk for the Muncie Casket Company, known around town for singing while he delivered coffins. He was making $10 per (six-day) week, a reasonable income in that day23. (Henry Ford advertised paying $2 per day at his River Rouge plant, about a decade later, but few workers really received that much.)

Ernestinoff had an opera background and was influential in regional cultural affairs. Indianapolis hosted an immense German singing festival in 1908, with Ernestinoff as choral director, and attended by Mme. Schumann-Heink among other German opera performers. While it is presumptuous to suggest that he had arranged the 1904 Muncie engagement solely to connect Mme. Schumann-Heink with his top pupil, he likely made an effort to bring them together. He may well have sought a higher opinion of Orville’s talent, as well as an impetus to get Orville focused on his potential future. Ernestinoff later arranged for Orville a concert, with orchestral accompaniment, at Indianapolis’s German House auditorium, in which an aria from Gounod’s Queen of Sheba carried him progressively from high A to high B to high C. The audience responded uproariously, and Ernestinoff declared that Orville could reach high D with equal ease24. It was probably through Ernestinoff that Franz Van der Stucken, chorister and director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, provided Orville a letter of introduction to Madame Cosina Wagner (widow of the German opera composer) at Bayreuth25.

The Muncie meeting between Orville and greatness also attracted a business manager and patron. Doctor James M. Quick, local physician and Treasurer of the Apollo Club, financed Orville’s singing lessons and organized concert engagements through Indiana and Ohio during 1905 and 1906. Orville reportedly overshadowed a polished Chicago tenor named George Hamlin at a meeting of the Indiana State Teachers’ Association26. (Hamlin was a touring concert tenor whom Orville would meet again in New York during WWI.) The arrangement with Dr. Quick was a business contract, in which the doctor would help support Orville and send him to New York to become an income-producing singer, after which Orville would split his first five-years of proceeds27. A winter concert tour netted $35 (3 week’s pay), funding a trip to New York City, and perhaps costing Orville his job28. The arrangement with Dr. Quick indicates that a major decision had been made regarding Orville’s future. Orville and Effie must have discussed how any such future might play out, and events brought the momentous departure in early 1906, when Orville was twenty-nine.

As a brief aside, the above mentioned George J. Hamlin was another interesting regional tenor. Born in Elgin, Illinois, he was the son of John A. Hamlin, who with brother, Lysander, made and sold Hamlin’s Wizard Oil. This was a liniment for rheumatic pain, which they distributed through traveling minstrel shows. They managed classic “snake oil” medicine shows in horse drawn wagons, in this case producing musical events and distributing songs and sheet music. Several noted Indiana troubadours, James Whitcomb Riley and Paul Dresser, had gotten starts in Hamlin traveling shows. This rough sounding business was sufficiently productive that young George was educated at Andover Academy (now Philips Andover), and trained with George Henschel (English baritone, pianist, and first conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) likely either in England or at the Institute of Musical Art (now Juilliard). Around the turn of the century George Hamlin toured Europe for several years, a bit before meeting Orville. Hamlin later sang with the Chicago Opera Company before migrating to New York during the teen years.

Effie and Orville were both children of Cowan, Indiana farms, but Orville reveled in singing, socializing, and large adventures. While Music may have helped unite them, it was now prying them apart. Orville had been born with a gift, which he readily enjoyed, but he also enjoyed being freewheeling and unconstrained. His voice repeatedly attracted attention, establishing his image within the community. Once it attracted the attention of the outside world, it became part of the community identity, and grew to define Orville. Singing had coaxed him to Hutchison (KS), Chicago, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, tempted him with Germany, and would send him to New York. No matter how musical and in love he and Effie were, Orville had been leaving by degrees for a decade, preparing for the day when he would really depart. He was finally off to New York to test his talent and grit, returning only when he failed, if even then. Effie loved Orville enough to let him go, undoubtedly suspecting that she would never follow, and that if Orville succeeded he might never return.

1. What Do You Know About Orville Harrold?, Muncie Evening Press, May 7, 1921

2. Hoosier Tenor, The Indianapolis Sunday Star Magazine Section, December 10, 1911, pg. 1

3. What Do You Know About Orville Harrold?, Muncie Evening Press, May 7, 1921

4. ibid.

5. From Hutchinson Jubilee to Grand Opera in Paris, The Hutchinson News, December 13, 1910, pg. 10

6. Obit, New York Herald Tribune, October, 24, 1933

7. Picked From the Street, The Hutchinson News, February 17, 1912, pg. 12

8. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold (Etude Magazine, New York, July, 1922) pg. 443

9. Musical Instruments at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Frank D. Abbott & Charles A. Daniell (The Presto Co, Chicago, IL, 1895) pg. 137

10. Obit, New York Herald Tribune, October, 24, 1933

11. Hoosier Tenor, The Indianapolis Sunday Star Magazine, December 10, 1911, pg. 1

12. ibid.

12.5. Orville Harrold, World’s Greatest Tenor, First Sang Here, un-attributed news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, concerning appearance in Hutchinson, Kansas

13. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold, pg. 443

13.5 Orville Harrold Worked And Sang His Way To Fame, un-attributed news clipping in Patti Harrold’s scrapbook, concerning appearances in Chicago and Lafayette, Indiana

14. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold, pg. 443

15. ibid.

16. Harrold Still Subject, The Indianapolis Star Sunday, February 6. 1910, pg. 10

17. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold, pg. 443

17.5 Orville Harrold’s Career Reviewed, Indiannapolis Sunday Star, November, 26, 1911

18. Young Muncie Tenor Honored by Prima Donna, Muncie Morning Star, May 19, 1904

19. Muncie Sunday Star, November xx, 1911, from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold

20. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold (Etude Magazine, New York, July, 1923) pg. 443

21. Orville Harrold Wins Audience, Indianapolis Star, February 14, 1913

22. The Stage in the Twentieth Century, Volume 3, Robert Grau (Broadway Publishing Co., New York, 1912) pg. 282

23. From Plow-Boy to Parsifal, Orville Harrold, pg. 443

24. The Recital, The Lima (Ohio) Daily News, May 5, 1905, pg. 2

25. ibid.

26. Orville Harrold’s Career Reviewed, Muncie Sunday Star, November 26, 1911, from the scrapbook of Effie Kiger Harrold

27. Hoosier Tenor, The Indianapolis Sunday Star Magazine, December 10, 1911, pg. 1

28. Obit, New York Herald Tribune, October, 24, 1933




Next ...
[Preface] [Orville's Worlds] [Family] [Young Orville ] [To New York] [To London, and back] [The Second Marriage, 1913 – 1917] [The Third Marriage, Rehabilitation] [The Met Years, Two careers 1920-1924] [Photogallery]


 


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