Saturday, November 17, 2007

Elsie Houston on the web

I'm surprised I haven't come across this site before: The Annotated Ends Her Life: Elsie Houston. The Brazilian-born singer was a famous interpreter of Villa's songs.

"I was listening in my car to a CD of recorded opera singers from the 1930s and 40s titled, A Record of Singing. A few tracks in, amid conventional soprano interpretations of notable opera pieces, a stunningly weird song--pounding rhythmic piano and a swooping, shrieking voice. "What the hell?" I thought. I noted the track number. Five minutes later the back window of my Subaru wagon shattered.

"When I got home I looked up the track in the CD booklet. It was a Villa Lobos song (14 Serestas No. 8: Cancão do Carreiro) recorded by Elsie Houston and Pablo Miguel (piano) in 1941."

This is a fascinating story, very well told. Above: one of Carl Van Vechten's famous photos of the singer.

Houston is featured in the 1940 Time article on Villa-Lobos Choros in Manhattan. And more in this blog post; it will take me a while to decipher the Portuguese. The surrealist connection is fascinating.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the cite (and your tireless work on behalf of the Villa-Lobos legacy). And thanks for the link to the EH post at Karipuna Waköpünska. There's a gem at the end of the post which shouldn't be overlooked: a link to the digital archives at Instituto Moreira Salles. Plug "Elsie Houston" into the search box and you'll find a number of tracks from her 78s.