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March 20, 1955 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1955-03-20

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Virtuoso Pursues Life-Long Interest

Johannesen Schedules
Concerto Performance

Soprano Noted for Numerous Roles

Jeanne Mitchell, young Ameri-
can violinist to perform here dur-
ing the May Festival, has been
greeted by critical acclaim wher-
ever she has performed.
Still in her 20's, Miss Mitchell is
currently on her fifth cross-coun-
try tour.
At the time of her Town Hall
debut, in December, 1947, New
York critics unqualifiedly predict-
ed her future success. A music crit-
ic said that "the qualities that dis-
tinguished Miss Mitchell's playing
are those that distinguish the
-artist from the technician."
She has been soloist three times
with the New York Philharmonic-
Symphony Orchestra in Lewisohn
Stadium. Last season she was solo-
ist during the regular winter sea-
Parents Enjoy Music
Miss Mitchell has been interested
in music all her life. Her parents,
both of whom enjoy music, put
radio earphones on their daughter
when she was a year old.
"It was music," she said, "and
I can't swear that I remember it.
But they say that my mouth drop-
ped wide open and I was lost to
the world, listening."
When she was two, she started
picking out tunes on the piano.
'"It seems as though I was always
taking piano lessons, but begging
to play the violin," she relates.
Her formal violin study began at
the age of eight after her family
had moved to New York from Wil-
mington, N.C., where she was born.
She started work with Chester La-
Follette and has had no other
Four years later, Miss Mitchell
made what she calls her first pro-
fessional appearance. She was solo-
ist at a Masonic meeting in Floral
Park, N.Y. and received an um-
brella for her performance.
When she made her New York
debut, she was already graduated
from Columbia University's Bar-
nard College where she had stud-
ied under the Joline music schol-
College Education
Miss Mitchell would not permit
her interest in music to interfere
with her general education. She
feels that a college education is
important for the development of
personality and that the extent of
the development in personality is
readily apparent in the degree of
artistry at a musician's command.
It is her artistry that prevents
her from suffering from stage
fright. "I stave off stage fright by
caring for the music as I play it,
by believing with all my heart that
what is best in me will come out,
and by not thinking of myself.
"I listen for the beauty in the
music. That way," she explains,
"without sacrificing musical in-

C4>- 1

Grant Johannesen,

who will

play Prokofieff's Second Piano'
Concerto during the May Festival,
has won audiences on three con-
tinents, through concerts, record-
ings and radio appearances.
The American-born virtuoso has
climbed to the top of his profes-
sion since his New York debut in
1944. Famous orchestras all over
the world, including the Paris
Conservatoire, Lamoreux, New
York and Boston Symphones, have
engaged and re-engaged him.
Many Recordings
His recordings include works
by Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart,
Poulenc, Faure and Grieg. Asked
which composition or composer he
prefers, Johannesen said "the
piece I am playing at the time."
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, a
second generation from Norway,
Johannesen began to imitate the
piano teacher around the corner
before he was five.
His talent was so apparent that
his parents engaged Mabel Borg
Jenkins to teach him. At eight he
was composing musical scores and
putting on theatrical entertain-
Makes New York Debut
Since his New York debut, he

continues to perform there annual-
ly in solo recial and with symphony
orchestras. A New York music crit-
ic wrote, "An unusually satisfying
experience. Seldom does one hear
solo playing so clean, so elegant,
so thoroughly competent and at
the same time so completely in-
formed with all the qualities that
are called musical."
In 1949, after being the first
American to win first prize at the
Belgian International Piano Fes-
tival, Johannesen toured Europe,
appearing in Paris, Brussels, Ber-
lin, The Hague and Amsterdam. He
was also soloist in the opening con-
cert of the International Aix-en-
Provence Festival.
Summer Recitals
During the summer season, Jo-
hannesen is heard at popular sta-
dium concerts. Included on his
summer tours are the Hollywood
Bowl, Grant Park in Chicago and
the Chataqua concerts.
When the few vacation weeks
come along, he repairs to the
Rocky Mountains, where he likes
to go hiking.
He also enjoys skiing, but, as he
says, "A career at the piano rules
out the more exciting possibilities
of Slalom and Christie."

Nell Rankin, Metropolitan Op-
era star, will appear in Beethov-
en's "Missa Solemnis" during the
second May Festival Concert,
May 6.
Only 26 years old, Miss Rankin,
a mezzo-soprano has achieved in-
ternational success by being the
first American to win the Inter-
national "Concours de Musique"
in Geneva.
As winner of the Geneva con-
test, she sang 24 guest perform-
ances with the Basel State Opera.
She then appeared with the Vien-
na State Opera and at La Scala
in Milan where she sang a lead-
ing role in the Verdi "Requiem."
The performance marked the 50th
anniversary of Verdi's death.
Metropolitan Debut
Following her successes in Eur-
ope, Miss Rankin returned to the
United States for her debut with
the Metropolitan Opera Company,
Nov. 25, 1951 as Amneris in
Subsequent performances with
the Cincinnati May Festival and
in New York and Canada estab-
lished her as one of the most gift-
ed young singers on the American
concert stage.
Miss Rankin is accredited with

making a dead city come alive.
The ancient Roman city of Sa-
bratha in North Africa had been
lying dormant for centuries.
The Prime Minister of Libya
invited Miss Rankin to sing in
the 2,000 year old Roman theatre
which marks the site of the an-
cient town. The invitation was a
signal honor, since the theatre is
a monument used only on historic
The concert was attended by an
international audience of 3,000.
The Libyan Prime Minister flew
from Cyrenaica for the occasion.
The entire Arabic Parliament, as
well as Arab chieftains from the
Near East attended.
Turning Point
Miss Rankin's performance was
a turning point in the city's his-
tory. At the concert's conclusion,
she contributed the $5.500 proceeds
to the Libyan Government with
the suggestion that the money be
used to construct an Arab village,
now in the process of completion.
A corner stone on one of the
buildings will bear Miss Rankin's
Prefacing her American debut
with years of intensive study and

performances abroad, Miss Ran-
kin feels that the big advantage
of European operatic experience
is the heavy emphasis on rehear-
As an example, her debut role
as Otrud in "Lohengrin" with the
Zurich Opera, was prefaced by 40
rehearsals. Despite this exhaust-
ing schedule, while in Zurich she
gave 126 operatic performances in
13 leading roles and found time to
appear onthe concert stage.
Today, Miss Rankin is the
youngest American singer ever to
have appeared with the world's
three greatest opera companies-
Vienna State, La Scala and Met-
Local Appearance
Her local appearance is part of
a concert tour which will take
her to 15 states and to Canada.
The tour willtinclude an engage-
ment, as soloist with the Pitts-
burgh Symphony for the First In-
ternational Festival of Contem-
porary Music. During the Festival,
Miss Rankin will introduce four
sonnets by the Swiss composer,
Frank Martin, and will sing
Vaughan Williams' "Tudor Por-


Society Head Describes Local Concert History



tegrity, playing cannot be cold, but
She admits she becomes exhil-
arated and on edge, but, she says,
"when I am well prepared, I can
turn it into musical excitement
and a kind of projection."
Her musical excitement was ap-
parent when she played Prokof-
fief's "Second Violin Concerto" in
1950 with the New York Philhar-
monic-Symphony Orchestra at
Lewisohn Stadium.
After her performance, even the
members of the orchestra cheered
her. Miss Mitchell says that it was
the greatest thrill in her musical
A New York critic described it,
"when the Philharmonic Sym-
phony fiddlers yell 'bravo' after a
solo violinist's playing, the rendi-
tion has met its severest test with
unqualified success."
Violin Study
Miss Mitchell, who is unmarried,
lives in New York and continues
her violin study with LaFollette.
Besides music, she is interested in
carving and modeling, but, she ex-
plains, not on any magnificent
She enjoys piano playing ,square
dancing, swimming and modern
dancing. She appreciates the live
theatre-"almost any play," the
D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's
Gilbert and Sullivan, and music in
all forms.

Of her own career, Miss Mitchell
has the long range view. Despite
critical assurances that "she has
arrived," she feels that her success
is something that will have to be
"The American public does not
have a chance to cultivate taste in
good music," Miss Mitchell com-
"'How can the whole public have
a cultivated taste in music when
they hear so little of the best.
There are very few radio stations
in the country that play classical
No Chance
Therefore, people do not have
a chance to get their ears attuned
and have their hearts opened to
good music."
"How hard the juke boxes work,"
she says. "If forces for good music
worked as practically and as in-
cessantly for only a quarter of the
time, the public's musical taste
could be bettered."
Practicing was a problem, for
she lived with her family in a
small city apartment. She solved
the problem by renting a separate
room in a building near home.
During the summer, she lives in
a renovated barn in the country.
Her only audience is the cows and
two horses in the pasture sur-
rounding the building.
"They seem completely stupefied
by my playing," she said.

"Henry Simmons Frieze .*
was the 'sparkplug' of Ann Arbor's
musical life."
Describing "A Century of Music
in Ann Arbor" in a recent issue of
the Michigan Alumnus' Quarterly
Review, Charles A. Sink, president
of the University Musical Society,
traces the developments of music
study, appreciation and concerts
in Ann Arbor.
When Prof. Frieze came to the
University in 1854, he was brought
as head of the Department of Lat-
in Language and Literature. "He
was also an accomplished amateur
musician and at different times
he served as choir director or or-
ganist in several of the churches."
He often induced musicians
from the East and elsewhere to
stop off at Ann Arbor for some
sort of musical performance in
connection with his church acti-
open Music School
Prof. Frieze and Calvin Cady,
who had arrived in Ann Arbor in
the early 1880's, joined with sev-
eral other musicians and opened
the "Ann Arbor School of Music."
Prof. Frieze suggested that both
the Choral Union and the School
of Music become divisions of the
University Musical Society which
had organized about the same
time. The purpose would be to as-


sociate the music of the Univer-
sity with that of the community.
Shortly thereafter, the Univer-
sity decided to offer courses in
theoretical music in the College of
Literature, Science and the Arts,
and Cady was invited to accept
an instructorship.
Thus, he became musical direc-
tor of the University Musical So-
ciety, conductor of the Choral
Union, director of the School of
Music and a music instructor in
the University.
In 1888 Cady resigned and was
succeeded by Albert A. Stanley,
organist of Grace Church, Provi-
dence, R.I. Upon recommendation
of University president James B.
Angell, the name of the Ann Arbor
School of Music was changed to
the University School of Music.
Boston Symphony
More important concerts were
given, the Choral Union expand-
ed its repertoire and as a closing
event in- the concert series, from
1890-93, the Boston Symphony
Orchestra was heard in old Uni-
versity Hall.
In May, 1894, the Musical So-
ciety engaged the Boston Festival
Orchestra, conducted by Emil
Mollenhauer, to come to Ann Ar-
bor for three concerts, "and theyj
boldly announced it as the 'First
Annual May Festival. Thus they

inaugurated a tradition even be-
fore the first event had taken
The next year, the number of
concerts was increased to four,
later five,{ and still later to six-
the number which has been the
rule for the last three or four
For the first 11 years, Emil Mol-
lenhauer continued to bring the
Boston Festival Orchestra to Ann
Arbor, but in 1905 the group dis-
banded and the Chicago Sympho-
ny Orchestra, with Frederick
Stock as conductor, was engaged
It continued to visit Ann Ar-
bor for the Festival for the next
31 years, through 1955. At that
time the Philadelphia Orchestra
took its place. Leopold Stokowski
conducted the concerts the first
year, but since then the orchestra
has been under the musical direc-
tion of Eugene Ormandy.
In the meantime, the University
Choral Union has increased its
membership to more than 300, an-
nual performances of Handel's
"Messiah" have been performed
and 15 years ago the Musical So-
ciety developed an annual Cham-
ber Music Festival. These concerts
take place each year in February
in the Rackham Lecture Hall.

For the past decade an Extra
Series of five concerts, supple-
menting the Choral Union Series
has been scheduled.
From this brief resume of the
history of the University Musical
Society, Sink tells of some inter-
esting people he has met during
his association with the Society.
"Prof. Stanley used to tell a
story about Ernestine Schumann-
Heink. On one occasion when she
sang in University Hall, she was
chatting with Prof. Stanley as to
how she would get on stage.
"He pointed to some steps which
led to a panelled door opening on
the stage. She looked at the door,
then at Prof. Stanley, then again
at the door.
"She said to Prof. Stanley,
'How do I get through the door?'
He humorously replied that she
would probably have to go through
sideways. The great artist smiled
and said-'Mein Gott, I have no
sideways!' She did manage to get
through the door."
Cellist's Marriage
On another occasion, Gregor Pi-
atagorsky the noted cellist, ar-
ranged to be married at Sink's
home, and asked to keep the cere-
mony secret until the bride could
notify her family in Paris.
A few days later some reporter

found out about huge transatlan-
tic telephone bills between the
Michigan Union and Paris. "Fol-
lowing his clue, he dug up infor-
mation about the ceremony at the
county clerk's office, an then we
were obliged to admit all. Every-
thing came out happily, because
sufficient time had elapsed for the
bride to inform her family."
Sink has been associated with
the University Musical Society for
the past 50 years and its president
since 1927. He was graduated from
the University in 1904 and holds
two honorary degrees from Michi-
gan State Normal College and Bat-
tle Creek College.
For several terms between 1919
and 1930, he was a member of the
House of Representatives and of
the Senate of the State. He has
also served on the Ann Arbor City
Council and Board of Education
and has been appointed to numer-
ous commissions.
May Festival Supplement
written and edited by David
Kaplan, '56, Daily Music Editor
and Kathy Severance, '55, As-
sistant Daily Music Editor.


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ne Ormandy
etor and Conductor of
lelphia Orchestra

Lester McCoy
Conductor of
University Choral Union

r Johnson
t Conductor of
elphia Orchestra



Conductor of
Festival Youth Chorus






Al :~'.

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