I remember vividly that bright sunny California morning that my friend Martha Rosacker drove me to the home of Allen Lindquest for the very first time. It was June of 1979, and I had traveled to Santa Barbara from New York City to study with Lindquest at Ms. Rosacker’s encouragement. We had a long conservation one evening after I had moved to New York, and she insisted that he was “the last of the living Old Master teachers!” My study with him would prove that she was absolutely correct in her evaluation of this true master teaching ability. I can only describe the following weeks as life altering, an experience that not only began the healing process of my voice, but also developed my understanding of vocal technique.
|To say his humanity was exceptional would be a gross
understatement. I shall never forget the manner in which the 90-year-old
Lindquest greeted me at the door of his studio. He struggled to his feet,
walked across the room using his cane to steady himself, placed his hand
in mine and said, “David, what a privilege to meet you!” Those words
took my breath away that day and I never forgot that special feeling
of being totally acknowledged and welcomed. His kindness, psychological
intelligence, and vast knowledge of Old World vocal training could only
be described as overwhelming.
After about a week of lessons, Lindquest spent time reminiscing about the details of his fascinating life. I sat mesmerized as he shared historical information that was so greatly significant to the world of singing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In his description of his singing career, he described it as being “disturbed by the two World Wars”. As Lindquest spoke, I remember I felt so grateful to be sitting in the room with a man who had studied with Joseph Hislop, who coached Jussi Bjoerling on his high range, a man who befriended Jussi Bjoerling himself, studied with Mme. Haldis Ingebjard (teacher of Kirsten Flagstad after the death of Dr. Gillis Bratt), met and studied with Maestro Enrico Rosati, teacher of Benamino Gigli, had coached the young Birgit Nilsson in 1938, met Kirsten Flagstad, and had spent decades teaching many Old World vocal principles of the Italian and Swedish-Italian Schools. These singing lessons and the experience of meeting Lindquest offered me a view into the past and an opportunity to develop a more successful future. To describe my response to him would be difficult. I had never met a master teacher who was such a humanitarian as well. I felt an immediate and strong connection to him, as though we had known each other for many years. Because I was a lyric baritone who had been trained as a tenor, I came to him with a failing voice. Within a short time he taught me more than I had learned in years and years of vocal study. Based on vocal exercises of the Swedish-Italian School of singing, my study focused on regaining lost vocal function, mainly achieving a healthy adduction of my vocal folds and balance of the sub-glottic breath pressure. My vocal folds had been so over-blown, that they were slightly bowed and would not come together healthily. Even within the first few hours, he helped me to regain much of my vocal health. It inspired me to study a recording of a lesson every day for 18 years and every time I listened I heard something new.
In discussing his life, Lindquest referred to world events as shifting dramatically in early 1914, a time of industrial productivity, changing governments, new inventions, and of course World War I as looming. Living in a more isolated reality that embraced the creative and artistic world of singing and performing, his environment was quite insular. Because of the invention of audio recording, music had become more available to the general public. This was not only through the invention of Thomas Edison’s recording machine, but also through the development of other recording companies such as the Victor Company. These two major recording companies had a staggering effect on the careers of such singing artists as Nellie Melba, celebrated for her beautiful soprano voice, and Enrico Caruso, the internationally renowned tenor who came onto the scene after Jean De Reszke. De Reszke, became internationally famous as an interpreter of more dramatic operatic roles the generation before Caruso. Due to the development of the recording industry, both Melba and Caruso became globally famous, traveling extensively and performing in opera houses and concert halls around the world. This was a phenomenon that would not have been possible 10 years earlier.
Lindquest’s Early Life
American tenor Allen Lindquest was born in Chicago in September of 1891. His parents were Swedish immigrants. In fact, the spelling of Lindquest’s name was considered rather unusual, because when his parents come through Ellis Island in the 1880’s, their name was misspelled as L-I-N-D-Q-U-E-S-T; a spelling which would never have been used in Sweden. Neither of his parents were musicians, but his Mother loved singing. She made a personal commitment to offer her child music lessons, resulting in Allen Lindquest’s study of the violin at an early age. Growing up in a musical environment allowed Lindquest the opportunity to study singing, beginning at the young age of 15. It was indeed fortunate that his first two teachers were trained in the Italian tradition. His first teacher was a Russian Bass named Barron, a student of Garcia II in London, and his second teacher was an American tenor named William Clare Hall, student of Jean de Reszke. Lindquest’s special vocal talent drew a lot of attention to the young tenor and after having been heard in a small concert production of “The Rose Garden”, he was hired at a large synagogue in Chicago making approximately $70 per month. The resulting chain of events earned Lindquest a great deal of attention from his singing and performing talent. Because of the solid technical foundation offered him by his first two teachers, Lindqest dedicated himself almost exclusively to Italian-based concepts. His voice grew into balance quickly and healthily, which was the main factor responsible for his early career.
At the age of 19, Lindquest’s talent was discovered by the well-known Italian tenor Allesandro Bonci. The year was 1910, and Lindquest was attending Northwestern University at the encouragement of his Father, who wanted his son to train in an alternate career beyond just singing. Bonci was on a concert tour of the U.S., performing at different university campuses when he discovered the beautiful young tenor voice of Allen Lindquest. One particular day, while walking by one of the campus buildings, Bonci heard Lindquest rehearsing a solo with a male chorus. He entered the rehearsal room and inquired, “Who was the tenor soloist I just overheard?” After Lindquest acknowledged his identity, Bonci then immediately invited him to audition the next morning at his hotel room. This special audition would be the seed that would launch Lindquest’s entire singing career. After the audition Bonci was silent for a moment. Then he said, “Son, you have a special voice of great beauty. But even more importantly, you have a personality that communicates deeply to the listener.” Bonci was so impressed with the 19-year-old Lindquest that he recommended him to all of his New York musical contacts, including touring companies, opera houses, and agents. Lindquest then moved to New York in order to pursue a career as a leading concert and stage tenor. This move would begin his journey toward singing professionally, touring all of the U.S. with the Minnesota Symphony, and later becoming Thomas Edison’s favorite recording tenor. I can remember that Lindquest once said, “That New York is a funny city! I would meet a singer on the street corner and he or she would ask, ‘With whom are you studying THIS week?’ If these singers had just studied with one pretty good teacher for an extended period, then they would have progressed much more quickly. Teacher shopping does not really work in the long run!”
Lindquest certainly became known in New York as a leading stage tenor, moving in the musical circles of operatic stages, concert halls, Vaudeville and musical theater, later starring in a musical called “White Lilacs”, a musical based on the romance between George Sands and Chopin. Produced by the Schubert family, it was Lindquest’s opportunity to shine in this particular leading tenor role.
An Afternoon with Enrico Caruso
One of the most critically important events that helped Lindquest’s singing career was meeting working with the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. It was early March of 1914 and Lindquest was offered the opportunity to audition for the Victor Company to record Swedish fold songs, even though he was under contract to the Edison Company. His standard salary per recording during this time was $200, considered a large sum for the time. Lindquest told his story of meeting Caruso one day after one of my voice lessons.
Lindquest: “When I arrived at the recording studio of the Victor Company, I was greeted by the president of the organization. I remember that when he heard my voice, he made the decision to offer me the opportunity to sing for Enrico Caruso, who was coming by the studio later on the way to the opera house. Of course I literally jumped at the opportunity to sing for the legendary Caruso, so I waited 2 hours in order to meet and sing for him. I remember I relaxed in a large leather chair, and I noticed that the studio front office was decorated with luxurious furniture, reflecting an image of success. There were burled wooden walls, which I found to form a visual musical phrasing on each wall. I waited patiently and rehearsed my audition arias in my head, trying not to make any mistakes. A strange feeling of confidence swept over me, a feeling that something positive was about to happen; something that could change my career direction.”
“Caruso arrived presenting the ultimate image of a successful tenor, well dressed with a fine felt hat, elegant wool suit, and stylish black and white shoes. He walked into the room with an air of confidence, strength and assuredness. His chest looked rounded and huge compared to mine, as though he had developed an almost military posture. I was only 23 years old and I felt my youth strongly when meeting the great Caruso. When I was introduced to him, he was quite friendly, his dark eyes gleaming with light. He said to me in his heavy Italian accent, ‘Well young man, I am told you are a fine tenor. Do you think you would like to sing something for me today?’ My internal feelings were mixed between being confident to strangely shy. But I tried to keep some air of confidence and experience that could resemble success. I said, ‘Yes, I would consider that a privilege, Sir! What would you like to hear?’ I then offered him a list of arias that he had carefully studied and orchestrated into his own voice. He replied, ‘I would like to hear ‘Una Furtiva Lagrima’ if you don’t mind.’ This was an aria I knew quite well and had studied passionately, so I felt confident in presenting it. I also knew that Caruso had sung it very well during his early career, so this placed an added pressure on me as a much younger tenor. Upon completing the aria, Caruso said, ‘Young man you have a special voice, but even more importantly you have the stage presence of a true performer. This is an excellent foundation for any young career singer!’ For the next aria, one which I personally loved, I sang ‘Salut dameure chaste pure’. I had only recently become proficient at floating the high C at the end of that aria without using pure falsetto, but I accepted the challenge with fervor. Mr. Caruso was a confident artist and not easily impressed, but when this high C came floating out of a 23 year old tenor with such balance and control, he was shocked. ‘Young man, you must go to Italy and sing for my teacher. But today, I will offer you some exercises that will assist you in totally balancing your upper passaggio, because this is where you need to find the balance in your voice most’.”
Lindquest grew to call these scales the ‘Caruso Scales’ and would later use them consistently with all voice types. Another coaching was arranged between Caruso and Lindquest in order for the young tenor to establish the true essence of these exercises. I use them in my teaching practice today after so many years and I still call them the “Caruso Scales”. It is crucial that these jewels of Old World teaching be preserved, and they will be discussed in detail in my upcoming book, “The Modern Book of Old World Singing”, to be released later this year.
Because Lindquest was impressed with the singing reputation of Jean de Reske, and because his second teacher, William Clare Hall, had studied with him, he decided to go to Paris instead of Italy. He had saved $900 for the trip by performing concerts across the U.S. with the Minnesota Orchestra. The conductor of the orchestra so loved Lindquest’s voice that he said, “If you go and need to come back, we have a job for you singing with us on our next tour of the U.S.” This gave Lindquest the courage to decide to go to Europe, traveling there on a French freighter. Lindquest said that is was there that he was first exposed to the true and beautiful sound of the French language.
The seeds of confidence that so formed the basis of Lindquest’s career were credited with that fateful afternoon with Enrico Caruso. Lindquest said to me, “You cannot imagine the confidence I felt after having my talent validated by such a world-famous singer”. Lindquest spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of the Old Italian and Swedish-Italian Schools, until his death in Feb. of 1984. I will always rejoice and celebrate his life and the legacy of great teaching that he left behind. He was a master psychologist and a master vocal technician, helping so many singers to fully realize their vocal talent. I know that Caruso not only saw and heard a great talent for singing, but he recognized the greatness of the person as well. I shall never forget meeting and studying with Allen Lindquest. It was one of those life experiences that helped to form my own teaching career, directly affecting the lives of the singers whom I teach internationally. It is with great joy that I dedicate this article to the memory of Allen Lindquest (1891-1984), a true inspiration to all who met him.
© 2011 by David L. Jones