Som­bras del País

Som­bras del País St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium, June 10

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - — James M. Keller

Brows­ing through the en­ter­tain­ment list­ings in Amer­i­can news­pa­pers from the first half of the 20th cen­tury, one is struck by the vast num­ber of per­form­ers who made the rounds of movie halls and vaude­ville palaces — and by how pro­foundly for­got­ten most are today. Among the ob­scure are singer Felipe Del­gado (1899-1940) and pi­anist Anna Maude Van Hoose (1884-1960), a duo whose achieve­ments were cel­e­brated in a re­cent lec­ture-per­for­mance by pi­anist Nancy Cooper and bari­tone Car­los Archuleta at St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium.

Cooper stum­bled into their story be­cause she is Van Hoose’s great-niece. She never knew Van Hoose, and by the time she be­gan her re­search, older rel­a­tives were all gone, as were Van Hoose’s pa­pers and mu­sic. Cooper was none­the­less able to as­sem­ble a good deal of bio­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion through dogged re­search. Born in Louisiana, Van Hoose made the rounds of “cir­cuit Chau­tauquas,” set­tled in Cal­i­for­nia in 1922, and be­gan work­ing as a pi­anist for Den­ishawn, the ground­break­ing dance academy and per­form­ing troupe run by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. (Martha Gra­ham and Doris Humphrey are among its alumni.) There she first en­coun­tered Del­gado, a na­tive of Las Ve­gas, New Mex­ico, who made a small splash as an ac­tor and dancer in 1920s silent films. He cap­i­tal­ized on his re­sem­blance to heart­throb Ru­dolph Valentino, who ap­par­ently helped pro­mote Del­gado’s ca­reer.

Del­gado and Van Hoose first col­lab­o­rated in 1924, but they be­gan con­cer­tiz­ing more de­vot­edly in 1930 and worked steadily through 1939, shortly be­fore Del­gado died. They were par­tic­u­larly ac­tive in Cal­i­for­nia and New Mex­ico, but seem to have per­formed else­where in the Southwest (Ari­zona seems quite likely). As ticket sales could not cover their travel ex­penses, the pair en­listed sup­port from an im­pres­sive list of pa­tronesses. They of­fered con­stantly chang­ing Span­ish-lan­guage pro­grams un­der the name

Som­bras del País (Shad­ows of the Coun­try). Cooper has doc­u­mented at least 50 book­ings dur­ing those years, in­clud­ing three — in 1930, 1932, and 1938 — in St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium, where this trib­ute was held. Their con­certs were col­or­ful af­fairs, with numer­ous pi­ano so­los in­ter­spersed among the vo­cal num­bers to al­low Del­gado’s fre­quent cos­tume changes. His out­fits were of­ten crafted as vir­tual coun­ter­feits of Valentino’s, and Van Hoose held up her side of the bar­gain by drap­ing her­self in lacy man­til­las and so on. Their on­stage props in­cluded a dove and a burro. They also staked a prom­i­nent place in ra­dio. Del­gado’s Span­ish-lan­guage weekly show, Me­dia Hora Es­pañola, earned a week­end-evening prime-time spot that was car­ried by sta­tions across the coun­try.

Fol­low­ing an in­ter­est­ing 25-minute lec­ture, Cooper was joined by Archuleta for a pro­gram that mir­rored a typ­i­cal Del­gado-Van Hoose show, though with­out sets, cos­tumes, or fauna. Num­bers were grouped by pre­sumed na­tion­al­ity — songs of Spain, Ar­gentina, and Mex­ico — be­fore con­clud­ing with the beloved folk­song “La Golon­d­rina” (pre­sented as a song “of early Cal­i­for­nia and New Mex­ico”). The Ar­gen­tine sec­tion com­prised noth­ing by Ar­gen­tine com­posers, but rather a song ti­tled “El Gau­cho” by the leg­endary Ital­ian op­er­atic tenor Tito Schipa, and then a pi­ano solo (“Sacro-monte”) by the Spa­niard Joaquín Tu­rina. Most of the reper­toire was of the charm­ing par­lor­song or “light con­cert clas­sic” va­ri­ety. A hand­ful of the works were by the Mex­i­can María Gr­ever, re­mem­bered today mostly for her tango-bolero “Júrame” and her much-cov­ered 1934 hit “Cuando vuelva a tu lado,” which be­came fa­mous in English as “What a Diff’rence a Day Made.” Cooper was at her most vivid in the pi­ano solo

Cór­doba, by Isaac Al­béniz, where she ca­ressed the melody as it wove through the in­ner lines. Archuleta brought his bright bari­tone to the task ef­fec­tively. Sev­eral slips sug­gested a cer­tain ca­su­al­ness in his prepa­ra­tion; but, to be fair, he had eight songs to learn for what, for the nonce, was one-off event. His finest in­ter­pre­ta­tions ar­rived with Gr­ever’s “Cuando me vaya” and “Júrame,” the for­mer be­ing fur­ther en­hanced by a par­tic­u­larly lovely pi­ano in­ter­lude.

And yet, the show may have a fur­ther life. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art, the con­cert’s spon­sor, voiced hope that the mu­seum might bring the per­form­ers back this fall. One would wel­come the op­por­tu­nity to hear the pro­gram again af­ter the songs have been “lived in” a lit­tle longer. The next time around, Cooper might con­sider in­clud­ing the 45-sec­ond color clip of Del­gado from the fa­mous 1930 Paul White­man mu­si­cal movie King of Jazz. In that film’s fi­nale, “The Melt­ing Pot of Mu­sic,” Del­gado sings and ac­com­pa­nies him­self on gui­tar be­fore the orches­tra takes over. As Cooper re­ferred to this ap­pear­ance in her lec­ture, it seemed odd that she did not in­clude it among her vis­ual pro­jec­tions, even though it can be ac­cessed on YouTube. It does raise a question. Al­though Cooper de­scribed Del­gado as a bari­tone, the film sug­gests in­stead that he was a light-voiced tenor.

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