Opera Scotland

Celebrity Recital 1927Lionel Powell

Read more about the opera Recital

Dame Clara Butt was hugely popular throughout her career, and toured Britain frequently.  She also  made lengthy journeys across the United States and Canada as well as to the outposts of Empire.  She was usually accompanied by her husband, the baritone Kennerley Rumford.

The Glasgow-born violinist William Primrose enjoyed a very successful career as a touring virtuoso in the 'twenties.  However he went on to spend most of his career in the United States.  At this point he switched to become the leading exponent of the viola, frequently working with the supreme violinist of the age, Jascha Heifetz.  His recordings include an excellent interpretation of the Berlioz Harold in Italy.

The Duke and Duchess of York were the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.  They frequently visited the Duchess's ancestral home, Glamis Castle,  and made regular outings to cultural events in Dundee, the nearest city.  At this stage there was no hint of the future abdication crisis which would elevate them to the monarchy in 1937.

Additional Scottish dates to be confirmed.


Recital by Dame Clara Butt and others


                                                Ethel Osborne               soprano

                                                Dame Clara Butt           contralto

                                                Kennerley Rumford       baritone

                                                William Primrose           violin

                                                Adrian Holland               piano

                                                Marjorie Renton            organ


Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Friday, October 7 1927    p3

Dame Clara Butt’s visit to Dundee

'The Dundee musical season will start in earnest on Monday next, when Dame Clara Butt is to give a concert in the Caird Hall, assisted by Mr Kennerley Rumford, Mr William Primrose, violinist, and Miss Ethel Osborne, soprano.

'Dame Clara is to follow her usual practice and choose her songs from a list given in the programme. The list includes the “Divinités du Styx” from Gluck’s Alceste; a Brahms group (“Sapphische Ode,” “Sonntag,” and “Der Schmied”); two negro spirituals (“Deep River” and “Were You There?”); the Verdi aria “O Don Fatale”; and among some other items, “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Rule, Britannia.”  Whatever the famous contralto may select as her programme, we may rest assured that she will bring to its interpretation all the old impressive qualities that have made her the most popular singer of her generation.

'Mr Kennerley Rumford, who has not sung in Dundee for a few years, is to give us Handel’s “Where’er You Walk” and two sea shanties “Billy Boy” and “Bound for the Rio Grande.”

'Mr William Primrose, a young violinist who made a decided impression with his playing at a Max Mossel concert some time back, is to play the first movement from Grieg’s Sonata in C minor, his own arrangement of Chopin’s Impromptu in A flat; Fauré’s “Après un rêve”, and de Falla’s “Spanish Dance.”

'Miss Ethel Osborne, who is from Australia, that land of fine sopranos, is down to sing an aria from Donizetti’s Lucia, the charming “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi; and a ballad “Love-Pipes of June,” by Maude Craske Day.

'The concert will conclude with the singing of the National Anthem by Dame Clara Butt and Mr Kennerley Rumford.  Mr Adrian Holland will be at the piano, and Miss Marjorie Renton at the organ.'


Dundee Evening Telegraph & Post: Friday, October 7 1927    p7

Dame Clara Butt’s Visit to Dundee

'On Monday first Dame Clara Butt will return to Dundee, and will give a concert in the Caird Hall.  The famous contralto has a popularity of an unusual kind, and has a warm place in the hearts of the British people.  She comes to Dundee accompanied by her husband, Mr Kennerley Rumford, who is always a welcome visitor. Miss Ethel Osborne, a soprano, and Mr William Primrose, a well-known violin soloist, are also in the party.

'Following her usual custom, Dame Butt does not announce her programme beforehand, but will choose her songs from the list included in the printed programme.  This list ranges from operatic arias by Gluck and Verdi to classic lieder like Brahms’ “Sapphic Ode” and “The Smith.”  It also includes homely ditties and patriotic numbers.

'Miss Ethel Osborne will sing an excerpt from Donizetti’s Lucia and some lighter pieces.  Mr William Primrose, who is a fine violinist, and who left an excellent impression at a Max Mossel concert some years ago, has against his name a movement from a Grieg Sonata and smaller pieces by Chopin, Fauré, and M Falla.'


Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Saturday, October 8 1927    p4

Opening of Dundee Musical Season

'Dame Clara Butt, whose appearance in the Caird Hall on Monday will mark the opening of the musical season in Dundee, is going on a tour to Egypt and India in November, Dame Clara is passionately fond of patriotic songs and community singing, and on Monday Dundee Select Choir, under Mr H Marshall, will lead the community singing.

'Dame Clara Butt has been having a great welcome at her concerts prior to her voyage abroad, and is certain to have an appreciative audience at the Caird Hall.  Dame Clara Butt is a lover of animals, and in her photo is shown with her pet parrot.'


Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Tuesday, October 11 1927    p4

Dame Clara Butt’s Concert - Famous Contralto and Clever Violinist

'A concert given in the Caird Hall, Dundee, last night by Dame Clara Butt, Mr Kennerley Rumford, Miss Ethel Osborne, and Mr Wm Primrose attracted a large audience including the Duke and Duchess of York.

'The famous contralto’s programme was as varied as usual, including as it did works by Brahms and Gluck, a couple of the now so fashionable negro spirituals, and some patriotic songs.  And they were sung with all the old power and weight of tone.  The voice remains practically in every respect the magnificent organ that it has always been.  The lower notes still retain all their old capacity to thrill, and the higher register its purity and power.

'Dame Clara seldom does herself full justice in her opening group, and the first songs last night did not find her at her best.  She was inclined to sacrifice tone to dramatic emphasis in the “Divinités du Styx” of Gluck, which was nevertheless sung with all the intensity and vigour that the aria demands.  But of all voices surely this is the one that requires least forcing.  The lovely “Sapphische Ode” of Brahms was sung with beautiful tone, but the opening was spoilt by bad phrasing. That Dame Clara can phrase properly when she chooses was shown in the second verse, when the same line was sung perfectly.

'She gave us in her second group two negro spirituals, “Deep River” and “Were You There?”  Here for the first time we heard the voice at its finest.  Tone colour, diction, and simplicity of expression all left nothing to be desired.  W H Squire’s “Harvest Moon” served to display effectively the unimpaired range of the voice, and the same composer’s grandiose “On Guard” was sung with all the virility and energy that Dame Clara brings to such songs.

“Land of Hope and Glory” and “Rule, Britannia” were also sung in the same commanding fashion, and the audience, with the help of Mr Henry Marshall’s Select Choir, joined in the choruses.

'Miss Ethel Osborne is a soprano who uses her light, clear voice very cleverly.  She made the very most of its airs and graces in the Lucia di Lammermoor music, and her singing of its elaborate ornamentations was more than adequate.  Her management of her high notes was exceptionally skilful, and her tone was always pleasant and at times delightful.  Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro” was nicely phrased, and a ballad, “Love-Pipes of June,” by Maude Craske Day, was followed by a triple encore.  The extra songs included Bantock’s “Dream Merchandise,” Armstrong Gibbs’ “To One who Passed Whistling Through the Night,” and a trifle about a little grey dove, which was very prettily sung indeed.

'Mr William Primrose was down to play the Allegro from Grieg’s C Minor Sonata but changed his mind and gave us the Finale to the Mendelssohn Concerto.  He played it with brilliant, clean-cut technique, fine attack, and delicately-graded tone.  This young violinist has all the technical tricks at his service, and is a sensitive artist to boot.  His own arrangement of the Chopin A Flat Impromptu is a tasteful and effective piece of work, and was played with beautiful tone and delightfully smooth treatment of the legato passages.  Fauré’s “Après un Rêve” also had fine tone and nice phrasing, while the Spanish Dance of de Falla was played with the essential rhythmic firmness.  Mr Primrose made light of its technical obstacles, which were considerable.  As encores he played the classic example of violin transcription - the E Flat Nocturne of Chopin - and Kreisler’s “Tambourin Chinois.”

'Mr Kennerley Rumford could have used his mellow baritone to better effect than he did in “Where’er you walk.”  He put plenty of humour into two rollicking sea shanties, “Billy Boy,” and “Rio Grande,” and gave a sturdy account of the “Vicar of Bray.”  Mr Rumford sang a verse of the National Anthem, in which Dame Clara and the audience also participated.

'Mr Adrian Holland did not have overmuch chance to show us his quality as an accompanist, but both he and Miss Marjorie Renton, who was at the organ, did good work.'


Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Tuesday, October 11 1927    p7

Royal Concert Goers - Duke and Duchess of York in Caird Hall

Distinguished Patrons of Clara Butt Recital



Dundee Evening Telegraph & Post: Tuesday, October 11 1927    p4

Dame Clara Butt in Dundee - Royalty Present at Caird Hall Concert

'The presence of the Duke and Duchess of York at the Caird Hall, Dundee, last night, gave the concert an unusual distinction, and the royal pair had quite an ovation at the close of the concert from the audience.

'Dame Clara Butt’s voice has parted with little of its wonderful charm.  There are thin places in her range, and sometimes a lack of purity in her tone mars its former evenness, but it is still the organ of a century with a full, rich volume and no small variety of quality.  Her high notes ring out and her low notes have that soundness that is associated with an open diapason in a church organ.  It would be idle to claim that she is at her best in lieder or classical song.  Her temperament has not the subtlety for perfect rendering of great poetry or music, but in national airs, where breadth of treatment is needed, in religious songs, where sincerity comes first, and in simple homely ditties, demanding naturalness and simplicity, she has deservedly won the popular favour.  She sings such songs with all her heart, for she feels them deeply and treats them with a missionary fervour.

'So Gluck’s “Divinités du Styx” was just a stolid piece of work, and the heavenly “Sapphic Ode” of Brahms was wrecked by faulty phrasing.  But the message of two negro spirituals was deeply felt.  Elgar’s “Land of Hope and Glory” she has made peculiarly her own, and in “Rule, Britannia” her broad treatment had rousing qualities.  In these patriotic numbers as in others, she had the assistance of the Dundee Select Choir for chorus work, and probably it was the usual timidity of our audiences that prevented entire success in our community singing.

'It is some years since we heard Mr Kennerley Rumford in Dundee.  His rendering of “Where'er You Walk” was scarcely Handelian, and his rendering had serious faults of intonation and attack.  He was far more at home in a couple of jolly sea shanties.

'Miss Ethel Osborne was a newcomer who left a very agreeable impression with her light and flexible soprano voice and a delightful intuition for just expression.  She sang operatic arias and homely ditties in a highly artistic manner.  She had taste in all her readings, a taste that showed itself in small details, and while “There's nae luck aboot the hoose” was the most popular item with the audience, her renderings of a cooing bird song and of a delicate number by Armstrong Gibbs revealed her artistic musicianship.

'The solo violinist, Mr William Primrose, opened the programme with the finale from the Mendelssohn concerto.  This he took at great speed, but also with great clearness.  It was full of dash, vigour, spirit; it had drive in it and his execution was as clean and sure as could be wished.

'His own arrangement of Chopin’s Impromptu in A flat worked out better than one expected.  In a dream piece by Fauré his tone, luscious and faintly reedy, sang the piece with soothing sweetness.  He was twice encored and gave first a crisp rendering of the Tambourine Chinois of Kreisler and then ever such a sentimental rendering of the E flat Nocturne of Chopin.  One hopes to hear this promising player next time he comes in a really testing piece.

'Mr Adrian Holland usually did good work at the piano, and Miss Marjorie Renton at the organ provided an excellent support in the choruses and national songs.'


Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Wednesday, October 12 1927    p12

Regal Splendour

'Few artistes dress for the concert platform in the gorgeous manner affected by Dame Clara Butt.  Her platform gowns are invariably of almost regal splendour, and admirably chosen to accord with the lines of her tall, handsome figure.  For her Dundee appearance this week she chose a striking gown of tangerine lamé interwoven and lined with gold, and of such length that it lay about her feet in graceful folds on the ground while she sang.  At her throat, on her arms, and in the swathings of tangerine and gold lamé in her hair gleamed and sparkled jewels of unusual size, and even in the long silken strands of a tassel which dangled in front were studded magnificent rubies.  Dame Clara Butt’s gown was designed by Lady Duff Gordon.  In the shop Dame Clara herself runs under the name of George & Co, in Bruton Street, London, only country clothes and sports fashions are being supplied so far.'

Performance DatesCelebrity Recital 1927

Map List

Caird Hall | Dundee

10 Oct, 19.30

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