With great sadness, I pass on the news that Mordecai Bauman, baritone,
music educator, film producer, and political activist, died on Wednesday,
April 16, 2007. Bauman, born in New York City in 1912, earned simultaneous
degrees from both Columbia and Julliard (perhaps the only one to accomplish
this). Typically, he did it by ignoring rules and going around
bureaucracies. As a young man, Bauman made several stage appearances
on Broadway and was often praised both for his singing and his acting.
Mordy, as he was known to nearly everyone even unreasonably close, became
involved with the political left during the Thirties. He knew just about
everybody in New York musical circles: Marc Blitzstein, Aaron Copland,
Hanns Eisler, Henry Cowell, Jerome Moross, Charles and Ruth Seeger, Elie
Siegmeister, Earl Robinson, Paul Robeson, and the Weavers, among many
others. He also was the first to record songs by Charles Ives. The
composer admired the performance, and his wife Harmony Ives attended
many of Mordy's recitals. Indeed, Ives was probably one of the few
Republicans Mordy would have anything to do with. Mordy also originated
the role of the Folksinger in Britten and Auden's opera Paul Bunyan.
Britten wrote the role incorporating several of Mordy's suggestions.
After serving in World War II, Mordy went on to teach at the Cleveland
Institute of Music for five years. Internal political trouble at that
place influenced his decision to leave, and he and his wife Irma began
the Indian Hill arts workshop, which had many distinguished students,
including Ruth Laredo, Frank Rich, Elliott Goldenthal, and Julie Taymor.
Indian Hill continues both in Littleton, Mass., and on the Internet --
www.indianhillmusic.org -- Mordy and Irma also produced one of the best
documentaries on Bach, "The Stations of Bach," which had a short run on
Mordy's musical passions were the composers he sang and championed,
Bach, the French singer Charles Panzera, and his students. He was a
born teacher and continued to give great advice to young performers
about both career and art.
I met him through the Internet and managed to see him twice, face-to-face.
His interest and his warmth were overwhelming. Within a few minutes of
meeting him, I had bonded to him, and I am kindly described as "reserved."
It was a great pleasure to make him laugh. When it happened - rolling,
deep, and rich - you felt as if you'd done something wonderful out of
Up to nearly the end, before age finally just wore him out, he was
engaged. Scholars came to him for information. He was especially
sought out for information on Marc Blitzstein. Students and friends
keep dropping by, now to see his wife, Irma. What a life! Full, at
the center of things, committed, damned interesting, and I think more
than a little heroic.
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