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Mary Jarred

Mary Jarred was born in Brotton, in Cleveland, Yorkshire, of parents who were not particularly musical, but even in her childhood she possessed a voice that could be usefully employed at local concerts. Her school days, however, were uneventful, and it was not until 1918 that she decided to take up music professionally. Singing lessons from a Middlesbrough teacher gave her a better idea of her potentialities and enabled her to get various minor engagements, including several broadcasts from the old Northern Regional studies in Newcastle. In those days her repertoire consisted chiefly of songs and the more popular oratorios.
The problem of how to make the next step upwards confronted for two or three years: it seemed almost impossible to get out of the "provincial singer" class. However, in 1927 she decided to come to London and find a first-class teacher, but even that proved to be a task fraught with difficulties, and eventually, it was on the advice of Dr. Percy Scholes that she approached Victor Beigal, the teacher of Gervase Elwes and Melchoir, who gave her an audition and accepted her as a pupil forthwith. It is interesting to note that Beigal told her that unlike so many other singers from the provinces, there was nothing in her singing that had to be "undone".
Responding well to Beigal's training, she was soon able to make her first stage appearance: as one of the Valkyries at Covent Garden. Then in due course she gave two recitals which brought her one or two offers of engagements from the leading choral societies, but these were not accepted because Melchoir, who had heard her sing, had recommended her to the State Opera authorities at Hamburg, and she received an invitation to join their company.
Thus in 1929 she left London for Hamburg, where during the next three years she was to fill principal roles - singing entirely in German of course - in many operas, including various modern works by such composers as Pfitzner and Alban Berg which are rarely heard in this country.
While she was a member of the Hamburg Company she made one or two very successful visits to opera houses in Holland as a guest artist.
By 1932 there were unpleasant signs of the Nazi party's increasing power in Germany, and she decided to return to England. The usual festivals and performances by the principal choral societies now became the mainstay of her career, though it should be recorded that she took part in every International Season at Convent Garden from then until the outbreak of†war.
In The Flying Dutchman she played the part of Mary, with Flagstad as Senta; and as Erda in Das Rheingold, made a very favourable impression upon the critics. She was also invited to appear as a guest artist at Sadler's Wells where in the name part of Gluck's Orpheus her rich voice and "noble singing" was commented upon by the critic of The Times.
Equally successful were her many appearances as an oratorio soloist, and after one memorable performance of Elgar's Music Makers with the Royal Choral Society the critic of the Daily Telegraph wrote: "Miss Jarred's voice, phrasing, and expression where what composers hope to hear when they dream of a perfect world." A tribute indeed! Other oratorios in which she had been outstandingly successful have been those of Bach and Handel, Verdi's Requiem, Elijah, and all Elgar's greater works. She has taken the solo part in the Alto Rhapsody of Brahms twice at Westminster Abbey; the second time being in the presence of Queen Elizabeth.
Early in 1939 Miss Jarred visited the Hague again and gave an admirable rendering of Mahler's Song of the Earth which would probably had led to further continental tours but for the intervention of the war.
In her recitals of Iieder - one of most exacting forms of her art - she has rarely failed to win high praise, for her distinct enunciation, careful phrasing, and pleasing tone make her well suited to this type of work. Her interpretation of the songs of Brahms, particularly, leaves little to be desired. Many of us who were working in London during the war will recall with pleasure her appearances at many of the National Gallery concerts, for it was at these that she enhanced her reputation as a Iieder singer.
In February 1947 Miss Jarred went to Amsterdam with Sir Adrian Boult and sang the contralto solos in his performance of The Dream of Gerontius with the famous orchestra and choir of the Concertgebouw.
Her voice had a range of over two-and-a-half octaves: D to B-flat. It is of full operatic calibre and is probably heard at its best in heavier, stately passages. Her "ideal" singers are Schumann Heink, a magnificent contralto whose recordings, unfortunately, are extremely difficult to obtain in this country, and that splendid baritone Herbert Jannsen.
Miss Jarred married in 1929. Her chief recreation is embroidery and, but for the evidence of it in her London flat, she probably would not have divulged even that fact!
Source: Donald Brook: Singers of Today. London: Rockcliff 1949

Information Kindly Supplied by Maria Siddaway - Cousin of Mary Jarred

Mary Jarred - Opera Singer

Pictured are Walter Widdop, Parry Jones, Frank Titterton & Heddle Nash (tenors)Roy Henderson, Harold Williams, Robert Easton & Norman Allin (baritones) Seated are Isobel Baillie, Elsie Suddaby, Eva Turner & Lillian Stiles-Allen (sopranos) with Margaret Balfour, Astra Desmond, Muriel Brunskill and Mary Jarred (contraltos), In the centre is Sir Henry, his legs crossed. Directly behind him is Ralph Vaughan Williams. Taken in the Recording studio. Kindly supplied by Maria Siddaway

Mary Jarred was born on the 9th of October 1899, at 67 Errington Street, Brotton. She was a mezzo-soprano in the mid twentieth century.

She sang in small performances in the Hippodrome Theater in Brotton and made her professional debut in 1929. She pursued a career in both the concert hall and the opera house, a much sought after soloist. She had a deep, rich voice and excelled in Bach, Handel and Mendelssohn.

In 1929 went to study at The Royal College of Music. She sang in some minor roles at Covent Garden where she sang every year from 1933 until the theatre closed in 1939 due to the outbreak of war, during this time She was invited to perform for the Hamburg State Opera where she stayed for three years. During the WW2 she performed in recitals and concerts. She returned to opera in 1953 when she appeared as Mother Goose in Stravinskyís The Rakeís Progress in the first British performances of the work at Glyndebourne. She retired shortly afterwards and gave lessons, first as a private teacher and then as Professor of singing at the Royal Academy of Music from 1965 to 1973. Mary Jarred died on 12 December 1993.

The Nurse in Richard Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten.
Several roles in contemporary works by Hans Pfitzner and Alban Berg.
Orpheus in Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice for Sadler's Wells Opera.
Erda in Das Rheingold and Siegfried and Fricka in Die Walkure.
Margret in the first British broadcast performance of Wozzeck for the BBC.
One of the original 16 singers in Vaughan Williamsís Serenade to Music.
Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress.
Soloist in Bach's St Matthew Passion.
Soloist in Mendelssohn's Elijah.
Soloist in Beethoven's Choral Symphony.
Angel in Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius.
Along with Eva Turner and Roy Henderson she performed in a BBC Radio 3 in 1988 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Serenade to Music.

Obituary - The Independent
Mary Jarred, singer: born Brotton, Yorkshire 9 October 1899; died 12 December 1993.

MARY JARRED possessed an ample, rich-toned contralto voice of a kind that is now virtually extinct. Magnificent in Bach's St Matthew Passion and in his cantatas, a frequent performer in the Three Choirs and other Festivals, she also sang certain operatic roles, in particular Erda in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, with great effect, and was noted for her ability to interpret 20th-century music.

Newspaper Article

Newspaper Article - Kindly contributed by Maria Siddaway
Article Reads:
On First Name Terms With Vaughan Williams
'Squires Cash for a Queen'.

The Meteoric Rise of young Mary Jarred, into a leading opera star of the Thirties and Forties is well documented, but does anyone know anything about her Brotton background? asks Terry Gilder, who recalls this international queen of the operatic and classical stage.

SHE WAS only a fish & chip proprietors daughter, but the fare she dished up was far superior to anything served by her parents.
Throughout Europe in the Thirties Mary Jarred wowed the crowds of music lovers who gathered in some of the smartest opera houses.

As early as 1929, 'queen of opera' Mary was singing for the Hamburg Opera a far cry from the 11 Broadbent Street home in Brotton where she is believed to have been born on October 23, 1899.

Yet Like to many artists whose backgrounds would hardly have allowed them to develop their inborn talents, Mary Jarred had a patron, Squire Whorton, of Skelton Castle.

In an interview with BBC man Ian Partridge broadcast in 1982, Mary recalled how she had bee trained by a 'local music teacher', though she didn't reveal his/her name.

As a young girl, she travelled to Leeds to compete in a music festival in which only one prize was on offer for the full range of voices.


Coaxed from the side of the stage by an enthusiastic Yorkshire supporter to'git reet out t' front lass', young Mary wooed and won, returning home triumphantly with a £30 cash prize.

But there is little doubt that it was her patron's financial backing that helped to take the lass from Brotton to international acclaim.

An Hungarian voice trainer called Victor Bigel had a huge influence in her early years, while opera stars such as Rudolf Bocklemann, inspired her to pursue an operatic career. She worked with the Hamburg company for three years, returning to England as war approached.

She also made recordings, her old 78rpm records portraying her deep Wagnerian contralto voice with the popular songs of today including Sir Arthur Sullivan's (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame). The Holy City ans the Lords Prayer - both records now much sought after.

Her BBC interview recalls her associations with men such Conductor Sir Thomas Beecham: "I always had to work twice as hard with him because he could be difficult".

Sir Adrian Boult had a different temperament, jokily asking the question: 'Why did Adrian Boult? Because Mary Jarr'd. Even in those days people couldn't pronounce her name as Jarred.

The Jarreds originally came from Loftus, but had moved the the Broadbent Street fish shop at Brotton, Mary's brother Ted being the only other known member of her family to share her Musical talent.

Sadly, Ted who is said to have been a part-time music hall artiste, died in a mining accident at Skinningrove.

During the mid-Thirties, she regularly appeared at the Hague, Sadlers Wells in London, Covent Garden and the popular Henry Wood Promenade concerts, where she met luminaries such as composer Ralph Vaughan Williams - 'Uncle Ralph' as she called him.

Indeed, she was one of 16 soloists to perform VW's Serenade to Music in 1938 to mark the silver jubilee of Sir Henry Wood's Promenade concerts in 1938.

A photograph taken to mark this milestone in this series of concerts which survive to this day best illustrates the status achieved by Mary in the classical music firmament.
She is seated alongside Parry Jones (composer of the hymn tune Jerusalem), with singer Heddle Nash, sopranos Isabel Baillie and Eva Turner and Vaughan Williams.

Like so many artistes, her career was interrupted by the war, yet she regularly appeared in the popular lunchtime concerts, held in London's National Gallery and fronted by pianist Myra Hess.

Her operatic repertoire was a wide one, embracing Wagner's Das Rheingold and Siegrfried, but also Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress - indeed, her last operatic performance was in the opera at Glyndenbourne in 1953 - the first British performance of the piece.
She took the role of Angel in Elgar's masterpiece Dream of Gerontius and regularly appeared in the Three Coins Festivals.
On her retirement from the stage Mary Jarred worked as a private singing teacher and served as a professor of singing at the Royal Academy of Music form 1965-73.

But what of her Brotton connections? And did she ever return, if only briefly to her roots in East Cleveland?


Business man and band leader Eugine Jarred recalls how Mary - his second cousin - and his father were great friends and she would look up the family in their Grangetown home whenever she was appearing locally.

Eugene - better known as Gene - recalls being a lad in short trousers when he stood outside Middlesbrough Town Hall waiting to meet Mary after she had given a performance before a crowd who obviously knew of her local connections.

'She was lovely and I remember her saying: So this is little Eugine?"

Mary had married Sam Robertshaw who served as her manager agent and she died at the age of 94 on December 12, 1993 in London, where she had lived for many years in a home overlooking Regents Park.

Photogrpah in Newspaper Article

Photograph from Newspaper Article

Front of Programme from Brotton Hippodrome

Centre of Programme from Brotton Hippodrome

The Times Newspaper - 12th March 1934

Obituary - The Times - Thursday December 16th 1993

Mary Jarred - Obituary
The Times Newspaper - Thursday, December 16, 1993

Mary Jarred, operatic and concert contralto, died on December 12 aged 94. She was born at Brotton , Yorkshire, on October 9, 1899.

ONE of the stalwarts of the oratorio circuit before, during and just after the war, Mary Jarred was a singer very much at home in the world of choral societies, although she also had an appreciable career in opera at Covent Garden and elsewhere. Indeed, after deciding to become a singer when she was 18, making a name for herself in the North and studying at the Royal College of Music, her career really began unusually for British singers in those days in a German opera house.

On the recommendation of Melchior, she was invited to the Hamburg State Opera and remained there as a guest artist for the following three years. Her roles included the formidable one of the Nurse in Richard Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten and several in contemporary works by Pfitzner and Berg.

Back in Britain, she took the title part in Gluck's Orfeo in 1933 (the critic of The Times commented then on her rich voice and noble singing) and Margaret in the famous BBC studio performances of Wozzeck, the first in this country, which were conducted by Adrian Boult in 1934. At Covent Garden she was heard mostly in Wagnerian parts, such as Mary in Der fliegende Hollander and Erda in Das Rheingold and Siegfried, for all of which her grave, alto tones peculiarly equipped her.

In oratorio, besides the inevitable Messiahs, she was famed as contralto soloist in Bach's St Matthew Passion, Mendelssohn's Elijah and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. She was also an appealing Angel in Elgar's Dream of Gerontius. In all these parts her commitment, sincerity and warmth of personality were abundantly evident.

She was one of the original soloists invited to sing in Vaughan Williams's Serenade to Music in 1938 for the Henry Wood Jubilee Concert. Just before the war she was invited to The Hague to sing in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. She was also an accomplished recitalist, particularly suited to the Lieder of Brahms, and often sang during the war at Myra Hess's National Gallery concerts.

Once the war was over she made a brief but well remembered return to opera as Mother Goose, the brothel keeper, in Stravinsky's opera, The Rake's Progress in 1953, repeating the role in the following two seasons at Glyndebourne.

After retiring in 1955 she taught privately. Among her more notable pupils was the mezzo Sybil Michelow to whom she passed on many of her own attributes. She was then Professor of Music at the Royal Academy of Music, 1966-75. She spent her later days happily at the home for retired artists run by the Musicians' Benevolent Fund.

Mary Jarred was a down-to-earth Yorkshirewoman with a strong personality and decided views on her profession. Although as a teacher she was a hard task-mistress, she was also generous in praise of her pupils.

Her husband, Sam, predeceased her. They had no children.

Handel's Messiah

Newspsper Advert for the Royal Albert Hall, with Mary Jarred performing.

Taken from The Times Newspaper January 1955.

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