He took the stool next to me. This old man, dirty, with hair tangled, totally disheveled, sneakers stained and torn - he was badly in need of a shave.
I was 15 and had come down to 57th Street to take my piano lesson at Steinway Hall with my renowned teacher, Josef Lhevinne . I had come much too early, hoping to have time to wander along my favorite street, to window shop at all the glamorous boutiques, the art galleries, even to just watch the parade of people . The mixed varieties of dramatic looking, colorful characters, foreign languages floating on the air; one bearded man in his sweeping black cape; a woman leading a baby leopard on a leash.
57th street was my most favorite street and always provided a great show! Since after my wanderings I still had some time before my lesson, I decided to stop and have an ice-cream soda at the drugstore on the corner of 6th Avenue and 57th Street, just adjacent to Steinway....
Carnegie Hall was my Mecca and I managed to attend many concerts, especially those of the great pianists (Josef Hoffman, Rachmaninoff, Josef Lhevinne) even though it was the Depression and I certainly had no money to purchase tickets. But I had made a few friends who worked as ushers who would sneak me in and always seemed to find me a seat in the orchestra.
On one occasion when I managed to get in to hear the great pianist, Josef Lhevinne , I found myself swept away by his unbelievable technique, his pearls and velvet tone quality and poetic interpretation. I was about 14 or 15 years old and each note took my breath away. I seem to remember he did all of the Chopin Preludes. I felt that in each work a great treasure had been bestowed upon me; I digested and absorbed all as a delicious banquet of beauty, never to be forgotten. Each nuance and phrase went to the core of me. At the end of the concert I rushed backstage to...
Everyone in Rangoon knew how desperately I was searching for a piano. This was 1952. Shortly after the war, there had been a great exchange of properties and one would find Steinways and Bechsteins in the strangest places. I tried them wherever I found them but all were useless: unplayable, with rusted strings and bloated felts. They were pianos in name only!
As a concert pianist who had come to Burma with my new husband (we were married only 3 months when he was offered an exciting assignment by the U.S. State Department. His job involved joining the AID program in planning and building the much desired and necessary pharmaceutical industry.
This newly formed independent, democratic State desired above all to produce their own medications. Before independence they had imported all from Switzerland or England.
In addition to helping build a pharmaceutical industry, my husband was also required to organize the...
“Tinga ling aling a ling a ling,” touted the insistent telephone early, early on a Sunday morning, awaking us from a deep sleep.
I was going to ignore it but I always feel there may be something special, an emergency, that I must not miss. So I answered. The voice at the other end was a little squeaky and said proudly, “Are you Charlotte White, the pianist? I am Florence Foster Jenkins, the famed soprano. I heard you in concert just the other day and I felt you might be perfect as my accompanist. I have been searching extensively for the right person but of all you are the most interesting. I’m giving a concert tonight at the Park Lane Hotel and I would like to invite you and then perhaps we can go upstairs to my apartment where I live and we can have a talk about what this work involves. Oh yes, by the way, if I should suddenly stop speaking, you’ll know I’m saving my voice so I don’t want to talk too much now. Will you come?”
We thought our members and friends might enjoy reading these reflections written by Charlotte White of some memorable experiences over the course of her varied and fascinating life spanning almost 103 years.