Friday, 19 September 2008

A song recital by Laurie Cruwys

I have long been puzzled by the identity of the Laurie Cruwys who receives a few brief mentions in The Times newspaper in the 1920s for her song recitals, but this week the mystery has finally been solved after I made contact with Norman Cruwys, a descendant of the Brushford Cruwys tree. Laurie is Norman's first cousin once-removed. Her full name was Laura Audrey Cruwys. She was born in 1900 in Clapham, London, and was the only child of Lawrence Cruwys, a police court usher, and Sarah Louisa Hicks, the daughter of Henry Hicks, a gentleman of some wealth.

Laurie Cruwys gave a song recital at the Aeolian Hall in New Bond Street, London, on 1st February 1926. She was accompanied by the pianist Herbert Dawson playing on a Bosendorfer piano. The Times published an anonymous review of the recital on 4th February 1926:
Songs like Vaughan William's "Silent Noon," "Parry's ''Sleep," and Stanford's "A Broken Song" are not easy to sing, but they show at once whether a singer has got musical feeling or not. Miss Laurie Cruwys, who gave a recital at Aeolian Hall on Sunday night, has got that essential feeling; she also has a good contralto voice of a soft, cooing quality that is quite attractive. She must, therefore, continue her singing, but must take steps to strengthen her production. It is probably a matter of breathing more deeply and spending her breath more freely, for at present she does not command the latent power which must be there. Phrasing becomes precarious and tone thin on sustained notes, when only the top part of the lungs is in action. The quality is uneven, sometimes tight, sometimes breathy, sometimes, as in the head register when she sings softly, perfectly controlled and charming to hear. Except for one really bad song, signed, we noted with regretful surprise, by Granville Bantock, the programme was excellent and was interpreted with lively intelligence. "Consolidation" should now be Miss Cruwys's motto.
I do not know whether Laurie continued with her singing career after receiving this somewhat critical reception from The Times reviewer. Norman recalls that Laurie married a German man by the name of Ben Ashofer. The surname was subsequently Anglicized, possibly to Ashley. There is no record of Laurie's marriage in the English civil registration records, so it seems likely that she married abroad, probably in Germany. We know that she did not have any children, and that she went to live in Harrogate in Yorkshire. Does anyone know what became of her?

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