Early Days in Dundee and London
Fraser Gange was born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1886. Growing up in a musical family of glove merchants, he lived and studied in Dundee until about 1905, when he went to London to pursue vocal study with Madame Amy Sherwin. By 1906 he had made his London debut at Queen's Hall.
During the next few years he continued to hone his craft, singing frequently in Britain and joining his teacher on a tour of Australia. In 1914 Gange appeared twice before King George and Queen Mary; he also joined the British Army around that time.
First World War, Marriage, and His First Records
Gange began his recording career during the first World War, cutting his first records for English Columbia in 1915 while still a soldier in uniform. All told, 29 songs were recorded for English Columbia; they are now quite rare. In May 1918, however, the HMV house publication "The Voice" announced Gange's switch to HMV:
Fraser Gange, looking very soldierly in his Khaki uniform, has made his debut in our recording Theatre--the result will be issued shortly.
Not much is known of Gange's military service so far except that he was able to make recordings while a soldier. In 1917 he married the Welsh soprano Amy Evans, forming a personal and artistic union which would last for the rest of his life.
A Busy Interlude
After the end of the first World War in November 1918, Gange immediately busied himself singing throughout Britain on tours sponsored by HMV, including performances at the London Palladium, Queen's Hall, and Wigmore Hall. His recordings for HMV continued until 1919.
In 1920 Fraser Gange and Amy Evans undertook a remarkable joint tour of Britain, Australia, and New Zealand--some 187 concerts in all! They kept up that pace for a few years, and at the same time Gange began to teach singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Toward the end of 1923 the Ganges set sail for New York.
Arrival in New York
Fraser Gange made his American debut on 18 January 1924 at Aeolian Hall in New York. Olin Downes, writing in The New York Times, reported:
Fraser Gange ... has a voice of uncommon range, quality and technical development. He is a well-rounded musician and interpreter, as he showed in groups of Italian, French, German, Russian, English and American songs. Upon these songs he bestowed marked intelligence and dramatic instinct, and was always manly and sincere in revealing the message of the composer.
Gange's remarkable debut in New York was only the beginning; he was in such great demand that he settled in New York in order to be at the center of the country's musical life. He remained a resident of the United States until his death in 1962.
The Early American Years, 1924-1927
Although Gange had already appeared before royalty, as far as we know he had never appeared with musical royalty until he arrived in New York. Within two months of his debut, he was engaged by the famous concert manager Arthur Judson. In those days Judson ruled the concert scene in the United States, managing not only his own artists but the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra as well. Signing with Judson was an important accomplishment that put Gange in the company of such musical luminaries as Landowska, Martinelli, Chaliapin, Melchior, Horowitz, Zimbalist, Schlusnus, and Bartok.
Gange also developed a special relationship with Walter Damrosch, conductor of the New York Symphony and one who had a massive influence over American musical life. Damrosch invited the Ganges to parties at his home, engaged Fraser Gange for many concerts with the NYSO (including the Walter Damrosch 40th Anniversary Concert), and even accompanied him in recital. During this period Gange was also on the faculty at the Mannes School, run by David Mannes, Damrosch's brother-in-law.
The engagement for the Damrosch 40th Anniversary Concert in early 1925 was but the first of a series of special concerts. Gange sang the Beethoven 9th Symphony with Van Hoogstraten and the New York Philharmonic at the first outdoor performance of the work in New York. On 27 October 1925 Gange sang at the grand opening of Steinway Hall on 57th Street in a concert also featuring Josef Hofmann, with Willem Mengelberg conducting the New York Philharmonic. A year and a half later there was a special series of Beethoven 9th performances with Toscanini, Rethberg, Homer, and Crooks. One month after that came Furtwaengler's farewell as co-conductor of the New York Philharmonic in a pair of Brahms German Requiem concerts with Rethberg. This period ended with one final stadium concert with Pierre Monteux in New York. This time Gange sang Mendelssohn's Elijah, which must have been one of his finest roles.
Up to Boston and Back to Columbia, 1928-1932
In 1928 Gange left the roster of Arthur Judson--one wonders why--to focus on recording for Columbia and on singing with the Boston Symphony under Koussevitzky. The special relationship with Koussevitzky actually began at the end of 1927 with BSO Pension Fund benefit performances of Messiah with Frieda Hempel. Perhaps the most notable BSO series of 1928 was the American premiere of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex in Boston and New York, with Margaret Matzenauer and Gange among the soloists.
The old relationship with Columbia Records was renewed, this time with the American branch using the electrical process. Some of Gange's greatest recordings come from this period--for example, the Strauss songs and Handel arias, and the wonderfully vivid On the Road to Mandalay . As far as we know, Gange's last initial issue was released in 1930 (with the exception of one live performance from his old age).
Gange's special relationship with Koussevitzky and the BSO continued with
both Bach and Brahms festivals, several series of the Beethoven 9th, and a
joint recital where Gange sang and Koussevitzky played the
double-bass. During this period Gange and Amy Evans made another tour--this
time for six months--to Australia and New Zealand, where they were fondly
remembered from their previous tours.
Teaching Singing, 1932-1962
By 1932 Gange had been singing professionally for about 26 years. But he had also pursued a parallel career as a teacher of singing for many years, beginning by assisting his own teacher Madame Amy Sherwin, next teaching at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and then at the Juilliard, Mannes, and other music schools in New York. In 1932 he began to sing fewer concerts and to concentrate more on teaching, associating himself for the first time with the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland.
He settled into what must have been a comfortable routine, teaching primarily in his own studio behind Carnegie Hall in New York but also commuting to Baltimore to teach at the Peabody each week. For many years he also taught at the Juilliard Summer School in New York. During these years of teaching he came to be known as the grand old man of the voice faculties, a beloved and revered figure.
In 1949 Gange and Evans moved from New York to Baltimore where he took up full-time duties at the Peabody Conservatory. He had ended his association with Juilliard in 1944, so he was now free to concentrate on Peabody and the Baltimore music scene. Meanwhile, he continued to give occasional recitals until the age of 70, including one at London's Wigmore Hall at the age of 67. His voice was remarkably preserved until the end.
Fraser Gange died in Baltimore in 1962 at the age of 76. Amy Evans survived him and lived on in Baltimore to the age of 98.
The topmost photograph is provided courtesy of the Archives of the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University.
Revised July 2005