Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Madame Jeanette

This post is not about birds. When I was in high school (class of '69), one of the popular songs being sung by high school and college choruses was "Madame Jeanette," music by Alan Murray, lyrics by Edward Lockton. I first heard the song, sung by the West Leyden Choir, at my elementary school in 1965--the high school choir performed at an assembly to sort of let us know what high school was all about. And I was blown away. Because of how exquisitely they sang that song, it was my fondest desire to get into that choir.

When I made it, I pestered Mr. Roth until he pulled out the music so we could sing it--now that I think back on it, he probably preferred to change music now and then so he didn't have to deal with the exact same songs year after year, but he kindly gave in. I loved singing it as much as I loved listening to it, but it was an a Capella arrangement with tight harmonies that a single voice just didn't do justice to, so once choir was over, that was the end of my lovely song. My sister-in-law gave me the music for it one Christmas, but that didn't work to reproduce my lovely singing experience, either.

I've so wished I had a recording of it, but now, thanks to the miracle that is Google, I just found one! This recording of Madame Jeanette is sung by the Dartmouth Glee Club, a men's rather than a mixed choir, but is lovely nonetheless. It's on the Dartmouth Class of '65 webpage.

Now I'm going to have to actually go get Stephen Jay Gould's book Bully for Brontosaurus because, also thanks to the miracle that is Google, I just learned that in it he discusses this amazing song. I read an excerpt at Google Books.

33 comments :

  1. Thanks for that. Nostalgia just isn't what it used to be. h

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  2. John David SottileJuly 10, 2007 at 8:19 AM

    Hello Laura...

    I am the webmaster for the Dartmouth Class of '65... the site where you were finally re-acquainted with the haunting song, Madame Jeanette. I am pleased to read your comments. I receive many personal emails with similar sentiment. This song does have a way of moving people.--->>> I will forward the mp3 file of the song, if you provide and email address. Then you can listen to your heart's content on your stereo or iPod.

    Regards,

    Johnny

    John David Sottile
    Dartmouth College
    '64 - (H)'65

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    Replies
    1. I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR SENDING ME THE MP3 file on Madam Jeamett
      Thank you

      Edward

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    2. Email me via the blog contact so I have an email address for you.

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  3. Hi, Laura

    I found this post by searching for the song "Madame Jeanette". Oddly enough, I was reminded of the song by a chatter named "Len" in the old AOL Author's Lounge chat room. He told me he was the Len who is mentioned in Gould's book, "Bully for Brontosaurus". Finally, I note that I sang the song as arranged for mixed chorus at a choral festival in high school, many years ago.

    pavarottid@aim.com

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  4. I sang "Madame Jeanette" as a baritone with the NYC All-City HS chorus in 1958. Every year at the annual concert,alumni of the chorus were invited to come on stage and join in. Iwas looking for the words of the song for an article I am writing about English speaking singers in Israel, where I now live.
    Fred Casden
    Maale Adumim

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  5. Wow...

    Dear Laura,

    You will never know how long I have searched for “Madame Jeanette.” I sang her song as a senior at Long Beach High School in 1967. OK, you now know. Even though I am an instrumental music teacher today, I never forgot Madame Jeanette.

    My quest is to find the choral score for the song. Sheet Music Plus came up empty, as did Musicnotes.

    Do you know where I can purchase a copy of the music?

    Who’d ever thought I’d find her at the Dartmouth Jukebox through your blog! Thank you so much for your devotion and a dedicated page. This haunting song should never be allowed to disappear.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Art Greenberg
    Director of Instrumental Music
    Robert A. Van Wyck Middle School #217Q
    Jamaica, NY 11435
    718-657-1120
    516-650-2684 (cell)
    akgreenberg@optimum.net

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  6. I wish I did have the music--Anyone else? Art, I'll keep your contact information posted, but please email or post another comment if you want me to delete it--it's a little risky but we might get lucky with the sheet music!

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  7. My sister-in-law, a librarian, found this possibility:

    http://www.charliespiano.com/item/56643/

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  8. Some of you might find the following youtube video interesting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hczSef4OV-E or just go to youtube and search "Madame Jeanette Calhoun Choir" A little slow to load but a nice recording.

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  9. I just caught up with Madame Jeanette which I've been looking for off and on while at Ryerson in 1952. As well as a large school choir, we had a mixed double quartet in which I sang the bass. It was so lovely to hear it again. I'm still singing (at 77)both solos and ensembles. We just finished a show called Snow Tunes and Show Tunes produced by my voice coach, Elizabeth Davidson. She's sure to want to include this in a future performance.
    Thanks so much for finding it for me. N. Parry, Toronto

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  10. Laura,

    Having been to Paris where Pere La Chaise cemetery is located brought back memories of this beautiful song. The Calhoun Choir did a wonderful job, as did the Dartmouth Glee Club, although the range in the Glee Club version is "impossible" - but beautiful nonetheless.

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  11. I sang Madame Jeanette as a soprano in the Mixed Chorus at Fort Hamilton HS, c. 1959. And in the NYC subway with friends from the All City Chorus. Marie Salzberg, a disciple of Peter Wilhousky, was our much-loved choral conductor. What memories this brings back. I would love to have an MP3 file.

    Emily Paradise Achtenberg
    ejpa@aol.com

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  12. I sang "Madame Jeanette" with the Gettysburg College Choir back in the 80s, and have never forgotten it. Years later, my father was directing a men's community choir and couldn't get ahold of the music. He actually made a new arrangement, but never felt that his was as good as the original. Have we established a place where we can find the music?

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  13. This site claims to have it, for $14.95, and there's a two-week wait.

    http://www.charliespiano.com/item/56643/

    If I find my copy at some point (it's SO frustrating that I've misplaced or loaned it!) I can copy it if it's not reasonably available through better, more official ways.

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  14. I have the old sheet music. If someone wants to send me their address offline, I will copy and mail.

    Emily
    ejpa@aol.com

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  15. I graduated from West Leyden in 1963 and I was in the choir, too. I have a copy of the 4-part SATB music of "Madame Jeanette". I think I stole it from the music dept before I graduated and will never give it back. Email me at eclloyd89@hotmail.com privately and I'll see what I can do to get you a copy. Eileen Johnson Lloyd

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  16. Oooh, Eileen! Did you go to St. John Vianney, too?

    I did get my own copy, too--my sister-in-law Jean Erickson (West Leyden class of 66'), found one, so now we have two sources if anyone does want a copy. I think it is so cool how deeply this song has touched people!

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  18. Hello Laura,
    I too find myself mesmerized by this hauntingly beatiful song. When I was in the freshman glee at Sam Barlow HS (Gresham, OR) in 1969, the Concert Choir that I would eventually be a member of sang this song and had it recorded at a live performance that spring. A reunion of the choirs and their director of 10 years, J.Robert Barber was where this digitized version surfaced. Enjoy, as I have for all these years: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qy0MsJQ89do

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  19. Oh, wow, Scott! Thanks so much! (I just linked to it on my facebook page.)

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  20. I just found my sheet music to Madame Jeanette, so if anyone needs it, email me.

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  21. Hi Laura,

    I received an e-mail yesterday from Scott. The last time I visited your Blog (October of 2008), you didn't have a copy of Madame Jeanette. Scott said that you now have a copy. Can I get a copy of it? I would be so grateful. Thanks. If you would message me your e-mail address, I'll send you my home address.

    Art G.
    akgreenberg@gmail.com

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  22. Hi Laura,
    Amazingly I found another blog that started initially talking about the cemetery in mentioned in Madame Jeanette, but mophs into folks commenting on the song.

    http://udgewink.blogspot.com/2004/11/pere-lachaise.html

    -Scott

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  23. Hi I went to The High School of Music and Art in New York. Back when I graduated (81) Madame Jeanette was almost always sung at the end of a concert. And one of my fondest memories was getting the chance, in class not concert, to actually conduct the song.
    thank you for this post and the chance to hear this song again.
    hugs
    Dawn

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  24. I remember singing Madame Jeanette in the mixed chorus at Fort Hamilton High School from 1957-59. Marie Salzberg was our director, and she was the most dynamic teacher I ever had. Just thinking of this song, I can bring it all to mind.

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  25. To Ladyreadsalot:
    I also sang Madame Jeanette in the FHHS mixed chorus, 1959, with Marie Salzberg, whom I adored, like you. We probably know each other; who are you? I would be happy to send you the sheet music via pdf.
    Emily Paradise Achtenberg
    ejpa@aol.com

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  26. Emily, I don't want anyone to send you spam, and blogger sometimes has problems with that. Could you delete your comment and repost, writing your email with "at" instead of "@"?

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  27. One of the commenters talked about singing "Madame Jeanette" in 1958 in the annual concert of the New York All-City Chorus. I was a member of the All-City Orchestra from 1959 through 1962 and we also participated in those joint annual concerts at Carnegie Hall. Our conductor was Raymond Lemieux, the chorus was conducted by Peter Wilhousky. I remember that beautiful song, and the tradition of singing it at then end of those concerts. I had never heard it before and I never heard it again. For some reason "Madame Jeanette" came back into my mind recently and in looking it up I found this site and also got a chance to hear the Dartmouth version and another on Youtube. Nice to be part of these reminiscences.

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  28. Thanks for that!! I, too, sang that song with my choir in high school. I have to admit it still brings a tear to my eye.

    Roy Wallace
    class of '54
    Waco High School
    Waco TX

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  29. These comments have been great!! I taught elementary music for 35 years here in Oklahoma and now am retired and interestingly I never hum the tunes I taught the kids- my mind and heart go back to the songs I knew BEFORE I starting teaching- Sitting next to the window all alone and kind of lonely this evening "Madame Jeanette" came back to "haunt" me- a leftover from singing it in the Frankfurt American High School "Melloteens"- in 1964! All I could remember was the "Madame Jeanette" part- How cool to "just google it"! Here's a shout-out to all you choir geeks and to Miss Virginia Johnson who taught "Madame Jeanette" to us!

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  30. JUST AN ANECDOTE---I WAS A VIOLINIST IN THE ALL CITY HIGH SCHOOL ORCHESTRA UNDER RAYMOND LEMIEUX IN NEW YORK CITY DURING THE EARLY 1950'S. PETER WILHOUSKI WAS THE CHORAL CONDUCTOR.WE GAVE CONCERTS IN BROOKLYN TECH AUDITORIUM AND CARNEGIE HALL.WE WERE SPONSORED BY THE NY DAILY MIRROR.A BIT OF MEMORABLE ANCIENT MUSICAL HISTORY.

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