British concert soprano Eleanor Jones-Hudson (1874-1945)
Rose in the Bud (Barrow; Forster)
Recorded: c.1905 –1910?
The following is from The Record of Singing by Michael Scott
Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc.
New York (1979)
Eleanor Jones-Hudson was a popular British concert singer whose records of arias from opera and oratorio, ballads and songs sold prodigiously in her life-time and still appeal to lovers of fine singing today. Born in Wales, as a child she liked to raise her voice at local music events; by the time she reached her late teens it was apparent that she had the talent to profit from professional training. A group of local music lovers set up a fund to raise sufficient money to enable her to go to Cardiff and study with Madame Clara Novello Davies, a prominent figure in Welsh musical life; a soprano herself, later choral conductor, she taught many well-known singers including Clara Butt, and her son was the popular light opera composer Ivor Novello. In 1896 Eleanor Jones, as she was, secured a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, London, and became a pupil of Anna Williams, a famous concert soprano in Victorian days, whose own teacher, John Welch, like Santley, had been a pupil of Gaetano Nava in Milan. Jones proposed to travel to Italy herself but circumstances, namely Eli Hudson, a flautist of considerable distinction and later Chairman of Beecham’s New Symphony Orchestra, intervened, and they were married in 1900. Thereafter she was busy in oratorio, concerts and recitals throughout Great Britain and especially in the recording studios of the Gramophone company, Zonophone and Odeon, under her new name, but sometimes as Alvena Yarrow and Madame Deering. On the outbreak of the war, at the instigation of the impresario Stoll, Eleanor and her husband and his sister Winnie, an accomplished executant on a variety of instruments, formed the Hudson Trio and toured the leading provincial theatrical circuits for the next three years; their programmed were a mixture of classical and light music. In 1917 at Knowsley Hall, Liverpool, they performed in front of King George V and Queen Mary. Later that year Hudson was drafted into the army; he was killed in the last weeks of the war (1). Immediately thereafterJones-Hudson retired to Wales, though she did re-emerge from time to time for charity concerts and church functions, both as singer and in melodramas and dramatic recitations. Hers was not the kind of voice that rose over the Wagnerian flood and stirred vast multitudes, nor was she a high priestess buried in the interpretive depths. Her programmes did not demand such things; it was the ineffable sweetness of the singing itself that she charmed. The voice is a high, pure, lyric soprano, the production easy and limpid throughout its range. The soft-grained warmth of the tone in Lurline’s ‘Sweet spirit hear my prayer’ conjures up visions of evenings spent around the piano in the parlor, where the pleasure that beautiful singing can give was known and fully appreciated by thousands who never went to the opera. Hers was a cultivated art, the legato smooth and her diction an object lesson in clarity, but it never interferes with the flow and tone and there is no exaggerated ejaculation of consonants. She phrases gracefully and the voice is nicely responsive to shifting mood and tempo. Her account of the Israelite Woman’s ‘Let the bright seraphim’ from Handel’s Samson, though accurately despatched in the divisions, lacks the boldness that would have come from theatrical experience; it rather peters out at the end without a cadenza or even a flourish. This absence of sensationalism, however, of all suggestion of artiness and contrivance, was in some measure a part of what makes her manner seem so truthful and spontaneous. Her record of Musetta’s Waltz fro La Boheme has the special interest of being one of very few recordings of the original version of the song, only to be found in the first editions of the score.
(1) The Tuesday, January 21, 1919 Times of London (page 12) reports Eli Hudson died at Millbank Hospital in London from an “internal complaint” (a few months after WWI).