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Publishing a biography of a forgotten Canadian singer, Bertha Crawford, giving her the place she deserves in Canadian history.
Publishing a biography of a forgotten Canadian singer, Bertha Crawford, giving her the place she deserves in Canadian history.
82 backers pledged CA$ 5,439 to help bring this project to life.

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CA$ 5,439

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Who was the Canadian Nightingale? 

On a Sunday afternoon in December 1924, my great-aunt Margaret Tregear went to a concert at the Warsaw Philharmonic. Later she wrote home to her friends: “There was a ripping Orchestra, and an English singer, Berta Crawford, very Italian in style. She did wonderful things with her voice, and chose mainly operatic things or songs with heaps of trills and cascades of notes, …” 

After I read this letter a few years ago, I Googled ‘Bertha Crawford’. The first hit was a 1937 obituary from The New York Times which revealed that, in fact, Bertha was a Canadian who had worked for years in Russia and Poland. Further down the page was a link to an entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia of Music, but it was only four sentences. I felt I had found a few random pieces of a puzzle. But my curiosity was piqued. Surely there was more to her story than that. 

And so I started researching. Far too many hours on the internet... Visits to libraries and archives in Canada, New York, Warsaw and St. Petersburg... Emails and conversations with relatives and specialists around the world... (You can read more about my research here.) And one by one the pieces fell into place. 

Ambition. Fame. Betrayal!

It has taken six years, but I have reassembled the pieces of the puzzle that was Bertha Crawford’s life. The result is a full-length biography that reveals a lost piece of Canadian cultural history. With dramatized vignettes interspersed between chapters of traditional historical-biography, The Canadian Nightingale, recreates the untold story of an ambitious young woman from small-town Ontario, who rose to unprecedented success on the opera stages of Russia and Poland, only to be forgotten for eighty years. Tracking a roller coaster ride to celebrity that was ultimately derailed by broken trust, The Canadian Nightingale revives a singular voice, and reminds us how important it is to recognize Canadian talent and artistic contribution.. 

Our Challenge 

The book is written, has been professionally edited, and is ready for publication. I have approached a number of traditional Canadian publishers, but all have declined the book. They don’t think enough Canadians will be interested in this lost piece of Canadian musical history. I think they are wrong. I think there are a lot of Canadians who are concerned about our cultural hertitage. And just as many feel strongly about women’s history. I think they will want to help revive this lost story. And they will enjoy learning how this story from a hundred years ago reflects on the challenges Canadian musicians face today, as they strive to develop an international career while maintaining their Canadian identity. 

 Why Kickstarter?       

This Kickstarter project site allows you to pledge an amount to help me publish and distribute this piece of Canadian history. At the basic level, you can simply pre-order your copy of the book. At the higher rewards levels, you are contributing to the additional costs of production and promotion. Please note that funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing. You will not be charged for your pledge unless the whole project reaches its funding goal. This way, we can be sure that enough money is raised to reach the goal of publishing and distributing the book.  

Budget 

It will cost about $5,000 to get the book designed, proof-read, and printed and shipped to everyone who has pre-ordered copies. After that the book will be available to the general public from the publishers, on Amazon, and through book stores .

Thanks for taking an interest in this project!

Risks and challenges

Perhaps I have overestimated people’s interest Canadian musical history? If so, your risk is low, because you will not be charged for your pledge. On the other hand, if you forward this site to your friends, you can play a direct role reducing this risk.

Maybe the publishing and promotion will take longer than expected. Not a major risk, as I will persevere until the project is done.

My greatest fear is that some critical new evidence emerges which substantially changes the story and demands a rewrite. Although, of course, my greatest hope is also that more interesting information emerges… the research is never done. But the book will have to be!

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 10 or more About $7

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    Thanks for your help!

    Includes:
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
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    Pledge CA$ 20 or more About $15

    Pre-order your book (with shipping)

    You get your copy of the book in the mail, hot off the press, before it is available to the general public (well, just before...)

    Includes:
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • First Edition copy of the book, discounted price.
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    Pledge CA$ 20 or more About $15

    Pre-order your book (local pick up)

    Pick up your copy of the book, hot off the press, before it is available to the general public (well, just before...)

    Includes:
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • First Edition copy of the book, discounted price.
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    Pledge CA$ 50 or more About $37

    Join us for the Launch Concert

    Ensure you have a ticket to the Ottawa concert where the book will be launched, and Bertha's life will be revived in song by some of Ottawa's most talented young singers. Pick up your copy of the book at the concert. (Autographs free...)

    Includes:
    • 1 Ticket to the Book Launch Concert
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • First Edition copy of the book, discounted price.
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    22 backers
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    Pledge CA$ 50 or more About $37

    Bertha's Breakfast Special

    "Breakfast she dismisses with a cup of coffee...." said The Toronto Star about Bertha's dining habits in 1934. Enjoy your coffee elegantly served in a vintage demitasse cup, while you read your copy of the book.

    Includes:
    • Vintage porcelain demitasse coffee cup
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • First Edition copy of the book, discounted price.
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    Ships to Only Canada
    Limited 3 backers
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    Pledge CA$ 50 or more About $37

    Russian Tea Party for One

    Bertha told the Kingston Standard in 1921, she “lost everything in Russia, her money, baggage and private belongings.” But perhaps she brought out one small souvenir, like this? Have your tea in a traditional Russian tea glass holder, as you read your copy of the book.

    Includes:
    • Vintage fillagree Russian tea glass holder (podstakanik)
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • First Edition copy of the book, discounted price.
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    Ships to Only Canada
    Reward no longer available 1 backer
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 80 or more About $59

    HD Opera Outing

    What? You have never been to an opera? Join the author to watch a Metropolitan Opera 'Live in HD' production at any participating Cineplex theatre in Ottawa during the 2017-2018 season. (They have subtitles...)

    Includes:
    • Join the author at an HD Met Opera show at an Ottawa Cineplex
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • First Edition copy of the book, discounted price.
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    Limited 3 backers
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 125 or more About $92

    Library Special

    You get to select a library system to donate a set of 4 copies of the book to. And you get your own copy which you can read without fear of overdue fees.

    Includes:
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • 5 copies of the book
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    2 backers
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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 125 or more About $92

    Book Club Special

    You will get 5 copies of the book to share with your book club, and the author will give a reading and discussion, in person within 1.5 hours of Ottawa, or by Skype anywhere.

    Includes:
    • 1 author appearance, live within 1.5 hours of Ottawa or via Skype
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • 5 copies of the book
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    0 backers
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    Pledge CA$ 150 or more About $111

    Toronto Cycling Tour-de-Bertha

    Take a personally guided bicycle tour of down-town Toronto sites associated with Bertha's life and career, with stops for snacks. (Bicycle not included.)

    Includes:
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • First Edition copy of the book, discounted price.
    • Guided tour
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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 500 or more About $369

    Family Tree Research Special

    Maybe you have an opera singer in your past too? I'll do 20 hours of custom family tree research to settle the matter once and for all, and map out your family tree as far back as available records go. You'll get a printed tree with detailed profiles about selected ancestors.

    Includes:
    • 20 hours of custom research to produce your family tree
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • First Edition copy of the book, discounted price.
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    Ships to Only Canada
    Limited 0 backers
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    Pledge CA$ 1,000 or more About $739

    Bertha's New York Get Away

    Are you a genuine opera buff? Or do you want to be seen as one? Have a weekend in New York in elegant accommodations in historic Harlem, (sleeps maximum six). Do your own research at the New York Public Library. Enjoy Saturday afternoon at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center in person (rather than on the radio!) (Transport and meals not included.)

    Includes:
    • 2 nights in New York at 710 St Nicholas Avenue Suites
    • Limited edition postcard signed by the author, mailed to you
    • First Edition copy of the book, discounted price.
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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
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Funding period

- (30 days)