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..
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.
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.
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!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)