Monday, March 5, 2018

Hidden Talents

The Princess's Theater- London
Every once in a while, I run across a story that piques my curiosity. This is one of those stories. It concerns a more distant branch of the Tapply family. Mary Ann Charlotte Tapply is only a 2nd cousin 4 times removed. Not a close family member. When I started following the clues for her family, I discovered a really interesting story and a bizarre twist.

Mary Ann married a man named James Baker Husk Junior. The census referred to him as a vocalist. A little more digging led me to this small bio on the site of the D'Oyly Carte Opera company.
"James Baker Husk was a member of the jury when Trial by Jury received its first performance at the Royalty Theatre March 25, 1875, under the management of Richard D'Oyly Carte. The Company was on tour from June to October 1875, then returned to the Royalty, but under the management of Charles Morton, rather than Carte. While on tour, Husk was promoted to Foreman of the Jury, a role he played only until November, when he was succeeded by W. S. Penley.
Husk had a musical career dating back to the 1840s. It ranged from the London Sacred Harmonic Society to the Cyder Cellar music hall. He was the father of D'Oyly Carte singer Rosa Husk."
Another site described him as a vocalist and music teacher and music hall chairman of the Cider Cellar and Dr. Johnson's Tavern. Apparently this last place was a Victorian age landmark. It seems that his talents were "opera with a touch of music hall". 
Mary Ann and James had nine children and lived in the area of London near St. Pancras called "Kentish town". This isn't far from where my great-great grandmother lived. Of the nine,  three followed their father into the music profession. William, James Charles and Rosa were all described in various censuses as vocalists. William died relatively young, but Rosa had some success in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.
"Rosa Alexandra Husk toured with D'Oyly Carte organization in the early 1880s. She appeared as Kate in The Pirates of Penzance (April-December 1881) with Mr. D'Oyly Carte's "C" Company, and later had two tours as the Lady Angela in Patience with Mr. D'Oyly Carte's No. 1 "Patience" Company (March-April 1883 and March-July 1884). During the 1881 Pirates tour she appeared as Kate Husk, but for the subsequent Patience tours she was billed by her real name of Rosa or as Rose." 
She got a number of good reviews, but eventually retired, married and ended up in Los Angeles.
The eldest brother, James Charles, is where the strange twist come in. James was also a professional singer and a member of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. They toured England bringing opera to various smaller cities all over the country. The Princess's Theater, shown above, is one of the places the Carl Rosa Opera Company mounted productions. He sang for many years, but his eyesight began to fail and he turned to his other talent to make his living. In this life, he was known as Cecil Husk.
Raymond Buckland describes Husk this way in The Spirit Book:
"From early childhood, in England, Cecil Husk was aware of his potential mediumship, frequently experiencing clairvoyance and psychokensis. His father was a singer, but also a Spritualist which made it easier for Cecil to understand and accept his gifts... Husk had five spirit guides, the main one being John King. While traveling on tour, Husk would give seances. He sat two or three times a week. At his sittings, musical "fairy bells" would be heard and would be seen flying around the room like orbs."
Unfortunately, not everyone was impressed with Cecil's "skills".  Wikipedia tells this tale;
"In 1891 at a public séance with twenty sitters Husk was exposed as a fraud. He was caught leaning over a table pretending to be a spirit by covering his face with phosphor material. It was noted by investigators that the materializations of Husk had fine singing voices and sounded similar to himself.[2] Husk also claimed to have the psychic ability to push his entire arm through an iron ring with a size that did not allow its passage over the hand, however, it was discovered that he performed the trick by using a local anesthetic on his hand."
Although he was "exposed" a number of times, he continued to make a living with his mediumship. Eventually, ill and destitute, a fund was set up to provide for his care. He died around 1920.
The story doesn't end there. Cecil's brother Percy was a journalist, but  his daughter also became a singer who performed under the name Ray Wallace. An online source describes her as a serio-comic ballad vocalist. "She commenced her imitations of music-hall favorites in 1899 and has appeared in every hall of note in the United Kingdom."
Judge for yourself.
Sometimes the true stories you find in your family history are much better than anything you could possibly invent!