Charles Wakefield Cadman
and Tsianina Redfeather
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Charles Wakefield Cadman was born in Johnstown, PA, in 1881. At age 13 he began piano lessons and composed several simple pieces. The following year he became a church organist and errand boy to finance his studies. At age seventeen he self-published The Carnegie Library March and eventually sold 6,000 copies door to door. In 1901, when he was 14, he had seen a production of De Kovens' operetta, Robin Hood, and that inspired him to compose operettas, three of which he had written by the age of 20. Cadman's formal music education began in 1902, when he studied harmony and theory with Leo Oehmier. In 1904 he began publishing organ pieces and ballads. In 1906 composed At Dawning, a song inspired by American Indian tunes, which was to become his most famous work. From 1907 to 1910 he was the organist at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and 1908 was appointed accompanist for the Pittsburgh Male Choir. That same year he studied orchestration with Luigi von Kunits, concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and with Emil Paur, its conductor, and he was appointed music editor and critic of the Pittsburgh Dispatch, as well as Pittsburgh correspondent of the Musical Courier.
The year 1908 was to prove pivotal in young Cadman's life, for he went to Austria with Emil Paur, but soon became ill with a tubercular condition and returned home. The East Liberty Church and Choir collected funds to send him and his mother the following year to Santa Fe for the sake of his health. There he corresponded with ethnologist Alice Fletcher who urged him to visit the Omaha Indians in Nebraska and learn their music. Following her advice, he met Francis La Flesche, son of a French trader and an Omaha woman. Cadman and La Flesche made cylinder recordings and transcription of Omaha and Winnebago tribal melodies for the Smithsonian Institution. Cadman learned to play their instruments and later "idealized" their music for concert audiences.
By 1909 Cadman's works started to gain popularity when his song, From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water, was given as an encore by soprano Lillian Nordica at a Cleveland recital. His most successful song, At Dawning, was popularized by tenors John McCormick and Allessandro Bonci. The words of both songs were written by Nelle Richmond Eberhardt, a neighbor of the Cadman family during his youth and the person who introduced him to Indian lore.
Around this time, during a visit in Denver, Cadman was introduced to a Cherokee-Creek young lady who, at the age of sixteen, had been sent by a patron from the Eufaula Indian Boarding School, where she had demonstrated ability in piano, to Denver to study music. She became a student of Edward B. Fleck, who recognized her as a capable musician and soon realized that she also had a singer's voice. Fleck recommended her to John C. Wilcox, Denver's leading voice teacher. Three weeks after her first lesson with Wilcox, he introduced her to Cadman, suggesting to him that she would be ideal for interpreting his songs. Thus, came about a fortuitous collaboration of Cadman and the soon to be famous Native American, born Florence Tsianina (pronounced cha-nee-nah) Evans, who early in her career used the stage name Princess Tsianina Redfeather and then later and for the rest of her life preferred simply Princess Tsianina.
Tsianina, a mezzo-soprano, memorized 18 Cadman songs in 24 hours and they were ready for their first concerts a few days later in Rocky Ford and Colorado Springs. Then Lawrence and Margaret Rogers Phipps introduced the pair to Denver's society elite at a concert in their mansion. There followed shortly a concert in a church in Boulder, the first stop on their first inter-state tour. From 1909 to 1916 they toured the the United States and visited Paris and London, giving recitals of Amerindian music that attracted large audiences and garnered highly-favorable reviews
Cadman and his mother lived in Colorado from 1911 until 1915 where he composed many songs, ballads, choral works and operas. Two of those years were spent in Denver, at 3522 East 17th Avenue, and the remainder in Fort Collins, residing at 1100 West Oak, which Cadman describes as a "little bungalow... on the outskirts of this little agricultural town, with a commanding and beautiful view of the Rockies." It seems he was encouraged to come to Fort Collins by the Akin family, who had befriended him. Here he composed in 1913 his Sonata in A Major for Piano and the Thunderbird Suite and in 1914 Sayonara, a song cycle for four voices, based on Japanese themes and legend. It was performed on December 8 at the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Collins by a quartet of local singers, including alto Eunice Akin. While residing in Fort Collins, Cadman presented his "American Indian Music Talk" with Tsianina Redfeather, entertained the college faculty and students with his songs, and impressed the residents with his pianistic skill. Cadman's one-act opera, The Garden of Mystery, was begun in 1914 and completed in 1915 in Fort Collins. The librettist, Nelle Richmond Eberhardt, came from Pittsburgh to work with him during its inception and early composition.
Cadman and his mother left Fort Collins in September, 1915, to make their home in California. From then on to the end of his life, Cadman resided most of the time in California, first in Chula Vista and then after a time in Beverly Hills, where Cadman bought a home and called it "Sycamore Nook."
Soprano Maggie Teyte (Margaret Tate), the most famous English singer of her generation, was in the United States in 1915 for a round of concerts, recitals and opera performances. In her London recitals she had presented recitals at which only American songs were presented, including those of Cadman. Thus, she forged a professional relationship with Cadman when she arrived in California, joining him on his tours and was present at concerts given by Princess Tsianina. The relationship evolved into a serious romance. Cadman, who was seven years her senior, had settled down in California but Teyte was not to give up her hectic schedule of performing, so the affair was over by early 1916. Cadman was in poor health, the lingering effects of tuberculosis, and this may well have been the principal reason why the romance failed to blossom into marriage.
Cadman was particularly admired in San Diego. During San Diego's Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park, on July 6, 1915, at the Organ Pavilion, Tsianina sang songs by her accompanist, Charles Wakefield Cadman, and on March 31, 1917, the closing day of the exhibition, the twenty-three year old Tsianina, wearing a beaded headband and buckskin dress, sang Cadman songs while he accompanied her on the piano. These included, The Place of Breaking Light, From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water, and Ho, Ye Warriors on the Warpath. The San Diego Union the following day opined that Princess Tsianina Redfeather "sang the plaintive or merry or amusing words in tones and manner suitable to the moods of the songs. She was easy, natural and graceful in her gestures and posturing, and her tones were soft and liquid..."
Cadman's opera, Shanewis, based on authentic Indian melodies and a plot suggested by Tsianina, premiered March 23, 1918 at the Metropolitan Opera, with Pierre Monteux conducting and Sophie Braslau in the title role. The cast received twenty-two curtain calls and Cadman was cheered. Tsianina, who had coached Braslau, was in the audience in native costume. Shanewis was performed eight times in two seasons, and was the first American opera with a contemporary American setting staged at the Met, the first American opera with a libretto by a woman (Eberhardt) and first American opera to be performed in a second season at the Met.
On December 5 and 6, 1924, as part of Music Week, Shanewis, with Princess Tsianina in the title role, debuted in Denver at the Auditorium. Also on the program was The Sunset Trail, an operatic cantata by Cadman. The works were enthusiastically approved by full houses. There were alternate casts for the Denver Shanewis; one included Florence Lamont Hinman, and in the cantata cast was Leroy H. Hinman, the husband of Florence. The conductor of the opera and cantata was John C. Wilcox, Tsianina's music teacher who had introduced her to Cadman.
Shanewis had a remarkable, if short, life and was seen in several American cities, including a performance on June 24, 1926, at the Hollwood Bowl in Los Angeles.
In June of 1924, at the fourth commencement of the Wolcott Conservatory in Denver, Cadman was given an honorary doctor of music degree, in recognition of his distinguished service to American music. He gave the commencement address and the musical program was entirely of Cadman compositions. In 1926 the Chicago Civic Opera produced another of Cadman's operas, A Witch of Salem.
Living most of the time in Los Angeles, it was natural for Cadman to gravitate toward the movie industry. In 1929 he was hired by Fox Studios in Hollywood to score motion pictures. His scores include The Sky Hawk, Captain of the Guard, Women Everywhere, and Harmony at Home. Before leaving Fox, he became embroiled in a public dispute with Dmitri Tiomkin over the future direction of music for film. Cadman felt the music should be based on classical or traditional styles and was opposed to Tiomkin's popular jazz approach. Eventually, Cadman would relent but only after his severance with the studio was complete.
Cadman, as a self-proclaimed expert on American Indian music, continued to tour North America and Europe, delivering his celebrated "Indian Talk" and demonstrating on the piano or with an Indian flute-- or flageolet-- and sometimes accompanied by Princess Tsianina. However, Tsianina had become famous in her own right and enjoyed a highly successful singing career throughout the world.
During World War I, Tsianina, who had two brothers in service, organized an entertainment troupe of twelve Southwest Indian men and toured allied camps in France and Germany. She sang and the men did "spirited Indian dances." After the war, although at the time her home was in Denver, Tsianina became a member of the Larimer County Post of the American Legion of World War Veterans in Fort Collins in August of 1919. She had a number of close friends in the local post and in the city of Fort Collins.
Tsianina was well known and greatly admired in Colorado, where her musical life began. An announcement in the Greeley Tribune of February 21, 1920, typifies her local popularity. Under the headline, "Tsianina Will Sing at the Rex Theater," is the statement "Tsianina Redfeather, an Indian princess and mezzo soprano, is scheduled to appear at the Rex Theater for three days. She has many personal friends in Greeley."
In 1921 Tsianina, accompanied by Dr. Charles A. Lory, president of the Colorado State Agricultural College (now Colorado State University), visited an area northwest of Fort Collins to find the grave of her great-great-great grandfather Chief Redfeather who, according to legend, met his death there in a battle between the Cherokees and the Pawnees. That area, then called Mitchell Lakes, was re-named Red Feather Lakes by the developers after the much publicized visit by Tsianina Redfeather.
For nine years, beginning in 1922, Tsianina was "a leading attraction" at the annual Southwest Indian Fair and Industrial Arts and Crafts Exhibition in Santa Fe, NM.
Princess Tsianina's greatest success came in 1926 when she sang the title role in Shanewis for an audience of 17,000 at the Hollywood Bowl. In California, Tsianina was involved in some minor way with the motion picture industry, as evidenced by a publicity photograph of her with cowboy actor, Tim McCoy, from the 1926 silent film, Warpaint, filmed on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Tsianina is not credited in the cast list for this movie.
In 1920, Tsianina married David F. Balsz, a Denver railroad clerk, moved to St. Louis with him, and Balsz became the manager for the Cadman-Tsianina tours. The marriage must have been brief; Tsianina never made mention of him in later years. Around 1930 she married Arthur Blackstone, who became her manager for the Indian programs, and lived in Chicago. That marriage lasted only 3 years. While in Chicago she was a frequent guest artist on WLS Radio. Tsianina retired from singing in 1935, became deeply involved with Christian Science, and spent the 1960s and 70s in Burbank, CA, living with her niece, Wynema Blaylock. The two moved to San Diego in the 1980s and there Tsianina Redfeather Blackstone, also known as Mrs. Arthur Blackstone, died in 1985, at about 93 years of age.
Much of Charles Wakefield Cadman's success also centered about Los Angeles and San Diego. In the 1930s Cadman was San Diego's leading celebrity, where in 1929 he and his mother settled. Most of his music writings during this time were symphonic. During summers, Cadman lived in the Big Thompson Canyon near Estes Park, CO, where he had built a cottage. With the success of his songs, he lived comfortably and pursued serious composition.
However, interest in the Indianist Movement began to waned and Cadman saw his popularity erode. Sales of his songs decreased and his personal funds were being depleted. Though he was voted the Most Popular Composer of 1930 by the National Federation of Music Clubs, he recognized the change in public taste. European-trained American composers like Copland, Piston, and Harris were presenting more sophisticated sounds to the American public. Cadman intensified his output but critics still stereotyped him as a composer of "Indian melodies."
In 1935 the California Pacific International Exposition at San Diego declared the 4th of September "Cadman Day." The following year, Cadman received national prominence when he resigned from the American Music Committee of the Berlin Olympic Games Festival, declaring the Nazi regime ‘repugnant.’
After his mother's death in 1938, Cadman moved back to Los Angeles, where he was much involved with the early days of the Hollywood Bowl. He was a founding member of the Hollywood Bowl and a featured Bowl soloist seven times in his career.
Cadman continued to compose instrumental, choral and chamber works, and to promote his 'serious works' but their conventional style and sentiment became increasingly outmoded. These attained little acceptance beyond southern California, except for the 1940 premiere of his Pennsylvania Symphony with Albert Coates conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Living the last years of his bachelor life in semi-frugality at a modest hotel in Los Angeles, Cadman tried to persevere, though in poor health and depression. He died December 30, 1946, at age 65, following a heart attack, and was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, CA, a forgotten and 'vanished' American.