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26 June, 2013
Mark Twain, A Biography Vol III, Part 2: 1907 - 1910
CCLXXXIV. A Library Concert
by Paine, Albert Bigelow


In a letter which Clemens wrote to Miss Wallace at this time, he tells of a concert given at Stormfield on September 21st for the benefit of the new Redding Library. Gabrilowitsch had so far recovered that he was up and about and able to play. David Bispham, the great baritone, always genial and generous, agreed to take part, and Clara Clemens, already accustomed to public singing, was to join in the program. The letter to Miss Wallace supplies the rest of the history. We had a grand time here yesterday. Concert in aid of the little library.

                              TEAM

                    Gabrilowitsch, pianist.
                    David Bispham, vocalist.
                    Clara Clemens, ditto.
                    Mark Twain, introduces of team.


Detachments and squads and groups and singles came from everywhere- Danbury, New Haven, Norwalk, Redding, Redding Ridge, Ridgefield, and even from New York: some in 60-h.p. motor-cars, some in buggies and carriages, and a swarm of farmer-young-folk on foot from miles around--525 altogether.

If we hadn't stopped the sale of tickets a day and a half before the performance we should have been swamped. We jammed 160 into the library (not quite all had seats), we filled the loggia, the dining- room, the hall, clear into the billiard-room, the stairs, and the brick-paved square outside the dining-room door.

The artists were received with a great welcome, and it woke them up, and I tell you they performed to the Queen's taste! The program was an hour and three-quarters long and the encores added a half-hour to it. The enthusiasm of the house was hair-lifting. They all stayed an hour after the close to shake hands and congratulate.

We had no dollar seats except in the library, but we accumulated $372 for the Building Fund. We had tea at half past six for a dozen--the Hawthornes, Jeannette Gilder, and her niece, etc.; and after 8-o'clock dinner we had a private concert and a ball in the bare-stripped library until 10; nobody present but the team and Mr. and Mrs. Paine and Jean and her dog. And me. Bispham did "Danny Deever" and the "Erlkonig" in his majestic, great organ-tones and artillery, and Gabrilowitsch played the accompaniments as they were never played before, I do suppose.

There is not much to add to that account. Clemens, introducing the performers, was the gay feature of the occasion. He spoke of the great reputation of Bispham and Gabrilowitsch; then he said:

"My daughter is not as famous as these gentlemen, but she is ever so much better-looking."

The music of the evening that followed, with Gabrilowitsch at the piano and David Bispham to sing, was something not likely ever to be repeated. Bispham sang the "Erlkonig" and "Killiecrankie" and the "Grenadiers" and several other songs. He spoke of having sung Wagner's arrangement of the "Grenadiers" at the composer's home following his death, and how none of the family had heard it before.

There followed dancing, and Jean Clemens, fine and handsome, apparently full of life and health, danced down that great living-room as care-free as if there was no shadow upon her life. And the evening was distinguished in another way, for before it ended Clara Clemens had promised Ossip Gabrilowitsch to become his wife.

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