Monday, February 10, 2020

112th Birthday of Charles Henri Ford

112th Birthday of Charles Henri Ford

Portrait of Charles Henri Ford in Poppy Field by Pavel Tchelitchew (1933).

Among the curious happenings sharing the date of February 10th was the opening of the collaborative opera by Charles’s good friend Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson in New York. Four Saints in Three Acts premiered in New York City on February 10th, 1934. The opera starred an entirely black cast and was directed by the notable black choral conductor Eva Jessye. 

A book was written about all that went into bringing that production to the New York stage called Prepare for Saints: Gertrude Stein, Virgil Thomson, and the Mainstreaming of American Modernism, by Steven Watson. In the index, you’ll find Charles Henri Ford along with many other famous names. Charles lives in the indexes of many books because he was someone who always knew everyone who was busy doing anything interesting and new, and he was usually somehow part of all of those things. 

I think that anyone who is too young to remember, but curious about some of Charles's achievements, will find this video (made by Steve Zehentner) interesting. This was a talk given by Steven Watson about Charles and his life on the occasion of Charles’s memorial, after he passed away in 2002. Charles’s life was spoken of in a lot of details on that day, and every year since, Charles has only been missed more and the interest in him has only increased.

Charles, I’m still getting letters from writers and scholars asking for permission to quote you, and to reproduce your poetry and artworks in books and articles. Since you’ve left, I have not met anyone who I can say is more interesting than you. Happy birthday to you, Charles. I hope there’s a daring new opera being produced just for you, wherever you are. 

- Indra Tamang
  February 10th, 2020

copyright © Indra Tamang 2018, all rights reserved.