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Madam Schumann-Heink sang in York twice


Ernestine Schumann-Heink (1861-1936) was one of the most famous singers in the world when she appeared in York in October, 1907 and again in April 1934. Her second appearance called up the memory of the first for Yorker Clara Bosshart Gilbert, as related in a 1934 newspaper clipping I found in the Bosshart family file at York County Heritage Trust. It was titled “When Schumann-Heink and Gardner at Penn Park Met.”

Clara’s father, Albert Bosshart, was the Penn Park gardener. The afternoon before the 1907 concert, at the William Penn High School auditorium, Madam Schumann-Heink visited the park with her husband. Clara said her father, Albert Bosshart, Penn Park gardener, wanted to see the singer, so he pretended to be working on the fountain, and said “Guten Tag” (Good Day) to her. She asked him in German if he was German, to which he replied that he was Swiss. The singer then reportedly “went into raptures over the beauty of Switzerland.”

She asked if he was coming to hear her sing, and he told her he wasn’t, but his two daughters Emma, 21 and “a splendid pianist,” and Clara, 17 and a voice student, would be attending. Madame Schumann-Heink told him that they should “come back stage and tell her how she sang.”

The girls thought their father was joking when he told them, but he finally convinced them. Excited throughout the concert, when they went backstage, they were greeted by the contralto, who kissed each of them and asked: “How did you enjoy my singing?”

Clara relates in the 1934 article: “Ever after that when we spoke of Madam Schumann-Heink, and believe me, we made a point to speak of her, for did we not meet her?” She still had the 1907 program, with quite an impressive “playlist” of musical collections. She also says that father Albert, now 86, was planning to attend in 1934, health permitting. The article doesn’t say, but, hopefully, Albert did get to the concert.

This link should take you to my impressive Penn Park fountainYork Sunday News column on the . Since it was written a few years ago, I have been told that the fountain remains ended up at a scrap yard.