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Remembering Mordy


Mordecai Bauman's Obituary
by Steve Schwartz

With great sadness, I pass on the news that Mordecai Bauman, baritone, music educator, film producer, and political activist, died on Wednesday, May 16, 2007. Bauman, born in New York City in 1912, earned simultaneous degrees from both Columbia and Julliard (perhaps the only one to accomplish this). Typically, he did it by ignoring rules and going around bureaucracies.

As a young man, Bauman made several stage appearances on Broadway and was often praised both for his singing and his acting. Mordy, as he was known to nearly everyone even unreasonably close, became involved with the political left during the Thirties. He knew just about everybody in New York musical circles: Marc Blitzstein, Aaron Copland, Hanns Eisler, Henry Cowell, Jerome Moross, Charles and Ruth Seeger, Elie Siegmeister, Earl Robinson, Paul Robeson, and the Weavers, among many others. He also was the first to record songs by Charles Ives. The composer admired the performance, and his wife Harmony Ives attended many of Mordy's recitals. Indeed, Ives was probably one of the few Republicans Mordy would have anything to do with. Mordy also originated the role of the Folksinger in Britten and Auden's opera Paul Bunyan. Britten wrote the role incorporating several of Mordy's suggestions.

After serving in World War II, Mordy went on to teach at the Cleveland Institute of Music for five years. Internal political trouble at that place influenced his decision to leave, and he and his wife Irma began the Indian Hill arts workshop, which had many distinguished students, including Ruth Laredo, Frank Rich, Elliott Goldenthal, and Julie Taymor. Indian Hill continues on the Internet -- Mordy and Irma also produced one of the best documentaries on Bach, "The Stations of Bach," which had a short run on PBS.

Mordy's musical passions were the composers he sang and championed, Bach, the French singer Charles Panzera, and his students. He was a born teacher and continued to give great advice to young performers about both career and art.

I met him through the Internet and managed to see him twice, face-to-face. His interest and his warmth were overwhelming. Within a few minutes of meeting him, I had bonded to him, and I am kindly described as "reserved." It was a great pleasure to make him laugh. When it happened - rolling, deep, and rich - you felt as if you'd done something wonderful out of all proportion.

Up to nearly the end, before age finally just wore him out, he was engaged. Scholars came to him for information. He was especially sought out for information on Marc Blitzstein. Students and friends keep dropping by, now to see his wife, Irma. What a life! Full, at the center of things, committed, damned interesting, and I think more than a little heroic.

- Steve Schwartz

A note from Irma

Steve Schwartz was a voice student at the Cleveland Institute of Music where Mordy had taught from 1946 through 1951; that's when and how he learned about Mordy's singing career, and wrote an early Internet review about his Charles Ives recording. It was in Cleveland that we made many friends who helped us start Indian Hill. Especially helpful was Joe Klein, a dentist/inventor. Among other things he invented the Photomaton, the early automatic camera in  a booth that took passport size photos for a quarter. Unhappily for Joe, he lost the uninsured camera in a World's Fair fire. It was Joe who pushed us into starting Indian Hill: We are still very close to his grandson, known as Willy, and great granddaughter, Sophie.


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