Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Story About My Dad Singing In "The Boy's Chorus Of The Metropolitan Opera" Happy Father's Day To All

I was in the attic of my parent’s home recently. As I looked around, I could see the sunlight coming in the window. The sun focused on an empty box in the corner. It was not too big, but just enough to keep some memorabilia stored. I wondered what was in this box and decided to ask my dad. This is a story about what he found in that box……………..

My father is 87 years young! He told me that what he found was memorabilia from the years 1937- 1943. These papers, photos, booklets, and autographs were from a time when he sang in the “Boy’s Chorus of The Metropolitan Opera” in New York City.  He sang with the chorus for only six years, but his experiences were incredible  throughout those years.
Bruna Castagna (Opera Star)

I recall hearing stories as I was growing up about my dad and his singing at the Opera house, or as he would call it “The Met.” I remember hearing the names of many of the Opera singers such as Lily Pons, Bruna Castagna, Ezio Pinza, Doris Doe, and his favorite of all who was Grace Moore. What a perfect time to sit down with him and ask him how he became one of the boys in that famous chorus? This is what he explained to me…..

The year was 1937 and he lived in Astoria, New York. In the early 1900, men would sell butter and eggs to customers and deliver them. The door bell rang. Mr. Ferruti came in. (a.k.a. butter and egg man) My dad was in his room singing out loud. As my grandmother was paying him for the food, she yelled into the room and told my dad to stop singing and be quiet. Mr. Ferruti told her not to stop him from singing that he had a wonderful voice. He said that my dad should go with him, to an audition that his son was going to the next day, at the Metropolitan Opera house. With no professional training behind him, my dad went to the audition and he was accepted! He was one of fifteen in the Boy’s Chorus and he was thrilled! He had to take the subway and travel to NYC. At that time a subway ride was five cents and that also included a transfer. I could not imagine, first of all that the price was five cents, but also, he was ten years old, traveling by himself. How things have changed in the years. In 1940 my dad’s brother was accepted as well in the chorus, and then they both traveled together, in the subway. (Those of you that are wondering, yes, Mr. Ferruti’s son Hugo, also made the audition as well) 

Program for opera "Louise"
In the years that followed, my dad said that he sang in four operas with the Boy‘s Chorus. They were, Carmen” in 1937, with Bruna Castagna/ Boris Godunoff” in 1939, with Ezio Pinza / Charpentier’s “Louise” in 1939, with Grace Moore, Ezio Pinza, and Doris Doe / La Gioconda” in 1940, with Ezio Pinza, and Bruna Castagno. These opera performances were sung over a number of times. Besides the operas that the Boy’s Chorus sang with, they also made other appearances outside the opera house. They sang at the Plaza Hotel, May 10, 1940, Carnegie Hall, in 1940, plus Dec 26, 27 in the same year for St. Joan of Arc Theatre Guild Christmas Festival. 

My dad name is on bottom right

Throughout the years they traveled to different cities for performances of these operas. Boston and Philadelphia were cities he recalled, but he remembers traveling to other cities, as they toured with the opera company. They took a Pullman train, where they could sleep on the train in sleeping berths. My dad sent my grandmother a post card, which said they were having a great time, and the best was sleeping on the train. It must have been fun as he was 13 years old to be on the train with the other boys. My father always had his autograph book with him and would get autographs of many other opera stars, as well as the other people in the company, such as the conductor, ballet stars, singers, and dancers. I looked at his book and it is very impressive, just too many names to mention. But at least he has memories of a time long ago.

Then my dad went back to the story about Grace Moore, which was his boyhood crush you could say. There was one more story that he wanted to tell me about his ”Grace Moore.” It seems that one day they were rehearsing the opera “Louise,” and it was a really long day. Everyone was getting anxious and restless. My dad said he heard Grace Moore telling Doris Doe backstage that she was hungry. So, my father saw this as an opportunity to do something nice for Ms. Moore. He went to some of the workers backstage and asked them for five cents. He collected 35 cents and ran to the Horn & Hardart’s across the street, which he paid for a triple decker ham and cheese sandwich. Then he brought the sandwich to Ms. Moore and told her that he heard her say she was hungry. She was thrilled and said to him, “you darling boy, Thank you!,” as she hugged and kissed him. My dad was flabbergasted. A week or so later, he received in the mail at his home, an envelope from Grace Moore. Inside was a signed photo of her and dated 1939 with the name “Louise,” plus a 5 lb box of chocolates. Well, I could tell as my father with a tear in his eye, was telling me this story that he was amazed that she even knew his name. So he brought the box of chocolates to rehearsal and shared with the other boys. 

Grace Moore (autograph sent to my dad) 
{{Grace Moore was a "rebel" of her time. She broke many rules of convention and sometimes even shocked the small town she grew up in Jellico, Tennessee. They called her loving “The Tennessee Nightingale.” She left her mark however on the world and such a mark it was that Elvis is said to have named his beloved “Graceland” after her. "To produce something in life that outlives your own life” is said to be the true mark of a legend, he stated. In Copenhagen, Denmark, on January 26, 1947, Grace Moore boarded a plane to fly to Stockholm. The aircraft taxied out to the runway and was cleared to takeoff. The aircraft stalled, crashed to the ground and exploded. On the evening before her death, Grace Moore had sung to a packed audience of more than 4,000 people. Tragically, Ms. Moore lost her life in that plane crash following a concert which ended in a standing ovation and countless encores. She was buried in Chattanooga, Tennessee.}} 

In 1943, about 16 years old, my father left the “Met.” He learned so much and had awesome experiences, but it was time to move on. Throughout his life, he has never given up singing. He will always sing as long as he can as it brings such joy to others and is my father’s passion. When he worked for JCPenney as a Senior Control Buyer, in NYC, he joined the JCPenney Chorale group. They would sing at the holidays in the lobby of the building and even would go out to hospitals and nursing homes. When St. Patrick’s Cathedral celebrated their 100 Anniversary he also sang for that special day as well with the rest of the chorale group.

But that’s not all; his singing career was in full force. He sang for many years at St. Kevin’s Church in Flushing, in the choir. (For a few years I also sang with him as a choir member) As a member of the parish, he decided to be in some of the church productions that they put on for fund raising. He was in “World Wide Whirl” in 1982, and in 1989 “America Sings,” to name a few. In these productions he not only sang but also acted. (Who knew my dad was a ham?) There was one other play that he did in (1977-78?) and that was for Holy Cross High School. The musical play was called “Funny Girl.” One of my dad’s favorite plays.

 St. Thomas More Choir (second row 3 from the right)
Now, we are in the year 2014 and my father is still singing with his church choir but now in St. Thomas More, in Hauppauge, Long Island. He has been singing with them for 20 years this July…….and it still continues……

I would like to say Happy Father’s Day to all my readers and also to my father whom I am so proud to be his daughter. I love you dad, this is for you!  <3

 Added Extra Photos: 

Letter my dad sent to his mother as they toured
 Dad and myself at one of St. Kevin's plays

St Kevin's plays. He played the Ring Master (no date)

Till Next Time............
Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

I want to say thank you to all who helped me in the research:

Thank you to my dad for sharing all of his Memorabilia,
The Grace Moore Memorial page on Face book,
The Hollywood Sopranos, on Face book,

The Metropolitan Opera 
The Grace Moore website
“So This Is Love” movie about Grace Moore’s
Life with the debut of Kathryn Grayson, 


  1. Dottie, you deserve an award for this post! What a wonderful thing to do for Father's Day! I hope your Dad is as impressed as I am! haha! What an amazing experience to have sung in the boys' chorus at the Met and all the rest of his amazing experiences (like that box of chocolates being delivered to him; I can only imagine what he thought)!! What a lucky lady you are to have sung with him in your church choir and to be able to call him "Dad"! Tell him Happy Father's Day from a very impressed fan! :) Have a lovely day tomorrow! xx

    1. Dear Christina, Thank you for your kind and warm comment. I appreciate your words very much. I have been working on this for over a few weeks. There was a lot to say and many photos, but had to cut it somewhere. I never wrote so much on Blogger and was afraid that I would be cut off, especially with the added photos. But my dad's story had to be told. He doesn't use a computer so I will have to show him this tomorrow, I am sure when he sees all the photos and his story he will be very thrilled I am sure. Yes, these years must have been such a great time in his life, especially singing with the many great artists of that time. But to have Grace Moore send him the chocolates and the letter, plus hug and kiss him, was all he needed. When I was growing up, we always heard these stories, but when you are a kid, you can not appreciate what he accomplished. I find myself very blessed and grateful to have a father with such a colorful life. I will surely read him all of the comments that everyone writes, and I will let him know that you are a fan for sure! Hope to have a great day, I hope that you do the same with your family. We both are blessed to still have our fathers with us. Blessing, dear friend, Dottie :)

  2. What a great story about Ur Dad & his singing career. I always feel somewhat sad on Fathers' & Mothers' Day as my parents have both passed away. Enjoy spending time w/Ur 87 yr old Father... Molto grazie Dottie, Jeff Bilkanich

    1. Dear Jeff, Prego, so very much for your comment. So happy that you liked my post about my father. This one was a long time coming, and his story had to be told. I am sorry that both your parents have passed on, but believe me they are not far away from you. Their love and memories are in your heart. Remember all the fun times, with your family...I wish you Jeff dear friend a very peaceful day. Grazie for your wishes to my father and again thanks for you always being there to support my blog. Blessings! Dottie <3

  3. Dear Dottie ,
    What a wonderful tribute to your father and I know without a doubt how please he is to have such a wonderful daughter . I also heard Elvis named Graceland after Grace Moore . Your Dad love singing that was his way of sharing the joy in his heart with others . My father passed away 4 years ago , but I still by his a small card and say thanks Dad for the memories .

    This post was outstanding and It's one of the best you did since I been visiting . You looks like your Dad and you can see the love you each have for each other . Thanks so much for sharing this great story and have a blessed Father's Day with your dear and wonderful father . ~~Nee~~ ;-D

    1. Dear Nee,
      Just got home from my brother's. We spend the day at his house with a BBQ. I hope that you had a wonderful day. Thank you so much for visiting today. I am so elated that you really enjoyed this post. I never even knew about Graceland and Elvis, until I did some research on Grace Moore. My dad's singing is definitely from his heart and he does it because he really loves to make others happy as well as it is his passion.
      I am sorry that your dad passed and your card is I am sure a comfort to you. I know he is very proud of you and your family. I always say he is at God's table now. Your memories are in your heart and will always be there.
      I appreciate your words so much Nee, I think if I have to say so as well, that this post was a good one. Yes, a lot of people say that I resemble my dad's said of the family more than my mom's. He is Sicilian so maybe that is why. I showed the article to my parents today and my dad was extremely impressed. He loved every word. So now, his story has been told. Thank you once again dear friend, for your support and have a blessed week.
      Dottie :)

  4. I love this post I love all of your posts...but this one was very special....thank you for sharing such a wonderful story about your Dad...He sounds like such an awesome man & Father! How great for you to be able to sit down with him and have him share his life's adventures.... I enjoyed reading this very I love history & learning about the past.... What a great tribute for Father's Day! He must be so very proud to have such a caring, loving and wonderful daughter... Hope you enjoy a beautiful new week! Joe

    1. Dear Joe,
      Thank you so much for your kind comments. What beautiful words you wrote, gave me a tear. I am so glad that you enjoy reading all of my posts and this one was very special for sure. It took me a while to write this one, but his story had to be told. Yes, I agree my dad is awesome and a very colorful, kind, person. I love history as well, and I really enjoyed looking into all of his info plus on other websites, for research. I think that may be why it took long to write I was looking at everything I could learn about the Met and the singers at that time. I stumbled one day across a group called "The Hollywood Sopranos," and they are all about the old time operas and singers from the past. Very cool. If you get a chance you may want to check it out. It was a great tribute and my dad was thrilled that so many people made such wonderful comments. He and I are both proud of each other, and it is so important that we treasure these moments, as one day we will blink and it is over. Thanks again, you have been a special friend to me and I am so glad that we meet. You also have a great week..
      Blessings..Dottie :)

  5. HI Dottie!
    Oh my glory goodness, what a beautiful tribute to your dad and such a learning experience for us. To think he actually sang at the Met and that Grace Moore "made his day" with such a kind gift. Life sure does have a way of showing appreciation:)

    I'm sure your Dad loved sharing his experiences with you. Thank goodness for that box in the attic. Thank you so much for sharing such a lovely story on Father's Day, Dottie. It was quite inspiring.

    1. Dear Louise,
      Thank you so very much for your comment. It is so appreciated. Yes, my dad has lived a very colorful life and like I said it continues...You never know what is next with him. I agree, this was definitely one of the high points in his life. He loved seeing the article and the photos I chose to use. So glad that you enjoyed reading his story.
      I thank you Loiuse for your help...just to let you know that Blogger did cut some of the words out of the blog, but after I entered it, I went back in and reposted just the part that was missing, and it finally took, without screwing up the photos...(thank God) But I never go over this amount so this was a special post. It ended up with 1684 words..and we can't forget the photos.
      Have a great week, see you Wednesday, can't wait to play the Picnic game...
      Blessings dear friend.... Dottie :)

  6. Beautiful Dottie! Your dad must be proud of you! The way you write shows passion and love for your family. This is lovely. I enjoyed reading it!

  7. Dear Alida,
    Thank you for your kind comment and for stopping by. So glad that you loved reading this post. Yes, I think that this one was a special on for my family. Now his singing will live on through this blog. It is my dad that has the passion for singing, but we all have love and that is passion I guess. Never thought of it that way. Thanks again.
    Dottie :) Have a great rest of the week!

  8. Dear Dottie, I love that you grew up in a home filled with music too. I think it is in the Italian blood to love music. It brings so much happiness and adds to the loving memories of growing up in an Italian home.
    I grew up with my dad loving music too. It was something we shared and I will always be grateful for that.
    I loved your tribute and I am sure your dad has many beautiful songs left to sing.
    Blessings dear. Catherine

    1. Dear Catherine,
      We have so much in common, dear Catherine...Music was and still is my love besides family, and food. Wheather it is opera to pop music we had it going on our "victrola" many a days. It did bring such happiness to the whole family. My mom had a piano and still does, she plays and that also was an important part of our family gatherings, singing along. I took lessons, but am not good as my mom and my grandmother (Nanni)
      So glad that you grew up with music as well with your father. The memories you have about your dad is what really matters. He will always be in your heart and never forget the good times. Thank you for your comment and I know that you enjoyed this special tribute. Thanks for stopping by...have a blessed glorious weekend...and keep singing..Dottie :)