Fryer, Katharine Homer, 1907-

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Louise Homer (1871-1947), born Louise Dilworth Beatty, was a prominent and popular American opera singer during the early 20th century.

She was associated with the Metropolitan Opera for many years, and was a successful classical recording artist. In 1895 she married the American composer Sidney Homer (1864-1953), with whom she had six children, including authors Joy Homer and Anne Homer, and Katharine Homer Fryer, who assembled the materials in this collection. The Homers were associated with Rollins College during their retirement in Florida, where Louise Homer taught vocal students until her death.

From the description of Louise Homer collection, 1845-1999 (bulk 1898-1947). (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 436445560

Louise Homer (born near Pittsburgh, PA, April 30th, 1871, died in Winter Park, FL, May 6, 1947), was one of the most gifted and popular opera singers of the early twentieth century. Born Louise Dilworth Beatty, she grew up in a large, religious family that could trace its roots to before the American Revolution (one of her ancestors was the inventor Robert Fulton). She sang in church choirs through her childhood but did not seriously study music until her early 20s, when she was living in Philadelphia and working as a stenographer. She moved to Boston in 1894 to fully commit to a musical life, and was introduced by one of her sisters to the composer Sidney Homer (1864-1953), with whom she began studying harmony.

Sidney Homer's family could also trace its ancestry back several generations; he was distantly related to the painter Winslow Homer. Brought up by deaf parents, he studied music in Germany in the mid-1880s before returning to America to compose and teach. He was impressed by Louise Beatty's voice (he later commented that it made him want to write songs), and urged her to pursue vocal studies; he also introduced her to opera, which she had never heard before. Louise would go on to perform and popularize many of Sidney Homer's songs. The couple married in 1895, and subsequently moved to France for Louise to pursue her career.

She made her operatic debut in Vichy in 1898, and also performed in Belgium and London before returning to the United States in 1900. There, she began a two-decade career with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, performing under Arturo Toscanini and alongside such artists as Enrico Caruso and Marcella Sembrich. Homer was a contralto, a vocal classification that has fallen out of modern use, but that accurately described her range, with the caveat that she could easily ascend into the mezzo-soprano and sometimes even the soprano range. She was widely admired not only for her beautiful voice but also for her powerful acting and stage presence. Homer sang mainly Italian and French opera, but she could also perform Wagner with ease. Some of her more notable roles were Amneris in Giuseppe Verdi's Aida, Orpheus in Toscanini's 1909 revival of Christoph Gluck's opera, the Witch in Engelbert Humperdinck's Knigskinder, and the title role in Horatio Parker's Mona. When she wasn't performing with the Met, Homer toured the country as a solo recitalist and recorded for the Victor Talking Machine Company (later RCA), for whom she sold an enormous number of records, establishing her as one of the first great classical recording artists.

Homer's busy career was all the more remarkable considering that she and her husband raised six children during her most active singing years, and her second and third children were twins. Homer always maintained that her family was her first priority, and that she continued to perform because her husband wanted her to. She took the summers off for the family to spend at their estate, Homeland, on Lake George (they also maintained homes in New York City and Westchester).

Homer left the Metropolitan Opera in 1919 to perform with other opera companies in Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. She returned to the Met in 1927, making her last appearance with the company in 1929. The Homers retired to Florida and became associated with Rollins College, where Louise taught vocal students until her death. Homer was also the aunt of the composer Samuel Barber; her older sister, Marguerite, was Barber's mother.

The Homer's youngest child, Joy, was noted for having crossed the Japanese blockade of China during World War II to provide humanitarian assistance to the Chinese. (She published a book, Dawn Watch in China, about the experience.) Joy Homer also worked for the Office of Strategic Services in India, where she sustained injuries in a car accident that eventually killed her, at age 31, in 1946.

Two members of Homer's family wrote books about her: Sidney Homer published My Wife And I: The Story of Louise and Sidney Homer in 1939, and their daughter Anne Homer published Louise Homer and the Golden Age of Opera in 1973.

From the guide to the Louise Homer collection, 1845-1999, 1898-1947, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Fryer, Katharine Homer, 1907-. Louise Homer collection, 1845-1999 (bulk 1898-1947). New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Louise Homer collection, 1845-1999, 1898-1947 The New York Public Library. Music Division.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Barber, Samuel, 1910-1981. person
associatedWith Beatty family family
associatedWith Beatty family. family
associatedWith Beatty, William Trimble, 1834-1882. person
associatedWith Homer, Anne. person
associatedWith Homer family family
associatedWith Homer family. family
associatedWith Homer, Louise, 1871-1947. person
associatedWith Homer, Sidney, 1864-1953. person
associatedWith Menotti, Gian Carlo, 1911-2007. person
associatedWith Metropolitan Opera (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Victor Talking Machine Company. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Subject
Composers
Contraltos--United States
Composers--United States
Voice teachers
Voice teachers--United States
Contraltos
Occupation
Collector
Voice teachers
Contraltos
Composers
Contraltos (Singers)
Activity

Person

Birth 1907

French,

English

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