Albert Hall, opera singer

Tenor had also performed in musicals staged by the Alamedian Light Opera Company and later was a founder of the Operetta Trio

  • Albert Hall
Albert Hall (Baltimore Sun )
May 20, 2013|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Albert Hall, a professional opera singer and choirmaster who began his singing career during his student days at City College, died May 13 from colon cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. The Towson resident was 89.

The son of a plumber and a homemaker, Albert Hall was born in Baltimore and raised on Rose Street. It was while he was attending City College in the late 1930s that he came to the attention of Blanche F. Bowlsbey, the legendary music teacher whom her students fondly called "Mrs. B."

In addition to her classroom work, Mrs. Bowlsbey directed City's annual musical and founded a mini-symphony orchestra, a junior orchestra, a string quartet and the glee club.

After she heard Mr. Hall sing, she cast him in City's production of "The Student Prince," singing the lead role of Prince Karl Franz.

"The football coach told me to try out for the team because I was big and he needed another lineman," Mr. Hall told The Baltimore Sun in a 2006 interview.

"I had been studying with Mrs. B. and one day during practice, she barged onto the field and went right up to the coach and told him, 'This is one singer you can't have. He's the Glee Club soloist,' and she led me off the field," he said.

"I was a good Irish tenor but would never have been in opera had it not been for her. She was an excellent teacher and always cared so personally about 'her kids,'" he said.

Mr. Hall attributed his professional success to Mrs. Bowlsbey.

At her death in 2006, Mr. Hall told the newspaper that after teaching and working with the orchestra and glee club, she gave him private lessons.

"And then at the end of the day, she'd take me aside and trained me, oftentimes not leaving school until 5:30," he said. "She helped me in every way."

While attending City, he also performed with the Baltimore Civic Opera Company. After graduating in 1942, he enlisted in the Navy, where he attained the rank of chief petty officer and served in the Pacific Theater until the end of World War II.

Mr, Hall returned to Baltimore, where Mrs. Bowlsbey had arranged a scholarship for him to study at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

In 1946, Mrs. Bowlsbey was a co-founder of the Alamedian Light Opera Company, where she directed twice-yearly productions of operettas from the classic repertoire.

One of Mrs. Bowlsbey's star performers was Mr. Hall, said Judy Tormey, Mr. Hall's companion after his wife died.

"I think Mrs. B. founded the Alamedian Light Opera Company just for Albert [and] gave him the starring role in Rudolf Friml's 'The Vagabond King,'" said Ms. Tormey, who was a regular singer in the early days of Baltimore television on WBAL's "The Brent Gunts Show."

Mr. Hall won a scholarship in the late 1940s to the American Theater Wing in New York, and sang with the New York City Opera and the City Center Opera Company.

In 1956, Mr. Hall married another singer, Violet Vlahovich, a soprano whose professional name was Violeta Velero. Together the couple performed in a program they called "Portraits in Music."

"He started singing with my mother and then they married. He was a fabulous tenor and the two of them had movie-star good looks. He was a great artist," said stepdaughter Catherine Janssen, a professional actress and singer whose professional name is Loria Parker.

"They did concert work, sang at Town Hall and at private functions," said Ms. Janssen, who lives in Mineola, N.Y. "With 'Portraits in Music,' they performed vignettes from opera and operettas."

While living in New York, Mr. Hall studied to become a licensed hypnotist. In their book "Twice Over Lightly," actress Helen Hayes and Anita Loos, playwright, screenwriter and author, recounted being hypnotized by Mr. Hall in his West 57th Street studio.

"Mr. Albert Hall is everything in appearance that a hypnotist should be," wrote the authors. "He is tall, dark, rather dreamily handsome, and was dressed in a casual outfit with a Byronic blouse of snow-white silk. At first glance he looked capable of leading us right into another world. But we were wrong again. For Mr. Hall couldn't have been more down-to-earth."

"He was always interested in the working of the mind and this was typical of him. He wanted to help people," said Ms. Janssen. "He was very gentle and sweet."

In 1970, Mr. Hall and his wife moved to Las Vegas, where she taught music and he worked as a real estate broker and a Roman Catholic church choirmaster and occasionally performed.

"I saw him perform in 'The Most Happy Fella' in Las Vegas, and he was brilliant. He was such a marvelous actor," said Ms. Janssen.

In 1987, Mr. Hall returned to Baltimore for a reunion concert of the Alamedians and continued to do so well into the 1990s.

"I met him when Mrs. B. started having reunion concerts and Albert and I did a duet. Our voices blended beautifully together," said Ms. Tormey, who had studied music with Mrs. Bowlsbey in the 1940s at the all-male City College while attending the all-female Eastern High School.

In 1995, Mr. Hall, Ms. Tormey and pianist Renaldo Reyes formed the Operetta Trio, which performed every two months.

After his wife's death in 2006, he settled in Stoneleigh and then Towson.

"We sang at all of the area retirement communities," said Ms. Tormey, who said Mr. Hall's last concert was Feb. 13 at Springwell, a Mount Washington senior-living community. "He even sang for the nurses at Gilchrist before he became unconscious."

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

In addition to Ms. Janssen and Ms. Tormey, Mr. Hall is survived by a grandson. His daughter, Marguerite Hansen, died in 2011.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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