John Charles Thomas
Raised in St. Cecile Lodge #568

Singing on many St. Cecile programs during the 1930s and 40s was Brother Thomas, principal baritone of the Metropoitan Opera, whose loyalty to his lodge was noted by several masters. Thomas belonged to a remarkable sequence of exceptionally gifted American operatic baritones whose neatly overlapping careers stretched in an unbroken line from the 1920s through to the 1960s. They included Richard Bonelli, Lawrence Tibbett, Arthur Endrèze (who was based in Paris), Leonard Warren and Robert Merrill.

His was an essentially lyric voice, which, while not "light", was more notable for its free top register than for its lower range. It was particularly suited to the French operatic repertoire, in which he was seldom heard in the United States apart from his Athanael in Massenet's Thais. It had remarkable flexibility, which was enhanced by Thomas's energy and expressiveness, particularly in his repertoire of popular material. In operatic work, however, this skill could be shown to good effect in trills and runs. Notable examples of his technical expertise are displayed his versions of "Il balen" from Il trovatore, and the "Drinking Song" from Hamlet.

In common with a lot of singers of his inter-war generation, Thomas's voice was highly distinctive. In part, this may have been due to his early career on Broadway. He knew how to "sell" a song—to build a stirring aria to a climax that would bring audiences to their feet. While the voice was always unmistakably his, it changed noticeably in character over time. His early recordings display a darker tonal hue, and the voice is stiffer, as though he were imitating the stentorian Italian baritone of a previous generation, Titta Ruffo. By 1931, and certainly by 1934, he had found the more fluid, natural vocal style for which he is best remembered. From the late 1940s into the '50s, his vibrato began to widen, though it never became an unpardonable flaw in his singing technique, and the voice grew somewhat thicker and heavier in tone.

Courtesy of V:.W:. Ken Force &