Ann Drummond-Grant British singer
That Voice
Drummie and Me

Drummie and Me

Marcia Menter

Writing That Voice was a way of getting close to a woman I had no way of knowing. Ann Drummond-Grant died when I was six, before I’d even heard of her. She was raised in a Presbyterian home in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the early twentieth century—a place and time that I, a mid-century American Jewish girl, had no context for understanding. Even if I’d known her personally—performed on the same stage with her, or shared a dressing room—I might have found it difficult to connect with this famously dignified and reserved woman. Cynthia Morey, her colleague in the D’Oyly Carte (and author of an indispensable memoir about the company) said in an email that “in spite of working closely with Drummie for some considerable time, I never felt I really got to know her well, though I liked and respected her.”

But there were correspondences in our two lives. Drummie’s mother’s maiden name was Mitchell, which was also my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. Her wedding anniversary was the day after mine. She and I both fell in love with married men and lived with them until their divorces came through. This was commonplace in my time, but might have caused a scandal in hers. Even our astrological charts had surprising conjunctions—yes, I was so desperate for information about her that I consulted an astrologer when I uncovered the date and time of her birth. (She was a Scorpio, since you ask.) But I didn’t need an astrologer to tell me how close I felt to her, or that she was a transformative presence in my life.

There were also surprising connections between her husband’s life and mine. Isidore Godfrey, longtime musical director of the D’Oyly Carte, was the son of Jewish immigrants, as my father was. Looking at his naturalization record, I was astonished to find that his parents were from Ciechanow, the same Polish town my paternal grandparents came from. Ciechanow never had a large Jewish population, so it was striking to learn that Godfrey’s forebears and mine had walked the same streets and made the same decision to emigrate. I began to feel like we were almost related. When I was finishing the book, an archive came up for sale on eBay. It contained letters from Isidore Godfrey to a family friend about Drummie’s final illness, filling in medical details that hadn’t been made public. I couldn’t help feeling that he wanted me to know the full story of her last days.