Sister Francisca's first grade class-1915
St.Mary's Taunton Massachusetts
Catherine Moynihan is the last girl in back row
DN: So your mother and father were both very musical?|
KM: Yes. I had two brothers and one played the violin and he also played the drums in an orchestra. My other brother was the dearest soul who ever lived, I loved him to pieces-my brother Tom. He didn't play anything.
DN: You had a son.
KM: I had one son-he died in 1988. And I do have grandchildren. His wife-they had been divorced before he died and she moved back to Indiana. So they all live in Indiana-my daughter-in-law and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. I've been out there 3 or 4 different times.
DN: Was your son musical?
KM: Not really no..he recognized music and he could sing but he never made a profession of it. I wanted to start him on piano lessons and he didn't want to. I'm sorry that I didn't keep after him, but I don't believe in forcing at all. I don't believe in forcing kids to dance; I don't believe in forcing them to play an instrument. They'll get to hate it. They have to want it.
DN: Oh, your husband, did he..?
KM: Yeah my husband..do you really want to hear this?
KM: My mother introduced me to my husband. This is kind of mundane. He used to deliver grocery orders on Saturday for the grocery person that my mother traded with. And so he would come with the grocery order, and sometimes I would be right in the other room but I never came out to see him. My mother would talk to him and everything but I never bothered to come out. And finally one day she did say to him "You know every Monday night usually kids with instruments-saxophones and all that stuff, they come to our house, and we have a musical evening". He had told my mother that he played the violin. So she said "Why don't you come?". So the following Monday night he came with his violin case. I didn't start going with him right away, but then I did. And then I didn't give up any of my other life-any of the stuff that I was doing. I used to play out a lot. I used to do a lot of other things. But then we got married in 1930. By the way, I have quite a few friends around Providence-musicians and everything and I remember one of then saying to me "Tell your husband to come down to the Journal Building" It was one night a week-musicians used to go down to the Journal Building and play together, just get together and play, and he never would do it. He wouldn't do it. Before we were married he played with an orchestra, but he never did afterwards. Never. He just played at home; he played very well too. He played classical music very well. He studied in Boston with Minot Beale who was the second violinist with the Boston Symphony.
DN: Your husbands first name was?
KM: Humphrey. He died in 1984. And then my son who was named Humphrey after his father died in 1988.
DN: Your son died very young
DN: You composed-do you still compose?
KM: What I really have composed is three hymns. They have played them at a couple churches in Warwick-my own church which is St Williams, and then there was another one-I forget what that one was. And there are some people who want my hymns so they can use them in their church. I will make more copies one of these days. When I improvise, sometimes I can remember those things. I should write them down and I haven't. In fact one day I was playing something for an adagio and Misha looked at me, "That is beautiful, please remember that". Sometimes I can't remember some of the stuff I do. (laughs)
DN: Did you remember that one?
KM: I don't remember whether I did or not. I thought I was playing it the next time, but he didn't say anything, so maybe I wasn't.
DN: So for you composing and improvisation is pretty much the same thing-it just shows up in your brain.
KM: It is, its just that what I should do is write them down. And I haven't done that.
DN:So they are all classical?
KM: Yes, they are all things for ballet, yes. I don't have names for them, you know, I just play them.
DN: Do you dream of music or dance?
KM:Not really music. I think I've dreamed of dancing, but you know music is in my life all the time-you know what I mean?
DN:Did you ever learn another instrument?
KM: No. My husband tried to teach me violin but I wasn't a good student. Organ-oh I studied organ too-the keyboard is the same thing. I studied with Clifford Hughes. He was the organist at the Park Theatre in Taunton when they used to use an organ. My mother knew the owner of the theatre so I was able to go in and practice there, once in a while, when I wanted to. But I never did anything with it.
DN: What are your parents' names?
KM: Patrick and Mary Devers
DN: Where was the Park Theatre-I'm not placing it?
KM: Its on Broadway. I don't know if it still there or not. I haven't been in Taunton in quite awhile.
DN: When you were getting ready to do a performance. Did you do anything to prepare?
KM: People would say before they started to dance or play "Oh I have butterflies in my stomach" I never had it never. The only thing-I have to tell you this-The first time that I ever performed on the stage playing the piano (I had played recitals of course), my dad said "when you walked out on that stage, you looked like you could kill the whole audience". "But why Daddy? Why?" Because I was so somber looking and people usually come out like this. (demonstrates an entrance and laughs) Two compositions of Franz Liszt was what I played in my first concert with Edith Noyes Green. And it was...I can't think of the name. (She sings some of it) That's Liszt I can't think of the name of it.
DN: Did you attend performances by dance company productions other than Festival Ballet?
KM: Yes, I went to different productions.
DN: Do you remember any of the other dance companies?
KM: Ballet Russe came. I went to Boston Ballet. Oh by the way, I played for Sidney Leonard. She had a class at Lydia's, and I use to play for her.
DN: And she was with Boston Ballet?
KM: I'm not sure. She would come down and teach. This was when Margaret Refino had an opera company here in Rhode Island and I was her pianist also and she had her classes in Lydia's studio. So that's why Sidney Leonard came down there because she played for Margaret Refino's opera dance classes. She wasn't doing anything for Lydia-it was just in Lydia's studio that's all.
DN: Did you do ballroom dancing?
KM: Oh yes! absolutely, I loved ballroom dancing.
DN: So when did you do ballroom dancing?
KM:I got married in '30. So I was going ballroom dancing-I graduated from high school in 27...so I would say middle 20's. They allowed me to go when I was a teenager-they did- because my Mother loved dancing so much.
DN: What dances do you remember doing?
KM: In those days of course it was called the fox trot and also I liked to waltz pretty well. Fox trot was the biggest though...and tango. I used to tango when I was taking dancing lessons-remember I said Spanish dancing..well I used to tango with a boy-a young man-Teddy Cayer. I was doing a Spanish dance one time. I was going to do a solo-Spanish dance. A few years ago at my house, my sister-in-law, poor little thing she's died since then, we were sitting talking in my living room and Gladys never used to say anything at all, she would just sit there never say anything at all. We got talking about dancing and stuff like that and she piped up. She said "I remember one time when you were going to do that Spanish dance and you were rehearsing it in your Mother's house and your Dad came in and you had a rose in your mouth. (Like this-Catherine demonstrates) And your Dad said 'I don't mind you doing that dance but you are not going to do it with that rose in your mouth'" And I said "Ok Dad", but that night I did it with the rose in my mouth. (laughs) And my Father was right in the audience. Why that rose made a difference-I don't know-don't ask me!
DN: Did he say anything to you afterwards?
KM: No. He couldn't do anything about it then.
DN: Was that sister-in-law the one who talked you into getting back into music?
KM: No, that was my husband's brother's wife-Mary Moynahan. When Gladys (she married my brother Jim) and I were little girls, she started taking dancing lessons from Miss Gegan and her Mother came over one day and she said "Mrs Devers, can Catherine come down with us for Gladys's dancing lesson?" My Mother said "Sure". So she took me down to Gladys's lesson. And she had already told Miss Gegan that I played the piano. Miss Gegan said, "Sit down and play something." So I did and then the teacher started giving Gladys her class-you know-at the barre, and evidently I was playing something that she liked and something that went with the movements and I had never done it before-never. So she hired me on the spot. That's how I started playing for dancing schools.
DN: You were 11?
DN: When you say Spanish dancing, do you mean the tango or were there other dances also?
KM:Well for the tango [performance] there were just the two of us, but I did do flamingo, I remember the dresses I wore-I can't actually remember what my tango dress was like-I just remember the thing about my Father not wanting to have a rose in my mouth. I never could figure that out.
DN: So when you were out dancing in Massachusetts, were they doing the tango at that time?
KM: Not really..no. They were doing waltz and fox trots. Nobody ever did the tango at a ballroom dance just for performance.
DN: It was just the fox trot and waltz..was the polka around?
KM: Jitterbug, the Charleston, and the Black Bottom.
DN: The Black Bottom-at your dances?
KM: At the dances-yes. I forget how it went right now, but you are too young for all this stuff.
DN: Do you remember any of the dances halls? Where did you go to dance?
KM: It was usually Roseland Ballroom in Taunton. It was a beautiful ballroom. Where the nicest dancers were, and then the other places were like Oddfellows Hall and stuff like that. There was a ballroom at Crescent Park-I'm trying to think of the name of it- and I used to go there also.It was in East Providence and Riverside. Do you remember Crescent Park?
DN: Is Crescent Park where they have the carousel?
KM: Yes, They are the ones who left the carousel because people signed a petition to keep that carousel. My father used to take us to that one when I was a little bit of a girl. That's very old-that carousel.
DN: Is there anything else you want to tell me about Rhode Island dance people?
KM: Lydia is the biggest thing. Her school was on Weybosset street, it was just on the corner of Richmond Street-Richmond and Weybosset. It was upstairs over the bank. I don't know if the bank is there now.
DN: I'm kind of scared on Weybosset Street-actually.
KM: I don't go down very often and when I was playing at Eva's school-hers is on Eddy Street which comes into Weybosset.
DN: I take lessons there with Donald at Providence Ballet.
KM: Donald Acevedo?
KM: I've known Donald since he was this big. He was about 7 or 8 when I first met him. Do you know his sister Julie?
KM: She was a beautiful dancer. I don't think she dances anymore though. She is a mother now.
DN: Donald mentions his mother. It sounds like she was involved in dance?
KM: No, she wasn't involved in dance per se, but I use to see her all the time cuz she used to bring the kids to Ruth Dapper's school in Pawtucket - that's where they took lessons. And he teaches at Eva's?
DN: Yes, well he has his own class. He's renting space from Eva. And he's a wonderful teacher.
KM: He's good. He really is good. He was with the Royal Dutch Ballet.
DN: Did Eva take lessons from Lydia?
KM: No, she is too young...I don't think so, but I knew Eva because I also played for Ruth Dapper and Eva was Ruth Dapper's student.
DN: Where did you meet Louise Turilli and Marilyn Smayda?
KM:I met Louise at Lydia'a. She was a little girl-13 years old. Later she was at Festival ballet. Marilyn? I met Marilyn and her mother at Lydia's.
DN: Did you know Myles Marsden?
KM: I knew Myles Marsden when he.. oh who was he studying with? Oh I know Josephine Lavoie-now this was quite a few years ago. Myles was just a boy a little boy, really. I knew him since he was 8 years old. When Myles and Herci Marsden started their own school and company, I played for them almost a whole summer. Yes, I played for them when I was still with Lydia.
DN: Is Myles still dancing?
KM: I saw him at the Carriage House. He performed with Nancy's company.
KM: Nancy McAuliffe. You know [of] her don't you?
DN: Yes, Rhode Island's Ballet Theatre.
KM: He was teaching a class for her once a week-for Nancy, and he was in the performance that I saw one night over at the Carriage House.
DN: Do you know Dorothy Jungels who runs the Carriage House?
KM: Oh I know her very well. She started to take class with Lydia just before her youngest daughter was born. Yep. She has the Everett Dance Company-Dorothy does-and Rachel is in that company-her youngest daughter. She has done very well for herself. They have a good name in New York and at Jacob's Pillow. Dorothy is a wonderful person-wonderful.
DN: She certainly does a lot. She started the Carriage House up...
KM: She bought that three family house with the carriage house in back, and she got the idea to make a studio and a little theatre out of the carriage house. She did a wonderful job. You must have been over there haven't you?
DN: Yes, ever since I found out about it, everything I have gone to there has been interesting, and some of it is great. You go to the Carriage House and you always see something worthwhile.
KM: Always something-yep. I also remember Patrick Notero and Greg Saulnier. They are both with the Cincinnati Ballet. They were with the Indianapolis, but they've moved to Cincinnati. Patrick is now teaching. He's not dancing anymore-he is teaching. He's only in his middle 30's. He was home at Christmas at his parents house in Clinton Massachusetts, so I talked to him then. And I said "Patrick, you're not dancing anymore?" And he says "No, I'm too old" I said "Come on, too old?", but he had gotten some injuries and you've got to know when to stop.
DN: Absolutely. How do you know Patrick?
KM:He danced for Festival Ballet, and so did Greg. Greg is still dancing, but Patrick isn't.
DN: Greg is also at Cincinnati Ballet?
KM: Greg is a really good male dancer-really good. I saw him a short while. He came to visit up at Festival one day.
DN: Is he from Rhode Island?
KM: North Attleboro, I think I'm not sure. And Patrick is also from Massachusetts.
DN: Do you know any other local dancers besides Eva and Patrick and Donald and Greg and Dorothy? Dorothy's not still dancing is she?
KM: No, I don't think she is. Connie Alvarez used to dance with Lydia. I don't think she was with the company, she was gone before that. I really have lost track of Connie. She danced with Christine. She was a student of Lydia's when Christine was. They both were about the same age. There was Deborah Leemey, and she is dancing in New York now. I'm not sure what company she's with, but she's dancing in New York.
DN: Was she a Rhode Islander?
DN: What kind of a company-was it ballet or modern?
KM: Mostly show dancing. She was a ballerina, but mostly show dancing I think.
DN: One Rhode Islander I know of is a Rockette
KM: Carolyn Dutra. I know of Carolyn. She was never in any of our classes, but she was a Rockette.
DN: That's right, although I wasn't thinking of her. There is a dancer who is a Rockette now. She's from Coventry and her name is Jaime Windrow. And she seems to be interested in all different kinds of dancing.
Do you practice the piano still, or do you just play?
KM: I just play.
DN: Is it possible to get a picture of you at the piano?
KM:(She plays some music at the piano.) I have to tell something about that piece I just played-its by Mozart. Guess what? My birthday is the same day as Mozart's. My little granddaughter-she was about four- used to say "My Grandmother's birthday is the same day as Mozart's but not the same year." (laughter) Wasn't that funny though. (more music) That was one by Handel. Here, this is Onnie's favorite. (Music) It's by Bizet. I heard it on the radio, and I called Norm Jagoliz and he said "I know its by Bizet, but I don't know whether its from the Fisherman or whether its from the only symphony he ever wrote". But I learned it by listening to the radio, and I taught it to Onnie. So we play it. We went down to Pennsylvania and he played it as a duet with his sister. He played two or three pieces with his sister. She is a little bit of a tiny thing-she's so cute, and she said "Oh, he's just like a little boy at his piano recital".
DN: What would you recommend to someone who was interested in music or dance?
KM: In the first place, get a good teacher, and if you are really serious about it you really have to work, you really have to practice, and you really have to take classes. So that's my advice to anyone who wants to do that.
DN: Do you have any regrets?
KM: Do you mean regrets about my music career? What I didn't do and what I should have done?
DN: Yes, music or dance.
KM: No, because I'm glad that I said "No" to becoming a concert pianist. I'm glad I said that. I'm very happy that I became a teacher. And I have to tell you this too while I'm on that, I can meet people , please don't think I'm bragging, I can meet people to this day who were my students who say to me they never forgot one thing that I ever taught them. They never forgot one thing. And that makes me feel absolutely wonderful. So I am very happy that I became a teacher-very happy. And as far as becoming an accompanist-I'm very very happy about that.
DN: How is accompanying different from regular performance?
KM: If you are just playing for yourself-that's maybe just for you and you're happy about that. But when you are playing for a class of people and you can play the tempo that they need and the music that they love. They will say "I loved that piece that you played-I loved this". Then that is very very very wonderful to do that. I have been happy with whatever I did-really happy.
DN: Is that because you were lucky or because you are a naturally happy person?
KM: Well of course I guess I've always been a naturally happy person. But I think the music has helped. I don't know what we would do without music-I really don't. And then of course when you can teach people and they can play and they tell you that they've never forgotten anything you ever taught them then that's very very-I found the word-gratifying.