The value of one dollar has really changed since the 1970-s. In 1973, Mr. John Seymour spent $1.00 to pay for a year of subscription to the “FAD” magazine associated with the LDS Church – Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). What is even more interesting is that a month later the magazine stopped circulating and the editor credited him with $0.70. This is financial particularity! Is there is anything today we could buy for 70 cents?
John Seymour’s papers include not only letters but also interesting postcards from all around the world. Some of the postcards were sent to Mr. Seymour’s from his students. The students were so excited to share what they saw with their professor. How unique is to have this kind of relation between students and their teacher. It shows appreciation of the art and aesthetics that only the teacher would understand as they wrote: ..”Today we went to St. Peter’s Basilica and Sistine Chapel! They were unbelievable! It is a feeling and experience we will never forget! There is just so much to see and experience. It’s just marvelous! […] We are also going to the Catacombs tomorrow…”
Art appreciation… one of the unique skills that all students should possess…The postcard shows the masterwork of Michelangelo – La Pieta.
If someone “wears many hats,” they have different roles or tasks to perform. John Laurence Seymour has written many chamber music selections and has composed numerous operas, for example Ramona and In the Pasha’s Garden. The last one was performed at the Metropolitan Opera stage. However, his B.A., M.A, and even Ph.D., degrees were not related at all to music. He actually studied Russian and received his doctorate degree in English. I find this interesting when people have many interests and are successful in different fields. Although, he studied violin and has done some critical studies in opera abroad, still, I think writing operas outside of daily work is quite impressive. Here is Mr. Seymour in “one of his hats.”
This week I came back from a trip to my home country in Europe and now I’m back on track with Mr. Seymour’s papers. Coincidentally or not, I’m unfolding Mr. Seymour’s travel letters from Europe. This is actually a physical process which I really like. I remove each letter from its envelope, make it flat and put chronologically in appropriate folders. He wrote so many letters during his trips to France, Italy, and England. I am very impressed that he had the time to do that. I was so busy back home and I cannot even imagine writing a paper letter there. Today we just take pictures and share them on social media. It was not the case from Mr. Seymour’s time. Mr. Seymour wrote letters every couple of days, usually four or five pages long. While opening one letter from London, a dry, flat flower slipped out. How sweet, Mrs. Seymour sent it from England in 1928 and it survived in that envelope for 90 years!
This week I have been working on the processing plan of the John Laurence Seymour Papers. I’m trying to find the best way to organize the amount of materials so it will be user friendly to researchers in the future. There are 66 diaries and many personal letters from family members which I am sure might be of a special interest to someone. There is one interesting thing about the letters to Mr. Seymour’s Mother… He never addresses her “Mother” or “Mom,” instead he calls her Rosie, a nickname for Rose. He picked up this name as a child and as he described “the family thought the matter amusing; and so the habit grew and he clung to it uncritically over the years.” Later, as a student of Russian, he translated the name into its Russian equivalent, Rozechka, and it stayed like that. I think this personal detail shows the close mother-son relationship unique to the Seymour’s family. The letters below are from Paris and Milan, one addressed to Rosie, the other to Rozechka – the dearest Mom.
This week I worked on the processing plan template for Dr.
Seymour papers trying to find the best way to organize the materials. There are
lots of letters on different subjects. I am thinking if they should they be organized by
dates, subject, name, or importance? These letters are like our present emails.
However writing letters on papers, in my opinion, has so much more value. First
it requires to write it by hand, then mail it out, (take to the post office, buy
stamps), then wait for the reply, and lastly (the most exciting part I think)
receive the reply by mail. Today we receive emails in seconds but it was not
the case. It took days, weeks, even months. After all this effort how
disappointing it must be when the reply was not as expected or rejecting. Dr.
Seymour received some replies from publishers who rejected to publish his plays
for various reasons. Still, it didn’t slow him down to write another play or
opera. He is a good example how not to get discourage. Last week I posted a picture from his childhood, here is Dr. Seymour as the professor at Southern Utah State College in Cedar City.
I am really impressed with Mr. Seymour’s papers. He wrote so much during his lifetime; not only
operas and plays but also so many letters, diaries, lectures, and educational
materials. While thinking about all his achievements I just picture him as an
adult, a serious person. I forget that once, as everyone else, he was a child.
This picture of Mr. Seymour as a child with his violin really surprised me and
made me think about his childhood. Except for this picture, there are not many
materials from his childhood in the collection, but the violin truly fits him and I have no doubt
that the practiced a lot!
I did not realize how much one might learn about a person’s life just by reading his correspondence. Indeed letters can create the whole picture of someone’s life like, for example, in the book “The Bach Reader: A life of Johann Sebastian Bach in Letters and Documents” by H. David.
As my second week with the John Seymour papers continue I have read so many letters from and to Mr. Seymour. Some letters are personal, some relate to work and politics, some were written to publishers, but most of them concern music subjects. Between all of the letters I found a little note to Mr. John Seymour that made me smile. Hope it will make you smile too. Have a good day everyone!
My name is Justyna and this is my first week as a CCEPS Fellow. Thank you for the warm welcome and introducing me to this new environment.
I am working on the John Laurence Seymour papers. So far I have looked into the impressed amount of his letters, plays he wrote, lectures, music scores, and educational materials. He was an American 20th century playwright and composer. His main passion, however, seems to be directing plays with students at the colleges he taught. In one of the letters he received from the Los Angeles City College it says that they couldn’t perform his play “Three Brothers.” The reason…. “lack of men…” It was 1942, and the war has hit the junior colleges male enrollment. How lucky we are today, we do not have to worry about that. Below is the picture of John Seymour as a young man.
I am looking forward to learn more about this extraordinary person.