St. Andrews senior reflects on her Broadway singing days

Lorna Nash, who recently settled at the Passamaquoddy Lodge Nursing Home in St. Andrews, looks back on a long and exciting career that included time on Broadway.

Lorna Nash sang in the chorus of the original cast of The Sound of Music on Broadway

The Sound of Music premiered on Broadway in 1959, and on stage with stars Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, in the chorus, dressed in a nun’s habit, was Lorna Nash.

In St. Andrews, at the Passamaquoddy Lodge Nursing Home, where she now resides, Nash remembers her first rehearsal.

This photo is a prized memory taken by famed photographer Toni Frissell for LIFE magazine in 1959. (CBC)

"It was just kind of a big question mark. We didn’t know how it was going to go. We didn’t know whether they’d still like us. That was a big thing. We were glad to get to opening night, so we knew everything was set," she says.

"The chorus, the people, were just really something. They were very kind. And then on Saturdays, the nuns from various churches used to come to see the show. And they were just so funny, because they didn’t know how much unlike them we were. We got to be kind of friendly with them, and we got to be kind of scared too."

Nash laughs when she remembers the times with her castmates, especially Tatiana Troyanos, a mezzo soprano who went on to a successful career in opera, perhaps best known for her work with the Metropolitan Opera.

"She was a sort of partner. We both sang the same thing. So we used to have a lot of laughs," says Nash.

"One day, when the curtain started coming down, she said, ‘Here, hold this." I got such a shock, I didn’t know what she meant.  So it was a Coke. And I had to hold that under my big sleeve all during the number. I could’ve killed her. So a lot of crazy times, like that."

Nash says she also got into an elevator with Prince Philip once by mistake.

"When the doors opened, they weren’t supposed to open," she says. "He thought we were real nuns, because we certainly looked like real nuns."

Nash began her musical career in Montreal, after attending St. Peter's School in Saint John, N.B., and later continued her studies in New York City.

She says her parents were very supportive of her talents.

Nash says of the four girls in her family, she was the only musical one.

She says despite the huge amount of support, it was a critic who helped motivate her to succeed.

"One day … they were going to start a new glee club — and this was in high school — they sent me down to audition. And this nun had the nerve to say, ‘If you ever sing, if you ever win a contest, don’t believe it. You’d better be a good student, you’ll never ever be a singer.’

"And there I was, tore the whole place down. It was great," says Nash.

She went on to work for the department store T. Eaton Company Limited. She says that led to her being chosen to be part of a travelling troupe of talented employees, who would perform concerts at churches and other venues during the war.

In 1944-45, Nash says she accompanied the group on a six-month tour overseas.

During that time, Nash says she sang to the troops, many of them "sick in bed.

"Others were up and around, they seemed to like it," she says. "And every one of the men I talked to, they’d say, ‘Be sure and call my mom. Here’s her phone number. Call my mom and tell her you met me.’ I said, 'OK, I’ll do that.' So I did a lot of phoning when I got home. And they were so glad, it was kind of nice to hear."

After her time on Broadway, Nash went on to a career giving private concerts around the world. She accompanied her first husband, a university professor, to India.

In the time she lived there, she gave a command performance for the president. She was also the soloist at the celebration of Canada’s Centennial Year in India, and performed on All-India Radio.

The last recording Nash made was a private CD, in 2006. Her husband, Cecil Garland, says at the time, she was singing in churches, especially at Christmas.

Garland says she sang often at Sacred Heart Church in Columbia, MO, and in other churches around the community.

"She prided herself in doing private concerts for nursing homes in that area. She was very fortunate to have accompanists who were most willing to help her out," says Garland.

"She fell in 2010, and that was pretty well the end of singing. She was about a year in recovery. She tried to walk again, but she’d crushed three vertebrae in her lower spine. It’s difficult to come back from that," he said.

Nash says she hasn’t given up quite yet.

"When I had this terrible fall a couple of years ago, the doctor told me I’d never sing again … I keep trying, but you know, I’m getting old," she said.

"But I’m going to keep working on my voice, to see if I can get another note out of it."