Origin-The Genesis of The Tapley Collection -
This is where it all began for me, at least in this lifetime. It came one evening in New Jersey in 1930. A few days before, my mother, Marion Hayes, went into a grocery store and noticed my father, Norman Tapley, working as a clerk. And he noticed her. Subsequently, he asked her out for a date to go to the movies. When he showed up at her home in Irvington, my grandfather, Wesley Hayes, was on the living room floor poring over a collection of Indian Relics and Arrowheads. While my father waited for my mother to get ready for the date, he introduced himself, and my grandfather invited him to look over the collection with him. When my mother came downstairs for their date, it became obvious to all by the depth of the conversation going on and the interest derived from studying the artifacts, that she would not be going to the movies that evening. My father was hooked, and my Grandfather, knowing that great minds think alike, knew that he had met a compatriot as a budding collector, and would probably end up with a son-in-law as well
Wesley and Lizzie (Moore) Hayes Norman and Marion(Hayes)Tapley
Growing up on the East Coast in the Shadow of Liberty had great advantages. Among those was being instilled with a great sense of history. Reminders of the original 13 Colonies were ubiquitous. There were stories of The Boston Tea Party, Ethan Allen and The Green Mountain Boys of Vermont seizing Fort Ticonderoga, The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and George Washington crossing the Delaware, and tales that told Of Washington Slept here and Washington Slept there. We also knew that even before George was found to have slept around a lot, that the Minisink Indians were prevalent in New Jersey. As far as we could decipher, The Leni Lenape Trail went right under our house in Westfield. By the time I was born in 1949, there were six of us in that great old house. My mother and Father, my brother Norman who is my father's first born from a previous marriage, my sister Joan, who was 14 when I was born and contributed a great deal to my upbringing, and my brother Paul, who was a mad scientist and brilliant artiste by the time he was 5. As it turned out, I became his foremost experimental subject. I believe he was determined to influence my life as no other would.
In those years, our home was like a small museum filled with reminders of Past Civilizations. My father had expanded his interest in collecting Native American Artifacts to include many other collectables, such as, but not limited to Ancient Egyptian Scarabs and Amulets, Antique Arms, Stamps, Coins, Cameos and Intaglios. We grew up learning to develop an eye for what was good, or real, or authentic. Our father made us well aware that the treatment that Native Americans received at the hands of the Western Expansionists was NOT the version shown to us all by Hollywood. There was truth in the artifacts that surrounded us, and we were taught to discover that truth with an artful disposition.
My Artistic Conversion-
When I was just 7 years old, I found myself
in a boyís choir in a local Baptist Church in a nice, quaint Colonial New Jersey
town. It was enjoyable enough for awhile, except that I was convinced that they
trying to drown decent folks in that large tub behind the curtain at the back of the altar. And for a couple of months after playing in the adults choir loft with some friends and inadvertently rearranging the chairs there, I was certain that when an elderly woman fell that next Sunday Morning and eventually died from her injuries, that it was, of course, I who had killed her. I worked through the guilt, assuming from my lessons that it was all part of Godís Plan. My family was not a particularly religious one, and I believe that if my father was walking down the street and came upon a church of any kind, that he would make it a point to cross the street, at least until he was past the grounds, so as not to have any of that mumbo-jumbo rub off on HIM, thank you very much! The real reason that I was even in the choir was because of my sister, Joan. Ah, Joan! What a beauty! Joan was 14 when I was born, and while most young girls in those days were compared to
Shirley Temple, Joan had the grace, charm and Savoir-faire to really pull it off. She was instrumental in helping to raise me. I cherished her, and still do. So, it should come as no surprise that at 7 years old, and she at 21, that when she came home for dinner in tears one night, that I would be outraged at someone
kindling this level of distress in her. It seems that she had an argument with the Choir Director, and was such a sensitive young lady, that it hurt her deeply. I tried to soothe her, and it worked to a small degree, but I decided to remain quiet and plot to avenge the assault on her honor in private. I went to bed, and decided to
make a statement of my own. I lay awake until the 10:30 train from New York on the Jersey Central Line rumbled behind our 150-year old house, shaking and quaking the old place until it rocked me right off to Slumberville. It worked every time.
The next day, when my mother dropped me off at the church for my after school choir practice, I ran through the church, and out the back door. I took off down Elm Street, across Mountain Ave. through the park, past the Police Station and the Library, and across Broad St. and, by then quite breathless, I made my way into the Choir Chambers of the Episcopal Church. I had heard through a choristerís grapevine that the Episcopal Church Boyís Choir was where IT was AT! I walked into the office that read, " Mr. Richard Connelly , Choir Director" I said "Excuse me, but Iím here to join your choir" Peering over his glasses, this very tall, thin gentleman said in an accent that I assumed was the Queenís English, but was rather Julliard American, " Oh, Really?" Then he said, "One must audition for this choir!" Catching my breath, I countered in my best South of the Jersey Central accent, "OK, Iím ready!" Dubious at best, he glided to the piano, and proceeded to test me. Remembering Joan Díarc and the reason I was there, I squeaked out a few choice notes. Continuing on, and feeling more confident, I reached the point when Mr. Connelly said, "So, where did you come from?" Once I realized that he didnít care about the exact route I took, and how I almost tripped over a duck in the park on the way there, I told him my story. He handed me his business card and told me to have my Mother or Father call him. I told him it would most definitely be my Mother who would call him. I ran down the steps as fast as I could, clutching that little "get out of church free" card. By the time I got back to the Baptist Church, practice was over, and my mother, who was pretty much used to being close to frantic over wondering where I was from time to time, came out with one of her favorite lines: "Where have you been?" My response, of course, was : " Iím not Baptist anymore, Iím Episcopalian!"
Well, a few weeks after my remarkable conversion, I found that my new choir had quite a reputation that I was bound to uphold. There was also a new level of discipline that I was expected to strive for. I would be required to show up for practice 3 weekday afternoons, one evening, Saturday mornings, and sing two services each Sunday. And quite a bit of the music would be in Latin.. LATIN! Up to that point, I thought that Latin was only spoken by dead people!
About a month after I joined the
St. Paulís Episcopal Church Choir of Men
and Boys, I received yet another startling revelation! After our Thursday Evening rehearsal, I noticed the other boys running towards their music compartment slots. I asked my new best friend, Kevin, what was all the excitement about? He said, "Here, Iíll show you!" He reached into my slot #21, still my lucky number to
this day, and pulled out a small manila envelope with my name and some numbers written on it. I opened it up, turned it over, and out slid the shiniest, newest Half Dollar that I had ever seen! I stared at the relief of Ben Franklin, and flipped it over and saw that Heroic Liberty Bell and instantly realized: I was a professional! I had a job! It was the single most exciting moment of my short life!
Now, in the town where I lived, Thursday nights were the night that all the stores stayed open late, and this night, my mother had arranged to meet me after rehearsal, and we would walk home together. Well, as we walked, with me singing in Latin, and flipping Ben and The Bell over and over in the air, my Mother and I looked at each other, and the intense pride that we were both feeling individually coalesced into a broader sense of familial joy, and we both threw back our heads and laughed out loud.
Itís been 53 years since that night, and I can see it and feel it all so clearly. I still have that Half Dollar somewhere in my archives. It is old, and dull, and Old Ben was eventually replaced by JFK. But JFK was a sad Half DollarÖ And no matter how much of a relic Old Ben turns into, there is nothing that can tarnish the memory and bliss of that chilly October night.
For 8 years I thrived in that choir, living the life of a boy soprano. Kevin and I and about ten other boys eventually lent out our services as a smaller contract group of singers. We would sing every year in The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC. We played street urchins in Bizetís Carmen at New York City Opera Company, and we became close to Leonard Bernstein at the time when he was riding high from his current success of West Side Story. We sang with him and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Benjamin
Brittenís Spring Symphony in their brand new home at a beautiful new complex called Lincoln Center. Kevin even did solo work at Carnegie Hall. And I was there to support him. He always could sing one or two notes higher and cleaner than anyone else. We put on concerts and made our own costumes and sold tickets and used the proceeds to go to summer music camp in the Poconos in Eastern Pennsylvania.
All in all, it was a wonderfully rich and rewarding experience. A time came when I was 15, and my father passed away rather suddenly, and circumstances dictated that I pursue what I thought would be more lucrative means of employment. And I turned and walked away from that life.
So, why am I telling you this? Because back on that crisp October night walking home with my mother, I fell in love. I fell in love with Classical Ideals. And Classical Music. And music in general. And it has been my friend my entire life. But rarely do other kinds of music possess such soaring majesty as the classics.
And I realized that the life of an artist was something worthwhile. That it was
an elevated calling. The artistic
self discipline I learned as a choirboy has served me well my entire life.
Because I walked away from that life in such a short time, I'm certain that Mr.
Richard Connelly had no idea what kind of impact his mentoring, his counseling
and his teaching had on my life. I've acknowledged it privately ever since then.
I'm acknowledging it publicly now.
Copyright: 1979, The Tapley Collection
Copyright: 2005, www.TapleyCollection.com