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Erich A. Collin

Erich A. Collin came from a Jewish family, but was baptized a Protestant like his mother and siblings. His father was the Berlin pediatrician Dr. Paul Abraham. His parents divorced in 1906 and his mother resumed using her maiden name, Collin. His singing talent was discovered early on, so he received violin and singing lessons.

After graduating from high school, he was drafted into the military in 1918, shortly before the end of World War 1. After his discharge from the army after basic training, he took up medical studies at his father’s urging, but dropped out after the seventh semester. Eventually he began studying at the Musikhochschule in Berlin, where he studied voice and violin. There he met Erwin Bootz, who brought him to the Comedian Harmonists in 1929, replacing Willi Steiner as second tenor.

In 1931 he married the German-French Fernande Holzamer (1909-1995), with whom he had a daughter (Eva Suzanne, 1932-1994).

In 1935 the three Jewish members of the Comedian Harmonists were banned from working, after which the group split up and Erich and his two Jewish colleagues emigrated to Vienna with their wives. They formed a new ensemble there which from 1937 mostly called itself the Comedy Harmonists.

When the Comedy Harmonists disbanded in 1941, Erich went to Los Angeles, initially working in the wine shop of a Roman Cycowski relative. Through the mediation of Albert Einstein, who had been a friend of the Collin-Abraham family in Berlin, he obtained a temporary position as a lecturer at a New York university on the subject of old German music. As a result, work as a salesman and representative alternated with periods of unemployment.

In the fall of 1947, Erich made a new attempt to create a singing group. Involved in this US version of the Comedian Harmonists were Jack Cathcart (piano), Fred Bixler (principal tenor), Murray Pollack (second tenor), Nicholas Shutorev (buffo), and Arthur Atkins (bass). In 1948 the group undertook an extensive tour of Scandinavia, the Benelux countries, France, Switzerland and Italy. Already at the beginning of the tour, Shutorev died unexpectedly, after which the group initially completed the planned concerts in Norway without him. On September 26, 1948 a concert took place in Oslo, which was recorded for Norwegian Radio and broadcast on the radio several times. After this concert, Harry Frommermann (now Harry Frohman) joined the ensemble at the request of Erich Collin. In November 1948 the group was again heard on the radio, this time from Lugano. In February 1949 the ensemble recorded a few records for the Le Chant du Monde label in Basel. The project failed due to differing opinions about the direction to be taken.

In 1949 Erich became a US citizen. In the 1950s he worked for the Northrop aircraft works and also ran a small plastics workshop. He has received compensation payments from the German government since the late 1950s.

On April 28, 1961, at the age of 61, he died of heart failure during appendix surgery. For the documentary about the Comedian Harmonists by Eberhard Fechner, released in 1976, Erich’s sister Annemarie and his wife Fernande were interviewed, who gave information about his life and family history.

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