Queer Places:
Oakwood Cemetery Waco, McLennan County, Texas, USA

Larger memorial image loading...Ethelston "Eth" Provence Chapman (April 2, 1920 - November 6, 1998) taught harmony for the majority of her life. Louise Talma's copious correspondence reveals several passionate affairs with women, including one in late life with Eth Chapman, who had been a fellow student in Fontainebleau with Talma. Although they had known one another for many years, having both been Nadia Boulanger students and among those who often returned to Fontainebleau after their formal training was complete, Talma and Chapman apparently began their relationship only after reconnecting in France in 1961, when Talma spent time in Fontainebleau.

Ethelston Provence was born April 2, 1920, in Waco, the daughter of Ernest Watkins Provence (1879–1970) and Mary Eugenia King (1886–1966). She earned music degrees from North Texas State College in Denton and pursued doctoral studies at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. In 1951, she married LaMarr Chapman, who was also an accomplished pianist and composer. The couple located in Odessa, where they worked and taught for many years until Mr. Chapman's death.

Eth taught private piano and theory and anchored the Odessa College Music Department as theory instructor. Colleagues, former students and friends remember "Eth" as a consummate musician, innovative teacher and loyal friend with a hearty sense of humor. Her high standards and expectations in all her teaching formed solid beginnings for many of West Texas' young musicians.

Dating from 1958, Eth Chapman spent her summers at the famous music school at Fontainbleau, France, where she studied with Nadia Boulanger. Later, she sometimes invited her most serious students to also attend the American School of Arts at Fontainbleau,. There they live and studied with promising students, young and old, who were drawn there by the desire to study with the aging Boulanger.

After her husband's death, Chapman moved ton France where she became proctor and assistant to Boulanger for several years. Also, until her death she accompanied a ballet academy and was organist at a local convent.

Talma and Chapman seem to have begun a friendship in the early 1960s, which became a romantic relationship in 1961, after Chapman professed her attraction to and love for Talma that summer. Chapman traveled to Frankfurt to be with Talma during the premiere of The Alcestiad in Frankfurt the following winter, Talma's letters indicate that this was a mostly happy period for her, perhaps in part because of the new relationship.

It is hard to determine how long the affair lasted; Talma appears to have destroyed much of Chapman's correspondence, leaving behind only empty envelopes. But it does not appear to have lasted much beyond the decade. Chapman's letters gradually return to having a tone of friendship, rather than passion, and it is likely that her feared "time and distance," did indeed disrupt the couple's ability to sustain the relationship. However, it may well have continued for some time: Chapman's letters to Talma continue into the 1980s, and it is possible that theirs was a long-distance relationship, resumed when Talma was in France or Chapman in New York. Over time, Chapman's letters became less frenzied in tone and more practical, but always projecting a sense of intimacy and often offering advice, reassurance, and calming thoughts for Talma as she worked through new pieces and dealt with teaching and other aspects of her life. Talma does not seem to have composed any works that reference Chapman, at least not in the way her earlier works were clearly intended for Boulanger and Marwick. It is possible that some of Talma's very last works came about because of Chapman's death in 1990. However, apart from her letters, Talma left no references, musical or otherwise, that would suggest her relationship with Chapman. Whether this was because of Chapman's reticence or Talma's, or other reasons altogether is as yet unknown.

Burial was in Oakwood Cemetery in Waco, beside her husband, LaMarr.

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