Portales woman has long history in singing

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

From the Democratic National Convention to a retirement home, and from fourth grade to age 96, a Portales woman has kept singing.

Emily D’Agostino sang “La Golondrina” or “The Swallow” in Spanish on Wednesday evening at Beehive Homes, a Portales retirement center where she lives.

The song recalled her spur-of-the-moment performance at a Democratic National Convention with legendary big band leader Tommy Dorsey in 1948 or 1952.

She doesn’t remember the exact year she sang at the Democrat National Convention, but she does recall it being held at the same time as the postmasters national convention in Washington, D.C. Emily’s late husband, Carl, was a postmaster, and they took the family east for his professional gathering.

James D’Agostino, Emily’s son, recalls seeing President Harry Truman during the trip.

While in the capital, the D’Agostinos went to the Democratic National Convention with friends.

Delegates were presenting what their states had to offer, Emily D’Agostino said. One of the delegates without warning took her to members of Tommy Dorsey’s band, and she sang “La Golondrina,” a song about a swallow and missing home. The residents of her hometown and residence at the time, Socorro, often requested the piece.

“I wasn’t nervous,” she said. “I used to do so much singing, I was used to it.”

Clovis musician and teacher Chris Harrell convinced D’Agostino to sing “La Golondrina” after learning about her convention experience and hearing her voice join in his weekly performances at Beehive.

“She’s just a sweetheart, and she just sings out,” Harrell said.

Harrell’s father, Gene, lives at Beehive, and so the guitarist, harmonica player and folk singer brings live music to the facility during dinner on Wednesdays. He learned the music to “La Golondrina” so he could accompany D’Agostino in the song.

She began her musical career in the fourth grade when a nun at her Catholic school invited her to choir practice after hearing her sing in a school play.

“I sang in the choir 35 years, like I said, from that day on,” she said.

Her voice graced weddings, funerals and parties for years. She sang in English, Spanish and Latin.

The only time she turned down a request was when a close friend asked for a song at her husband’s funeral. She said she thought she would break down because of the couples’ friendship and how much the man had suffered.

While in college, Carl D’Agostino heard his future wife sing at church. Later at choir practice, he asked the organist to introduce him.

The couple was married for 73 years.

“I grew up with it,” James D’Agostino said of his mother’s singing, “and I can remember people raving about her voice.”

When she was younger, Emily said she enjoyed singing. She doesn’t sing much now.

“I don’t have a voice now,” Emily said. Still, she said she could hit the high notes.

Emily mentioned her singing at the Beehive, and yielded to requests to sing at the center’s Christmas party. She also sang along or harmonized with Harrell’s performances.

“So it’s been fun to have another singer,” Harrell said.