Thursday, March 5, 2015

Marian Anderson

This months cover by K.K.W,
with layout by Aleksandar Ares.
On the cover, Stephanie Cunningham.

Deva: a voice "heard once in a hundred years"(1).By K.K.W.

At some point in life you come to realize that one thing does lead to another; so much that your eager to see where you'll end up after the next choice. While watching Guy Riche's film "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" the piece "Die Forelle, D.550"  by Schubert was playing in one pivotal scene . I became entranced and began a Youtube search, which lead me to an upload of Marian Anderson. Not only was I shocked, but smitten with the piece; thinking of course, why-the-hell hadn't I heard of her before.  
Marian Anderson. Image courtesy of
Max -
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 27th, 1897 she was born to John Berkley and Annie Delilah Anderson. Like many born gifted she would be encouraged by a close relative [her Aunt], who noticed her niece's talent, and convinced her to join a junior church choir at 6 years old. Miss Anderson would perform duets & solo's, often with her aunt, and taken to concerts at local churches, the YMCA as well as benefit concerts. She would later credit her aunt's influence as the reason she pursued a singing career.

Local events were her first gig's - at the age of six - where she was paid 25 or 50 cent's for a few songs. Towards her early teens she began to earn as much as four or five dollars for her singing [a considerable sum at the time]. Although her family could not afford sending her to high school or pay for music lessons, her involvement in the church would change this. The directors of the "People's Chorus" and the pastor of her church [Reverend Wesley Parks], & other leaders of the black community, raised the money needed for her lessons and to go to high-school. She continued to perform and learn from anyone willing to teach her.

Marian Anderson, in 1920.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Lessons with Mary Saunders Patterson would aid her, while she attended high-school; graduating in 1921. Applying to the Philadelphia Music Academy, she was told by the woman at the admissions counter "we don't take colored". In our present time this would seem amazing to many, offensive to more [& some in Miss Anderson's time as well], but such was and still is, the hypocrisy of America. Despite this insult, miss Anderson pressed on, meeting Giuseppe Boghetti through her high school principal. She sang 'Deep River'  as an audition, and he was moved to tears. Miss Anderson pursued studies privately with Giuseppe Boghetti and Agnes Reifsnyder [with support from her community]. Winning first prize in a singing competition sponsored by New York Philharmonic [1925], she would have her big-break. The prize allowed her to perform with the N.Y Philharmonic [August 26, 1925], which scored immediate success with both audience and critics. 

Miss Anderson stayed in New York, to pursue further studies with Frank La Forge, during which Arthur Judson became her manager. She would sing for the first time at Carnegie Hall in 1928, which should have helped to bring her into the limelight; but of course, the racial prejudice of the "American nightmare" would not allow this. 
Some time later miss Anderson would venture across the sea's to Europe - which as an artist living in NYC, I'm seeing why many Americans do this. America will only love its artists when Europe [or other's do, because America is interested first in entertainment, not art.]. Quite a few months would be spent with Sara Charles-Cahier, which helped before a very successful European tour. 

Wigmore Hall [London], 1930, summer of that year in Scandinavia [where she would meet Finnish pianist Kosti Vehanen, her regular accompanist and vocal coach for many years]. Jean Sibelius she would meet after he heard her in concert at Helsinki,  a friendship & professional partnership formed. He would alter compositions would altered for her, songs created for her, dedicated to her. When Sibelius invited Anderson & Vehanen to his home, he asked his wife to bring champagne in place of coffee. Sibelius once said to Anderson that she had been able to penetrate the Nordic soul. 

Miss Anderson in her 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Back to NYC like a thunderous force, she played the Town Hall, spending the the next four years touring the States & Europe like a beautiful bat outta hell. The capitals of Eastern Europe and Russia, then back to Scandinavia [she had fans there even in small villages & towns]. She swiftly became a favorite of many conductors and composers of major European orchestras.  

While back in the States in the late 1930's she was still denied rooms at certain hotels and was not allowed to even eat in certain restaurants. On one occasion Albert Einstein hosted her in 1937 when was refused a hotel before performing at Princeton University [he would do so many times after]. Miss Anderson was championed by Charles Edward Russell, First Lady  Eleanor Roosevelt, President Roosevelt, Walter White and Zora Neale Hurston when the Daughters of the American Revolution [DAR] refused to sing to an integrated audience in their constitution Hall. An open air concert was set-up by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes [after some persuasion by Walter White & President Roosevelt].  More then 75,000 of many colors would be there [and millions via radio broadcast] perform "My Country, 'Tis of Thee". 

Miss Anderson at the Department of the Interior in 1943,
commemorating her 1939 concert.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
She entertained troops during World War II and The Korean War, became the first African American to perform with the Metropolitan Opera [playing the part of Ulrica in Verdi's "Un ballo in maschera", 1955] in NYC [although she never appeared with the company again, she was made a permanent member of the Opera company.].
Miss Anderson sang for President Eisenhower's inauguration, toured India and the Far East as a goodwill ambassadress, was made a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, elected a fellow of the American Society of Arts and Sciences. Miss Anderson also sang at the inauguration of J.F.K in 1961, and performed for President Kennedy and other dignitaries in the East Room of the White House. During the civil rights movement she was an active supporter, giving benefit concerts of various kinds. 
Marian Anderson. Image courtesy of
Marian Anderson is one of the lights of American history that still burns bright today, despite the fact that many may not be aware of it. Her career no doubt helped to inspire numerous others in a time when her nation did not know how to live up its supposed greatness. Whenever I listen to "Die Forelle, D.550" [which I also use as my cell-phone alarm on weekends], I feel her immense talent & soul. Miss Anderson would die of congestive heart failure on April 8, 1993, at age 96 leaving behind an immense legacy. 

If you would like to know more, go to:, (1) Arturo Toscanini. Info for this article was gathered from 'Art is the reason, art is the way' 

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