Thursday, January 19, 2012
Marian Anderson: Great African American Opera Star, from VOA
I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today, we complete the story of singer Marian Anderson.
(MUSIC: "der schmied, op. 19/4")
Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early nineteen hundreds. She began singing in church. Soon, her rich deep voice became widely known in the area.
Marian Anderson loved opera. At that time, however, black singers were not permitted in white opera companies in the United States. So she performed as a concert artist instead. Her first concert in New York City was not successful. She felt defeated and did not sing again in public for many months. Then her mother became sick. Anderson knew she would have to work to keep her family together. Singing was her work.
In nineteen thirty, Marian Anderson received money to study music in London. In those days, Europe seemed to be the only place where a black artist could gain recognition. So Marian traveled to Europe. Many years later, she described her experience there: "I was made to feel welcome, even at a hotel. People accepted me as a person. They judged me for my qualities as a human being and an artist . . . nothing else."
Marian Anderson had her first great success in Sweden. The Swedish people loved her voice. They especially liked the spirituals she sang. Few of them had heard this kind of American music before.
(MUSIC: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands")
Marian Anderson traveled through the countries of Scandinavia. People praised her singing everywhere she went. In Helsinki, Finland she sang for the famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. He told her: "The roof of my house is too low for your voice."
Anderson sang in Scandinavia for three concert seasons. She sang for the kings of Denmark and Sweden. Finally, she decided to return to the United States. She said she wanted to test herself in her own country.
News of her success in Scandinavia did not mean much to concert hall owners in the United States. They knew black concert singers were not popular. Anderson was back where she began -- singing at churches and small gatherings. She decided to go back to Europe. Again, she was greeted warmly.
(MUSIC: "Don Carlos")
Marian Anderson gave concerts in northern and southern cities. She firmly believed that her music was the best weapon against racial hatred.
At one concert in the southern state of Mississippi, Anderson saw that her singing could bring people together. It had been a long concert. Yet the crowd kept calling for more. Marian asked the audience to join her in singing one last song. The people stood. Black people and white people sang together, side by side. The local newspaper described what happened: "Sometimes the human spirit rises above itself, above racial prejudice. "
Another incident became famous around the world. Marian Anderson was to sing in Washington, D.C. at Constitution Hall. This concert hall was owned by an organization called the Daughters of the American Revolution, or D.A.R. The D.A.R. would not permit Anderson to perform in the concert hall because she was black.
Eleanor Roosevelt and
"There seemed to be people as far as the eye could see. I felt that a great wave of goodwill poured out from those people. When I saw them, my heart jumped wildly. I could not talk. I wondered if I would be able to sing. "
Marian Anderson did sing. And seventy-five thousand voices -- black and white -- joined with hers. They sang the national song of the United States. Then they listened as she sang another song about America.
(MUSIC: "My Country 'Tis of Thee")
75,000 people entranced
Marian Anderson received many honors and awards during her life. In nineteen fifty-eight she was appointed a delegate to the United Nations, expanding her job as goodwill ambassador of the United States. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in nineteen sixty-three.
Anderson retired from singing two years later. She lived quietly with her husband, Orpheus Fisher, in the state of Connecticut. After he died, she lived with her sister's son, orchestra conductor James De Priest. Marian Anderson died in nineteen ninety-three at the age of ninety-six.
Experts say she is remembered not only for the quality of her voice, but also because of the way she carried out her right to be heard.
(MUSIC: "Ave Maria")
This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.
Marian Anderson believed that the best weapon against racial hatred was ________________ .
2. The musician Kosti Vehanen said that Anderson's voice was _______________ it seemed to come from under the earth.
3. Throughout the countries of _________________ , people praised her singing.
4. Marian Anderson ___________________ became an opera star in 1955.
5. In 1958, Marian Anderson was appointed _____________ to the United Nations.
6. A goodwill ambassador is someone who __________________________ .
7. Marian Anderson broke racial barriers when she _________________ .
8. In 1939, Marian Anderson was to sing at Constitution Hall, a concert hall owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, but ______________________ .
9. At one concert in the southern state of ___________________ , Marian asked the audience to join her in song. White and black people sang together.
10. When white and black people sang together at that Marian Anderson concert, one newspaper commented, " Sometimes the human spirit rises above itself, above ___________________ ".
11. ______________________ said, "She has a voice heard once in a hundred years."
This is a twenty minute documentary about Marian Anderson made in the 1950s. It has
good quality. You probably can't hear all of it today, but make time to view it. It's worthwhile. She is one of the greatest singers of the Twentieth Century.
Marion Anderson, Great African American Opera Star: Part One