Today's Beautiful Gem: Marian Anderson - Rare voice of the century.
Februay 27 (yesterday) was the one hundredth birth anniversary of
Marian Anderson. She was in possession of a contralto voice. Arturo
Toscanini (conductor of the NBC Orchestra) proclaimed that "a voice like hers
is heard only once in a hundred years." She lived a full life and died at 96.
Born in a poor black family in Philadelphia, losing both her father
and grand-father in her teens, she and her mother had served in several menial
jobs. As a result, she joined the high school quite late and graduated in
1921. She began to sing at six. Late in her teens, her church supported her
in her musical career. Afterwards, she took voice lessons from some famous
musicians of the day. Her constant urge was to study and understand music.
In those distant days, the colour of the skin mattered more than the
content of the individual. There was no opportunity for black artistes to
flourish in the US. Like several jazz musicians, Marian Anderson sailed to
Europe. She received rave reviews for her performances in London, Salzburg,
Berlin and in Scandinavian cities. The Finnish composer Sibelius was so
imressed by her that he composed a piece specially for her voice. She also
began to specialise in the Negro spirituals.
Even after she established herself abroad, her native country was not
ready to welcome her. She was refused permission to perform in the
Constitution Hall owned by the Daughters of American Revolution. Mrs Roosevelt
resigned in protest. She sang from the Lincoln Memorial (nearly 25 yrs before
MLKJr) and it was nationally broadcast. Later, when she was 58, she sang in
the Metropolitan at New York. She sang at the inauguration of Presidents
Eisenhower and Kennedy. President Johnson presented her the Medal of Honour.
She was never bitter with the people who were responsible for the many
humiliations she underwent because of the stifling racism of those times.
She communicated extraordinarily well with her audience. She said: "I have
never been able to analyse the qualities that the audience contributes to a
performance. The most important, I think, are sympathy, open-mindedness,
expectancy, faith, and a certain support to your effort. I know that my career
could not have been what it is without all these things, which have come from
many people. The knowledge of the feelings other people have expended on me
has kept me going when times were hard. That knowledge has been a responsi-
bility, a challenge, and an aspiration. It has been the path to development
and growth. The faith and confidence of others in me have been like shining
guiding stars." This humble, but celebrated, singer died in 1993.
Om shaantiH Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao.