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Of Thee We Sing

DAR Constitution Hall
04/12/2014 -  
“The Marian Anderson 75th Anniversary Celebration”
Spiritual, trad.: I Can Tell The World – Let Us Break Bread Together – Wade In the Water
Giuseppe Verdi: Pace, Pace mio Dio from La forza del destino – Il lacerato spirito from Simon Boccanegra
Undine Smith Moore, Langston Hughes: Mother to Son
Franz Schubert: Ave Maria
Ysaye M. Barnwell: An Ave For Marian Anderson (World Premiere)
Traditional: America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee!)

Jessye Norman (Host), Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, Stanley Thurston, Wolf Blitzer (CNN), Alyson Cambridge, Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, Doug E. Fresh, Candice Glover, MC Hammer, Billie Allen Henderson, Soloman Howard, Anisse Murillo, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Dionne Warwick, 3WB (Marvin, Carvin, and BeBe Winans)
The Marian Anderson 75th Anniversary Chorus, Stanley J. Thurston (music director)
Eric Schnobrick, Kevin J. Miller (pianists)

J. Norman (© C. Burch)

By now the story of Marian Anderson’s refusal by the Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) - because of her being a Negro - to give a concert at Constitution Hall 75 years ago, and the subsequent resignation of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt from that organization, and of Miss Anderson’s giving the concert at the Lincoln Memorial to an open audience of thousands has become a legend in American history. This afternoon’s concert held to celebrate that memory was an inspiring and worthy tribute given by some of the finest black artists in the entertainment industry, both classical and popular, and was sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts in collaboration with Centric (A Black Enternainment Television network).

Among Marian Anderson’s most beloved concert pieces and most frequently requested by her public was Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” It should not have been surprising then that the most spellbinding moment of the evening came when Stanley Thurston led the 200 voiced Marian Anderson 75th Anniversary Choir in the specially commissioned work “An Ave for Marian Anderson.” It is truly beautiful work, composed by Dr. Barnwell and worthy of the commission and the event, and certainly worthy for repeat performances everywhere in the repertory of large choirs.

Two young stars of the Metropolitan Opera lifted their voices in celebration. There was soprano Alyson Cambridge who sang a rousing rendition Verdi’s “Pace, pace mio Dio”, and basso Soloman Howard who plowed the depths in Verdi’s “Il lacerato spirito.”
There was even a film of Marian Anderson herself delivering a heartfelt rendition of Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” displaying her remarkable breath control and deliciously chocolate timbre.

There were some very interesting testimonies by people who knew and remembered Marian Anderson and some on film, which were fascinating, especially one by Todd Duncan who had just starred on Broadway in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. It was he who sent Miss Anderson to DAR as it was the only Hall large enough to accommodate an audience large enough for her and up until that time had allowed Black tenor Roland Hayes use of the Hall for his concerts.

And of course to conclude the afternoon there was some rousing deliveries of spirituals and gospel songs going on. The Winans (Marvin, Carvin, and BeBe) joined in singing, “Let us Break Bread Together.” Dionne Warwick, Candice Glover, and the Chorus really got the house shakin' with the spiritual “Wade in the Water.”

Finally, after spending the entire concert as Host, beloved Metropolitan Opera Soprano Jessye Norman then asked the audience to join her in singing “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee).” There was hardly a dry eye in the house as they say. And then to everyone’s complete delight Ms. Norman let go, complete with gospel ornaments and variations, Marian Anderson’s favorite encore: “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
The whole house was rockin’ and singin’ along, and a standing ovation ensued well before the music finished. It was really a memorable and inspirational afternoon.

Micaele Sparacino



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