MARIAN ANDERSON Biography - Musicians


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Name: Marian Anderson                                                               
Born: 27 February 1897                                                             
Died: 8 April 1993                                                                 
Marian Anderson (February 27, 1897 - April 8, 1993), was an American               
contralto, perhaps best remembered for her performance on Easter Sunday, 1939 on   
the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C..                             
Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She joined a junior church         
choir at the age of six, and applied to an all-white music school after her         
graduation from high school in 1921, but was turned away because she was black.     
The woman working the admissions counter replied, "We don't take colored" when     
she tried to apply. Consequently, she continued her singing studies with a         
private teacher. She debuted with the New York Philharmonic on August 26, 1925     
and scored an immediate success, also with the critics. In 1928, she sang for       
the first time at Carnegie Hall. Her reputation was further advanced by her tour   
through Europe in the early 1930s where she did not encounter the racial           
prejudices she had experienced in America.                                         
Anderson at the Department of the Interior, commemorating her 1939 concert         
The famed conductor Arturo Toscanini told her she had a voice "heard once in a     
hundred years." In 1934, impresario Sol Hurok offered her a better contract         
than she had previously had with Arthur Judson. Hurok became her manager for the   
rest of her performing career.                                                     
In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for     
Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The District of   
Columbia Board of Education declined a request to use the auditorium of a white     
public high school. As a result of the ensuing furor, thousands of DAR members,     
including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned.                                   
The Roosevelts, with Walter White, then-executive secretary of the NAACP, and       
Anderson's manager, impresario Sol Hurok, then persuaded Secretary of the           
Interior Harold L. Ickes to arrange an open air Marian Anderson concert on the     
steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The concert, commencing with a dignified and         
stirring rendition of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" attracted a crowd of more 75,000   
of all colors and was a sensation with a national radio audience of millions.       
Anderson performing at the Lincoln Memorial                                         
The concert mentioned above was held on Easter Sunday in 1939. Anderson was         
accompanied by the Finnish accompanist Kosti Vehanen, who introduced Marian to     
Jean Sibelius in 1933. Sibelius was overwhelmed with Anderson's performance         
and asked his wife to bring champagne in place of the traditional coffee. At       
this moment Sibelius started altering and composing songs for Anderson, who was     
delighted to have met a musician of Sibelius' magnitude, who felt that she had     
been able to penetrate the Nordic soul.                                             
In 1939 Sibelius made a new arrangement of the song Solitude and dedicated it to   
Anderson. Originally The Jewish Girl's Song from his 1906 incidental music to       
Belshazzar's Feast, this later became the Solitude section of the orchestral       
suite derived from the incidental music.                                           
In 1943, Anderson sang at the invitation of the DAR to an integrated audience at   
Constitution Hall as part of a benefit for the American Red Cross. By contrast,     
the federal government continued to bar her from using the high school             
auditorium in the District of Columbia.                                             
On January 7, 1955, Anderson broke the color barrier by becoming the first         
African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera. On that           
occasion, she sang the part of Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi's Un ballo in maschera.     
In 1958 she was officially designated delegate to the United Nations, a             
formalization of her role as "goodwill ambassador" of the U.S. she played           
earlier, and in 1972 she was awarded the UN Peace Prize.