Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Marian Anderson - Christmas Carols

Found this one at a local thrift store - I thought for sure it was on CD. Surprise! It's never seen the light of the CD laser and I couldn't find anyplace online that has this for download.

Long before anyone heard of Barack Obama, Jackie Robinson, or even Joe Louis, Marian Anderson was one of the first people who broke down barriers and paved the way for African-Americans.

Born in 1897, Marian's musical career began quite early, at the local Baptist church in which her father was very active. She joined the junior choir at age six and before long, she was nicknamed "The Baby Contralto." When she was eight, her father bought a piano from his brother, but they could not afford any lessons so Marian taught herself.

Marian became so popular, she would sometimes perform at three different places in a single night. Finally she summoned the confidence to request five dollars per performance. In 1919, at the age of 22, she sang at the National Baptist Convention.

She continued to tour throughout the country and won every possible accolade out there. This eventually led to her historic concert at Carnegie Hall in 1928. Despite this success, her engagements were still limited to black audiences only.

Anderson began to tour abroad and won acclaim in many parts of color-blind Europe. She sang at all the famous opera houses and won over many new and important fans. This included Arturo Toscanini who uttered the most famous quote about Marian Anderson - "Hers is a voice that only comes around once every hundred years".

Successful around the world but not in her home country, Marian pressed on. In 1939, she was denied permission to sing at the D.A.R's Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., causing an uproar. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the D.A.R. and arranged Anderson to sing in front of the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939.

Her Easter Sunday concert became the stuff of legend - 75,000 in attendance, an estimated 50 million radio listeners tuned in. It didn't faze Marian in the slightest - "As I thought further, I could see that my significance as an individual was small in this affair. I had become, whether I like it or not, a symbol, representing my people."

Throughout the 1940s, she won more acclaim around the world, singing benefit concerts, appearing on radio, and with her early recordings. She also helped out the USO during World War II and the Korean War, singing to troops and convalescing vets.

She still broke down barriers - at the age of 58, she was the first African-American to sing with the New York Metropolitan Opera company in 1955. In the late 1950s, she became a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations and sang all over the world yet again. She sang at President Eisenhower's last inauguration in 1957 as well as John Kennedy's in 1961.

At the end of 1962, Robert Russell Bennett, the conductor and arranger of this album, finally convinced Anderson to do a Christmas album. This only sounds deadly. To hear one of the greatest voices sing "Silent Night" or "Jingle Bells" is amazing.

Anderson's versions of "Ave Maria" over the years became classics and this was her third rendition of the venerable classic:

Marian Anderson - Christmas Carols

The following year, Marian returned to the Lincoln Memorial and sang at Dr. Martin Luther King's famous march on Washington. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in December, 1963.

In 1964, she decided to retire and went on a yearlong farewell tour, climaxing at Carnegie Hall on April 19, 1965. She won even more awards in retirement and lived to be 96 years old, dying on April 8, 1993.

THIS JUST IN - Our friend Ernie just posted a 1951 Marian Anderson Christmas album with totally different recordings and track lineup than this album (Tell him the Captain sent you and you'll get free validated parking with every download).

Happy listening...



Raj Reddi said...

I just picked this album up tonight at my favorite Seattle thrift store (Lifelong). The cover was kind of beat up, but the vinyl was lovingly cared for. Gorgeous mono, and a gorgeous voice. Marian Anderson was an important, if oft forgotten step on this country's path to Obama. Wherever you are, thank you Marian!

bruckner_1 said...

Thanks so much for this! You saved me a lot of work with this fine transfer, as I had a not-so-nice mono copy of this sitting in my to-do pile. Great job!

CaptainOT said...

Raj & Bruckner - Glad to see so many people have found this album offline as well as online! Thanks for the comments!


Arkiver said...

I grew up in Connecticut in the area where Marion Anderson lived her later years. I believe my mother had made her acquaintence and I always heard nice things about her in the community (also credited as the birthplace of Charles Ives). I did not have this recording until finding your posting here and I do appreciate the great job you have done. Thank you.

john said...

how i wish i'd found you b4 christmas, but nonetheless, what a joy to find these old recordings. they will be appreciated for xmases to come. thank you for all your endeavor in presenting these wonderful recordings. john

CaptainOT said...

Arkiver & John - Glad you found us and the album here. Thanks for leaving us the comments!


David Scott said...

I was in the process of digitizing a cassette that I had recorded from a vinyl disc that I had borrowed from a library back in the 70s when I found you on the internet. I'm going to stick with my version, scratches and all, for the nostalgia value but I couldn't resist cleaning up that strange little hesitation in Jingle Bells. I used to think that it was just the old gal having trouble keeping up, but now I think it was actually a sloppy edit in the original recording. But thanks anyway for the high quality album cover work!