Sunday, September 15, 2013
"The Black Voice"
Until recently, only a few critics and Opera lovers have spoken about“The Black Voice”. It was Toscanini who praised the phenomenal vocal gift of Marion Anderson, saying it was one of the wonders of the world. Check out the 1934 recording of her singing Brahms.
Like wise, the same was thought of Leontyne Price by Herbert Von Karajan. These two gentlemen were the greatest conductors nationally and internationally.
Because of the terrible cancer “Racism” Many great artists fled The United States to find appreciation for their unique vocal abilities.
We now have been blessed with the beauty and excellence of Lawrence Brownlee “Tenor” who is considered by most, to be one of the greatest voices of our time.
Some time ago the New York Times printed in the Arts section; is there such a thing as a “Black Sound.” Without hesitation myself and many others gave a resounding yes. In a book on vocal pedagogy and the art of Bel Canto Singing; A native Italian clearly states that Black voices are richer and have greater range in the upper and lower part of the column. Some might call this quality dark, but I think the term “rich” says it better.
What also was a back handed compliment, in the case of the great Tenor Roland Hayes; He was given The title: “The Black Schipa” as in Tito Schipa.
Schipa was the tenor who shared fame at the time with Enrico Caruso.
We like to think of Mr. Hayes, not as The black Schipa but the one and only “Roland Hayes”.
Another 19th century voice was Adelina Patti born in 1843 and viewed as one of the Iconic figures of her time. Again, an African American Soprano Sissieretta Jones born in 1868 was given the title “The Black Patti” another great artist respected only if she were in some way associated with her white counterpart.
Black men such as Lawrence Winters, Charles Holland, Robert McFerrin, Thomas Young, Leslie Scott and many more I could name, were purposely ignored.
Charles Holland returned to America to perform at Carnegie Hall. He was 73 and the magic of his singing was ever present. He returned to his home in Berlin where, he like Lawrence Winters in Munich, shared their great talents with German audiences. For Holland that was one of the only appearances we know of, in his own country.
Europe recognized the magnitude of these artists and were it not for the European Understanding; many great gifts would have been lost forever.
Leslie Scott was one who literally got buried before the world could witness all that he had to offer.He did however sing opposite Ms Price in Porgy and Bess and toured all over Europe.
He returned to America where he passed at age forty eight. Broken hearted, with the knowledge that his own country refused to see or hear him.
I speak knowingly because Leslie Scott was my father.
Last but not least Paul Robeson, a truly great voice. One who sang and spoke for the masses.
He was exiled from his country for crying out for all mankind.
He was not allowed to re-enter until he was on his death bed.A truly great loss.