Marian Anderson, born in 1897 in Philadelphia, is often misrepresented as an opera singer. While she did often include arias in concert, she was largely a concert performer. In commemoration of her birthday this year, her hometown of Danbury, Connecticut has planned a celebration, according to a short Associated Press blurb in our paper this morning.
Anderson was the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, sang at two Presidential inaugurations, and christened a nuclear submarine.
In 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution refused Anderson permission to perform to an integrated audience in their Constitution Hall (in Washington DC), bringing Anderson into an unexpected international spotlight. President Roosevelt and Walter White, the secretary of the NAACP, orchestrated a performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939. The performance attended by 75,000 people and heard by millions over the airwaves. Anderson began the program with “My Country tis of Thee.” Also performed was this recording of Schubert’s moving “Ave Maria,” one of the seven songs the twenty-eight year old Schubert based on Walter Scott’s epic poem, The Lady in the Lake in 1825.