The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Anne Brown

Soprano legend Anne Wiggins Brown was the first person to play the leading role of “Bess” in the production of Porgy and Bess on Broadway. Brown was born on August 9, 1912, in Baltimore, Maryland. Her father, Harry Brown, was a prominent physician and a grandson of a slave. Her mother, Mary Allen Wiggins, descended from a family of singers and studied voice and piano in New York. Brown was named after her paternal grandmother, Annie E. Brown, a gifted singer and evangelist who toured the southeastern United States spreading the gospel. Her maternal grandfather, William Henry Wiggins, was known for his lyric tenor voice. Brown and her three sisters lived in a segregated community, where their mother tutored them in piano and involved the sisters in music and theatre. At twelve years old, Brown attended Frederick Douglass High School which had a superb music program. She studied music with W. Llewellyn Wilson. After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School, Brown auditioned for the Juilliard School and became the first African American to win the prestigious Margaret McGill Scholarship. Brown was sixteen years old when she began studying with Lucia Dunham at Juilliard.

Brown’s scholarship drew the attention of George Gershwin who was seeking singers for his new opera, then called simply Porgy. After auditioning for him, singing the spiritual City of Heaven without accompaniment, he awarded her the part of “Bess”. The two worked closely on the opera, rewriting the third act to have her sing Summertime and even changing the opera’s title to Porgy and Bess, reflecting the importance of her role. On October 10, 1935, Porgy and Bess premiered at New York’s Alvin Theater, with Brown as its first “Bess”. Brown went on to appear in the Broadway play Mamba’s Daughters and in the film Rhapsody in Blue. She reprised her role as “Bess” in various revivals of Porgy and Bess and between 1942 and 1948, and achieved celebrated performances as a concert artist at Carnegie Hall and with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In 1948, Brown settled in Oslo, Norway, where she met and married Norwegian Olympic ski jumper, Thorleif Schjelderup. Until the early 1950s, she worked as a professional musician on productions like Menotti’s The Medium and The Telephone. However, during a European tour in 1953, she was diagnosed with asthma, which ended her singing career. After this, Brown worked several years as a music teacher. Among her students were actress Liv Ullmann, jazz singer Karin Krog and folk singer Ase Kleveland. She also staged several operas in France and Norway. In 2000, Brown was awarded Norway’s Council of Cultures Honorary Award.

Brown passed away on March 13, 2009, in Oslo, Norway, at the age of 96.

Accession Number

A2006.145

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/16/2006 |and| 11/17/2006 |and| 11/18/2006 |and| 11/18/2006

11/18/2006

Last Name

Brown

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

P.S. 112

Frederick Douglass High School

The Juilliard School

First Name

Anne

Birth City, State, Country

Baltimore

HM ID

BRO39

Favorite Season

Winter

Sponsor

Royal Norwegian Embassy

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Norway

Birth Date

8/9/1912

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Oslo

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

3/13/2009

Short Description

Classical singer Anne Brown (1912 - 2009 ) was a soprano legend who played "Bess" in the original production of George Gershwin's, "Porgy and Bess." She also starred in other Broadway shows, and achieved celebrated performances as a concert artist at Carnegie Hall and with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Employment

Broadway

Singing Teacher

Classical Performer

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:1664,66:3392,107:7871,165:8345,172:8977,183:9925,198:10478,207:14507,258:15534,276:15929,282:24102,319:24816,328:27366,369:27774,374:29202,390:41992,446:42264,451:42944,464:43896,486:44916,511:45936,535:46480,546:46820,552:48180,587:49132,603:49744,614:67178,786:75541,852:75946,858:95650,1030$0,0:3120,132:3666,141:5070,156:8034,199:8580,211:16964,331:17516,339:18896,358:19632,367:20736,385:30910,493:35610,512:59820,725:62473,748:64398,782:64783,788:65245,796:89904,975:90562,984:101744,1108:107856,1144:111235,1153:114662,1183:115250,1191:123405,1302:125231,1325:141928,1492:159060,1765:159660,1772:170454,1853:171846,1972:202094,2248:232624,2474:233200,2481:236050,2514:237450,2531:241250,2596:242250,2607:251900,2691:257878,2840:263562,2996:269380,3057
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Anne Brown's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Anne Brown lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Anne Brown describes her parents' family backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Anne Brown describes her father's personality and physical appearance

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Anne Brown remembers her childhood in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Anne Brown describes her father's office in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Anne Brown describes her family's history of religious singing

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Anne Brown describes her early interest in music

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Anne Brown describes her education in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Anne Brown describes her aspirations as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Anne Brown describes the types of music she listened to as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Anne Brown recalls her scholarship to Juilliard School of Music

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Anne Brown recalls her early determination to become a singer

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Anne Brown recalls her training at The Julliard School in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Anne Brown describes her sisters' education and careers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Anne Brown remembers Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Anne Brown describes the lack of racial tension at Juilliard School of Music

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Anne Brown recalls her parents' serious personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Anne Brown describes her experiences of racial discrimination in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Anne Brown plays 'The Man I Love'

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Slating of Anne Brown's interview, session 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Anne Brown recalls auditioning for George Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess'

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Anne Brown remembers George Gershwin's writing process for 'Porgy and Bess'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Anne Brown describes some of the original cast members of 'Porgy and Bess'

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Anne Brown reflects upon African Americans' portrayal in 'Porgy and Bess'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Anne Brown describes her father's thoughts on her role in 'Porgy and Bess'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Anne Brown recalls when George Gershwin renamed 'Porgy and Bess'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Anne Brown describes her protests against segregation during 'Porgy and Bess'

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Anne Brown describes her other roles on Broadway

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Anne Brown recalls her first marriages

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Anne Brown recalls some of her performances in Norway

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Anne Brown plays a recording of her performance of 'Nightingale'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Anne Brown plays a recording of her performance of 'Warum sind den die Rosen so blass'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Anne Brown plays a recording of her performance of 'Pleurez, Pleurez mes yeux'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Anne Brown recalls her life and career in Norway

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Anne Brown describes her daughter's boarding school in Switzerland

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Anne Brown remembers her decision to live in Norway

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Anne Brown recalls reprising the role of Bess in 'Porgy and Bess'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Anne Brown describes her classical singing career in Norway

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Anne Brown describes her performances with Gian Carlo Menotti

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Anne Brown describes her experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Anne Brown reflects upon civil rights in America

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Anne Brown recalls fellow African American opera and classical singers

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Anne Brown remembers her singing pupils

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Anne Brown remembers directing operas in Norway

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Anne Brown talks about her autobiography, 'Sang Fra Frossen Gren'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Anne Brown narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Anne Brown recalls her election as an honorary citizen of Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Anne Brown narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Anne Brown narrates her photographs, pt. 3

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Anne Brown narrates her photographs, pt. 4

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Anne Brown plays 'I Got Rhythm' and 'Love Walked In' on the piano

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Anne Brown's interview, session 4

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Anne Brown's daughter lists her favorites

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers her mother's voice

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Anne Brown's daughter reflects upon her mother's career

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers moving to Europe with her mother

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers her aunt and father

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Anne Brown's daughter recalls meeting Thorleif Schjelderup

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Anne Brown's daughter recalls listening to her mother's vocal practice

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Anne Brown's daughter describes her childhood aspirations

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers living in Italy

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers her mother's voice students

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Anne Brown's daughter lists her favorite singers

Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Anne Brown's daughter reflects upon her life away from the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Anne Brown's daughter remembers her mother's cooking

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Anne Brown's daughter recalls growing up as the child of a celebrity

DASession

1$2

DATape

1$3

DAStory

10$2

DATitle
Anne Brown describes her aspirations as a child
Anne Brown recalls auditioning for George Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess'
Transcript
Did your parents [Mary Wiggins Brown and Harry Brown] continue to encourage you during this time to pursue music?$$If they encouraged me?$$Did they encourage you to pursue music as a profession, to become a professional musician?$$No, I don't think they had anything to do, I think that they inspired me to sing and to play the piano and to learn music but they didn't have much work to do because I was already in a sense tuned into that.$$Well your father was a doctor and you would, people would assume that most little girls would look up to their fathers and him being a doctor and perhaps want to become one themselves.$$Yeah, I had those ideas once in a while. I mean, floating, floating, but no, he had to work too hard and had to go out at night and the day. No, I didn't want that kind of life. I wanted a life where I could sing and be with other people who made music and so on. If I thought about it at all. Because who knows?$$(PAULA SCHJELDERUP): It was a different era for a woman in those days.$$Yeah that's true.$But going, continuing with Juilliard [Juilliard School of Music; The Juilliard School, New York, New York], because that's where we left off yesterday, at, when you were at Juilliard. You, there you read in the newspaper while you were at Juilliard that Gershwin [George Gershwin] was writing 'Porgy' ['Porgy and Bess'].$$Yes.$$So tell me about, tell me the story of reading it in the paper and what you thought about being a part of it.$$Well, I read it in the paper that George Gershwin was writing this opera based on, who wrote the story (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Dubose Heyward.$$Huh?$$Dubose Heyward.$$Dubose Heyward wrote the story?$$Yes, ma'am.$$I'm glad you told me. (Laughter) I'm glad you reminded me and I telephoned and got his secretary on the phone and said I would like to come and sing for him and get a part in the opera. She said, "Yes, come the next day or the day after," which I did. And I found him a charming and knowing man, music, and with a sense of humor. So, he said, "Can you come tomorrow and sing for my brother?"$$So you met Ira [Ira Gershwin] as well?$$I met Ira, of course, Ira was his right hand. And then two days later, I had to sing for someone else, don't ask me who the other person was, but it was one of those who--$$(PAULA SCHJELDERUP): Then you sang something acappella to show him that you were trained in the classic condition.$$Oh, I sang classical music the whole time. I had a pianist and I sang opera and so on. And very little jazz, because I didn't sing jazz (simultaneous).$$(PAULA SCHJELDERUP): (Simultaneous) But I mean, I think when you sang for Gershwin--$$That's what I'm talking about.$$I read also that towards the end, he asked you to sing a Negro spiritual, a gospel song to see how you handled gospel music.$$Yes. Well, I must have done it (laughter). And then, it was very strange because every time I visit, Gershwin would say, George would say, "Come back in two days, or tomorrow can you sing for this person, that one?" Well, I sang for all of New York [New York] individually, you know.$$And then he--$$(PAULA SCHJELDERUP): And then you asked to sing 'Summertime' although that was Clara's song (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) No, no, no, that wasn't written yet. I mean after all he hasn't written the opera yet. He just has a outline and those days, it was very, very early in the picture of his writing, and doing that, but oh yes, he asked me to sing Negro spirituals, and, I don't know about gospel music. I've forgotten how to use those terms now, gospel and Negro spiritual--$$I think there are about the same.$$Everything goes together.$$Yes, ma'am.$$So, if you say, "Yes, ma'am," anymore you are going to make me feel like an old, old, old (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well--$$--lady.$$I'm sorry. I will simply say, "Yes."$$Not just ninety, not just ninety, but ninety-eight.$$I only do that because I'm from the South, you must understand (laughter).$$I know you are and it is so charming (laughter). I'm just teasing you now, I hope you understand that.$$Yes, I do.

Delano O'Banion

Delano O’Banion was born on November 3, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Chicago public schools from elementary through high school. While a student at Phillips High School, he played the clarinet and bassoon in the Phillips Concert Band. As a senior at Phillips High School, O’Banion became a student assistant band director and drum major under Professor Earl Madison. In addition to singing various classical styles of choral music, he learned to sing oratorio and opera in the Hartzell Methodist Church’s Young People Choir (1951-1955). During this period, he received a scholarship to study voice with Madame Elsa Harthan Arendt at the Sherwood Music School in Chicago, Illinois.

In 1955, O’Banion received an academic music scholarship to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at Fisk University, O’Banion toured the United States and Europe with the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers. During his junior year at Fisk University, O’Banion sang as guest soloist with the Tuskegee Institute Choir at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. In 1958, O’Banion worked with renowned musician, composer and conductor Professor William L. Dawson.

Upon graduation from Fisk University in 1959 with his B.S. degree in music, O’Banion began a teaching career that spanned forty-six years. O’Banion became quite active as a classical soloist, singing oratorio, opera, recitals, and major orchestral works throughout the Midwest. In 1961, along with several alumni friends from Fisk University, O’Banion established The John Work Chorale. His love for conducting this choral group became his primary work. The John Work Chorale specializes in preserving nurturing the perpetuation of singing Negro Spirituals in the original style of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. O’Banion also served as the choral director at Marshall High School for several years.

O’Banion served as minister of music for Grace Presbyterian Church (1960-1966), and serves as minister of music at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church, (1977-present). In addition to his work as minister of music, O’Banion serves on the board of the Chicago Dance and Music Alliance, the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Board of Trustees at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church. O’Banion has received numerous awards for excellence in music, education, and community service.

O’Banion was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 15, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.143

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/15/2006 |and| 4/16/2008

Last Name

O'Banion

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

Doolittle Elementary School

Fisk University

DePaul University

University of Chicago

Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

Delano

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

OBA01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Guatemala

Favorite Quote

An Unexamined Life Isn't Worth Living.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/3/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Comfort Food

Short Description

Music instructor, choral director, and classical singer Delano O'Banion (1936 - ) helped establish the John Work Chorale which specializes in singing Negro spirituals in the Fisk Jubilee Singers' style.

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:4212,89:8991,168:9558,184:14094,293:31312,505:54624,858:60245,960:63094,1030:71160,1128:71540,1203:73212,1257:76860,1345:96624,1578:102856,1726:112682,1850:122273,1952:124854,1993:132980,2070:140459,2151:149570,2254:166030,2446:166450,2453:167150,2458:167780,2522:186270,2776:187494,2798:192956,2842:199080,2908:214090,3114:214440,3120:219270,3184$0,0:1241,58:2336,87:2628,92:5694,166:6497,176:26710,498:35635,672:40330,705:40841,718:44345,787:51134,928:75802,1100:78350,1134:80668,1143:83374,1216:83638,1221:93208,1435:93604,1442:109080,1719:114971,1778:116075,1801:117179,1835:118628,1871:120974,1930:133394,2242:144391,2404:149242,2514:149498,2526:157050,2733:171698,3008:175874,3075:176594,3111:182560,3156:184285,3181:185458,3278:189115,3350:192151,3444:192703,3454:198085,3592:207200,3682
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Delano O'Banion's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion talks about his mother, Sarah Breckenridge O'Banion

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about his father, Julian O'Banion

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion describes being named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion describes his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about his earliest childhood memories of growing up with three brothers

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion talks about his childhood neighborhood and early school years

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion remembers Christmas celebrations as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion talks about his experience at Doolittle Grammar School and why he started singing

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion recounts his experience at Doolittle Grammar School and joining the band at Phillips High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Delano O'Banion talks about learning to play to clarinet and his early music teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion recalls his favorite teachers from Doolittle Grammar School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion remembers joining the band at Phillips High School in Chicago, Illinois where he served as Earl Madison's student assistant

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion recalls being offered a full scholarship to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee as a Jubilee Singer

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about the history of the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion talks about composer William L. Dawson

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion talks about minstrelsy and the Fisk Jubilee Singers' initial perception as a minstrel group

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion describes touring in Europe with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1956

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about the pathos of spirituals and the impact of spirituals on American music

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion describes his decision to major in music at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion talks about studying conducting under John Work and William L. Dawson while a student at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion talks about John Work, III's reorganization of the Jubilee Singers and the ensemble's 125th anniversary concert

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion describes the universal impact of spirituals as well as his experience in the Jubilee Singers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion talks about the difference between gospel songs and spirituals

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion talks about the music at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the origin of spirituals

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about the career of composer William L. Dawson

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion talks about African American composers like Scott Joplin

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion describes singing at Radio City Music Hall with the Tuskegee Institute Choir in 1958

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion distinguishes between anthems, spirituals, and gospel songs

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about the Jubilee Singers' repertoire, and the difference between spirituals and art songs

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion talks about his early teaching career at Beidler Elementary School and Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion talks about the founding of the John Work Chorale in 1960

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion sings excerpts from a gospel song, a hymn, and an anthem

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion describes various career opportunities in his life

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion talks about the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's collaboration with the John Work Chorale in Brazil

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion talks about the John Work Chorale and how his trip to Brazil influenced his direction of the group

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion talks about directing the choir at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about teaching at Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion describes directing the Theater-In-The-Streets program in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion talks about returning to Marshall High School to teach music after studying at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion talks about pilot program of Theater-in-the-Streets in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about his legacy at Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion talks about his retirement and his parents' careers

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion emphasizes the value of education

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion describes his future aspirations

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Delano O'Banion talks about the blessings in his life

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Delano O'Banion talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Delano O'Banion reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion narrates his photographs

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Second slating of Delano O'Banion's interview

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion talks about his name and his three brothers

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion describes the impact of his brother's death on his family

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion describes his mother, Sarah Breckenridge O'Banion

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion describes his father, Julian O'Banion

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion talks about his childhood in Chicago's Lake Meadows neighborhood

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion remembers his close relationship with his father

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion talks about his parents' separation after his brother's death

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion talks about his religious upbringing in Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion recalls singing at an early age

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion talks about the church choir's repertoire at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion talks about the music program at Doolittle Grammar School

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion talks about Earl Madison's band program at Phillips High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion describes his experience at the Sherwood Music School in Chicago, Illinois where he studied with Elsa Harthan Arendt

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about his vocal training with F. Bertram Briess and Elsa Harthan Arendt

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion describes his admiration for William McFarland, Roland Hayes, and HistoryMaker William Warfield

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion recalls receiving a scholarship to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee after singing for John Work, III

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion describes his experience at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion recalls the campus environment and his professors at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion talks about John Work, III, the director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion talks about the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, pt.1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion talks about the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, pt.2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion describes campus life at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion recalls touring in Europe with the Jubilee Singers, pt.1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion recalls touring in Europe with the Jubilee Singers, pt.2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion talks about working for the Sante Fe Railway as a college student

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion remembers joining the Tuskegee Institute Choir at Radio City Music Hall in 1958 to sing 'Old Man River'

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about limited opportunities for African American singers in the 1950s

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion recalls his music education at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion talks about the impact of Charles S. Johnson's death on Jubilee Singers director John Work, III

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion remembers his good friends at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 8 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion talks about William L. Dawson's residency at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion contrasts the Tuskegee Institute Choir and the Jubilee Singers, and the conducting styles of John Work, III and William L. Dawson

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion describes the compositions and musical arrangements of William L. Dawson and John Work, III

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion talks about Thomas A. Dorsey and William L. Dawson

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion describes the impact of his experience in the Fisk Jubilee Singers on the John Work Chorale

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion talks about William L. Dawson's well-known compositions and arrangements

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion describes the challenges of his early teaching career in the Chicago Public School system

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion talks about how the John Work Chorale was invited to perform in Brazil with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion recounts the formation of the John Work Chorale

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion recalls how Theodore Charles Stone, president of the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM) inspired him to become a singer

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion talks about the John Work Chorale's temporary hiatus, and the group's longevity

Tape: 9 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion describes the challenges of syncing musicians with dancers while on tour with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in Brazil

Tape: 9 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion talks about his teaching career at Beidler Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion talks about his teaching career at Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion describes how he is a combination of his mentors

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion describes how he transformed the band program at Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about his theater career

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion talks about his graduate studies in social psychology at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion talks about his return to Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois after completing his graduate studies

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion remembers a mentee named Clarence Thomas

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about the ethos of his singing and his connection with audiences

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion describes the expansion of his vocal range under the tutelage of F. Bertram Briess

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion sings an excerpt from Handel's 'Messiah'

Tape: 10 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion reflects upon his career

Tape: 10 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion talks about his desire to travel the world

Tape: 10 Story: 13 - Delano O'Banion reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion talks about the importance of Negro spirituals

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$10

DAStory

7$1

DATitle
Delano O'Banion describes touring in Europe with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1956
Delano O'Banion talks about his teaching career at Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois
Transcript
So when the [Fisk] Jubilee Singers began touring the country singing spirituals, I guess that was a unique sound for anyone other than African Americans at that time.$$There's a play, there's, there are several instances where they were ready to be mobbed by lynch mobs. People were ready to stone them and run them out of town. And they began to sing. And quell the crowds when they sang Negro spirituals. People would stand up, literally start crying, you know, and their tracks--stop dead in their tracks to hear this beautiful music. And they turned away from their evil ways. That's, that's history. That's not, that's not just--that's not a theory on my part now. While I was in Fisk, at Fisk [University, Nashville, Tennessee] with the Jubilee Singers, I had the privilege in 1956 of touring Europe. Negro spirituals is not a--were not songs that I really--we sang them in the church choir before I went to Fisk. We sang all the regular songs that they sang, but we also sang Negro spirituals. But they were not special to me at that point. When I studied with Madame [Elsa Harthan] Arendt, she almost had to force me to sing Negro spirituals at the student recitals, you know 'cause that was not, you know particularly any part of music that I really--I was into classical music, I was into Beethoven and Handel and Bach and that kind of stuff. And so I sang, I sang Negro spirituals but they weren't, they weren't special to me. It was only after that experience at Fisk that the music really became special to me. In Europe one of the things I remember definitely, we had three different concerts that we did. We were supposed to do, we were supposed to do a all Negro spiritual concert, then we did some Palestrina, and some modern music. And then we did a mix of, mix of the three, you know, the three different kinds of music. And in Europe where we went from town to town, we did 66 concerts in 56 days in 1956. And in Europe, whenever we sang the predominant choice was the Negro spiritual concert. Almost all Negro spirituals. A few work songs, a few camp songs, you know, but people really--and after we sang our first concert in Germany, it was standing room only across the entirety of Europe. In England, Spain, Portugal, France, Sicily, Italy, all standing room. People would literally be--like a, a--like a rock concert today. People in Paris [France] on the--in the south of (unclear), people were, people were stationed behind us. We're on the stage and they put platforms behind us so people could sit and watch us at the concerts. These places would be--these huge halls would be filled with people to hear the Negro spirituals from the Jubilee Singers. This is 1956. And I began to think, you know, I mean over, over the years I mean I--since that time, you know, that this was really a strong statement, a strong-filled music that had a pathos, ethos, that really kind of, kind of stirred people to more than regular music would. And when we got out of--when I got away--graduated from Fisk and came to Chicago [Illinois], we formulated the Jubilee Singers which specializes in, even now today, specializes in Negro spirituals.$So talk about Marshall [High School, Chicago, Illinois]. Just re--you know 'cause you were saying when you came--$$When I came to Marshall, they brought me there to organize, organize a boys chorus. I was blessed because I had a chorus, I had an eighth grade chorus at, at Beidler [Elementary School], and those kids who came from Beidler to Marshall were the, were the gen--were the heart of my chorus at, at Marshall. So the guys who came there, they became the chorus at Marshall. So in the first year there we had about twenty-seven guys who--some kids who came into the chorus that were, weren't from Beidler. And won the competition, took a superior rating the first superior rating of a black choir out of Marshall in its history. So we took a superior rating that year and continued on the next couple of years. And then I finally went to human relations coordinator. But Marshall at that time had, it had 5,000 students in it. That's the population of Marshall. Almost on the--I think it was two, two, two double period day, yeah.$$Can we talk about were you--how did the students that you were dealing with differ from the students you went to school with, or the student that you were? Did you find things had changed much in that sort of--more, more like twenty-five year period, you know.$$Not really, not really.$$No, not really.$$Because even today, you know, you got all kinds of crap going on in the public school system, but that's primarily because of the adults. The adults have abdicated their authority, abdicated their ability to teach. And so the kids are gonna respond. There's a vacuum there, so kids responding to that vacuum. In my classroom, in my situation at Marshall High School, there was never a vacuum, you know. I taught boys chorus. We would--the first boys chorus, they gave me a room up in the, in the attic of the school first, when I first came there. It was a classroom that didn't have a door out to the hallway. Had to go through either the orchestra room or the music room next door. It was a room between two rooms. It had one incandescent bulb in the ceiling and a, and an attic window about twelve feet off the floor at the front of the room, okay, and I had a portable, a portable blackboard in that room. And that's where the boys--piano, they rolled a piano in there for me. So that's where the boy's chorus was found, founded in that room. But--and these guys were--some of them were Vice Lords [now the Almight Vice Lord Nation (AVLN)], some of 'em were Cobras at the time, Vice Lords and Cobras. But every morning at 7:30 we met together and there was no gang, there was no, you know, at least I didn't find out these gang members, some of 'em were gang members, until long after there, after I had left, they had left. And the reason, I was talking to the guys who came back and said well you know me, Mo [ph.] he was such-and-such a. So-and-so, he was a so-and-so. And so but when they came together, we sang together. And that was, you know the way it was. And then when I taught general music, I had no problems, really no problems because I--old school teacher. Not vicious or anything like that, but just put what, what I needed to put out there in front of the kids and they respond to that. There were other teachers like that all through Marshall at that time. The teachers who were really concerned and cared about the kids and weren't a--weren't afraid of them. You know I think a lot of the thing now is that we're running into is fear, you know.$$But see you had a forty-year career over at Marshall [High School], right?$$Forty, forty-one and a half, forty-two years.$$Okay, okay.

Barbara Wright-Pryor

Classical soloist, educator, and music critic Barbara Wright-Pryor was born Barbara Wright in Stamps, Arkansas, to Bernyce Eleanor Hayes Wright and Joseph Dudley Wright. Growing up in Chicago’s Ida B. Wells Projects, she idolized Marian Anderson. Wright-Pryor attended Willard School and graduated from Wendell Phillips Elementary and High Schools in 1951. A mezzo-contralto, Wright-Pryor studied voice as she pursued an undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University, Chicago State University, and the Chicago Conservatory of Music, where she majored in vocal performance. She received her M.A. degree, magna cum laude, from Roosevelt University.

As a mezzo-contralto recitalist and soloist of oratorio, her first performance was with the Dorian Choral Ensemble. In 1961, she performed with Irving Bunton’s Chicago Concert Chorale. Duke Ellington featured the group in his 1963 My People musical revue, celebrating the accomplishments of Blacks in the one hundred years since Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1968, Wright-Pryor was choral director for Ellington’s Sacred Concert. Over the years, Wright-Pryor has performed with the members of Chicago’s Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, South Shore Philharmonic, Southside Family Chamber Orchestra and String Quartet, and the Chicago Park District Orchestra. Her concert stage performances have featured Sir Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time; Rossini’s Stabat Mater; J. S. Bach’s Cantata No. 54 for Contralto and Orchestra, Christmas Oratorio, and Mass in B Minor; Handel’s Messiah and the works of Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Verdi. Wright-Pryor has performed Saul of Tarsus by Betty Jackson King, and in addition to Betty Jackson King, composers Rollo Dilworth, Barry K. Elmore, Robert L. Morris and Howard Savage have dedicated compositions to her. For the 1998 Sixteenth International Duke Ellington Conference, Wright-Pryor served as producer/director and vocalist to restage Ellington’s lost 1963 My People musical revue. Her musical accomplishments were achieved while serving for thirty-five years as counselor-educator with the Chicago Public Schools and adjunct professor at DePaul University.

A charter member of the Community Advisory Council of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Wright-Pryor helps monitor the CSO’s progress in achieving its diversity agenda. She also serves on the Artistic Planning Committee of the Chicago Symphony. Wright-Pryor is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and for over a decade, she has been president of the Chicago Music Association, which was founded as the first branch of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. in 1919. Wright-Pryor was honored by the Society for the Advancement of the Vivian G. Harsh Collection of Afro-American History and Literature of the Chicago Public Library in 1999, and they have requested her papers. She was inducted into Wendell Phillips Elementary and High Schools’ Hall of Fame and received an honorary Doctor of Music degree in 1999. An expert and critic of African American contributions to classical music, Wright-Pryor serves as the classical music critic for the Chicago Crusader.

A soloist at Northfield Community and St. Mark United Methodist Churches, Wright-Pryor is married to organist George Williams.

Accession Number

A2006.106

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/24/2006

Last Name

Wright-Pryor

Maker Category
Schools

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

Wendell Phillips Elementary School

Roosevelt University

Chicago State University

Chicago Conservatory of Music

Willard Elementary School

First Name

Barbara

Birth City, State, Country

Stamps

HM ID

WRI02

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southern California

Favorite Quote

You Can Do Anything That You Want To Do. It Takes Work.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/30/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

School counselor and classical singer Barbara Wright-Pryor (1934 - ) was a classical mezzo-contralto soloist. In addition to her singing career, Wright-Pryor taught in the Chicago Public Schools, was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, served as president of the Chicago Music Association, and was a music critic for the Chicago Crusader.

Employment

Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Crusader

DePaul University

Favorite Color

Green, Pink

Timing Pairs
0,0:4004,36:4459,43:5096,51:6006,65:7007,80:7644,88:8190,95:11011,130:14742,172:16744,199:17381,207:24363,233:25329,240:30872,308:37634,390:38516,400:42790,426:43294,434:43870,443:44878,460:45454,470:46102,482:47110,498:48190,514:48982,526:49702,537:51574,558:52222,568:55714,581:56144,587:56832,597:57348,605:57692,610:59532,622:61350,633:61790,638:65411,653:65759,658:67064,679:69500,719:73676,769:74720,782:78646,803:79816,821:80362,829:82312,859:82780,866:83560,878:85198,905:86836,931:87382,940:87694,945:92170,964:92740,971:96730,994:97430,1002:97930,1008:99130,1021:103572,1050:104664,1067:105366,1077:107550,1109:110124,1149:112152,1186:114102,1221:114648,1229:118527,1251:126405,1312:130379,1330:131536,1346:132604,1368:133405,1379:133850,1385:135185,1402:136876,1425:141771,1478:146398,1488:148038,1503:148530,1510:149186,1519:150416,1540:152712,1579:155504,1586:155772,1591:156107,1597:156911,1612:161333,1690:163745,1743:164214,1752:164683,1761:167497,1819:168368,1834:169038,1848:169641,1860:170110,1869:170646,1879:171249,1891:177892,1936:178444,1943:180284,1971:180836,1978:182676,2053:184884,2111:185436,2119:189532,2153:190120,2168:193060,2231:193564,2238:196114,2250:197010,2260:198018,2271:198466,2276:200258,2297:206628,2341:211412,2389:214908,2412:215828,2423:216380,2432:222200,2477:222650,2484:223825,2502:226824,2528:227252,2533:228001,2543:230890,2577:231425,2583:233672,2606:237400,2695:244450,2835:248950,2954:249325,2960:253375,3057:253750,3063:254125,3069:264486,3145:270024,3222:270414,3228:275760,3265:278794,3316:279286,3322:281090,3347:289112,3429:289735,3438:291693,3464:292672,3478:293295,3487:297314,3503:298326,3515:299470,3522$0,0:13030,115:13380,121:19400,254:19890,262:20520,275:21010,283:21850,294:22830,309:23320,317:23950,332:26960,380:27310,386:27940,401:28430,409:33470,426:36190,462:36670,470:39429,494:39721,499:40232,508:41254,523:48352,568:49006,575:49551,581:51840,598:53584,611:54565,621:55764,631:61040,638:61555,644:63100,663:68868,722:69692,731:70104,736:73830,757:74640,770:75180,777:76800,806:77160,811:78960,839:79410,845:82916,877:84302,900:85028,916:88782,955:89750,969:90190,975:90806,983:92566,1006:94860,1022:95212,1027:96444,1044:99612,1065:100316,1075:101020,1084:101372,1089:101812,1095:104804,1126:106036,1142:106916,1153:107444,1163:109640,1188:109952,1193:112916,1261:122370,1335:123280,1345:127480,1411:128110,1421:134745,1502:135029,1507:135455,1514:135810,1520:136449,1531:140530,1555:141538,1572:141898,1578:142690,1595:143266,1604:144922,1642:145642,1655:148810,1712:149314,1721:152698,1789:154930,1830:155434,1844:156082,1855:156946,1874:161130,1882:161940,1893:162480,1901:163110,1914:163740,1923:165720,1936:166530,1947:168690,1973:169050,1978:169410,1983:170130,1992:170670,2000:185318,2152:186011,2161:188090,2188:189377,2212:193506,2233:194094,2241:201345,2317:202110,2329:202705,2337:203130,2343:205170,2375:205510,2380:207720,2411:210355,2453:213854,2470:214244,2476:214868,2490:215492,2499:217988,2545:218534,2553:219236,2564:219626,2570:220172,2579:224870,2623:225210,2628:226485,2641:227335,2679:230140,2733:236236,2779:236681,2785:238016,2801:238550,2808:240350,2822
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Barbara Wright-Pryor's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Barbara Wright-Pryor lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her mother's education in Hope, Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her mother's education at Arkadelphia Presbyterian Academy

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describers her maternal uncles

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her family's connection with Maya Angelou

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes Maya Angelou's family in Stamps, Arkansas, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes Maya Angelou's family in Stamps, Arkansas, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her family's musical heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her family's move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Barbara Wright-Pryor reflects upon the negative portrayal of Stamps, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Barbara Wright-Pryor recalls her homes in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her parents' separation

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her parents' professions in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Barbara Wright-Pryor remembers the community in the Ida B. Wells Homes, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Barbara Wright-Pryor remembers the community in the Ida B. Wells Homes, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Barbara Wright-Pryor remembers Chicago's Wendell Phillips Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Barbara Wright-Pryor remembers Chicago's Wendell Phillips High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her high school extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Barbara Wright-Pryor reflects upon her high school experience in Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Barbara Wright-Pryor remembers hearing William Warfield sing

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her marriage and college education

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Barbara Wright-Pryor remembers Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes how voices change with age

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Barbara Wright-Pryor recalls her performances in the Chicago church circuit

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Barbara Wright-Pryor remembers working with Duke Ellington, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Barbara Wright-Pryor remembers working with Duke Ellington, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Barbara Wright-Pryor recalls recreating Duke Ellington's 'My People', pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Barbara Wright-Pryor recalls recreating Duke Ellington's 'My People', pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Barbara Wright-Pryor shares the history of the Chicago Music Association, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Barbara Wright-Pryor shares the history of the Chicago Music Association, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Barbara Wright-Pryor recalls her work with Theodore Charles Stone

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes Theodore Charles Stone's career

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes the history of African American composers

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes how African American composers were ignored

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Barbara Wright-Pryor explains the differences between jazz and classical music

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Barbara Wright-Pryor lists her favorite composers and genres of music

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Barbara Wright-Pryor reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Barbara Wright-Pryor reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Barbara Wright-Pryor talks about her children

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Barbara Wright-Pryor recalls a former student at George T. Donoghue Elementary School

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Barbara Wright-Pryor describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

6$3

DATitle
Barbara Wright-Pryor remembers working with Duke Ellington, pt. 1
Barbara Wright-Pryor shares the history of the Chicago Music Association, pt. 1
Transcript
In 1961, Irving Bunton, who is now, he's a retired supervisor of music with the Chicago Public Schools, but he formulated, called together singers and colleagues of his to form a musical unit called Chicago Concert Choral and we did sacred works, Poulenc [Francis Poulenc] 'Mass,' ['Mass in G Major'] we did various, Mozart [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart] 'Requiem,' we did various oratorios and classical works similar to what the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus does, but this was an opportunity for blacks who were classically trained or interested in seeing classical music, for a great number of them to come together in music. At that time, in 1962, Duke Ellington was in the process of, he had been commissioned to write a show to commemorate the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and our organization, our Chicago Concert Choral was one of the choral groups that went to audition to be the chorus in this particular work and Duke selected us as the choral group to appear in his musical revue entitled 'My People.' And, as I said, it commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and it showed the progress that Negroes had made. That was the terminology of the day in that one hundred years in the arts, in literature, in science, in, in all arenas, but especially in music. And, as a result of that, being in that, in the chorus and being part of the cast because the chorus was used to depict various scenes and the like, in 1968, when Duke came to do his sacred concerts that he had begun at that time, he said that, you know, the first, that first portion of his life he had done jazz and, in fact, he didn't call it jazz. Music is a beyond category. Those are his words. Music is, there are only two kinds of music, good music and bad music, and so, and that was his terminology as well. But he said he was going to spend the rest of his life because he had been so blessed in doing sacred music, so then he did these sacred concerts one [A Concert of Sacred Music], two [Second Sacred Concert], and three [Third Sacred Concert]. Well, he was contracted to come to Chicago [Illinois] to do a sacred concert at the Auditorium Theatre [Chicago, Illinois] and I was sought as the choral director to train the chorus for this performance. It was November 8, I think, 1968. I was only five years old. I was just a prodigy (laughter) and that was the, the 1963 experience with 'My People' and the 1968 experience of being his choral director were the highlights of my life, to work with this genius who had composed more than three thousand pieces in his lifetime, and (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I remember from that period seeing him on television, on Sunday morning, on CBS, with, I think the New York Philharmonic, or something, you know.$$Yes. He was an amazing person. I just adored him. In fact when Mercedes [HistoryMaker Mercedes Ellington], his granddaughter, and I worked together at later years. I told her, you know, "I was in love with your grandfather," (laughter) and we had a big laugh about that. And, in love as far as being, adoring him and seeing him for, as the person he was. He was a magnificent person. He was a humanitarian. He was truly America's cultural ambassador. They designated that he was and he was. I mean, he did state department tours and the like, and just spread, he was just full of love, just full of it and embraced all sorts of humanity, gave dignity to people in all walks of life. He was a magnificent person.$Tell us about the, about the, I'm still trying to get the name right, like I had it wrong earlier, but the Chicago Music Association and its origins in 1919; that's a long time ago (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) It's a long time ago. Yes, for the very reasons that we were talking about, the discrimination against blacks and the performing arts, Nora Douglas Holt, who was the music critic for the Chicago Defender, called together musicians, black musicians here in Chicago [Illinois], and they were all professionally trained and to form an organization in which blacks could perform on stage concerts and classical music and create music themselves, and to promote the use of a Negro spiritual as indigenous form of music to this country. She called musicians up around Chicago and they established this organization called Chicago Music Association. It was to provide performance venues for blacks who were traditionally left out when it came to performing on major concert halls and opera, opera stages. At the same time, or in fact prior to 1919, these series of meetings took place before 1919, but Chicago Music Association was officially formed on March 3 of 1919. At the same time that all of this was going on, Henry Grant [Henry L. Grant] in Washington, D.C. was attempting to form an organization composed of black musicians nationally, Negro musicians, that was the terminology then, Negro musicians nationally, for the same reason. Incidentally, Henry Grant was Duke Ellington's high school music teacher in Washington, D.C. And he actually was the first president of the National Association of Negro Musicians [NANM] after it was formed. Well, they heard about this fledging, fledgling group in Chicago and they contacted Nora Douglas Holt, and said we'd like to come and meet with you, and so musicians came from all around the country and met in Chicago during the last of July and the first of August 1919, during the most horrendous race riot that ever occurred here in Chicago. They met at the Wabash Avenue YMCA [Chicago, Illinois], and from accounts of the recording secretary that we have in our archives, they could hear the noise of the riot that was going on further to the north, the shots and various things that were going on. They met and they hammered out and they saw and were led by Chicago Music Association as to how they came into formation and the purposes and what they did, their constitution and the like, and out of these meetings, the National Association of Negro Musicians was formed and Chicago became the first chapter, even though it preceded, so NANM was formed like August 9th. Earl [HistoryMaker Earl Calloway] can correct me. He remembers those dates. It was either August 8th or August 9th of 1919, and Chicago Music Association was formed March 3, 1919.

Raoul Abdul

Classical singer, author and former assistant to the legendary poet and writer Langston Hughes, Raoul Abdul was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 7, 1929. Abdul’s father was from Calcutta, India, and his mother was able to trace her ancestry back to the pre-Revolutionary War period. Abdul attended John Hay High School, and later earned a diploma from the Vienna Academy of Music. He also studied at Harvard University, the New School for Social Research, the Cleveland Institute of Music, New York College of Music and the Mannes College of Music.

Abdul was involved in theater from an early age, participating in children’s theater productions by age six. Following graduation from high school, he began working as a journalist for the Cleveland Call & Post, and in 1951, at the age of twenty-two, he relocated to New York City. There, he began studying music, and sang with such notables as William Warfield and Marian Anderson. During this time, Abdul was a founding director of the Coffeehouse Concerts in Harlem, and was a singer in a number of performances, including shows at Carnegie Hall. In 1961, Abdul became the literary assistant and close friend to writer Langston Hughes, and he remained so until Hughes’ death in 1967.

In 1970, Abdul published his first book, 3000 Years of Black Poetry with author Alan Lomax. Over the next few years, he published several more volumes, including The Magic of Black Poetry, Famous Black Entertainers of Today, and Blacks in Classical Music. Abdul gave private voice lessons in his home in New York, based on the Austrian singing technique learned while studying in Vienna.

Abdul passed away on January 15, 2010 at the age of 80.

Accession Number

A2004.241

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

11/30/2004

Last Name

Abdul

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Bolton Elementary School

Rawlings Junior High School

Empire School

John Hay High School

New York College of Music

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Raoul

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

ABD01

Favorite Season

Not Christmas

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Austria

Favorite Quote

Come little doll, give me a kiss. (Translated from German)

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/7/1929

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Goulash (Hungarian)

Death Date

1/15/2010

Short Description

Classical singer Raoul Abdul (1929 - 2010 ) was a performer, writer, and former assistant to Langston Hughes. He published several books on African Americans and the arts.

Employment

Cleveland Call and Post

Cleveland Play House

Karamu Theater, Cleveland, Ohio

Delete

Favorite Color

Blue, Earth Tones

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Raoul Abdul interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Raoul Abdul talks about some of his favorite things

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Raoul Abdul shares details about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Raoul Abdul recalls his father's background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Raoul Abdul recalls how his father capitalized on his Indian heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Raoul Abdul shares details about his lineage

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Raoul Abdul discusses the reclamation of heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Raoul Abdul remembers his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Raoul Abdul talks about racial passing

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Raoul Abdul continues his discussion about his mother's relatives

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Raoul Abdul describes how his parents met

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Raoul Abdul shares some opinions on race and ethnicity

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Raoul Abdul shares childhood memories

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Raoul Abdul discusses his father's funeral and his mother's remarriage

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Raoul Abdul describes some of the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Raoul Abdul remembers his early introduction to theater

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Raoul Abdul discusses various individuals

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Raoul Abdul talks about famous individuals

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Raoul Abdul comments on his manners as a youth

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Raoul Abdul recalls the differences between himself and his elementary school classmates

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Raoul Abdul remembers grade school

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Raoul Abdul discusses his high school experience

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Raoul Abdul comments on his self-image

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Raoul Abdul talks about early mentors and pastimes

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Raoul Abdul reflects on his career in photography

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Raoul Abdul recalls working for the Cleveland Call and Post

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Raoul Abdul talks about prominent individuals

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Raoul Abdul recounts his interaction with prominent individuals

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Raoul Abdul remembers the start of his career in music

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Raoul Abdul recalls his interaction with his voice instructor

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Raoul Abdul discusses black singers of German songs

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Raoul Abdul shares his impression of German culture

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Raoul Abdul talks about aspects of his book

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Raoul Abdul discusses his students and one of his books

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Raoul Abdul talks about various musicians

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Raoul Abdul discusses one his books

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Raoul Abdul reflects on his life and career

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Raoul Abdul shares his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Raoul Abdul considers his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Raoul Abdul comments on German music

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Raoul Abdul considers his future endeavors

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Raoul Abdul discusses how he would like to be remembered