York, Pa., accepted who Washington, D.C., rejected, Part II
This U.S. postage stamp, issued in 2005, shows famed singer Marian Anderson. Ceremonies observing the stamp’s issue were held at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. In 1939, the contralto was denied the opportunity to perform there because she was black. She then sang before thousands at the Lincoln Memorial. Two years later, she performed in York. Also of interest: When York County rolled up its red carpet to people of color and What did Tiny Tim and Richard Nixon have in common? and York’s 221 E. Princess St. home to telling ironies.
Still on the theme that there are York County tie-ins to most anything that is in the news – or has been part of America’s past.
Here is more on that topic gleaned from a recent York concert honoring famed singer Marian Anderson. It’s a column set to run the York Sunday News on Sunday (3/7/10):
There’s seemingly a York County link to everything.
And a recent concert at York’s First Presbyterian Church proves that the county is continuing a 250-plus-year tradition of making contributions to the world.
Maryland soprano Sabrina Coleman Clark performed wonderfully at that concert, part of the church’s Abendmusik series.
This is the series that offers the Jazz Vespers event that fills First Presbyterian’s sanctuary each January.
That concert is made even more memorable when York musicians Tim Warfield and Chris Bacas collaborate — and then duel — in prolonged, high stratosphere jazz saxophone prayers.
Sabrina Coleman Clark told the Marian Anderson story and performed pieces that were part of the famed, Philadelphia-born contralto’s play list. Then Coleman performed an additional set of songs by black composers, arrangers and poets.
And York County themes kept popping up.
Coleman Clark listed Pucchini’s “Madame Butterfly” as an inspiration for Marian Anderson as a budding artist.
Hanover lawyer John Luther Long, who published the novella, “Madame Butterfly,” in 1898, is the county tie-in.
Long’s story became a play that caught the attention of composer Giacomo Puccini. He turned Long’s work into an internationally acclaimed opera.
In her telling of Anderson’s story, Coleman Clark arrived at the moment in 1939 in which the singer was barred from performing in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. With the aid of Eleanor Roosevelt, she sang at the Lincoln Memorial to an even larger crowd.
Coleman Clark had done her homework. She read from a post from my York Town Square blog headlined: “York accepted what D.C. rejected.”
It told the story of Anderson’s rousing performance, with fellow black singer Roland W. Hayes, at William Penn Senior High School in 1941.
Coleman Clark explained that Anderson often could not find lodging at whites-only American hotels. So although Anderson scored multiple encores at the performance hall, she often could not stay at the hotel of her choice after that performance.
That made me wonder where Anderson and Hayes stayed after their York performance.
The Yorktowne Hotel, for example, did not open its doors to black performers in those days.
York countian Voni B. Grimes has explained that visiting black musicians and other performers stayed at the home of Helen Peaco and others in the black community.
Such was the case, for example, in 1919 when the 350th Field Artillery “Black Devil” Band played at the Orpheum in York.
Some officials wondered whether quarters could be found for a band-sized number of black musicians.
“But George W. Bowles and Samuel Armstrong, proprietor of the Belvidere Restaurant, got on the job,” a reviewer wrote in a newspaper, “and placed them with the best colored families of the city.”
York’s proximity to Philadelphia suggests that Anderson might have returned home after the concert.
Those are the type of thoughts Clark’s inspiring performance spawned.
And then Coleman Clark brought in another local tie near the concert’s end. She is a featured soloist with Cor Cymraeg Rehoboth, a choir whose repertoire of classical, folk and modern music is performed in both Welsh and English. The choir draws voices from all over but is based in Delta, in southeastern York County.
A black singer from Maryland singing Welsh music in Delta.
Of course, the local links in the First Pres evening did not stop there.
During announcements, the audience learned that the next Abendmusik concert (7 p.m., March 14, First Pres) would feature the nationally touring group, Bill Carter and the Presbybop Quartet, with guest soloist Warren Cooper.
The Philadelphia-based Cooper is no stranger to York.
His father Gerald was a former pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church, a black church on North Duke Street that joined First Presbyterian in 1965.
And he has performed with a York jazz saxophonist of major note.
York County’s contributions to the world, indeed, are many.