Wednesday, October 24, 2012

African-American Classical Music and Opera / Stephen Hayes

>>> see also my post of 2011 entitled "Why Gamble Music Production and Archive / Awaken to Afro American Music" to see the full story of Stephen Hayes

You know of my intuition, my inspirational, dare I say my eye opening experience with finding the art of African-American music. Stephen Hayes (my dear friend) opened my eyes to a world I would not have known if I had not got in my car that Sunday, drove 50 miles, from Montgomery to Tuskegee and took a chance to find out how myself, a man, presumed white, would wind up on a predominantly black campus, go to chapel with a predominately black congregation, just to find out about a new genre of African-American music.  I can assure you I did and my life would not be complete without having done just that. Sometimes folks, I swear, we have to take a chance just to see if we can find out about a subject or it may slip away forever.  If Stephen Hayes had thought that day "what is this white man gonna cause trouble for........"  if he'd never have taken a chance either, I'd never found out what it was I was looking for AND in that my sincerity, I showed Stephen Hayes that there was a person out there in the world he could touch with this art form and burn it in my soul, it will go with me the rest of mine and his life. Thanks Stephen, you are my friend forever !!!
Stephen Hayes
This web page is about Marie Hadley Robinson.

With my passion for classical music beginning in 1982 and stretching on into the 1990's so did my obsession with the world of OPERA  !!!!  I know it's not for everyone, it's an acquired taste and it gets a bad rap because people don't understand what is going on. For example, my first opera "Marriage of Figaro" by Mozart was on the radio and I had no idea what was going on. I loved the music and singing, the ranges of the tenor and soprano but as far as understanding the words, I could not. Even when I was taking music appreciation classes, I knew there was a libretto (book to follow by in English), but here is the kicker, once you listen to an opera (read the libretto as you follow), the next time you hear it (most of the songs are repetitive anyway), you kind of know what to expect and the more times you hear a certain opera the more the opera makes sense to you.  This philosophy is also true with the arias (songs from opera) that are sung. If announced before an artist sings it (as to what aria they are about to sing), the whole scenario of: announcing the aria, singing it and it becoming the scene in the opera (that time frozen in story telling in song), you can be transported to that place in the opera, and yes, if it is a special opera, you can also be transported  to that very night or afternoon you saw it live.  It's a fascinating world of fantasy to escape the world problems for a couple of hours.  I was already captivated with opera when I was in Thomasville, Georgia that one afternoon, I saw the poster.  My friend Susan and I saw the poster and commented that we needed to come hear this lady sing. 


Jack Hadley curator of the Black History Museum in Thomasville, Georgia (located at 214 Alexander Street in Thomasville) (229) 226-5029  received a call from me in about the later part of March to tell him a little about me in that, "I love opera" I collect autographs, etc.... So I explained I was coming this next weekend to Thomasville to tour the museum and would like to meet him. I did.  I told him how I would love to meet Dr. Robinson after the performance and get her and Mrs. Adams' autograph. He said he believed he could arrange that. That Saturday night May 30th, my friends Susan, Iris and I heard piano pieces of Chopin played exquisitely by Agnes Adams, an absolute perfectionist when it comes to playing Chopin. She treated the piano with determination as she played flawless.  Agnes and Marie's sister Dr. Rosa L. Hadley, was very instrumental in teaching the two siblings. Agnes the art of piano and Marie the art of music so she could progress into singing as a soprano in the world of opera.

Dr. Rosa L. Hadley (first pix) Agnes and Marie (2nd)

After Agnes was through blowing our minds with the perfection she was displaying in music, then came her sister Marie. Oh my dear God, as He is alive on his throne, I'd never heard a soprano as lovely in my life as Dr. Marie Robinson. I'd collected music for years (25 +) and heard sopranos, altos, contraltos, mezzo-sopranos, every type of woman singer in the opera and this woman was good, great in fact, probably the best I'd ever heard.  She sang some art songs and spiritual songs but when she sang the aria from TOSCA, I knew without a doubt she was one of the finest Tosca's I'd ever heard in my life. WOW, what a range.  I would be very remiss if I didn't list several of Dr. Robinson's achievements and I borrowed from her website the write up about her life. Marie would later put these songs on her NEW album COME DOWN ANGELS”. Art Songs and Spirituals.  The cd is available and offered through the Jack Hadley Black Museum

There was an absolute aura hanging over that auditorium room when she finished with the opera arias and the art songs and spirituals.  The room was mostly filled with Afro-American lovers of classical music, opera and or they were just there because they were life long friends of Agnes and Marie. I was proud to be in the class of the few light skinned people that were there. I felt really like the "big man" when Jack Hadley thanked many people for being there that historical night.  So when he announced Scott Gamble an opera friend of Marie's I boasted my chest out and waved as I was some dignitary.  I enjoyed the whole concert.  It was almost over, and I had not made my mind up as to how I was going to get Marie's autograph (or for that fact Agnes's),  then Jack announced there was going to be a reception in their honor.  I knew this was my move. Before I leave with the rest of the story, that night May 30th 2009, as historical as I had made mention, it was indeed; both Agnes and Marie received keys to the city of Thomasville by the mayor of Thomasville and it was declared that the day of May 30th would be Adams/Robinson Day in the city of Thomasville, Georgia.  WOW ! Congrats you two precious ladies !!!!
Well the Mayor shocked everyone with that announcement and there we were about the have the closing remarks and I still had not come up with an idea to get these two ladies autographs. So we adjourned and headed just to the back of the Thomasville Cultural Center (600 East Washington Street), there I met Dr. Marie Robinson "soprano" and Agnes Adams "pianist", we met and they carried on with me like I was a old buddy of theirs. Both ladies very refined in very way but just as down to earth as you can get. I got both of their autographs (both were honored to have me put them on my wall of 'famed' people).  The wonderful thing that night Susan, Iris and myself we did not feel as there was a "black/white" thing going on, it was MUSIC, in any language it speaks to the soul far greater and any words could say. We were treated like royalty, even though Marie and Agnes were swamped with people, they allowed me to interrupt their time with friends and family and treat us just like we were part of their lives. Marie and I are still friends, I advocate her cd and encourage my followers to purchase one to support her career and profession, she is an awesome person, she doesn't let my harassing her seem to bother her at all and when you hear this woman sing, Oh my dear Father, you would think an angel was singing. Thanks Marie for opening your heart that night, you and your sister Agnes, both of you are precious and later I will post Rosa playing the piano on this website. That night was magical for me, I was overwhelmed to say the least and most overall everything else that night I felt like I was part of their family !!!!! 
I invite you to go to her website

>>>>   borrowed from MARIE ROBINSON'S  website it is written:

Marie Hadley Robinson, a native of Thomasville, GA, made her operatic debut as Aida with the Graz Opera, where she was principal soloist for three years. During her tenure there, she was hailed, by critics as, “the finest Tosca of her generation”. Also at Graz she became the first soprano of her race to portray the role of Sieglinde in Die Walk├╝re in a staged performance anywhere in the world. Subsequent engagements took her to Vienna, Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Prague, Kassel, Zurich, and a tour of Japan with the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin. She also later was principal soloist for five years with the National Theatre Mannheim. Her repertoire includes thirty-three major roles and she has appeared in forty-two companies in Eastern and Western Europe as well as in South America. In the United States, she has performed with the Michigan Opera Theater, Los Angeles Opera Theater, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Omaha and Opera Ebony. Ms Robinson has appeared in recitals at Shenandoah, Florida A&M, University of Iowa Universities and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. where she was the soprano soloist in Verdi’s Requiem and Poulenc’s Gloria with the Paul Hill Chorale and the Washington Oratorio Society. With Opera Ebony, she sang in the concert version of Fosca by Brazilian composer, Carlo Gomes in New York and with the Saskatchewan Symphony in Saskatoon, Canada a concert version of Porgy and Bess. Her latest concert of Porgy and Bess was with the late William Warfield at Longwood Gardens, PA with the Kennett Symphony. Ms. Robinson performed the role of Aida with Opera International in Mexico, Hong Kong, Marseille, Lyon, and with Opera Delaware. At the University she co-directed The Medium, Gianni, Schiccihi, The Stoned Guest, Trial by Jury, and The Secret Marriage and teaches applied voice. During the Fall of 2002, she produced the Marriage of Figaro with Leland Kimball as director and Patrick Evans as musical director. Dr. Robinson earned a Masters and Doctor of Music Degree in Performance from Florida State University where she studied with Elena Nikolaidi and Yvonne Ciannella. She earned a Bachelors of Science Degree in Music Education at Florida A&M University. There she studied with Dr. Rebecca Steele. Her awards include prizes in the VI Internacional de Canto, The Palm Beach Civic Opera Audition, the Duguid Fellowship Award, and the “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in 2010 for the National Opera Association. She is member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Delta Alpha German Honor Society, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She serviced on the boards of OperaDelaware, Delaware Classical Showcase, Delaware Valley Chorale, The Newark Symphony Orchestra and the National Opera Association, as well as a pass Delaware State Governor of NATS. Dr. Robinson is an Associate Professor of Voice and Opera at the University of Delaware. With a lifetime of experience, this recording brings us masterful performance of music from Nadine Shanti, Lena McLin, Betty Jackson King, Margaret Bonds, Florence Beatrice Price, and Undine Smith Moore.  Joining Marie in accompaniment is pianist Julie Nishimura. Nishimura has performed in the chamber music series of Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, and she has been a guest artist at more than 30 college campuses. Ms. Nishimura is a perennial favorite at the Delaware Chamber Music Festival and California Summer Music. An incredible collection, beautifully recorded, get your copy today!


One such fascination of mine of Negro Spirituals or Afro-American Spirituals is based on the pentatonic scale (pentatonic scale is a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven-note) scale such as the major scale and minor scale. Pentatonic scales are very common and are found all over the world. They are divided into those with semitones (hemitonic) and those without (anhemitonic).  In that all the spirituals are based on those 5 BLACK NOTES. For on those black notes wonderful pieces of music was composed. Yes, including but not limited to "AMAZING GRACE" for it seems that John Newton, Captain of a slave ship may have heard the chanting of slaves humming these 5 tonal notes and composed this delightful hymn. Oh the slave ship was most likely from west Africa and the tonal sounds sounds really like that of a West African sorrow chant. Hence the reason of it's touching melody.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Oh wow! this is beautiful. It really moved me.

Music is such a wonderful piece of art, and the stories behind them is a surprise.

Oh! and if you're interested I also wrote an article about the musical notes. Let me know what you think.