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April 11, 2009

Commemorating Marian Anderson, and marking the last day of Lent

Seventy years ago, Easter Sunday 1939, Marian Anderson stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave one of the most significant concerts in American history. Having been barred by segregation policies from appearing the DAR Constitution Hall, the African-American contralto who had what Toscanini hailed as 'a voice heard once in a hundred years' sang with stunning dignity before a massive audience. The free concert was arranged by Mrs. Roosevelt. This Easter at 3 p.m., there will be a commemoration of this event, also free, at the Lincoln Memorial, featuring mezzo Denyce Graves and others.

To salute the memory of the incomparable Marian Anderson, and to note the last day of Lent, here's a performance of one of her signature sprituals, "Were You There," recorded 70 years ago. This is music of a deep and specific faith, to be sure, but it can touch people of any or no denomination. I think it's an example of the highest vocal art.

Posted by Tim Smith at 8:28 AM | | Comments (4)


a perfect way to start the day

Glad you liked it. Stay tuned for another.TIM

I am attempting to post comments, but the system refuses to accept. Perhaps you could check with your technical department as this may be happening to others? Doreen

Thank you for your continuous efforts to provide such delightful and appropriate song to celebrate the Easter.

Thank you for the recording.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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