Penn Library

Marian Anderson: A Life in Song

Curated by Nancy M. Shawcross

Annenberg Rare Book & Manuscript Library
University of Pennsylvania


I have never been able to analyse the qualities that the audience contributes to a performance. The most important, I think, are sympathy, open-mindedness, expectancy, faith, and a certain support to your effort. I know that my career could not have been what it is without all these things, which have come from many people. The knowledge of the feelings other people have expended on me has kept me going when times were hard. That knowledge has been a responsibility, a challenge, and an inspiration. It has been the path to development and growth. The faith and confidence of others in me have been like shining, guiding stars.

- Marian Anderson

This exhibition celebrates the artistic development and musical career of Marian Anderson. Renowned throughout the world for her extraordinary contralto voice, she is also remembered for her dignity and grace under pressure. Through the mechanism of recorded sound, we can continue to enjoy Ms. Anderson's renderings of Lieder and spirituals . Through the reflected light of photographs, we can glimpse the preparation and performance of her repertoire. And through the papers that she left behind, we can investigate and understand how, when, where, and with whom her life took shape, was enriched, and became enriching not only for her audiences but also for others in need.

Before her death in 1993 Marian Anderson placed her personal papers - including letters, music scores, programs, photographs, and sound recordings - with the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, where they are housed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. In 1996 the National Endowment for the Humanities provided Penn with outright and matching grants to preserve, catalog, and make available to the public the archive of Marian Anderson. The material on display is drawn from this important research collection. A register or inventory of the Marian Anderson Papers is available on-line. Through a donation from the Walter J. Miller Charitable Trust, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library has been able to create digital facsimiles of the more than 4,000 unique images in the Marian Anderson Collection.

The original 1994 exhibition was prepared with the generous contributions of knowledge and time of Allan Keiler, musicologist and author of the biography entitled Marian Anderson: A Singer's Journey (New York: Scribner, 2000), and Marjorie Hassen, Music Librarian, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. The virtual exhibition presented here has been prepared by Nancy M. Shawcross with design consultation from Donna Brandolisio, image scanning by James B. Milner, and audio-visual transfer by Dan Heath and by Shooters, Inc.


Table of Contents
A Philadelphia Story
Musical Partnerships:
Teachers, Coaches, & Accompanists
The European Tours:
England & the Continent
The European Tours:
Scandinavia
Guarding the Flame:
Spirituals in Recital
Sol Hurok Presents:
The First Decade
Singing to the Nation
Sol Hurok Presents:
Seasons of Success
Philadelphia Revisited
Magic at the Met
Video and Audio Excerpts from
Interviews and Performances

Last update: Wednesday, 11-Jul-2012 11:24:22 EDT
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