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Album Review

RCA's Spirituals, a 1999 release by the legendary contralto, is a reissue of a 1956 album, with the addition of nine earlier recordings. It is an excellent compilation of 30 spirituals which displays the rich, expressive, dignified voice of the great Marian Anderson. Usually accompanied only by her longtime pianist Franz Rupp, the album is a showcase for the varied emotions and conditions that these songs express. Anderson was capable of singing with great sorrow, expressing so well in the lower range of her voice, as in "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child." She was also capable of singing with great joy and excitement, as in the gospel standard "Roll, Jerd'n, Roll!." "Were You There?" demonstrates Anderson's ability to sing with both incredible sadness and extraordinary dignity. It is a tribute to her gift that, although Anderson was trained as an opera singer, she never lets technique get in the way of expressing the deep, heartfelt feelings that are so basic to gospel singing. Although one could spend much time analyzing her vocal technique, the success of the recording is in large part due to the supportive piano accompaniment of Franz Rupp. Never overpowering, he almost always hits the right combination of technique and emotion to complement Anderson's singing. The near perfect pairing of singer and musician, and the many standards presented here make this album a basic addition to any gospel collection.


Born: February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

Marian Anderson was an opera singer. A contralto, she sang both opera and spirituals, beginning her concert career in 1924 and at first concentrating on Europe. In 1939, she became a cause célèbre of the civil rights movement when she was banned by the Daughters of the American Revolution from singing in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned from the DAR in protest and arranged for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln...
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