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Denyce Graves sang tribute on 70th anniversary of Marian Anderson's Lincoln Memorial concert

denyce graves to sing at marion anderson concert

Opera star Denyce Graves sang at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter to honor both the 70th anniversary of Marian Anderson's historic concert there, and the Bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln.

Graves joined DC's Sweet Honey in the Rock, Washington National Opera, and the Chicago Children's Choir at a Marian Anderson Tribute Concert Easter Sunday April 12, honoring the civil rights legacy of Anderson and Lincoln.

The renowned contralto Anderson performed at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter 1939 after the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) had refused to allow the African-American singer to appear at their Constitution Hall

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR in protest, writing “I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist.” She wrote a milder version in her “My Day” newspaper column.   

Denyce Graves to sing at Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday

Eleanor Roosevelt worked with the NAACP, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, impresario Sol Hurok, and DC's Howard University to find another location. 

Marian Anderson sang triumphantly at the Lincoln Memorial before more than 75,000 people (see photo below, by unidentified photographer). "It was more than a concert for me," Anderson said. "It seemed that everyone present was a living witness to the ideals of freedom for which President Lincoln died." marian anderson lincoln memorial concert

Anderson noted also that she had not agreed to the Lincoln Memorial appearance “easily or quickly…I had become, whether I like it or not, a symbol, representing my people.” 

To listen to a recording of the Anderson concert, click here.

Mezzo-soprano Graves performed the same program that Anderson sang that Easter day, which fell on April 9, 1939. 

Graves had joined President Obama, fellow mezzo Frederica von Stade, James Taylor, among other stars to sing happy birthday to Senator Ted Kennedy on March 8 at Kennedy Center.

Sweet Honey, the Grammy-winning female a cappella group, sang at the White House last February for African American History Month. They performed onstage with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in "Go in Grace" at Kennedy Center last March, and also at the work's premiere in New York last December, opening the AAADT's 50th anniversary season.

The Marian Anderson Tribute Concert was one of many Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission events throughout the year, including rededication of the Lincoln Memorial itself on May 30.

A new opera, "Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson", was performed free on March 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street, NE in Washington's Historic H Street Corridor. The Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS) commissioned the young people's opera by Bruce Adolphe and Carolivia Herron. WPAS and Washington National Opera are co-producing and co-presenting "Let Freedom Sing".

Let freedom ring, and sing. 

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  • halo 6 years ago

    I love Denise Graves and can't wait to hear her sing at the Memorial! The Lincoln Commission is doing great things! Their calendar at has a wonderful list of events happening around the country.

  • deserae 4 years ago

    are you old or something it sounds like it

  • Marsha Dubrow 6 years ago

    Halo, Thanks very much for your comments. I agree! You may be interested in hearing the new opera "Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson" on March 22 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. I went to "The Atlas" for the first time last weekend (for my Rennie Harris Puremovement hip-hop story) and it's an excellent theater complex. Thanks again, Halo. Marsha