Choosing her own destiny in a world where structure and direction from others is commonplace.
“Pigeonholes are only comfortable for pigeons." – Jessye Norman
Born roughly a month after the end of the Second World War, Jessye Norman, originally from Augusta, GA, was the daughter of an insurance salesman and a schoolteacher. Her parents recognized her gift for singing at an early age. Norman, as legend has it, was introduced to Classical and Opera music forms while listening to radio programs from the Metropolitan Opera in New York on Saturday mornings. The radio she heard them on was a gift on her ninth birthday, and she would listen to the broadcasts while cleaning her room, naming Leotyne Price and Marian Anderson as her major influences.
At age 16, she entered a national signing contest. Although she did not win, she was offered a scholarship to Howard University. By 1968, after attending several colleges, she had completed her studies, majoring in music, with a Master’s Degree and set out for Europe to start her career. Although she did perform in some standard operas, she preferred to be a soloist and perform live concert recitals, choosing her own repertoire, almost unheard of for a world class singer of music in her field.
Jessye Norman, photo by Carol Friedman, 1982.
She continues to perform and record sporadically, releasing her last LP of material in 2010. She spends much of her time now on a number of charities, including a free music education program in her hometown. Much like her major influences, she splits her selections between Negro Spirituals and Classical music, with a heavy emphasis on German composers, particularly Wagner.
Our Tracks this week: Composer, Work, Piece
1. Strauss, Ariadne Auf Naxos, Grossmächtige Prinzessin
2. Berg, Leider, 7 Early Songs: Nacht
3. Berg, Leider, Lied Des Schiffermädels
4. Schoenberg, Gürrelieder, Du Sendest Mir Einen
5. Strauss, Allegretto In E For Violin & Piano, AV 149, Beim Schlafengehen
6. Bizet, Carmen, L'amour est un oiseau rebelle (aka Habanera)
7. Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Liebestod
8. Schubert, Ellens Dritter Gesang, D 389, Op 52, Ave Maria (based upon Sir Walter Scott’s “Lady of the Lake” poem)
9. Traditional, Roots: My Life, My Song, God’s Gonna Cut You Down
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX