Thursday, July 16, 2015

Spirituals At Noon - The Fisk University Jubilee Quartet c. 1911 - The First Recordings of Roland Hayes' Voice

The Band of Gideon 

The first recordings of Roland Hayes' voice were of him singing second tenor with the Fisk University Jubilee Quartet from about 1911.   The voices were John W. Work, first tenor; Roland W. Hayes, second tenor; Leon P. O'Hara, first bass; Charles Wesley, second bass

All Over This World

Roll Jordan Roll

I couldn't find out if he had sung on this recording of  Little David Play On Your Harp, though he did arrange and record a version of it as a solo in his professional career.  Notably without mention of Goliath.

I couldn't find a recording available of his solo performance online but he said about the song in his, "My Favorite Spirituals",

How deeply the accents of this most beautiful of the Psalms [#137] must have haunted the first singer.  "Little David" "How can we sing the Lord's songs in a strange land?"  Was it like an echo of his own people's anguish finding constancy in song and words?  I recall years ago, when with the unpredictable waywardness of artistic consciousness this song came back to me.  On a mule back ride-walk over fields and up the slopes of Granada in Spain's Sierra Nevadas, and thinking of Schubert's "Der Musenssohn,"  I suddenly heard the tones of a flute, played by a peasant coming across the hills.  With that single sound, so full of pathos, there flashed through me the sunny tenderness of "Lit'l David,"  with a definite clarity of its meaning and feeling.

In this recording of "Der Musenssohn," well past the time of his best vocal production, the musicianship and the understanding were still there.  Considering the enormous disadvantage he was at in attempting to have a career in classical music in the early decades of the 20th century, how he overcame obstacles that few other professional singers face, he could only have kept on if he'd had deeply felt the need to say what the songs had to say.   Having had to leave school in fifth grade to help support his family, working all kinds of hard, dirty jobs, facing discrimination at every step of his musical education, much of it self-education, especially in the earliest stage of it, what he accomplished is quite amazing.   It's understandable that he wouldn't have ever wanted to give that up, though, as in the earlier parts of this series, he had the example of his 84-year-old friend to show him that there is music in life that is under the sound and that the sound has to be supported from. That's the most important part of it.   You don't have to have any kind of a voice at all to have that.

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