Seventy years ago, Easter Sunday 1939, Marian Anderson stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave one of the most significant concerts in American history. Having been barred by segregation policies from appearing the DAR Constitution Hall, the African-American contralto who had what Toscanini hailed as 'a voice heard once in a hundred years' sang with stunning dignity before a massive audience. The free concert was arranged by Mrs. Roosevelt. This Easter at 3 p.m., there will be a commemoration of this event, also free, at the Lincoln Memorial, featuring mezzo Denyce Graves and others.
To salute the memory of the incomparable Marian Anderson, and to note the last day of Lent, here's a performance of one of her signature sprituals, "Were You There," recorded 70 years ago. This is music of a deep and specific faith, to be sure, but it can touch people of any or no denomination. I think it's an example of the highest vocal art.