Saturday, December 15, 2018

Patrick D. McCoy: New York Times: Andrew Frierson...Black Opera Singer, Dies at 94

Andrew Frierson with the soprano Billie Lynn Daniel in an undated photo. They married in 1953. “He already has the essential attributes — a beautiful voice, good technique, musicianship, sympathy and a fine presence,” a reviewer wrote after Mr. Frierson’s debut in 1949 (Credit Maurice Seymour)

Patrick D. McCoy writes:

Good Evening,
I am saddened to learn of the death of pioneering opera singer and beloved teacher of many great artists including Ben Holt:  Andrew Frierson.  Here is a link to the New York Times article.  I had the privilege of communicating with him in the beginning of forming the Ben Holt Memorial Branch of the National Association of Negro Musicians here in Washington, D.C.

Patrick D. McCoy

The New York Times

By Sam Roberts
Dec. 14, 2018

Andrew Frierson, whose bass-baritone reverberated from the stages of theaters and music halls around the world as part of the first generation of black opera singers to make their voices heard, died on Dec. 6 in Oberlin, Ohio. He was 94.

His daughter, Andrea Frierson, confirmed the death.

Mr. Frierson (pronounced FRY-er-son) made his New York debut at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1948 while still a student and went on to perform for six seasons with the New York City Opera. He also sang at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the occasion of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Mr. Frierson taught at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., in the early 1950s; directed the Henry Street Settlement Music School in Manhattan in the ’60s; and was a professor of voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio in the ’70s.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Frierson and a colleague, James Kennon-Wilson, founded Independent Black Opera Singers, to encourage the careers of black male performers through education and competitions and by calling attention to the scarcity of blacks cast in major roles.

“There has not been a ‘real’ black male opera superstar because of racist and sexist attitudes in America,” he was quoted as saying in “Dialogues on Opera and the African-American Experience” (1997), by Wallace McClain Cheatham.

“Audiences, particularly white audiences, may tolerate a black woman being wooed and pursued by a white male, but to have a black male wooing and pursing a white female is totally unacceptable by the powers that be.”

Andrew Bennie Frierson was born on March 29, 1924, in Columbia, Tenn., the youngest of seven children of Robert Clinton Frierson, a railroad worker, and Lue Vergia (Esters) Frierson, a homemaker. The family moved to Louisville, Ky., nine months later.

His daughter said he started playing the piano on his own when he was 3 and took his first lessons when he was 8. He enrolled in Fisk University in Nashville as a music major, but before he graduated he was drafted into the Army. He served in the South Pacific during World War II.

When he returned home after the war, Mr. Frierson studied with a voice teacher, who encouraged him to apply to the Juilliard School in New York. He was accepted, and befriended two women at the school: the future opera star Leontyne Price and a soprano who would become known professionally as Billie Lynn Daniel. He and Ms. Daniel married in 1953. She died in 2002.

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