Classical Music with William Price King – Leontyne Price – The Early Years.


classical music

Welcome to the last in the Classical Music with William Price King series. And to finish the series on some of the great contemporary opera singers of our time, we will be covering the life and work of American Soprano Leontyne Price. This outstanding soprano rose to international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s, and was one of the first African Americans to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera.

Leontyne Price said this of her debut at the Met: It was the first operatic mountain I climbed, and the view from it was astounding, exhilarating, stupefying.

In an interview Leontyne Price once recalled that Maria Callas had told her, during a meeting with the older diva in Paris, “I hear a lot of love in your voice.” The sopranos Renee Fleming, Kiri Te Kanawa, Jessye Norman, Leona Mitchell, the mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, bass-baritone Jose Van Dam, and the counter tenor David Daniels, have talked about Leontyne Price as an early inspiration.

Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Spingarn Medal (1965), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), numerous honorary degrees, and 19 Grammy Awards, 13 for operatic or song recitals, five for full operas, and a special Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, more than any other classical singer. In October 2008, she was one of the recipients of the first Opera Honors given by the National Endowment for the Arts.

William Price King now picks up the story in the 1920s and Leontyne Price’s early years and influences.

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After a long wait of 13 years, James who worked in a lumber mill and Katie Price, a midwife and member of the church choir, welcomed their daughter, Mary Violet Leontyne Price into the world in February 1927 in Laurel Mississippi.  She was to become the focus of their loving attention and was introduced to music at the age of three when given a toy piano leading to lessons with a local teacher. James and Katie sacrificed much to ensure that Mary’s musical talent was developed, and even sold the family phonograph to fund the purchase of an upright piano despite their daughter still being in kindergarten.

Katie Price’s influence as a member of the church choir was instrumental in encouraging her daughter’s singing.

At 14, Leontyne was taken on a school trip to hear contralto Marian Anderson sing in Jackson; an experience she later said was inspirational. Marian Anderson who was born in 1897, was one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century. Most of her career was spent performing in concerts and recitals in major venues and with prominent conductors and orchestras throughout the US and Europe between 1925 and 1965.

Here is an example of the inspirational voice of Marian Anderson, that Leontyne Price would have heard in the early 1940s, singing a spiritual Deep River.. Marian lived to the wonderful age of 96 and inspired many young singers in the 20th century.

In her teen years, Leontyne accompanied the “second choir” at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, sang and played for the chorus at the black high school, and earned extra money by singing for funerals and civic functions.

During the war years, Leontyne worked part-time alongside her aunt in the home of a wealthy white couple, Alexander and Elizabeth Chisholm. Mrs Chisholm actively encouraged Leontyne to play the piano and also discovered Leontyne’s incredible singing voice. This led to her accompanying her at several recitals and church concerts in the state during Leontyne’s college years.

Aiming for a teaching career, Leontyne enrolled in the music education program at the all-black Wilberforce College in Wilberforce, Ohio. Her success in the glee club led to solo assignments, and she was encouraged to complete her studies in voice. She sang in the choir with another soon-to-be-famous singer, Betty Allen. With the help of the Chisholms and the famous bass Paul Robeson, who put on a benefit concert for her, she enrolled at the Juillard School in New York City. She won a scholarship and was admitted to the studio of Florence Page Kimball, who would remain her principal teacher and advisor throughout the 1960s.

In the summer of 1951, she studied in the opera program at the Berkshire Music Center and sang the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss with a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It combines slapstick comedy with beautiful music and the theme was aimed at appealing to a less high brow audience than traditional opera.

This is the first leading role that Leontyne Price performed during her long and illustrious career and in this slightly later recording shows the beauty of her voice.

In this aria full of despair, Ariadne, after having been left by her love Theseus, describes the land of death to which she will go to escape her pain. She welcomes death, thinking that in death she will find everything that she has been denied in life. Price is in great shape in this aria and handles the difficult high *tessitura passages very well.

The dark color of her voice is intriguing, yielding a fascinating portrait – soulful, heartfelt, melancholic – of Ariadne. A memorable moment. and a remarkable triumph.

* tessitura – The range of a vocal or instrumental part in a musical composition.

This was followed in 1952 with the role of Mistress Ford in the Juilliard student production of Verdi’s Falstaff and to her casting in the all-black opera, Four Saints in Three Acts by American composer and critic Virgil Thomson. When the opera went to Paris after its initial two week run on Broadway, Leontyne Price joined the cast of the Robert Breen/Blevins Davs revival of George Gershwin’s Porky and Bess in the title role on tour. With its major city tour including Chicago and Washington over it in the U.S, the production, sponsored by the State Department began a tour of Europe.

Summertime is an aria that Gershwin composed in 1934 for the opera “Porgy and Bess,” a brilliant mixture of jazz and song styles of blacks from the South during the early twentieth century in the U.S.

Leontyne Price was 25 years old when she recorded this. ‘Bess’ was her break-through role. Summertime is a lullaby sung by Clara to her baby in Act I, indicating that everything is going to be all right. The song is reprised in Act III, by “Bess” and Price sings it passionately with a knockout downward *glissando which climaxes this performance. Her voice is exquisite. A real treat!

*glissando – a continuous slide upwards or downwards between two or more notes.

Primarily Leontyne Price focused on a recital career, particularly because of the earlier influences of Marian Anderson and other successful black concert singers including Roland Hayes and bass baritone William Warfield.

However, the role of ‘Bess’ was to demonstrate that Leontyne Price had both the voice and performance skills to sing on the operatic stage.  This led to the Metropolitan Opera inviting her to sing Summertime at the Met Jamoboree fund-raiser in 1953 at the Ritz Theater on Broadway.. this made Leontyne the first African American to sing with the Met, although not on the actual stage of the Met. That distinction when to Leontyne’s childhood inspiration Marian Anderson who sang Ulrica in Verdi’s Un Ballo un Maschera in January 1955.

Whilst touring with Porky and Bess, Leontyne found time to also sing the premiere of Hermit Songs.

Hermit Songs is a cycle of ten songs for voice and piano by Samuel Barber. Written in 1953 on a grant from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation, it takes as its basis a collection of anonymous poems written by Irish monks and scholars from the 8th to the 13th centuries, in translations by W. H. Auden, Chester Kallman, Howard Mumford Jones, Kenneth H. Jackson and Seán Ó Faoláin. They are small poems, thoughts or observations, and speak in straightforward, droll, and modern terms of the simple life these men led, close to nature, to animals and to God.

The Hermit Songs received their premiere in 1953 at the Library of Congress. Samuel Barber accompanies Price on piano. The most famous of these songs is The Monk and his Cat which Price performs with sensitivity, restraint, control, and charm.


Additional sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leontyne_Price

Buy the music of Leontyne Price: https://www.amazon.com/Leontyne-Price/e/B000AQ1580

About William Price King

williampriceking

William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.

William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album. http://cdbaby.com/cd/williampriceking

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

Connect to William

Website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
ITunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/william-price-king/id788678484

You will find the previous artists..  Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Kiri Te Kanawa in this directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/classical-music-with-william-price-king/

Thank you so much for stopping by and your feedback is always very welcome. Sally

A Man and his Music – William Price King meets Diana Krall – the Finale


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In this final part of the Diana Krall story I would like to look at her most recent work and also include some of the honours that she has received so far. It is also interesting to find out what an artist feels about their own work, so I have some quotes by Diana to include in the post. For the previous posts in the Diana Krall Story – https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king/diana-krall/

Here is a list of her honors so far in her wonderful career.

In 2000, Diana Krall was awarded the “Order of British Columbia.”
In 2003 she was given an honorary Ph.D. (Fine Arts) from the University of Victoria.
In 2004, she was inducted into “Canada’s Walk of Fame.”
In 2005, she was made an Officer of the “Order of Canada.”
In 2008, “Nanaimo Harbourfront Plaza” was renamed “Diana Krall Plaza.”
She is an honorary board member of the “Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.”
Krall has been selected a Steinway & Sons Artist and performs exclusively with Steinway pianos in recording sessions, concerts, and public appearances.

Here is one of her quotes that I think sums up Diana Krall’s down to earth approach to the music industry and its demands.

“I’ve played a lot of piano bars, I sound like Humphrey Bogart, but you don’t begin at the Royal Albert Hall. You have to work very hard to be a jazz musician and you’ve got to do some things you might not want to, as in any job. I was sent to Europe and I was like a human jukebox, playing six hours a night.”

Where we left off last time….

In 2009 Diana Krall entered into a collaboration with the incredible vocalist Barbra Streisand and it was expected that combining their two very individual talents would produce a very different sound for Barbra Streisand. The album Love Is The Answer was released in the September. It was co-produced with Diana Krall’s long term musical collaborator Tommy LiPuma and featured Johnny Mandel’s arrangements of the tracks selected from the Great American Songbook.

Johnny Mandel had been in the business for several decades and had begun to play professionally in the early 40s. He had played trumpet and then trombone with the most popular bands of the day including Buddy Rich and Jimmy Dorsey. He went on to play and arrange for the top artists in the business including Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and also Barbra Streisand.

Whilst there is no doubt about the polished performances and finish to the album, some critics felt that it was not quite as much a departure from previous Streisand albums as expected; especially with the input from Diana Krall and Tommy LiPuma. It is perhaps understandable that with two very seasoned musicians and performers such as Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mandel that they would stay within their comfort zone.

However, Barbra Streisand has millions of fans around the world and the album became her ninth Number 1 album on the Billboard 200 and this made her the only artist to have a number one album in the United States in five different decades. The album was certified gold in November giving Barbra Streisand 51 Gold records.

Here is a track from the album If You Go Away by Jacques Brel and Rod McKuen. Uploaded by babsfan2

Buy the Album: http://www.amazon.com/Answer-Deluxe-Edition-Barbra-Streisand/dp/B002DYJAIO

In 2011 Diana Krall took a break and was in Sri Lanka for a time, returning in September 2012 to accompany Paul McCartney at Capitol for his live performance of his album ‘Kisses on the Bottom, aired live on the Internet. Also on September 13th Diana performed Fly Me to the Moon at Neil Armstrong’s memorial service in Washington D.C. Here is the song which was written by Bart Howard and a fitting tribute to a great pioneer of space.

A new album Glad Rag Doll was also released in October 2012, produced with T Bone Burnett, and featured a much older set of songs; pre-dating most of the Jazz Standards, having been written between the two World Wars. These included the title track Glad Rag Doll written by Milton Ager, Dan Dougherty and Jack Yellen, When the Curtain Comes Down by Carl Hoefle, Al Lewis and Al Sherman and I’m a Little Mixed Up by Betty James and Edward Johnson.

This departure from the Jazz Standards was Diana Krall at her most individual and also most comfortable; with her signature vocals bringing back the blues and vaudeville of the era perfectly. This was not an album for sweeping orchestral arrangements and it was stripped back to the basics of the original jazz and blues infused of course with the Krall magic. As you listen you can imagine yourself in a smoky bar watching a couple of musicians combining voice and instrument to create an intimate atmosphere. Diana also brought her husband Elvis Costello on board for this album providing ukulele, mandolin and guitar with backing vocals on the title track Glad Rag Doll. Diana said this of their work together on the album;

‘Some people might be wary of collaborating with their spouses, but I was thrilled to be working with Elvis.’ ‘The fact that he’s my husband didn’t really enter into it. There’s no power struggle in our marriage. Once we were in the recording booth, he’d give me a wink and a smile, and we had fun. Our lives get busy at home with the children, so it was lovely to have something else to share.’

Here is the title track uploaded by Alkiviadis

The most recent Diana Krall album, Wallflower, her 12th studio album was released in February 2015 by Verve records. The album is a return to the more well-known songs in recent music history, but all of course treated to the Diana Krall interpretation. Apart from the title track Wallflower written by Bob Dylan, other composers featured were artists who had inspired Diana Krall during her career such as Elton John, Gilbert O’Sullivan and Paul McCartney who had given Diana a song after their collaboration on his album Kisses on the Bottom in 2012. If I Take You Home Tonight was left off that album and Diana had this to say about the song.

“It was so great of Paul McCartney to give me that song.There’s always a few songs that don’t make an album. Not because they aren’t great. It just happens. So, I asked him if I could have it, and he just said sure.”

As another departure Diana Krall invited fellow Canadian David Foster to join her on the album. David is CEO of Verve records but also a 16-time Grammy Winner. As a composer, arranger, musician, songwriter and record producer he has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry. These included Alice Cooper, Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Madonna and Rod Stewart. David Foster did the arrangements for Wallflower and also provided most of the piano parts which left Diana free to focus on her vocal performances.

I had a chance to work with David Foster whom I’ve known for a long time. I felt that this was the right time and the right person to do this kind of record with. David has a jazz background, but he’s also a great pop producer and incredible accompanist which I discovered more and more as I was working with him. … I really made it clear that I didn’t want to do a jazz record. … I wanted to do a pop record and keep the integrity of the original melody and chord changes. I don’t think I’m abandoning anything. … I’ve always seen myself as a jazz pianist first. The major influence in my life is Nat King Cole, although I don’t put myself in the same category as him. I know that some will like this album and some will not. You cannot control that. … You just want to make a beautiful record that you love, coming from an honest place, and hope that everybody else will love it.”

Here is If I Take You Home Tonight written by Paul McCartney uploaded by nehoda69

Diana Krall is the only Jazz singer to have 8 albums debuting in at the top of the Billboard Jazz Albums. She has won five Grammy Awards and eight Juno Awards.

I will leave you with a last quote from Diana about her childhood dream of becoming an astronaut and whilst she may not have taken to this route to the stars she has certainly achieved that ambition through her music.

I built rockets and became good friends with astronauts. I played for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 13 at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum [in Washington DC]. I met Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, and I went on the bus to Orlando with a lot of space people and watched the last launch at Cape Canaveral. It was one of the most awesome things in my life. I love to ride horses though I’m not very good, but I love to ride Western-style, down the beach. Two of the few things in life outside music that make me feel freest are skiing and swimming in the cold. I went skiing recently in Dubai. That’s how hardcore I am.”

I hope that you have enjoyed this series on this incredible and very beautiful musician. If you have not listened to Diana Krall before then I hope that it has introduced her unique voice and musical gifts to your attention.

You can buy all her music on Amazon and I recommend that you bring her magic into your lives.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Diana-Krall/e/B000AQ6RNS

More information about Diana Krall – www.dianakrall.com

http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_Krall
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_Krall

Diana Krall – Tour Dateshttp://www.dianakrall.com/tour-dates

About William Price King

Price et Eric au Studio Marilyn

William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.

William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King

Download the new album.http://cdbaby.com/cd/williampriceking

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

You can find the other artists in the previous series here:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-jazz-and-music-series/

We would love to have your feedback and also your help in spreading the post around social media for us.. thanks and hope you will join us next time for the start of a new series on the superstar that is Tony Bennett.