V0110. DOROTHY MAYNOR, w.Árpád Sándor (Pf.): Songs by Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Schubert, Strauss, Debussy, Bizet, Dett & Coleridge-Taylor; Spirituals; Arias from Semele & Louise. [Without a doubt, one of the most exquisite vocal recitals we'll ever be privileged to hear!] Library of Congress CLC-1, Live Performance, 18 Dec., 1940. Final Copy!
"The initial moments of [the above] CD quite took my breath away. Hearing once again the beautiful voice of a much-loved artist after years of unjustified neglect can have this effect. Immediately there is a reaffirmation of exactly why that singer is so regarded, why the art is so precious....This glorious artist left a pitifully small legacy of recordings. This concert is, therefore, an important addition to it....The sound of this recital is excellent and far better than we have any right to expect from the date of recording."
- Larry Lustig, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 1992
"Recorded 18 December, 1940, in recital at the Library of Congress Coolidge Auditorium – the first recital given there by a black American….If you are a collector of important vocal recordings, you will want this one. If you are not familiar with this artist, you will find this a good way to meet a woman who was not only an important vocal artist of the mid 20th Century but also a worker for racial justice and social change."
- Robert A. Moore, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2007
"That aria from LOUISE ended nearly every Maynor recital and brought out all the shimmering radiance and floating tones of her top register. That gorgeous sound alone made the soprano a popular musical figure during a busy concert and radio career that lasted until 1961."
- Peter G. Davis, THE AMERICAN OPERA SINGER, p.458
“Dorothy Maynor, a highly regarded soprano recitalist who founded the Harlem School of the Arts, whose career helped open the way for black artists like Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price, possessed a voice that the New Grove Dictionary of American Music describes as ‘a soaring, belllike soprano capable of exquisite musical effects, supported by a sincere and ardent temperament’. She took New York by storm in a sold-out recital at Town Hall in 1939 and pursued a successful recital career.
Although she committed more than 100 operatic roles to memory, she never appeared on an opera stage; there were no such opportunities for a black artist in the late 1930s and the 1940s, when she was in her prime. (Miss Anderson, the first black singer to appear at the Metropolitan Opera, did not make her début there until 1955.)
After hearing her sing at the 1939 Berkshire Symphonic Festival at Tanglewood in western Massachusetts, the conductor Serge Koussevitzky reportedly jumped up and down, shouting: ‘It is a miracle! It is a musical revelation! The world must hear her!’ Koussevitzky, who called Miss Maynor ‘a native Flagstad’, immediately used her in recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
She made her formal début at Town Hall in Manhattan later that year, on19 November, in a widely anticipated event that was sold out more than a week in advance. Olin Downes, reviewing the concert for THE NEW YORK TIMES, hailed her as ‘one of the most remarkable soprano voices of the rising generation’, called her voice ‘phenomenal for its range, character and varied expressive resources’.
Miss Maynor began touring extensively in the United States, often appearing as a soloist with leading orchestras. She made her Carnegie Hall début in 1940 with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by John Barbirolli. In the late 40s she toured Latin America and Europe. She often performed at benefits to aid the war effort and black causes.
She sang at the Presidential Inaugural galas for Harry S. Truman in 1949 and Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. In 1952, by special permission of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she appeared as a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra at Constitution Hall in the first commercial appearance there by a black artist since Miss Anderson had been barred from performing at the hall in 1939. (Miss Anderson subsequently gave benefit performances at the hall.)
In 1963, she retired to work with her husband, the Rev. Shelby Rooks, at St. James Presbyterian Church at West 141st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem, where he was pastor. That year she founded the Harlem School of the Arts. The school offered classes in music, ballet, modern dance, drama and art to poor children for minimal fees, sometimes as little as 50 cents a lesson, and lent or rented instruments to students who did not own one. She served as executive director of the school until 1979 and also taught there. In 1977 she raised more than $2 million to build a new facility for the school, which originally served 20 children and now has more than 1,000 students.
‘What I dream of is changing the image held by the children….We've made them believe everything beautiful is outside the community. We would like them to make beauty in our community’.
Her work with the school is recounted in DOROTHY MAYNOR AND THE HARLEM SCHOOL OF THE ARTS: THE DIVA AND THE DREAM (Edwin Mellen Press, 1993), by William F. Rogers Jr.”
- William Grimes, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 Feb., 1996