Black Classically Trained Singers;
from Negro Spirituals to Opera
on Long Playing Records in
The Durbeck Archive

Negro spirituals, the religious folk songs of black American slaves, were among the first songs created in America by Americans. Having discovered comfort and joy in the Christian religion of their masters, the slaves created songs which drew contrasts between their own hard life on earth and the happiness they hoped to find later in heaven. While this music is often the first music associated with black/negro singers, it is a purpose of The Durbeck Archive to demonstrate the assimilation of America's variegated classical vocal culture by all singers who can perform, in a sympathetic manner, the music they choose to sing. The vocal examples chosen to exhibit the vocal talents of these singers have been selected to demonstrate the heterogeneity of each cultural origin.

In the 50 year development of The Durbeck Archive, I have not been able to find many discographies of black/negro classically trained singers, except for those of a few individual singers e.g., Paul Robeson, which is extensive. Perhaps I have just been looking in the wrong places. Any proffered leads will be greatly appreciated. Below listed are those singers by whom an entire, solo LP has been recorded or dedicated. These LPs are an important part of The Durbeck Archive. (Reminder: The Durbeck Archive is an LP-dedicated archive with no references to CDs, 78s, 45s or tapes of any kind; therefore, all references to recordings by the singers on this page are on LP.)

The images of these single LP jackets are more for purposes of illustration than to indicate "star status" in the history and development of black singers in America and the world. When possible, and appropriate, I have selected international pressings of LPs to indicate the popular status of black singers throughout the world and not just here in America.

The second grouping of names are those black singers, also represented in The Durbeck Archive, but have not recorded a complete LP devoted to their singing. Their contributions to this black singers' recorded legacy are in roles on complete opera recordings, opera excerpts recordings, and in collections and anthologies. That they have not recorded solo LPs is no less a contribution of their significant and professional stature and role in the development and promulgation of black singers onto the opera and concert stages of America and the world. Those black singers who have achieved "stellar status" have not done so without the millions of "high," "middle" and "low" C's of their black antecedents and the continuing artistic sustenance of their singing contemporaries. To fully appreciate the development and advancement of the black/negro classically trained singers, one should look less at the individual "stars," and more at the "galaxy" of which they are but a single entity.

All of these factors considered, The Durbeck Archive is an immense resource as a discography (on LP only) of the recorded history of the black/negro classically trained singer.

PS. There is an interesting discussion about the "black" sound in Chapter 11, of the book, AND SO I SING (Rosalyn M. Story; Warner Books, 1990).

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