On Wings of Song

Sunday, April 18, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Mondays through April bring back a long running vocal recital series to WQXR. On Wings of Song was the brain child of mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne. The series started on stages in 1995 and shortly after that, on the radio. But this series is coming to a halt. Or rather, a change. After this season, it will be folded into The Song Continues, a series at Carnegie Hall.

These last four episodes of music by young singers and pianists were recorded in Christ and St. Steven’s Church in New York. To create the radio commentary, I requested Marilyn Horne join me, for which she graciously agreed. She joined me in a studio, along with Barbara Hocher, the Executive Director of the Marilyn Horne Foundation. Simple math will tell you that since we needed about 10 minutes of commentary per show, and we had 4 shows, we only needed to talk for about 40 minutes. However, we were in the studio for 3 hours. It is honor to do what I do and interview some of the best artists in the world. The words of wisdom and stories I receive are often priceless and give me the reason to really love my work. As you can hear in the shows, Marilyn is amazing. She has been through much: as a young singer, a controversial marriage, superstardom and now teacher and mentor.

On the April 19th Episode, we go into length about her late husband Henry Lewis. First of all, long time listeners to New York public radio may remember a radio announcer named Henry Lewis. It is not the same person. Marilyn’s late husband was a ground breaking African American musician and conductor. He was the first African American to lead a major symphony orchestra. In addition, the ‘mixed marriage’ to Marilyn was also ground breaking. She was told at the time, “it will end your career.” Far from it. He is often credited for much of the success of her career. This year’s series of On Wings of Song is dedicated to the memory of Henry Lewis.

I hope you enjoy the programs and the wise, funny and engaging words of Marilyn Horne.

Click here to watch a video of Marilyn performing "People" from Funny Girl on The Odd Couple.

Did any of you see Henry Lewis conduct? Do you have any great memories of seeing Marilyn Horne sing? Please share!

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Comments [7]

Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

What greater compliment for a singer to hear from people of all musical tastes how thrilled they were to hear the singer in opera, in concert, on TV in a comedy situation and singing a popular Stephen Foster song with such feeling. Marilyn Horne is that kind of singer. Who can forget her Carmen, her Adalgisa opposite Joan Sutherland's Norma, her Rossini pants role, her pixie-ish persona!

Brava, Marilyn also for your championing young talent. Keep up your enterprising approach to the theater. Kenneth Bennett Lane, Wagnerian heldentenor and opera composer: "Shakespeare" & "The Political Shakespeare" and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where actors are trained for the Shakespeare roles and big-voiced singers coached in the Wagner opera roles. Website: www.WagnerOpera.com

Apr. 20 2010 03:44 PM

Back in the mid-80's when I first came to New York, I attended a dinner party in honor - I believe - of the actress, Marsha Hunt. I remember the host's toast that went something like this, 'Here's to our special guest. Let it be known that the Marsha Hunt is over!'

The evening eventually dwindled down to a few guests sitting together in the center of the living room - one of whom was Henry Lewis. The hostess sat down next to him and said, 'We haven't had the chance to speak tonight. They tell me you are somehow connected to Marilyn Horne?' He looked at her and said, 'Well, I was married to her if that counts as being connected!'

My recollection is that Henry Lewis was a lovely guy. But to this day, I have no idea what his connection was to Marsha Hunt! You can rest assured, though, that the Marilyn Horne connection has stayed with me, that's for sure!

Apr. 20 2010 03:30 PM
Jan Schwartz from Vacaville, California

I was privileged to be taken to hear Ms. Horne and Joan Sutherland in concert together at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles in the '60s. I was a young teen, just acquiring a passion for the vocal arts, and these women together were inspirational and unforgettable!

Apr. 20 2010 02:37 PM
Frank J. Miele from New York

Marilyn Horne.

How can I ever forget the day that I met Marilyn Horne?

Several years ago I opened a second location for my gallery of contemporary American folk art over on the West Side.

Columbus Avenue at 68th Street.

One day a woman came into the gallery for the first time and began to browse around.

She looked familiar.

Very familiar.

I thought it was Marilyn Horne.

But I wasn't sure.

So I thought I'd ask.

"Are you," I asked with some hesitation, "Marilyn Horne?"

She did not answer my question.

Well, in fact, she did answer my question.

But not with a "yes" or "no" response, mind you.

Instead, she burst into song.

Yes, indeed, it was Marilyn Horne.

Apr. 18 2010 01:02 PM
Edward M from Manhattan

We were at La Fenice in Venice and had gotten the only seats left, a box near the stage. Marilyn Horne was singing in Tancredi, and we were able to go with my partner's parents who had never been in that house and surely had never heard that opera. Two-thirds though the performance I began to hear that kind of heavy breathing that signals a problem. I thought, oh gosh, someone of our party had fallen sleep on this splendid performance. I poked my friend to alert him but he was already aware. So, we turned around ready to gently awaken the culprit before outright snoring began only to see his dad in tears weeping over Marilyn Horne's performance! It was a memorable evening and she impressed even someone unfamiliar with opera.

Apr. 18 2010 11:56 AM
Cindy Legorreta from Union Square/NY

Here's a great memory: The late Tony Randall was not only a fine actor, he was quite opera savvy.Additionally... Randall actively supported talented young students, making it financially possible for them to continue to study music and perhaps even, to become Met stars in the future. When Mr. Randall was shooting the "Odd Couple" series, there was a delightful episode about his character, Felix, befriending a woman who had a wonderful voice, but could not, because of her shyness, step into the spotlight. I remember this show so vividly: the way he 'coached' her on the finer points of interpreting "Carmen" (!!) I'd love to hear Miss Horne's comments on that episode, what it was like. For those of us who are older audience members lucky enough to have spent years attending performances at Met, we want to say: how praiseworthy a thing both Mr. Randall and Miss Horne have done - to mentor and guide opera stars for the Millenium!' My heart is warmed, and I smile, thinking of that Odd Couple episode. It was terrific! And Miss Horne, in her 'regular gal' persona, stole the show. Brava!

Apr. 18 2010 10:02 AM
James from New York, NY

I am such a big fan of Marilyn Horne; we live a block apart and I see her around the neighborhood, as well as attending her recitals. My introduction to The Met Opera was on a Saturday afternoon in 1970; a college friend and I went to try for tickets to "Norma" with Miss Horne and someone called Joan Sutherland. We were lucky enought to get center Parterre box seats after deciding that we could afford to pay $17.50 per seat. What a great experience. I think that I have every recording she has made.

Apr. 18 2010 09:08 AM

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