February 9, 2012
The Beat mentioned on our Facebook page that one of the unspoken benefits of this gig is that we often get to really learn something. Like, for example, while prepping our piece on the upcoming OSU School of music program about soprano Ruby Elzy.
There's more about the program itself than was in the print piece, and we'll get to that. But first, a little more on how it came to be.
David Weaver, who wrote the book on Elzy's life (no, literally),told us he was made aware of Elzy's life and career by Madge Guthery, a WOSU volunteer he met in the late 90s. She figured he'd be interested, as Weaver is both a local singer (and founder of Columbus Light Opera) and OSU graduate. But Weaver admitted he wasn't familiar.
(Side note: Weaver tells a great story about Guthery, a long-time staple on local radio in Marion, Ohio, who had one summer as an intern none other than Rod Serling, of whom Weaver said Guthery told him "he was very funny." Gee - he didn't come across that way in his later work on television.)
Anyway, 1998 was the centennial of George Gershwin's birth, so there were many recordings circulating, including a concert recording that featured Elzy singing My Man's Gone Now from Porgy and Bess, a song (and role) written by Gershwin especially for the soprano. Thus encouraged, Weaver began to gather bits and pieces of research on Elzy's life and career, including meeting with two of her then-still-living sisters and the family of the OSU School of Music dean who recruited Elzy to OSU from her home in Mississippi.
"I had so much material but what to do with it," Weaver conjectured.
The book Black Diva of the Thirties was published in 2004. It has since been the subject of a WOSU Radio special, and now provides the basis for the Feb. 11 program at the Lincoln Theatre.
In addition to the live performances by OSU students, the program will include narration by Weaver and multimedia - photos and recordings of Elzy, including performances with Paul Robeson and Bing Crosby).