Soprano Alyson Cambridge Among Those Honoring Marian Anderson

A special concert this weekend will commemorate Marian Anderson's historic performance on Easter Sunday 1939 at the Lincoln Memorial. Soprano Alyson Cambridge will be among those performing.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, walk a few steps from the Corcoran Gallery in Washington and you arrive at The Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall, which is famous for an event that was blocked from happening there. Seventy-five years ago, Marian Anderson was refused permission to sing because she was black. She sang instead on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty of thee...

INSKEEP: Now, on Saturday, a tribute to Anderson takes place. Some of today's great artists will be welcomed into Constitution Hall from which Anderson was barred in 1939. The great voices on stage will include Jesse Norman and Dion Warwick and also soprano Alyson Cambridge, who spoke with our great voice, Susan Stamberg.

ALYSON CAMBRIDGE: "Pace, Pace Mio Dio," from La Forza del Destino" by Verdi.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: Could you sing a little of it for me? I know this is so unfair to ask you, but would you?

CAMBRIDGE: Oh, my gosh, it's a big long loud note. I don't want to blow out the microphone.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

STAMBERG: Alyson Cambridge learned about Marian Anderson when she was a young music student.

CAMBRIDGE: They said she was the first African-American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, and of course, you know, I'm a 12-year-old just beginning voice lessons and to my knowledge the Metropolitan was it for an opera singer. I thought, oh, wow.

STAMBERG: Now Alyson Cambridge finds herself explaining the great singer to others.

CAMBRIDGE: Some people sort of look at me with a raised eyebrow. Who's Marian Anderson? And then I sort of explain - oh, yes, okay, of course, of course. But really, she broke down the barriers not just for opera singers but for all African-American artists and performers.

STAMBERG: Alyson Cambridge. On Saturday she'll perform in a concert marking the 75th anniversary of Marian Anderson's historic Lincoln Memorial concert. I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News.

INSKEEP: And we're just getting started. Tomorrow on MORNING EDITION, Susan tells the story behind Anderson's concert on Easter Sunday, 75 years ago.

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