Nellie Melba

Lead: Australia has a rich history of cultural icons: Phar-Lap the indefatigable race horse; Ned Kelly, the iron clad bank robber; yet none surpass the impact of opera singer and early 20th century material girl, Nellie Melba.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Born in 1861 of musically inclined Scottish immigrant parents in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond, Nellie Melba performed in her first singing concert at the age of six, and began professional training in 1880. Though she was developing into a powerful coloratura soprano, Australia was far from the center of the operatic universe. If she was to succeed in that world, she would have to go to Europe. In 1886 she auditioned for and was received as a student of the mezzo-soprano Parisian vocal master, Madame Mathilda Marchesi. Marchezi recognized a unique talent, trained her for six months, and then, using her connections, opened the doors. Possessed of her father’s confidence, Melba strode onto the stage at Theatre de la Monnai in Brussels in October 1887 and never looked back. Her intense soprano with its icily brilliant, trill vibrato grabbed the imagination of the opera world and soon she was playing to packed houses in London, Paris, St. Petersburg, New York and, eventually even Italians embraced Nellie.

 

James Knox Polk and Hail to the Chief II

Lead: The use of the stirring, heroic melody, Hail to the Chief, was ritualized by First Lady Sarah Childress Polk, dealing with her husband’s public relations problems. The story behind the tune, however, is not very good news for a politician.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: James Knox Polk, Eleventh President of the United States, was short, usually unkempt and wore cheap, ill-fitting suits. He and Sarah were not universally popular in Washington society and he could walk into a room and be completely ignored. To call attention to his presence and increase respect, Sarah Polk decreed that he should have a theme song. Whenever he entered the room, the Marine Band was instructed to play Hail to the Chief.

[

James Knox Polk and Hail to the Chief I

Lead: Frustrated that her husband was being ignored at social and political events, the First Lady determined that the president needed a theme song. Of such are traditions born.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: James Knox Polk was an unprepossessing man. He was short, he usually sported a bad haircut, and he wore cheap oversized suits. Often the President of the United States was ignored when he entered the room. In short, he was a public relation expert's nightmare. Nevertheless, Polk had a secret political weapon. It was his wife, Sarah.

Scott Joplin II

Lead: Having reached maturity as a composer and fully established as a ragtime musician, Scott Joplin produced what some consider the first great American opera.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: By the first decade of the 20th century, Scott Joplin had become a celebrated composer and performer. His compositions were sold and played widely and his reputation as a performer was on the rise. During that decade he was also putting his hand toward his original opera, Treemonisha (1911). The themes of this work are loosely autobiographical though the story is unique. Living in a small rural community of former slaves, Monisha and Ted discover an abandoned infant under a tree and raise her as their own giving her the name memorialized in the opera. Like Joplin, her parents arrange for her to be educated by a white family in exchange for manual labor. The girl emerges from childhood to take a place of leadership in the community.

Scott Joplin I

Lead: Born during Reconstruction, Scott Joplin became a role model for talented black musicians as the Ragtime era blended into the Age of Jazz.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: Joplin was born in northeast Texas in 1868 to a laboring family suffering the abuse that was the lot of blacks at the hand of whites humiliated by the loss of the civil war and the Reconstruction regime imposed by the Federal government. He grew up in Texarkana. His parents were musically inclined and insured his exposure to church music. This aroused in him an early hunger to perform, eventually mastering guitar, cornet, and piano. His constant practicing enhanced Joplin’s natural talent which was only enriched by his German-born teacher Julius Weiss, who was so impressed with Joplin’s prospects that he gave him free lessons in advanced harmony, sight-reading, and musical theory. Though he was being schooled in the music of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin, his first love was in the syncopated rhythms of ragtime.

James Knox Polk and Hail to the Chief II

Lead: The use of the stirring, heroic melody, Hail to the Chief, was ritualized by First Lady Sarah Childress Polk, dealing with her husband’s public relations problems. The story behind the tune, however, is not very good news for a politician.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: James Knox Polk, Eleventh President of the United States, was short, usually unkempt and wore cheap, ill-fitting suits. He and Sarah were not universally popular in Washington society and he could walk into a room and be completely ignored. To call attention to his presence and increase respect, Sarah Polk decreed that he should have a theme song. Whenever he entered the room, the Marine Band was instructed to play Hail to the Chief.

Read more →

James Knox Polk and Hail to the Chief I

Lead: Frustrated that her husband was being ignored at social and political events, the First Lady determined that the president needed a theme song. Of such are traditions born.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: James Knox Polk was an unprepossessing man. He was short, he usually sported a bad haircut, and he wore cheap oversized suits. Often the President of the United States was ignored when he entered the room. In short, he was a public relation expert's nightmare. Nevertheless, Polk had a secret political weapon. It was his wife, Sarah.

Read more →

Marian Anderson: Voice of Freedom

Lead: The headline read, "Mrs. Roosevelt Takes Stand: Resigns from D.A.R." Marian Anderson, the black concert artist had become the focus of a struggle against racism.

Intro.: "A Moment in Time" with Dan Roberts.

Content: In 1939 Sol Hurok, one of America's foremost artist management agents began to put together the season schedule of his brilliant contralto, Marian Anderson. Fresh from a very successful tour of Europe Anderson's fees were rising and Hurok wanted to book her into the best halls in the country. In Washington, the finest artists played Constitutional Hall owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Anderson was singing on the West Coast when word began to filter through the company. The negotiations for Constitution Hall were breaking down. The Daughters of the American Revolution would not let her sing there. She was a woman of color. Negroes were not permitted to perform at Constitutional Hall in 1939.

 

Read more →