Sunday, February 06, 2000

Cincinnatian was friend of famous concert singer




BY JANELLE GELFAND
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When the famous contralto Marian Anderson performed in Cincinnati, she would always look up her friend, Georgia Beasley.

        “She was a personal friend,” says Miss Beasley, 96, of Silverton, a 1925 UC graduate and retired art teacher. “When I first met her and heard her sing, she was a teen-ager of 18 or 19, traveling through Cincinnati. She sang at a Presbyterian church downtown. When she came again, she had been to Europe and she was quite prestigious.”

        During the decades of the '30s, '40s and '50s, Miss Anderson performed in Cincinnati several times with her superb accompanist, Franz Rupp, for packed houses at the Taft and Music Hall.

        But despite her triumphant tours, Miss Anderson was not allowed to stay in hotels in many U.S. cities, including Cincinnati, because of her race.

        “Of course, we had a segregated policy here in Cincinnati, so she was a guest in one of (the presenter's) homes,” Miss Beasley says. “Anybody would be distressed (at the policy), but it did not keep her from singing, and singing beautifully.”

        Miss Beasley hosted the singer one time in her home. Often, when Miss Anderson was traveling through Cincinnati, she stayed at the YWCA.

        “I would always go down and visit her,” Miss Beasley recalls. “She liked to shop, and we'd go to Pogue's (department store).”

        They became good friends, and Miss Anderson wrote her a letter while on tour in South America, inviting Miss Beasley to visit her and her husband at their home in Danbury, Conn.

        “She was a wonderful hostess. She had a maid, but she prepared the first dinner herself,” she recalls. “She didn't want me to stay in the guest house, because it was a distance from the house. She moved out of her boudoir and into her husband's room, and she gave me her room.”

        She remembers the singer as charming, gracious and a lot of fun.

        “She had a God-given talent,” she says.

       



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