Roland Hayes

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Roland

Hayes

Curryville, Georgia
<p>Image: Portrait of tenor Roland Hayes as a child. Handwritten on front: "Roland Hayes." Undecipherable handwriting on back. Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library</p>

Born in Curryville, Georgia, in 1887, Roland Hayes was the son of two tenant farmers who worked on the plantation where they had once been slaves. The racially segregated, economically depressed post-Civil-War environment shaped Hayes’s perspective. Although his father was his first musical teacher, he received professional voice training from Arthur Calhoun, a keyboardist and voice teacher who early on saw the potential in Hayes’s tenor voice. Hayes’s went on to study music at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Image: Portrait of tenor Roland Hayes as a child. Handwritten on front: "Roland Hayes." Undecipherable handwriting on back. Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library

Boston, Massachusetts
<p>Image: Program for Elijah Chorus concert of Mendelssohn's 'Elijah' at Jordan Hall, Boston. Concert features tenor Roland Hayes, soprano Minnie Brown, contralto Daisy Tapley and baritone Harry T. Burleigh. Printed on program: "The Elijah Chorus, Dr. W.O. Taylor, conductor, will render Mendelssohn's 'Elijah,' Thursday evening, April 15th, 1915 at 8.15 o'clock at Jordan Hall." Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library</p>

In 1911 Henry H. Putman, an insurance executive in Boston, saw Roland Hayes perform at a private club in Louisville, Kentucky, and suggested to the young tenor that he refine his skills in Boston. As a result, in May of that year Hayes attended the missionary conference “The World in Boston” with the Fisk University Jubilee Singers. The tenor decided to stay in Boston, which became his longtime home, and took voice lessons with Arthur Hubbard, a prominent instructor. Hayes was eventually invited to play at Symphony Hall in Boston and many other great concert houses internationally.

Image: Program for Elijah Chorus concert of Mendelssohn's 'Elijah' at Jordan Hall, Boston. Concert features tenor Roland Hayes, soprano Minnie Brown, contralto Daisy Tapley and baritone Harry T. Burleigh. Printed on program: "The Elijah Chorus, Dr. W.O. Taylor, conductor, will render Mendelssohn's 'Elijah,' Thursday evening, April 15th, 1915 at 8.15 o'clock at Jordan Hall." Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library

London, England

In 1920, Roland Hayes traveled to London, a trip that connected him with the greater artistic community in Europe and established him as an internationally recognized tenor. During a landmark performance at Wigmore Hall in London, Hayes sang a combination of classics interspersed with his own arrangement of African-American spirituals and folk songs; following the innovative performance he was asked to perform for King George and Queen Mary. Hayes went on European tours throughout his career, and became a key figure for the African diaspora in London.

Video: American Tenor Roland Hayes (1887-1977) / Xango (African religious chant of the Makumba) / Micheu Banjo (Louisiana Creole folksong) / Recorded: 1942 youtube.com/watch?v=qWqkb4alznI

Asheville, North Carolina: BMC
<p>Image: Roland Hayes Performing at Black Mountain College. Courtesy Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina, Asheville, NC.</p>

During Hayes’s two-week teaching residency at Black Mountain College in 1945, he performed his signature pairing of classical song with an arrangement of African American spirituals and folk songs. The legendary concert was also the first integrated performance in the college’s history, introducing progressive integration policies that were unmatched anywhere in the South at the time.

Image: Roland Hayes Performing at Black Mountain College. Courtesy Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina, Asheville, NC.

New York, New York
<p>Image: 1948 Booking Ad Roland Hayes Tenor African-American Singer</p>

After Black Mountain College, Roland Hayes continued an intensive performing schedule. In the spring of 1946, he performed a series of sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall in New York. Despite his success, Hayes continued to encounter racial tension in the mostly segregated U.S., yet he refused to sing in front of segregated audiences. That same year, the sixty-year-old tenor sang at Boston Symphony Hall, marking the thirtieth anniversary of his first recital.

Image: 1948 Booking Ad Roland Hayes Tenor African-American Singer