REPORT FROM MANHATTAN: Sylvia Olden Lee and the Human Spirit


July 3—Initial coverage follows, of the historic events which took place in New York City on June 29 and 30 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sylvia Olden Lee. It includes a brief synopsis by Dennis Speed of the significance of the events. 

Sylvia’s Mission

By Dennis Speed

The “Tribute to Sylvia Olden Lee, Master Musician and Teacher,” held by the Foundation for the Revival of Classical Culture, the Harlem Opera Theater, and the Schiller Institute and its New York City Chorus, was more than merely successful. The concert approximated the requirement and standard for true Classical performance. Proper voice-placement, using the Verdi tuning of C=256, and the months-long training of the non-professional chorus with that tuning, helped significantly.

The “pedal point” that underlay the unity of effect of the concert as a whole, however, was that it demonstrated and therefore embodied the central emphasis of the instruction that Sylvia Lee had imparted to all of those that worked with her on the noble projection of the voice: “Pay attention to the Words”!! Lee used the terms “Words” and Ideas” interchangeably. Whatever variation there may have been in the presentation of the multiform musical offerings—Spirituals, opera arias and ensemble pieces, German art songs, choral pieces, and even a solo Schubert piano impromptu—the idea-content, the thought-object of each composition’s presence on the program as a necessary facet of illustration of Lee’s musical mission, was paramount. In such an evening, that is the most that one can hope to accomplish, and it was.

Extended coverage of the concert and the next day’s symposium will be featured in upcoming issues of Executive Intelligence Review. In this issue, we highlight the symposium contribution of the great bassbaritone Simon Estes, a fixture at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, and on the world opera stage for decades. The remarks by Sylvia’s close friend and collaborator, Elvira Green, are included so that the reader may identify the central musician that performed at Carnegie Hall that evening: Sylvia Lee herself. It was her “immortal beloved” presence that rang throughout the hall, and in the hearts of all, including those who had never met her, nor heard of her, until most recently.

The approximately 2,000 people that participated in that evening will never again be the same.

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