unison/guitar chords – poem by Myra Cohn Livingston – music by Mary Alice Amidon
Poet, musician, critic, educator, anthologist and author, Myra Cohn Livingston (1926 – 1996) wrote this poem “Keep on Singing” for the picture book by the same name, illustrated by Samuel Byrd and published by Holiday House, 1994, now out of print. Mary Alice found the picture book in a local bookstore, and “sings” the book to children using this tune she made up for the poem. This would be great for a crankie theater performance . Here is Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial.
The Amidons are searching for whomever owns the copyright to this poem; they can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep on Singing – a Ballad of Marian Anderson
Myra Cohn Livingston
Born in Philadelphia, her mother told her true
Whatever you are doing someone’s watching you.
Marian earned pennies, scrubbing peoples stairs,
She worked to free her mother from poverty and care.
Started in with singing when she was only three;
Learned the notes and all the parts and how the words should be.
Joined the Baptist Choir sang most every place;
Learned soprano, alto, tenor even learned the bass.
Heard about a music school, thought she would apply.
The girl kept helping others, (but) always passed her by.
Marian stood and waited till everyone had gone.
“We don’t take colored,” said the girl, and Marian went on.
The Church helped raise some money to carry on her dreams.
Took some formal lessons once she turned fifteen.
And when she sang Deep River, one teacher wondered why
A tall calm girl at twilight should make him want to cry.
Won a singing contest, sang in New York City:
“Wonderful,” some people said, “but isn’t it a pity:
“We can’t book her everywhere, such a lovely voice,
“Too bad she’s a Negro, she can’t be our choice.”
Marian sang in Europe, she sang against her fears.
“A voice,” a great conductor said, “heard once in a hundred years.”
Came back to America, her music studies done.
She had sung for kings and queens, she had overcome.
Now when she sang in concert halls the crowds were turned away,
Still hotels and restaurants wouldn’t let her stay.
Toured in sixty cities, often met Jim Crow.
Always prayed all seeing God would show her where to go.
Loved to sing the spirituals, music Marian wrote.
That shows simplicity and faith, humility and hope.
Some of us remember Constitution Hall;
Where she was told she couldn’t sing some of us recall.
An Easter Sunday long ago when she stood up to fears
In front of Lincoln’s monument and eyes were filled with tears.
Marian remembered: “Far as the eye could see,
“A great wave of good will poured out almost engulfing me.”
Some of us remember and we can hear her yet.
The first black woman singer invited to the Met.
“I may have dreamed of such things but I never thought I’d be
A symbol for young singers who’d follow after me.”
Born in Philadelphia, her mother told her true,
“Whatever you are doing someone’s watching you.”