I learned to read music on a Chickering baby grand piano that had belonged to my great-grandmother, A’Lelia Walker, but it really was my mother, A’Lelia Mae Perry Bundles, and my grandmother, Mae Walker Perry, who had musical talent. As the only legally adopted daughter of A’Lelia Walker and granddaughter of entrepreneur Madam C. J. Walker, Mae had been afforded many privileges, including harp lessons and enrollment at Spelman College.
Several years ago, I came across this program from lyric tenor Roland Hayes’s January 15, 1924 program at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, which Mae attended, in my Madam Walker/A’Lelia Walker Family Archives. At the time of the concert, Mae recently had moved to Chicago. Like others in the city’s black community, she had looked forward to hearing Hayes sing selections from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” black British composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s “Hiawatha” and spirituals, including “Go Down Moses,” arranged by Harry T. Burleigh, in one of his first American concerts after his triumphant return from Europe. After the performance, one black newspaper reported: “The absolute hush that has been referred to so often in Mr. Hayes’ concerts (more…)