Shirley - Presents Martha Flowers
CLP3055  Stereo CLP25055
on CD Collection
1. Anytime Any Day Anywhere, L. Wiley - V. Yong - W. Washington
2. Dancing On The Ceiling, R-Rodgers - L. Hart
3. I Had Myself A True Love, H. Arlen - J.H. Mercer
4. Fools Rush In, R.Bloom - J.H. Mercer
5. Love Walked In, G. Gershwin - I. Gershwin
6. Porgy And Bess Suite
In introducing on records a singer of Martha
Flowers' rich musical background, I thought it was
important to choose selections that clearly
demonstrate her flexibility, her dramatic talent,
and above all her musicianship.
For Martha Flowers
is first and foremost a musician; she can sing.
anything and sing it well, from a Schubert lieder to
a tune from a Broadway show. She is a convincing
actress who can convey dramatic intensity without
the powerful visual aid provided by a stage setting.
For example, in ANY TIME, ANY DAY, ANYWHERE, the
lyricist is trying to convey the idea that the
person is perfectly willing to do anything, any
place and any time that will help if she, is needed;
but the written word doesn't convey this nearly as
well as the combination of the words and the melody
plus the dramatic meaning that, Martha draws from
this song. One gets the feeling of infinity on each
phrase when she says "any time--any day--anywhere."
(I chose this particular song to introduce the album
because of its recitative quality.)
The next selection, Rodgers & Hart's DANCING ON
THE CEILING played by the trio, particularly
suits the dramatic mood of this album, yet provides
a change of pace from the opening song and sets the
stage for-I HAD MYSELF A TRUE LOVE.
This song is particularly dramatic--the
outstanding thing about it is that it's so
convincing the way she does it out of context of the
play (Johnny Mercer & Harold Arlen's Free and Easy
in which Martha starred in London). The character in
the play, Lila, is very much in love with a man who
does not love her. All her neighbors tell her he's
with another woman but she doesn't believe them. It
is when she is finally convinced he doesn't love her
that she sings I HAD MYSELF A TRUE LOVE. The trio
then plays another Johnny Mercer song, FOOLS RUSH
IN. This has always been one of my favorite songs
and so I'm particularly pleased at being able to
include it in this album.
George Gershwin's LOVE WALKED IN combines all the
facets of recitative singing--the chorus, the
dramatic continuity, and for the first time a
jazz-like quality, a tempo, which Martha handles
with ease. (I don't think I know of any popular
singers who are sopranos. Most of them are
contraltos and it is rather rare to find a soprano
who swings convincingly-this,. of course, is another
facet of Martha's talent.)
In the PORGY AND BESS SUITE, Martha sings two
songs from the show: THE STRAWBERRY
SONG and OH DOCTOR JESUS. She has sung Bess many
times, most recently at the New York City Center
opposite William Warfield as Porgy. THE STRAWBERRY
SONG was not written by George Gershwin, although it
is contained in the score. It was an old street
vendor's cry and according to legend was sung to
Gershwin by the mother of Helen Dowdy, the
Strawberry Woman in the original Broadway version of
Porgy & Bess. Gershwin, in turn, interpolated it
into his folk opera. To emphasize the dramatic
quality of the music" Martha sings two roles in the
form of a dialog between the Strawberry Woman and a
prospective buyer, whose husband is standing there,
as much interested in the Strawberry Woman as her
wares. The wife says ... "let me see 'em" ... and
while Martha explains how fresh they they are and
how much they are going to be liked, the husband is
eyeing Martha. The wife decides "no, I don't want
any," primarily to get her husband away and Martha,
sensing this, says "Humm" and goes off to approach
other possible customers. The next aria in the
suite, OH DOCTOR JESUS, is a prayer sung by Serena
to bring Bess back to health. Martha brings to this
performance another facet of her vocal
virtuosity--through her superb musicianship, she
creates a moment of great poignancy which, to me, is
one of the high points of this recording.
Read what the critics have said, read what I say,
but primarily listen and decide for yourself--and
I think you will agree that Martha Flowers is one of
the finest singers you have ever heard.
"Miss Flowers seems to sing as easily as most people
speak. Because of that facility she can shape the
expression of her words with the sort of subtlety
and variety of emphasis that is possible to an
accomplished actress .... She has stage presence and
poise, as well as a clear, fresh voice that is just
as velvety as it is agile." --THE NEW YORK
"Martha Flowers, the great soprano, interpreted a
wide program that comprised a great diversity of
styles in which
Cadence LP CLP 1004, entitled Piano Perspectives,
magnificent pianist Don Shirley starts playing I
can't get started, his introduction reminds one of I
loves you Porgy. Don Shirley knows every brand and
style. His improvisations shift easily from jazz to
popular to classical. That is why Rachmaninoff
unexpectedly turns up on Cadence CLP 25055 Don
Shirley introduces Martha Flowers. The record is
also a grand introduction to Don Shirley himself, to
his elaborate technique, subtle swinging and
inspired harmonies. It is an introduction for all
those people who did not get acquainted with this
phenomenon from the nineteen fifties and sixties.
The first side of the LP (with songs by Victor
Young, Richard Rogers, Harold Arlen, R. Bloom, and
George Gershwin) was recorded on August 6, 1962 by
engineer John Quinn. The Porgy and Bess Suite was
recorded much earlier, on October 19, 1960, by
famous recording technician George Piros. Both
recordings were made at Fine Recording Studios, New
York City, and have all the traits of a perfect
Robert C. Fine production. It is not clear who the
cellist and the string bass player are. Gilberto
Munguia and Henry Gonzalez?
Martha Flowers sings with Shirley and a cello and
string bass player the songs she did so well on the
Dutch recording: Strawberry Woman and an ever so
compelling Oh, Doctor Jezus."
The First Black Diva by Nichole Martin
By today's standards, a diva would be arrogant and
egotistical, demanding and eccentric, but the
dictionary defines a diva as a distinguished,
female, operatic singer --a female operatic star.
That definition is the one that describes Martha
The mezzo-soprano has toured the world and
received raving reviews wherever she has performed.
From Carnegie Hall to the famed La Scala Opera house
in Milan, she has been hailed the Soprano's soprano.
In 1954, she won the prestigious Naumburg Award for
musical excellence, of which there has only been one
other African American winner since 1925. Her voice
quality and diction command attention while her
poise and flamboyance are the essence of class.
Those who have heard her have called her voice "a
wonder of nature".
"Sometimes when I think about it I'm really
amazed," reflects Flowers -- and amazed she has the
be. After receiving her B.A. in Music at Fisk
University, she was accepted into the Julliard
Music in New York. There she studied beside Leontyne
Price under the famed Florence Page Kimball.
It was also at Julliard where she was discovered
by famed director Robert Breen. Breen hired her as
lead for a tour of "Porgy and Bess" and thus her
illustrious career began. The year was 1954 and
while the Supreme Court was outlawing segregation,
Martha Flowers was headed to Paris, France. As the
tour made its way back around to the United States,
it stopped in San Francisco. After a performance one
night, the cast was winding down at a club called
The Purple Onion. On stage that night was a
wonderful poet and dancer who performed in African
inspired attire; Flowers noted how great the
performer was. The performer turned out to be Maya
Angelou. At Flowers' request, Maya Angelou was added
to the tour. After her tour ended, Flowers
discovered that the fans who heard her performance
in Bess were now eager hear her perform as a solo
artist. Flowers' wonder of nature allowed her to
open to packed opera houses around the world. She
has sung Bach, Mozart and Handel to standing
ovations in Norway, Belgium, Germany and Russia. She
was invited to tour with the New Zealand Opera and
to perform at the famous Roskilde Domkirke
where the kings of Denmark are buried, just to name
She can also remember doing the tango in
Argentina at a time when dedicate a certain number
a night to the South American dance. Originally from
Winston-Salem, Ms. Flowers now resides in Chapel
Hill, North Carolina. In 1973, she came to Chapel
Hill to teach music at the University of North
Carolina for one year and has remained a resident.
Once in a while, she'll "take" a student, having
taught the likes of local celebrities such as Nnenna
Freelon and Lois Dawson.
What would you say are the qualities of a
Flowers: You are talking to a trained
singer. I am an opera singer and I studied
eight years before performing
professionally. So that has nothing to do
with people who are pop singers and
commercial singers who use microphones and
such. I had a tremendous desire to be an
opera singer and when I finished college I
just moved to New York to pursue that. I
remember telling my mother that I was going
to perform on Broadway before I knew what
Broadway really was.
Martin: You have done so much being
an African American in the operatic world.
How hard is it to break into the wonderful
world of opera?
Flowers: There are not many black
singers going into the operatic field
because the doors were closed for so long I
think they just lost the interest in it. Now
there is theatre, big appearances and
recordings, movies and
Broadway. The music scene has changed
tremendously, but for people who love opera
and really like to sing it, why not? If they
have the ability and the willingness to
really put in the work that is required,
they can make it.
Martin: Out of the opera singers who
are out there today, is there one you are
particularly fond of?
Flowers: Yes, Denise Graves. She is
an excellent opera singer. She is a
beautiful singer of the highest quality.
Martin: Do you have any words of
inspiration for the artists out there today?
Flowers: First, the artist has to
love the art. In order to really perfect
your art, you have to really be in love with
it and do it with all your heart. That opens
up the way to attract the right energies.
Martin: Do you still teach? Are you
taking students now or have you stopped?
Flowers: I don't think I'll ever