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Don Shirley - Presents Martha Flowers
Cadence CLP3055 [1962]  Stereo CLP25055    Reissue on CD Collection


Side A
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
Side B
6. Porgy And Bess Suite



Martha Flowers
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 TIMES

"Martha Flowers, the great soprano, interpreted a wide program that comprised a great diversity of styles in which

from: http://www.soundfountain.com/gershwin/porgybess.html

"When on 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."

fromt: http://www.tribesentertainment.com/TRIBES%20Issues/may20052-15.pdf

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 Flowers.

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 right to
be. After receiving her B.A. in Music at Fisk University, she was accepted into the Julliard School of
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 a few.

She can also remember doing the tango in Argentina at a time when dedicate a certain number of hours
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.

Martin: What would you say are the qualities of a true singer?
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 stop.