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Caption: Ruby Elzy, 1937
Ruby Elzy, 1937 

Ruby Elzy: Black Diva of the Thirties

From: Boyce Lancaster
Length: 58:59

Ruby Elzy was one of George Gershwin's hand picked leads for the original production of Porgy and Bess. Hailing from the small Mississippi town of Pontotoc, Ruby Elzy's voice carried her to Ohio State University, Julliard, Broadway, and concerts coast to coast. Tragically, her life would end before she took the next step to the Metropolitan Opera stage in Aida. This program is based upon the book Black Diva of the Thirties - The Life of Ruby Elzy, by David E. Weaver, published by the University Press of Mississippi. Archival recordings for this program were also provided by Mr. Weaver.

Ruby1937_small Ruby Elzy was one of George Gershwin's hand picked leads for the original production of Porgy and Bess.  Hailing from the small Mississippi town of Pontotoc, Ruby Elzy's voice carried her to Ohio State University, Juilliard, Broadway, and concerts coast to coast.  Tragically, her life would end before she took the next step to the Metropolitan Opera stage in Aida.

In the year 2000, soprano Ruby Elzy was one of the first inductees into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. Sixty-five years earlier, she was chosen by George Gershwin to create the role of Serena in Porgy and Bess. Ruby appeared in feature films with Paul Robeson and Bing Crosby. She attended The Ohio State University and Juilliard School of Music and performed on Broadway, in Hollywood, and on national radio.
Ruby would have been one of the first black artists to appear in grand opera had she lived beyond her 35 years. 
  This program is based upon the book Black Diva of the Thirties - The Life of Ruby Elzy, by David E. Weaver, published by the University Press of Mississippi.  Archival recordings for this program were also provided by Mr. Weaver.

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Piece Description

Ruby Elzy was one of George Gershwin's hand picked leads for the original production of Porgy and Bess.  Hailing from the small Mississippi town of Pontotoc, Ruby Elzy's voice carried her to Ohio State University, Juilliard, Broadway, and concerts coast to coast.  Tragically, her life would end before she took the next step to the Metropolitan Opera stage in Aida.

In the year 2000, soprano Ruby Elzy was one of the first inductees into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. Sixty-five years earlier, she was chosen by George Gershwin to create the role of Serena in Porgy and Bess. Ruby appeared in feature films with Paul Robeson and Bing Crosby. She attended The Ohio State University and Juilliard School of Music and performed on Broadway, in Hollywood, and on national radio.
Ruby would have been one of the first black artists to appear in grand opera had she lived beyond her 35 years. 
  This program is based upon the book Black Diva of the Thirties - The Life of Ruby Elzy, by David E. Weaver, published by the University Press of Mississippi.  Archival recordings for this program were also provided by Mr. Weaver.

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Excellent Option for Black History Month Programming and Beyond BHM

Producer/Host Boyce Lancaster threads two musical biographies in "Ruby Elzy: Black Diva of the Thirties." These two musician's lives, coincidentally, were themselves entwined. Soprano Ruby Elzy was George Gershwin's choice to portray the role of Serena in the original production of Porgy and Bess.

With the George Gershwin and Porgy and Bess phenomenon as a backdrop, the program follows Elzy's rise from small town Jim Crow living in Mississippi in her quest and "deep desire to become a singer," and to one day sing in a “big hall.”

This is a wonderful story of personal determination, lovely heart and soul, superb musicianship and survival amongst the most difficult of all odds. It's well told and mixed with electrifying historical musical performances.

Here's your Black History Month programming, but it would be a sin to limit it to only one month of the year. "Ruby Elzy: Black Diva of the Thirties" is also friendly to formats beyond classical.

Broadcast History

February 2005 WOSU-FM
February 2006 WOSU-FM

Transcript

Ruby Elzy was one of George Gershwin's hand picked leads for the original production of Porgy and Bess. Hailing from the small Mississippi town of Pontotoc, Ruby Elzy's voice carried her to Ohio State University, Julliard, Broadway, and concerts coast to coast. Tragically, her life would end before she took the next step to the Metropolitan Opera stage in Aida.
Read the full transcript

Intro and Outro

INTRO:

For George Gershwin, Porgy and Bess was just one in a remarkable series of musical milestones, but for Ruby Elzy, a young black women from the Mississippi Delta, her remarkable voice was her ticket out of the Jim Crow South. It is that voice that forever links her with George Gershwin.

OUTRO:

This program is based upon the book Black Diva of the Thirties - The Life of Ruby Elzy, by David E. Weaver, published by the University Press of Mississippi. Archival recordings for this program were also provided by Mr. Weaver.

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label Year Length
Grande Fantasy on Porgy and Bess Earl Wild Earl Wild Plays His Transcriptions of Porgy and Bess. Ivory Classics CD-70702 :00
My Man's Gone Now Ruby Elzy & CBS Studio Orch/G. Gershwin Rehearsal Recording NY 7-19, 1935. Library of Congress 1935 04:05
I Know the Lord Ruby Elzy & Arthur Kaplan Broadcast Recording. Library of Congress 1937 01:44
Don't You Weep When I'm Gone Ruby Elzy & Arthur Kaplan Broadcast Recording. Library of Congress 1937 03:28
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child Ruby Elzy & Arthur Kaplan Broadcast Recording. Library of Congress 1937 02:38
Summertime Ruby Elzy Peter van Seeden and His Orch Live Broadcast Performance - Fred Allen Show. Library of Congress 1937 01:11
Oh Didn't it Rain Ruby Elzy & William Lawrence Broadcast Recording. Library of Congress 1937 01:20
St. Louis Blues Ruby Elzy, John Scott Trotter and His Orch Paramount Studio Ch Birth of the Blues. 1941 03:28
Elsa's Dream Ruby Elzy & William Lawrence Broadcast Recording. Library of Congress 1937 04:45
My Man's Gone Now Ruby Elzy LA Phil Hall Johnson Ch Live Broadcast Performance. Library of Congress 1937 04:51

Additional Files

Additional Credits

Beverley Ervine, WOSU Public Media Music Director
Erin Deighan, WOSU Public Media Production Assistant

This program is based upon the book Black Diva of the Thirties - The Life of Ruby Elzy, by David E. Weaver, published by the University Press of Mississippi. Archival recordings for this program were also provided by Mr. Weaver.

Related Website

http://www.wosu.org/archive/ruby/index.php.html