Episode 73. Carol Brice (BHM 2021 I)

Episode 73. Carol Brice (Black History Month 2021 – I)



Countermelody’s Black History Month celebration for 2021 begins with the great African American contralto Carol Brice (1916-1985) who had a distinguished and varied career singing everything from Bach to Harold Arlen. I first heard Carol Brice many years ago in her recording of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” which exemplifies all her musical virtues: simplicity and directness of utterance, lack of sentimentality, and deep identification with both text and music. Add to this a voice of such depth and refinement and a technique so secure that she is almost without equal. From her early career outings as the first African American to win the coveted Naumburg Award, through her appearances on the Broadway stage and in Porgy and Bess, Carol Brice brought an emotional honesty to her performances such as is rarely encountered in any field of genre. On this episode I feature her in a wide range of live and commercial recordings from Marc Blitzstein’s Regina to concert pieces by Brahms and Mahler, focusing in particular on a matchless 1947 song recital with her brother Jonathan Brice as her collaborator. I also feature her husband, the baritone Thomas Carey in a pair of recordings. I hope you will be as moved by Carol Brice’s singing as I am every time I hear this radiant artist.

This week’s bonus episode for my Patreon supporters features another great African American contralto, Lucretia West, who spent a significant portion of her life and career in Germany, where she was celebrated for her performances of Mahler and Lieder in particular.

Lucretia West (b. 1922)


Traditional Spiritual, arr. Edward H. Boatner: On My Journey. Carol Brice; Jonathan Brice [1947]

Carol and Jonathan Brice

Giuseppe Sarti: Lungi dal caro bene. Carol Brice; Jonathan Brice [1947]

Frederick John Easthope Martin, Helen Taylor: Come to the Fair. Carol Brice [V-Disc, released May 1946]

Johann Sebastian Bach: Esurientes implevit bonis (Magnificat, BWV 243). Carol Brice; Daniel Saidenberg, Columbia Broadcasting Concert Orchestra [1947]

Leonard Bernstein, Carol Brice, and Serge Koussevitzky

Johannes Brahms, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Ist auf deinem Psalter (Alt-Rhapsodie, Op. 53). Carol Brice; Serge Koussevitzky, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival Chorus (dir. Robert Shaw) [live Tanglewood 03 August 1946]

Manuel de Falla, Gregorio Martínez Sierra: Canción del amor dolido (El amor brujo). Carol Brice; Fritz Reiner, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra [1946]

Manuel de Falla, Théophile Gautier: Séguedille (Trois mélodies, No. 3). Carol Brice; Jonathan Brice [1947]

Fritz Reiner and Carol Brice

Gustav Mahler: Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, No. 4). Carol Brice; Fritz Reiner, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra [1947]

Jonathan Brice

Robert Franz, Wilhelm Osterwald: Im Frühling, Op. 17/5. Carol Brice; Jonathan Brice [1947]

Franz Schubert, Friedrich von Matthison: Geistertanz, D. 117. Lucretia West; Leo Taubmann [1955]

Jean Berger (1909-2002)

Jean Berger (né Arthur Schloßberg): They All Dance the Samba. Carol Brice; Jonathan Brice [1947]

John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951)

John Alden Carpenter, Rabindranath Tagore: The Day Is No More. Carol Brice; Jonathan Brice [1947]

Marc Blitzstein (1905-1964)

Marc Blitzstein: Miss Birdie, ma’am… Night could be time to sleep (Regina). Carol Brice, Elisabeth Carron; Samuel Krachmalnick, New York City Opera Orchestra [1958]

Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer: Gettin’ a Man (Saratoga). Carol Brice, Odette Myrtil; Orchestra conducted by Jerry Arlen [1959]

Carol Brice and Tun Tun in Saratoga

Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer: Goose Never Be a Peacock (Saratoga). Carol Brice; Orchestra conducted by Jerry Arlen [1959]

Burton Lane, Yip Harburg: Necessity (Finian’s Rainbow). Carol Brice; Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Max Meth [1960]

The cast of The Grass Harp

Claibe Richardson, Kenward Elmslie: If There’s Enough Love (The Grass Harp). Carol Brice; Orchestra conducted by Theodore Saidenberg [live New York 06 November 1971]

Claibe Richardson (1929 – 2003)

Claibe Richardson, Kenward Elmslie: Marry with Me (The Grass Harp). Carol Brice; Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Tunick

Kenward Elmslie (b. 1929)
Carol Brice and Larry Marshall in Porgy and Bess

George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin: What do you think you’re doing… I hates yo’ struttin’ style (Porgy and Bess). Carol Brice, Larry Marshall; John DeMain, Houston Grand Opera [1976]

Thomas Carey (1931 – 2002)

Traditional Spiritual, arr. Roland Hayes: Sister Mary Had-a But One Child. Thomas Carey; Urs Schneider, Nürnberger Symphoniker [1970]

Stephen Foster: I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair. Thomas Carey; Thomas Carey; Urs Schneider, Nürnberger Symphoniker [1970]

Stephen Foster: Ah! May that Red Rose Live Alway. Carol Brice; Jonathan Brice [1947]

Traditional Spiritual, arr. Hall Johnson: Witness. Carol Brice; Jonathan Brice [1947]

Robert MacGimsey: Sweet Little Jesus Boy. Carol Brice; Jonathan Brice [1947]

Betty Allen (1927 – 2009), Lawrence Winters (1915 – 1965), and Carol Brice

Charles Albert Tindley, Lucille Simmons: We Shall Overcome. Carol Brice; Male Quartet [recording details unknown]

1 thought on “Episode 73. Carol Brice (BHM 2021 I)”

  1. Thank you Daniel! Carol and Tom were my beloved teachers and mentors in Oklahoma, I was the first music director of their opera company, and Tom and my mom were a longtime couple and were married for the last few years of his life. I was in tears hearing her voice again. You can imagine how special it was for me when the Met did Porgy last season – a work I learned from both of them. Keep up the good work!

    Mary Jo Heath
    Radio host
    Metropolitan Opera

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.