Rest in Peace, Shirley Verrett (May 31, 1931-November 4, 2010)

November 5th, 2010 § 0 comments

I met Shirley Verrett while I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. Back then, we were assigned a certain number of hours in certain studios, and it was always reason for celebration any time I was fortunate enough to get some time with Miss Verrett. One of the great voices of her generation, but also such a classy lady, such a wise person, such a generous soul. And beautiful in every way. No one ever held their head as high as Miss Verrett, and no one had more right to. You can read about her amazing life here and here.

My favourite moment working with her was during a lesson of a young mezzo. The student was explaining how she was doing an audition, “for the experience”. Without the slightest trace of arrogance or ill-spirit, she gently replied to the student, “Back in my student days, I never once entered a competition or sang an audition unless I knew I was going to win. And you know what? I always did.”

So thankful for the lucky studio time I had with Miss Verrett. Going around in my head are the words that Stewart Goodyear set in his choral work, Go Down, Death by James Weldon Johnson:

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband–weep no more;
Grief-stricken son–weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter –weep no more;
She only just gone home.

(If you’ve never heard the amazing voice of Shirley Verrett, do yourself a favour and watch this video.)

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