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Big Chuck

March 11, 2013

Opera great's visit still a thrilling memory


Ultimately, more than 2,500 people bought tickets for Anderson’s concert. 

“That evening was all such a blur for a little girl,” Roper explained, “but I do remember the announcer saying over and over for everybody to move their chairs together to fit more people in. My sister Donna and I sat in the front row with my mother. Mom was decked out in her finest outfit, long white gloves and all.”

And where was Dad?

“Well, it was funny,” she said. “The room was absolutely wall-to-wall people, so there was no backstage area or side rooms or anything. When the announcer finally said, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Miss Marian Anderson,’ the room exploded and what do you think we saw?

“Here comes my father, dressed in a tuxedo, walking slowly right down the center aisle of the Oneonta Armory in the midst of that huge, cheering throng with the great Marion Anderson on his arm. He guided her to the front stage, helped her up and then sat with us in the front row. And my father was a short man, about 5 feet, 4 inches tall, and Miss Anderson was much bigger, a towering, regal woman. It was quite a sight.”

Later in the evening, Anderson asked Laura Roper for a sip of warm tea with lemon at intermission. “My mom brought her own little individual silver tea service down from our house.”

Marilyn Roper remembers Anderson announcing from the stage that night that, “She was overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality she had been shown by everyone in Oneonta during her brief visit.”

A half-century later, one song still sticks out in Roper’s mind. “I will never forget Marian Anderson singing ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands’ not 10 feet away from me that night. It was my mother’s favorite.”

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