Hayes, Roland W., 1887-1977

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Roland Hayes (June 3, 1887 – January 1, 1977) was an American lyric tenor and composer. Critics lauded his abilities and linguistic skills demonstrated with songs in French, German and Italian. Earlier African-American concert artists were not recorded because in their day recording companies were only interested in a vaudeville type of singer. Hayes was one of the first to break this barrier and in 1939 he recorded with Columbia. Earlier both Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson had recorded from the classical repertoire.

Hayes was born in Curryville, Georgia, on June 3, 1887, to Fannie (née Mann) and William Hayes. Roland's parents were tenant farmers on the plantation where his mother had once been a slave. Roland's father, who was his first music teacher, often took him hunting and taught him to appreciate the musical sounds of nature. When Hayes was aged 11 his father died, and his mother moved the family to Chattanooga, Tennessee. William Hayes claimed to have some Cherokee ancestry, while his maternal great-grandfather, Aba Ougi (also known as Charles) was a chieftain from the Ivory Coast. Aba Ougi was captured and shipped to America in 1790. At Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Curryville (founded by Roland's mother) is where Roland first heard the music he would cherish forever, Negro spirituals. It was Roland's job to learn new spirituals from the elders and teach them to the congregation. A quote of him talking about beginning his career with a pianist:

I happened upon a new method for making iron sash-weights," he said, "and that got me a little raise in pay and a little free time. At that time I had never heard any real music, although I had had some lessons in rhetoric from a backwoods teacher in Georgia. But one day a pianist came to our church in Chattanooga, and I, as a choir member, was asked to sing a solo with him. The pianist liked my voice, and he took me in hand and introduced me to phonograph records by Caruso. That opened the heavens for me. The beauty of what could be done with the voice just overwhelmed me.

Hayes trained with Arthur Calhoun, an organist and choir director, in Chattanooga. Roland began studying music at Fisk University in Nashville in 1905 although he only had a 6th grade education. Hayes's mother thought he was wasting money because she believed that African Americans could not make a living from singing. As a student he began publicly performing, touring with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1911. He furthered his studies in Boston with Arthur Hubbard, who agreed to give him lessons only if Hayes came to his house instead of his studio. He did not want Roland to embarrass him by appearing at his studio with his white students. During his period studying with Hubbard, he worked as a messenger for the Hancock Life Insurance Company to support himself.

In January 1915 Hayes premiered in New York City in concerts presented by orchestra leader Walter F. Craig. Hayes performed his own musical arrangements in recitals from 1916 to 1919, touring from coast to coast. For his first recital he was unable to find a sponsor so he used $200 of his own money to rent Jordan Hall for his classical recital. To earn money he went on a tour of black churches and colleges in the South. In 1917 he announced his second concert, which would be held in Boston's Symphony Hall. On November 15, 1917, every seat in the hall was sold and Hayes's concert was a success both musically and financially but the music industry was still not considering him a top classical performer. He sang at Walter Craig's Pre-Lenten Recitals and several Carnegie Hall concerts. He performed with the Philadelphia Concert Orchestra, and at the Atlanta Colored Music Festivals and at the Washington Conservatory concerts. In 1917, he toured with the Hayes Trio, which he formed with baritone William Richardson (singer) and pianist William Lawrence (pianist).

In April 1920, Hayes traveled to Europe. He began lessons with Sir George Henschel, who was the first conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and gave his first recital in London's Aeolian Hall in May 1920 with pianist Lawrence Brown as his accompanist. Soon Hayes was singing in capital cities across Europe and was quite famous. Almost a year after his arrival in Europe, Hayes had a concert at London's Wigmore Hall. The next day, he received a summons from King George V and Queen Mary to give a command performance at Buckingham Palace. He returned to the United States in 1923. He made his official debut on November 16, 1923, in Boston's Symphony Hall singing Berlioz, Mozart, and spirituals, conducted by Pierre Monteux, which received critical acclaim. He was the first African-American soloist to appear with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1924.

Hayes finally secured professional management with the Boston Symphony Orchestra Concert Company. He was reportedly making $100,000 a year at this point in his career. In Boston he also worked as a voice teacher. One of his pupils was the Canadian soprano Frances James. He published musical scores for a collection of spirituals in 1948 as My Songs: Aframerican Religious Folk Songs Arranged and Interpreted.

In 1925 Hayes had an affair with a married Bohemian aristocrat, Bertha von Colloredo-Mansfeld (1890–1982), née Countess von Kolowrat-Krakowský, who bore his daughter, Maria "Maya" Dolores Kolowrat (1926–1982). Bertha had been married since 1909 to a member of a German princely family, Hieronymus von Colloredo (1870–1942), who was 20 years her senior, and he refused to allow the expected child to bear his name or to be raised along with the couple's four older children, managing to quietly obtain a divorce in Prague in January 1926, while Bertha left their home in Zbiroh, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), to bear Hayes' child in Basel, Switzerland. Hayes offered to adopt the child, while the countess sought to resume the couple's relationship, while concealing it, until the late 1920s. Maya Kolowrat would marry Russian émigré Yuri Mikhailovich Bogdanoff (1928–2012) and give birth in Saint-Lary, Gers, to twins Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff in 1949, who later attributed their early interest in the sciences to their unhampered childhood access to their maternal grandmother's castle library.

After the 1930s, Hayes stopped touring in Europe because the change in politics made it unfavourable to African Americans.

In 1932, while in Los Angeles for a Hollywood Bowl performance, he married Alzada Mann. The new Mrs. Hayes was born in Chattanooga and graduated from what is now Tennessee State University. One year later they had a daughter, Afrika. The family moved into a home in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Hayes did not perform very much from the 1940s to the 1970s. In 1966, he was awarded the degree of Honorary Doctorate of Music from The Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford. Hayes continued to perform until the age of 85, when he gave his last concert at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was able to purchase the land in Georgia on which he had grown up as a child.

He died five years after his final concert, on January 1, 1977.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Papers of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, 1900-1961 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn American Vaudeville Museum collection, 1845-2007, (bulk 1910-1940) University of Arizona Libraries, Library Special Collections
referencedIn Scott, Verna Golden, 1876-1964. Correspondence, 1919-1931. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn Caliver, Ambrose, 1894-1962. Ambrose Caliver collection, 1912-1938. John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library. Special Collections & Archives
creatorOf Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977. Once in a century [sound recording] : a tribute to Marian Anderson. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Koussevitzky, Serge, 1874-1951. Serge Koussevitzky Archive, 1920-1976 (bulk: 1924-1951) Library of Congress. Music Division
referencedIn Brice, Carol, 1916-1985. Papers. 1905-1978. Tulane University, Amistad Research Center
referencedIn Johnson, Helen A. Helen Armstead-Johnson miscellaneous theater collections, 1831-1993. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977. Roland Hayes Letters, 1922-1971. Boston Public Library, Central Library in Copley Square
referencedIn Johan Hagemeyer Photograph Collection, circa 1908-circa 1955 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Office of the President records, 1904-1980. Cheyney University, L. P. Hill Library
referencedIn Scott, Verna Golden, 1876-1964. Verna Golden Scott papers, 1919-1931. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
creatorOf Stidger, William Leroy, 1885-1949. Letters to William Leroy Stidger, 1917-1949. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
referencedIn Nicolas Slonimsky Collection, 1873-1997, (bulk 1920-1990) Library of Congress. Music Division
referencedIn Brawley, Benjamin Griffith, 1882-1939. Benjamin Griffith Brawley papers, 1917-1936. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
referencedIn Robert Worth Bingham Papers, 1856-1939, (bulk 1933-1937) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Jones, Thomas Elsa. Thomas Elsa Jones collection (1-71), 1925-1947 (bulk, 1926-1946). John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library. Special Collections & Archives
creatorOf Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977. Roland Hayes papers, 1939, 1977 [microform]. Shorter University, Livingston Library, Rome Livingston Library
creatorOf Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977. Correspondence with Marian Anderson, 1916-1981. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977. [Letter] July 22, 1938, Curryville, Georgia, [to Verna] Arvey. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Bingham, Robert Worth, 1871-1937. Robert Worth Bingham papers, 1856-1939 (bulk 1933-1937). Library of Congress
referencedIn Ames, Jessie Daniel, 1883-1972. Black history ephemera, 1903-1977. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Brown, Lawrence, 1893-1972. Lawrence Brown papers, 1916-1972. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn White, Clarence Cameron, 1880-1960. Clarence Cameron White collection, 1872-1965 (bulk, 1930-1960). Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
creatorOf Vol. IX (ff. 166). 1915 -1923.includes:ff. 1, 18, 57 Paul Rodocanachi, of Neuilly-sur-Seine: Letters to R. Quilter,: 1915-1916.f. 3 A[lbert?] Clinton Landsberg, poet: Letters to R. Quilter,: 1913-1924.ff. 5-9, 13, 26, 37 Alice Sophia Amelia Gr..., 1915-1923 British Library
creatorOf Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977. I can't stay away / arr. Roland Hayes. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Verna Golden Scott Papers, 1919-1931 University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc]
referencedIn Benjamin H. Lehman Papers Bancroft Library
creatorOf Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977. Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1932. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Hayes, Roland W., 1887-1977. Roland W. Hayes papers, 1898-1980. Detroit Public Library, Detroit Main Library
referencedIn Hatch-Billops Collection, Inc. Hatch-Billops Collection of oral histories, [ca. 1965-1980]. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Stuart, Alice Jackson, 1913-2001. Papers of Alice Jackson Stuart [manuscript], 1930-2001. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Ovington, Mary White, 1865-1951. Mary White Ovington papers, 1854-1948. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn Rogers, Fred. [Letter of recommendation for Francois Clemmons]. Saint Vincent College, Saint Vincent Library
creatorOf Vol. X (ff. 172). 1924 -1933.includes:f. 1 Noël Sullivan, of San Francisco: Letter to R. Quilter,: 1924.f. 3 Geoffrey Harding: Letter to R. Quilter,: 1924.ff. 4, 12, 16, 106 Raimund von Zur Mühlen, German tenor and teacher: Letters to R. Quilt..., 1924-1933 British Library
creatorOf Walker, William, 1809-1875. The Babe of Bethlehem : from William Walker's Southern Harmony (1835) / a setting for Roland Hayes by Sidney Robertson Cowell. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Marguerite Yourcenar additional papers, 1842-1996. Houghton Library
referencedIn Edward Boatner papers, 1941-1980 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
creatorOf Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977. Lord, I can't stay away / R. Hayes. I am bound for the kingdom. Poor mourner's got a home at last / Klemm. Dere's no hidin' place down dere / Brown. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Lawrence, William, 1895-1981. William Lawrence papers, ca. 1919-1988. College of Charleston, Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library
referencedIn Flagg, Mildred Buchanan, 1886-1980. Papers, 1876-1955 (inclusive), 1900-1955 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lawrence Brown papers, 1916-1972 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976. A few words of appreciation to Roland Hayes : autograph manuscript signed : [n.p.], 1924 Nov. 8. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977. [Letter] July 22, 1938, Curryville, Georgia, [to Verna] Arvey. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Brown, Helen,. Helen Brown scrapbook, 1926-1941. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Hayes, Roland W., 1887-1977. Roland W. Hayes papers, 1898-1980. Detroit Public Library, Detroit Main Library
creatorOf Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977. Roland Hayes correspondence and ephemera, 1927-1942. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Papers of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, 1900-1961 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Lawson, Raymond Augustus, 1875-1959. Papers, 1859-1976. Connecticut Historical Society
referencedIn Boatner, Edward. Edward Boatner papers, 1941-1980. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Helen Armstead-Johnson miscellaneous theater collections, 1831-1993 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn The Moldenhauer Archives at Harvard University: Correspondence, literary manuscripts, sound recordings, and other material, 1873-2001. Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Museum of Vaudeville corporateBody
correspondedWith Arvey, Verna, 1910-1987 person
correspondedWith Bingham, Robert Worth, 1871-1937. person
associatedWith Boatner, Edward. person
associatedWith Boston Public Library. Special Collections. corporateBody
associatedWith Brawley, Benjamin Griffith, 1882-1939. person
associatedWith Brice, Carol, 1916-1985. person
associatedWith Brown, Charlotte Hawkins, 1883-1961 person
associatedWith Brown, Helen, person
associatedWith Brown, Lawrence, 1893-1972. person
associatedWith Caliver, Ambrose, 1894-1962. person
associatedWith Chesley, Roland E. person
correspondedWith Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. corporateBody
associatedWith Cullen, Frank, 1936- person
associatedWith Flagg, Mildred Buchanan, 1886-1980. person
associatedWith Friends of Roland Hayes. corporateBody
associatedWith Hagemeyer, Johan person
associatedWith Hammond, George Fiske, I. person
associatedWith Hatch-Billops Collection, Inc. corporateBody
childOf Hayes, Africa. person
associatedWith Johnson, Helen A. person
associatedWith Jones, Thomas Elsa. person
associatedWith Knight, Arthur Winfield, 1937- person
correspondedWith Koussevitzky, Serge, 1874-1951 person
associatedWith Lawrence, William, 1895-1981. person
associatedWith Lawson, Raymond Augustus, 1875-1959. person
correspondedWith Lehman, B. H. (Benjamin Harrison), 1889-1977 person
associatedWith Maggid, Jerome. person
associatedWith McNeilly, Donald, 1945- person
correspondedWith Moldenhauer, Hans, collector. person
correspondedWith Ovington, Mary White, 1865-1951. person
associatedWith Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976. person
associatedWith Rogers, Fred. person
associatedWith Scott, Verna Golden, 1876-1964. person
associatedWith Seaman, Katherine. person
associatedWith Siragusa, Peter. person
correspondedWith Slonimsky, Nicolas, 1894-1995 person
associatedWith Stidger, William Leroy, 1885-1949. person
associatedWith Still, William Grant, 1895-1978. person
associatedWith Stuart, Alice Jackson, 1913-2001. person
associatedWith White, Clarence Cameron, 1880-1960. person
correspondedWith Yourcenar, Marguerite. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Georgia GA US
Gordon County (Ga.)
Chattanooga TN US
Boston MA US
Subject
Singers
African American singers
Concert tours
Singers, Black
Sound recording industry
Tenors (Singers)
Occupation
Arrangers
Composer
Musician
Performer
Singer
Activity

Person

Birth 1887-06-03

Death 1977-01-01

Male

Americans,

African Americans

English,

German,

French,

Italian

Information

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SNAC ID: 85715828