Department of Anthropology

The Boswell Sisters: Rediscovering Perfect Harmony

Thu, April 5, 2007 | MRH 2.614

6:00 PM

The Boswell Sisters: Rediscovering Perfect Harmony

The Center for American Music, the Center for American History, and the Center for Women's and Gender Studies at UT are co-sponsoring a mini-symposium under the title "The Boswell Sisters: Rediscovering Perfect Harmony". The symposium will take place on Thursday, April 5 at 6 PM in MRH 2.614. The event will open with a lecture by Laurie Stras, musicologist at the University of Southampton, UK, entitled "Black and White and Reb All Over"; it will continue with the screening of independent film maker Randall Riley's short documentary "Connie Boswell - Life is a Song"; and will conclude with a panel discussion with Stras, Riley, Boswell biographer David McCain, anc Cynthia Lucas, director of the web site http:// . Condensed from Stras's abstract: "Connie, Martha and Helvetia (Vet) Boswell formed one of the most popular vocal acts of 1930s America, dominating the airwaves between 1931 and 1936. Their influence was acknowledged by artists as diverse as Crosby himself, Ella Fitzgerald, the Andrews Sisters, Mel Torme and Harry Belafonte. Their universal appeal, however, should not suggest that their work was in any way anodyne or middle of the road. On the contrary, their vocal style, their repertoire, even their personal circumstances might all have mitigated their success in a society that feared transgressions of gender roles, race, class and (for celebrities) physical perfection. The Boswell Sisters challenged norms with their musical knowledge, their arrangements, their choice of repertoire, and their performance of race and class; Connie's physical disability (polio-induced paralysis) made her an unlikely candidate for a career in popular entertainment. Confronting the Boswell's achievements allows a deeper understanding of 1930s America, in which the world-turned- upside-down craved not only reassurance but novelty, not just a reflection of things as they were but also a hint that they could be, and would be, different." A specific statement by Ella Fitzgerald to whet your interest: "Who influenced me? There was only one singer who influenced me. I tried to sing like her all the time, because everything she did made sense musically, and that singer was Connie Boswell. When I was a girl, I listened to all the singers, white and black, and I know that Connie was doing things that no one else was doing at that time. You don't have to take my word for it, just check the recordings made at the time and hear for yourself." For more information please contact:

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