Collections Highlight: Joy McLean Bosfield Papers

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A page from Scrapbook II, 1945-1985. Joy McLean Bosfield Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joy McLean Bosfield.

Joy McLean Bosfield (1924-1991) was a singer, musical director, actress, and musical instructor who performed throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East from the 1940s to the 1980s.  Her papers in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, documents Ms. McLean Bosfield’s professional career through photographs, correspondence, programs, and scrapbooks.

Joy was born on January 27, 1924 to John and Florence Mearimore.  Her mother, an immigrant from Demerara, Guiana (now part of Guyana), married McLean’s father, a prominent New York businessman, in March of 1923 in New Jersey.  Joy lived in Paramus, New Jersey until 1940, when she graduated from Ridgewood High School.  During that same year Bosfield was accepted to the prestigious Hunter College, in New York.

On February 26, 1945, McLean Bosfield performed her first recital at St. Martin’s Little Theatre. Three years later in 1948, McLean married Charles McLean, who was originally from British Guyana, and the couple moved to England.  She began performing in Europe in the early 1950s, singing soprano leads for productions for the BBC, British churches, and English musical plays. While in London, an American production of Porgy and Bess used her talents during their international tours as a rehearsal accompanist, vocal role coach, and assistant to the musical director.

After returning to the United States in the mid-1950s, Bosfield continue her career as a concert artist. In 1963 she moved to Washington, DC, where she became musical director of John Wesley AME Zion Church. She also worked for the Frederick Wilkerson Studio of Voice as a vocal coach, and managed the studio after the death of Wilkerson until the 1980s.

Retiring and moving to Chapala, Mexico in 1985, Bosfield participated in community theater productions and other community functions there, until her death on April 4, 1999.

Do you want to learn more about Joy McLean Bosfield’s long and distinguished career?  You can by helping transcribe her two fragile scrapbooks in the Smithsonian Transcription Center.

Joy McLean Bosfield Scrapbook I, 1923-1964

Joy McLean Bosfield Scrapbook II, 1945-1985

 

Transcribe Tuesdays: Travel Scrapbook

Evanti

Madame Evanti during her travels in the 1940s. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift Thurlow E. Tubbs, Jrs. Estate.

For this #Transcribe Tuesdays project, help us with transcribing the travel scrapbook of native Washingtonian Madame Evanti.  Born Annie Lillian Evans in 1890;  she was the first African American to sing in an organized European opera company.  In 1925 Madame Evanti made her operatic debut in Nice, France, in the principal role of Léo Delibes’ Lakmé.  Before her retirement in the 1950s, Evanti received acclaim in Europe, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean for her operatic talents.  Celebrated internationally, she was denied the opportunity to perform at many venues in her native country despite performing at the White House during the Roosevelt administration in 1934.  This continued until 1943 and her performance in Verdi’s La Traviata with the National Negro Opera Company at Washington’s Watergate Theater, a moored barge that floated on the Potomac River, while the audience sat along the riverbank to watch the performance.  Madame Evanti’s career spanned some thirty years.  She was decorated by several countries, served as a good will ambassador, and composed ten songs that were published by W. C. Handy.

Evanti helped to dispel the myth that people of African origins could only perform and succeed in selected musical genres.  In a letter sent to Madame Evanti, Marian Anderson asserts, “we feel you were indeed a pioneer in making a place for our race in the operatic field.”

You can view our project on the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers: Transcription Center, here.

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