It was an evening of musical and humanitarian inspiration Tuesday when at a Kimmel Center gala Mia Farrow accepted the Marian Anderson Award in the name of the vulnerable people of conflict-affected Africa she has advocated for both as UNICEF ambassador and private citizen.
In accepting the award from Lisa Nutter, Farrow recalled listening to Anderson recordings with her then-husband, Frank Sinatra. She told an anecdote about Anderson, who in the 1930s was not invited to play certain venues because she was African-American. Anderson travelled to Finland at the invitation of composer Jean Sibelius, who wept when he heard her. In awe of Anderson's soaring tones, he said, "My ceiling is too low for your voice."
High as it is, the Kimmel ceiling was too low to accommodate the elevating music of The Philadelphia Orchestra, soprano Angela Brown, singer Carly Simon (a Farrow chum accompanied by the Keystone Boychoir and Pennsylvania Girlchoir) and the celestial sound of jazz singer Esperanza Spalding. Spalding thanked Farrow for being the kind of person who makes a difference in the lives of kids "like me."
Everyone struck a grace note on the evening honoring the legacy of one woman who opened doors closed to her race by giving an award to another kindred spirit. Not only does the Anderson Award honor individual artist-activists, but gives grants to young performers to pursue their education and dreams.