Arts Listings

Sims and Buchanan Sing For Four Seasons Concert Series

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Friday April 04, 2008

Baritone Robert Sims and Soprano Alison Buchanan, who originally sang together in 1998, will give a joint recital for Four Seasons Concerts on Saturday at Holy Names University. 

Buchanan, originally from Bedford, England, will sing songs by Michael Head, Richard Strauss and Leo Delibes, African-American Art Songs by Florence Price, Betty Jackson King and Adolphus Hailstork and Spirituals arranged by Moses Hogan, Hall Johnson and Jacqueline Hairston of Oakland. 

Sims will sing songs by Leonard Bernstein, Hugo Wolf, Henri Duparc, Aaron Copeland, Roland Carter and Spirituals arranged by Lena McLin, Roland Hayes and by Sims.  

Buchanan and Sims will also perform duets by Purcell, Mendelssohn, Gounod, Gershwin and Jacqueline Hairston. Pianist Dennis Helmrich will accompany. 

Sims, familiar to East Bay concertgoers from his work with Four Seasons and a Martin Luther King tribute concert with the East Bay Oakland Symphony, as well as with Friends of Negro Spirituals, spoke last week of his long friendship and collaboration with Buchanan. 

“We met each other at the Music Academy of the West, in Santa Barbara, when we were just kids, singing opera,” he said. “She went back to London to continue her studies and I went to Oberlin. Then Allison came back to the states to finish her master’s and was singing with San Francisco Opera ... and we met up again.” 

Dr. Williams, the founder of Four Seasons Concerts reintroduced them, Sims remembered. Williams then organized a sold-out house for the duo at Oakland’s Scottish Rites Temple in 1998, and then brought them back the following year, shortly before Williams died.  

“He gave us as young artists so much,” Sims said. “He was the most impressive impressario of the Bay Area. Many huge opera stars were presented by him—William Warfield, Marian Anderson’s farewell—and so many African-American singers got their debuts from him.” 

Talking about Saturday’s show, Sims said, “It’s great about this concert—Alison’s British, so she’ll open with Purcell. I’ll begin with Bernstein, a simple song. Then contemporary British composers ... The second half is all English and American, contemporary African-American songs for Alison, then Copeland and Spirituals for me. We’ll do a duet.” 

Sims just did a concert with Odetta in Virginia, and will teach in the Young Musicians Program at UC Berkeley this summer, as he did last year. 

Sims spoke of a book he’s working on with Christopher Brooks of Commonwealth University on Roland Hayes, “the father of African-American concert singers, who gave Marian Anderson cameos in his recitals from the time she was 11. He was a great arranger of Spirituals, traveled the world, and was the first African-American millionaire recitalist.”