Boston to Europe and back again to Boston
Roland Hayes originally came to Boston on tour with the Fisk Singers in 1911 and decided to stay in Boston to establish his career. Next, wishing to research his own roots and the roots of African American music, he departed for Africa in April 1920 by way of London and Paris, but he ended up staying in Europe as his career flourished there. It was in England that former BSO conductor George Henschel would coach Roland Hayes, and in Paris that the current BSO conductor Pierre Monteux would encounter Roland Hayes and invite the tenor to perform with the orchestra.
Listen: Clip of Roland Hayes performing the Benedictus from Gretchaninoff' Missa Oecumenica with the BSO and Serge Koussevitzky on February 26, 1944 (Armed Forces Disk)
A great career: solo recitals in Symphony Hall
A Boston Tribute to Roland Hayes in 1996
Collaborating with several Boston-area organizations, the Boston Symphony Orchestra organized a citywide tribute to Roland Hayes in February 1996. In addition to producing an educational program about Roland Hayes entitled "The Quiet Hero" for distribution at Massachusetts Public Schools, the BSO put on a concert featuring Roland Hayes' repertoire performed by tenor Vinson Cole and the world premiere of George Walker's "Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra," performed by Faye Robinson. Roland Hayes' daughter and granddaughters attended the tribute.
Roland Hayes' Legacy Today
During the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Festival of Loss, Reckoning, and Hope in Spring 2023, WBUR ran a segment on the Roland Hayes' anniversary, interviewing singer Barbara Walker and conductor Thomas Wilkins.