Pioneer impresario Arthur M. Oberfelder organized his concert management agency in 1917 and soon became the exclusive Denver manager of all stage presentations on tour. In 1915, he wed Denver native Hazel Marx at a ceremony performed by Rabbi William Friedman of Temple Emanuel. In Denver, the Oberfelder Concert Series operated every year until Oberfelder’s death in 1954. He began a series of concerts at Red Rocks known as Concerts Under the Stars and arranged for the Metropolitan Opera to tour the United States for the first time in 1948 and 1949. Oberfelder helped enrich Colorado’s cultural life and brought in some of the most acclaimed musicians, dancers, and actors in the world.
The Oberfelder Concert Series and Family Papers collection includes photographs and autographs of many of the performers Oberfelder brought to Denver. Hazel Oberfelder’s autograph book contains autographs of some of the stars that performed in Denver as part of the Oberfelder Concert Series: for instance, Liberace drew his concert piano and candelabra in his message to her. Two of the entries are by Marian Anderson, the great contralto, who was the first African-American soloist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. She was born in Philadelphia in 1897 and started singing in the Union Baptist Church choir at the age of six. Anderson went to Europe to establish her career and made her debut in London in 1930 to critical acclaim. In concerts in the United States and Europe, she sang everything from opera arias to traditional American music and spirituals.
Marian Anderson was important in the struggle of African-American performers to overcome racial prejudice. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow Anderson to sing in Constitution Hall located in Washington, D.C. to an integrated audience. Eleanor and President Roosevelt arranged for Marian Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial instead, where on Easter Sunday, 1939 Anderson performed before a crowd of more than 75,000. Anderson did sing at Constitution Hall at the invitation of the DAR in 1943. She assumed an important role in the civil rights movement and sang at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.