Walter Charles Richardson
The well-known choral bass, passed away on Oct. 10, 2010, after a year- long battle with cancer. He was 69. Known both for his rich and powerful low notes as well as his upbeat and generous personality, he was a well-respected colleague and beloved friend of many in New York's professional choral world. He was baptized and attended the Friendship Baptist Church during his childhood and young adult years. (The beginning of his singing career where he song in the youth choir). Mentored by Metropolitan Opera bass Simon Estes, Mr. Richardson was a member of the Met Studio's Young Artist Program for two years in the early 1970's. In 1973, he appeared as part of the Mini Met's premiere of Virgil's Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts along with a number of singers making their Met debuts, including Barbara Hendricks, Betty Allen, Benjamin Matthews, and Clamma Dale, among others. The production was directed and choreographed by Alvin Alley with sets by Ming Cho Lee. He appeared as a chorister in other important engagements, including the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Mass, conducted by the composer, written for the 1972 opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Fresh out of the University of Michigan, and without telling his family and friends, Walter Richardson came to New York to audition as a singer, and impressed his listeners immediately with his robust voice and its particularly large range, especially his low extension, as well as with his first-rate musicianship and unique spirit. As a long-time member of the Gregg-Smith Singers he sang New York concerts, annual US tours, over a dozen international tours, and participated in its Adirondack Festival of American Music for nearly 30 years. Richardson performed with many music organization in the city, including Musica Sacra (Richard Westernberg and Kent Tritle, conductors), and Voices of Ascension (Dennis Keene, conductor), as well as with the New York Philharmonic (under such luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Mazur, Lorin Maazel and Sir Colin Davis) and the American Symphony Orchestra (Leon Botstein, conductor). Richardson was a perpetual favorite of all the active choral contractors in New York, and could frequently be seen bicycling through New York's busy streets going from one rehearsal to another. As a member of a number of professional choruses, his voice appeared on numerous recordings. Born and raised in Massillon, Ohio, Walter Richardson received this undergraduate degree from Central State University in Ohio, and a Masters degree in Voice from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, graduating in 1971, where he studied with Willis Patterson, who recruited him to the school. At Michigan, he sang leading roles in the main stage productions of Rossini's The Barber of Seville and Weill's Three Penny Opera, among others, and won scholarships to Interlochen National Center for the Arts in the summers. At Interlochen he studied acting with the legendary Boris Goldovsky in his Opera Workshop, and won the highly competitive 'Concerto Contest', a rarity for a singer as the spot was usually filled by a virtuoso instrumentalist, in Richarson's case the prize being a performance of arias under the baton of Frederick Fennell. Under the sponsorship of the State Department, as one of only five groups representing the United States (the others were professional organizations), Richardson toured the Soviet Union in 1971 with the University of Michigan Chamber Choir, under the direction of Thomas Hilbish, for eight weeks, performing in ten major cities. During his illness he stated 'When it's my time, Be Happy For Me'. He was preceded in death by his parents, Fletcher and Alean Richardson, brothers, John and Fletcher Jr. Richardson and Robert and Edward Johnson.
He leaves to cherish his beautiful memory sisters, Lollie Brooks (who reared Walter from the age of 10) ad Patricia Beane (Frank); aunt, Vivian Richardson of Detroit, Mich.; devoted nephew; nieces and great-niece, Jerry Brooks (Rachel) of Calif., Carole Tolbert of Warrensville Hts., Ohio, Carmen Johnson (Martin) of Colo., and Kimberly Brooks of New York; and a host of nephews; nieces; great-nieces; cousins; and friends.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010 at 11 a.m. at Friendship Baptist Church, 920 3rd Street Southeast, Massillon, OH, where Pastor Reginald Hye will be eulogizing. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. until time of service. Interment at Massillon Cemetery.
RHODEN MEMORIAL HOME
(330) 455-7944 www.rhodenmemorialhome.com
Published by The Repository on Oct. 14, 2010.