in: News & Features

October 16, 2012

Mary Wallace Davidson Remembered


One of our most gifted reviewers and friends died last week after a brave four-year struggle with a relentless illness. Mary Wallace Davidson was the author of 68 reviews on this site. Professionally she was very well-respected in music scholarship and served as director of four important university music libraries. Her colleague, Jean Morrow, head of the library at New England Conservatory of Music, remembered her thus:

“Mary served as President of MLA from 1983 to 1985 and President of the US Branch of IAML from 2005 to 2008; she was also very active in AMS and SAM, serving on their boards and various committees. During her distinguished career, Mary held the position of head music librarian at several major institutions, including Brookline Public Library, Radcliffe College, Wellesley College, the Eastman School of Music and Indiana University.  Among her many professional accomplishments, Mary was responsible for the planning and design of the Sibley Music Library at Eastman, built in 1989; she received MLA’s Citation in Recognition of Distinguished Service to Music Librarianship in 1998 and was the recipient in 2006 of an NEH fellowship for her work on early American music periodicals.  Mary wrote and published widely on topics relating to music librarianship, including library facilities, collection development and copyright and was the co-author with James Fuld of Eighteenth-Century American Secular Music Manuscripts, published in 1983.

“Mary will be remembered by countless students and librarians as a brilliant, kind and nurturing mentor and colleague.   We are forever grateful for all that she has given to us and to our profession.”

It’s perhaps appropriate also to remember Mary from her words on this site.

From Mary’s first review, dated October 2009:

“Who ever in the world would dream of singing “I Love You Truly,” by Carrie Jacobs Bond, as an encore to a recital at the Longy School of Music? Visiting Artist teacher Thomas Meglioranza, that’s who! That song was absolutely fitting, not only in context, but also as a final example of this baritone’s high degree of expressivity and remarkable voice. The concert was one in Longy’s “Unique Voices” series on Saturday, October 24. His frequently collaborating artist, Reiko Uchida, was the equally sensitive pianist who supported him warmly, and introduced every phrase as a gift. . . .

“The music of Carrie Jacobs Bond sung after these works made the popular songs that followed seem all the more serious. Her “A Perfect Day” (1910) is said to have sold over eight million copies, and her hilarious “Half Minute Songs” (1910-11) are truly aphoristic. By then Meglioranza had us in his hands to enjoy his sense of fun. But the last line of that encore (“ . . . , truly dear”) absolutely soared with a gently ringing beauty and effortless quality of voice rarely heard anywhere. We fairly floated through the door of Pickman Hall out into the rain.”

From her last review from TFCM August, 2012:

“On the other hand, the music of the youngest composer in the Festival, the British Helen Grime (b. 1979) is beautifully crafted. Everyone Sang is the title of a remarkable poem by Siegfried Sassoon written at the end of World War I, strangely enough expressing joy at the end of such devastation. I quote the 10 lines in full—only two were in the program—the need to find the complete poem became urgent:

Everyone suddenly burst into singing;

And I was filled with such delight

As prisoned birds must find in freedom,

Winging wildly across the white

Orchards; dark green fields; on- on- and out of sight.


Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;

And beauty came like the setting sun:

My heart was shaken with tears; and horror

Drifted away . . . O, but Everyone

Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

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