Musical Memorial Two Performers Share a Lifetime Love of the Art; Performances Sunday

By Fenning, Esther Talbot | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 23, 1996 | Go to article overview

Musical Memorial Two Performers Share a Lifetime Love of the Art; Performances Sunday


Fenning, Esther Talbot, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Baritone Robert Ellison and harmonica and banjo player Sandy Weltman are from different generations, musical backgrounds and parts of the country. But they share a lifetime devoted to music.

Between them, Ellison and Weltman have nearly 70 years of musical experience.

Area music lovers will have the opportunity to hear Ellison and Weltman on Sunday as each artist performs in separate Memorial Day concerts.

Ellison, of O'Fallon, Ill., will be the guest artist with the Compton Heights Concert Band at 3 p.m. at the St. Peters Amphitheatre behind St. Peters City Hall on Mexico Road. The repertoire will include patriotic music as well as pieces by Tchaikovsky, Richard Rodgers and John Philip Sousa. The public is welcome at no charge.

Weltman and the sanDroids will perform at a dinner concert at 6 p.m. at the Montelle Winery on Highway 94 in Augusta. The buffet dinner will be catered by Ashley's Rose Restaurant in Augusta. The cost for the dinner concert will be $15.95, including tax and gratuity. The cost for the concert, set to begin at 6:45 p.m., will be $5.

As the son of Arkansas sharecroppers, Ellison, 59, was inspired to pursue a singing career after hearing the powerful voices of singers Robert Merrill, William Warfield and Paul Robeson. Ellison said his mother used to encourage him when he was a boy to listen to the Firestone Hour, a weekly radio program that featured operatic stars of the 1940s and 50s.

Ellison was especially impressed with Warfield and Robeson, both of whom were black and noted for their renditions of "Ole Man River" from Broadway's "Showboat."

"Even as a young boy, I preferred the powerful singers who put it all out there rather than the crooners," Ellison said. "When Robeson sang `Ole Man River,' the vibrations from his voice made the radio shimmy right off the table."

Ellison described himself as the class clown, a child blessed with a talent, someone who never learned to read music. He began singing at church suppers and Fourth of July celebrations by mimicking a variety of singing styles from Roy Acuff and Nat King Cole to Robeson. …

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