NOVEMBER 14, 1940
CHICAGO, Wednesday—I spent two of the pleasantest hours I have ever spent visiting music projects yesterday morning in Detroit. Churches have given space for rehearsal to these WPA units, so it was in the basement of a church that we listened to a gypsy band playing dance music, to which it was almost impossible to sit still.
The leader has a delightful personality. They told me that when he plays in the schools, he tells the children stories of the gypsy customs. Last Christmastime he kept a group of youngsters enthralled while he told about the gypsy Christmas and played haunting gypsy music.
He was followed by another dance orchestra and, finally, by a full symphony orchestra, the fourth best WPA orchestra in the country. They played two movements in a new symphony by Florence Price, one of the few women to write symphonic music. She is a colored woman and a native of Chicago, who has certainly made a contribution to our music. The orchestra rendered her symphony beautifully and then played a Bach choral which ended the concert, much to my regret.
However, more treats were in store for us. In a Negro church, we heard a group of spiritual singers who fairly carried us away from our everyday world. I have never heard a group sing better. Their leader, who was discovered digging ditches, can pride himself on an achievement which must give pleasure to innumerable people. He told me that they had sung before almost a 100,000 people during the past year. Then, in the colored YMCA building, we heard a band play "The Star Spangled Banner," which was a fitting climax to our morning.
At a little after 1:00 o'clock I was back at the hotel and my niece and namesake, Eleanor Roosevelt, came in with a friend to lunch with me. The two girls told me they had done much campaigning. Everyone wondered that they were still friends, for they had been on opposite sides of the political fence. Eleanor added that she had enjoyed it, but had few allies in and about the Bloomfield Hills section, where the Cranbrook School is located.
At 2:30 we drove out to Cranbrook and I very hurriedly obtained an impression of this most beautiful school. The glimpse of the courtyard, as you enter the girls' school where Mellis' statue of Diana stands poised on her pedestal, is something not to be forgotten. In fact, these fortunate youngsters are surrounded by beauty of nature, architecture and art on every side.
I dined with Mrs. Dorothy Kemp Roosevelt and her mother and my three other nieces who live in Birmingham, Michigan. Then I lectured in the evening at the Cranbrook School and took the night train back to Chicago. Here we have had breakfast and few hours of quiet before we leave for Springfield, Illinois.