McHenry Boatwright

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John McHenry Boatwright (February 29, 1928[1] – November 5, 1994) was an American operatic bass-baritone and singing teacher.

He was born in Tennille, Georgia, in 1928, and studied piano and voice at the New England Conservatory, graduating in 1954. He made his debut at Tanglewood in 1953. He sang with the New England Opera Theater in Boston, where Leonard Bernstein heard him and invited him to sing with the New York Philharmonic.[2]

In 1956, he created the title role in Clarence Cameron White's opera Ouanga, presented by the National Negro Opera Company at the Metropolitan Opera House. In 1958 he appeared in "Lost In The Stars" at the New York City Center Theatre. In 1967 he sang the lead role in Gunther Schuller's opera The Visitation at the Hamburg State Opera.[2] In 1969, he took part in the premiere performance of Dave Brubeck's The Gates of Justice, with the composer also participating.[3]

His recordings include:

For many years he was a voice teacher at Ohio State University, a post he gained through a letter of recommendation from Marian Anderson.[9] At his death he was a Professor Emeritus in the university’s School of Music.[10] He was the recipient of two Marian Anderson Awards.[2]

He sang for several Presidents at the White House, including at Jimmy Carter's 1977 inauguration.[2]

In 1980 (or 1979)[11] he became the second (or third)[12] husband of Ruth Ellington (1915–2004), the sister and business manager of the late Duke Ellington.[13] They had met when he sang at Duke Ellington’s funeral in 1974.[11] He produced the Duke Ellington Sacred Concerts performed in New York and London in 1982.

McHenry Boatwright died of cancer[14] on November 5, 1994. He is buried in the Ellington Lot at the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.[15]


  1. ^ Most sources give 1928 as his year of birth; a small number give 1920
  2. ^ a b c d e "McHenry Boatwright, 74, a Baritone". 8 November 1994. Retrieved 29 April 2017 – via
  3. ^ "Brubeck makes music with a message". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Complete Collections - Munch Conducts Berlioz - Rca Victor Red Seal: 10353707 - Buy from ArkivMusic". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  5. ^ "HB Direct". Retrieved 29 April 2017.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Gershwin Porgy and Bess (live 1952) GHCD2313/14 [GF]: Classical CD Reviews - July 2008 MusicWeb-International". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 13 September 1975. Retrieved 29 April 2017 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ "Black World/Negro Digest". Johnson Publishing Company. 1 December 1963. Retrieved 29 April 2017 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ "Chrysalis 2009". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  10. ^ "OSU News Release". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Ebony". Johnson Publishing Company. 1 January 1983. Retrieved 29 April 2017 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ "Jet". Johnson Publishing Company. 24 January 1980. Retrieved 29 April 2017 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ "US". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  14. ^ "EBSCO Online Library Search Engine Directory - Find Articles, News, Periodicals and Other Premium Online Content". Retrieved 29 April 2017.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "The Woodlawn Cemetery". Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2017.