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70 Years After Marian Anderson's Concert on the Mall, Her Memory Lives On

Sometimes a neighbor will come and help them tidy up. Other than that, it's a threadbare operation.

"I'm sorry if it feels a little cool in here," Burton-Lyles says. "We don't have the heat on. Too expensive."

In February the two women hosted a Marian Anderson Classical Icon Vocal Competition. First prize was $10,000. Burton-Lyles had expected a corporate donor to come through, but it didn't happen. She dug into her own savings for the cash.

For the better part of five hours, not a single visitor has dropped by. They seem undeterred. "It's mostly by appointment anyway," Burton-Lyles says.

On Saturday evenings Burton-Lyles gets all dressed up and goes over to the Union League, a civic group founded during the Civil War. She's the entertainment; she plays show tunes. "I play all requests," she says. She'll take the tips and pour them right back into the Marian Anderson home.

"What we really want to do is have a traveling exhibit," Sims says. "I could give a historical reading about Marian and Blanche could play the piano."

Burton-Lyles's ex-husband and her son have passed away. "He was 31 when he passed," she says of her son. Sims is single. She has a daughter who lives in Chicago.

They've got each other and they've got Marian.

"We were all born in South Philly," Sims says of herself, Blanche and Marian. "We're all artists. And we're all Pisces."

Burton-Lyles turns to riffle through another stack of unopened bills. The voice of Anderson singing "Ave Maria" can be heard from the next room.


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