link to memorial sing clips
Marcia Tucker, a longtime shape note singer from New York, died October 17th, survived by husband Dean McNeil, also a wonderful singer, and daughter Ruby. She went to "The Better Land" peacefully and painlessly, from her home in Santa Barbara, where she moved last year to teach at a Los Angeles art college, Otis, which had granted her an honorary doctorate.
Marcia is also survived by two New York cultural institutions, The New Museum and The Art Mob
-- not to mention legions of artists, arts administrators, curators, writers and singers whom she nurtured and inspired.
Marcia founded The New Museum of Contemporary Art to showcase innovative, socially significant art from around the country in 1977, after the Whitney Museum backed off that mission for its Biennial exhibitions, which she had mounted as its chief curator since 1969. She directed what is now known as The New Museum for 23 years, and then freelanced as a curator, critic, lecturer, and standup comic (in the persona of Miss Mannerist, adviser to arts scenesters, who would have disdained the pretense of being called "performance art").
Her lifelong avocation was as a traditional singer - from cowboy songs heard on the radio at age 4, through a folkie duo in the early 60's Village scene, to The Art Mob, the other cultural institution that survives her. She founded this 14-member group in 1979. It presents brilliantly arranged a capella versions of obscure, formerly-popular songs - ranging from hymns to ballads to parlor songs and beyond - in wittily themed concerts every May and December. The hysterical program notes (which Marcia wrote for the first 25 years) reflect the group's refusal, so characteristic of her, to take itself or the musty musical treasures it loves digging up, too seriously.
Marcia wrote amusingly of her determination to sing, despite ridicule from family and discouragement from early teachers, in "Singing Fool," a chapter from her recently completed memoir, Short Life of Trouble. This tale of enthusiasm trumping “talent” can be read @ www.marciatucker.com/excerpts.html#singing.
Marcia's love of group singing was of course also manifest in her active role in the shape note revival over the past thirty years, along with Dean, a wonderfully strong singer. In our launching the 3rd Sunday Manhattan Singing at St Bart's five years ago, Marcia and Dean’s participation, along with that of a few other experienced singers, was a tremendous boost.
Our deepest sympathies, prayers and wishes go out to dear Dean McNeil in coping with this loss.
Marcia’s spiritual energy, as well as her humor and intelligence, showed through in everything she did, but perhaps most clearly in her vigorous leading of Sacred Harp songs, as pictured here. She sang as she lived: flat-out!
"Oh who would not climb such a ladder as this..."
Marcia Tucker leading "Jacob's Vision" at Western Mass.
"I know a metaphor when I hear one."
-- Marcia Tucker on Sacred Harp's lyrics