Society of Peabody Alumni
Citation for Outstanding Contributions To Music In Maryland
December 10, 2009
Custer LaRue, you have been called the finest American singer of ballads since Joan Baez and Judy Collins.
Some may say this came naturally to you because you were raised in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where for generations the LaRues were locally known balladeers. The tradition had died out by the time you were growing up though, leaving only the stories about your great-great grandmother’s time, when the ballads were being created and circulated about murders, executions, and hangings.
You came to Peabody in 1974 to study voice with Mlle. Flore Wend. Here you learned traditional soprano repertoire, and received your Bachelor’s Degree in 1979. While you were here, though, you also started to teach yourself the old songs.
Right around your graduation some Peabody faculty and alumni started a new group called the Baltimore Consort. Their repertoire of Renaissance music, Scottish and Appalachian tunes, and even a few bawdy numbers were a perfect match for your voice and passion. In 1983 you became the lead singer for The Baltimore Consort and stayed with them for over 20 years.
During that time The Consort travelled extensively in the United States, toured Europe and produced several CD’s. In 1993, Billboard magazine named The Baltimore Consort one of the Top Classical Crossover Artists and, “The Art of the Bawdy Song,” and “Custer LaRue Sings the Dæmon Lover” were listed as two of the Top Classical Crossover Albums.
Baltimore seems an unlikely home for a thriving early music scene, but it is our belief that your ability to meld together a classically trained voice with the tradition of folk music in such a beautiful and seamless way has helped to make it one.
Custer, you have helped to create a music scene in Baltimore that is rich with Renaissance music, Scottish and Appalachian tunes and even a few bawdy ballads.
The Peabody Chapter of the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association is honored to confer upon you the Peabody Alumni Achievement Award Recognizing Outstanding Contributions to Music in Maryland.