Marais and Miranda: Biographical Information

I myself have only the barest knowledge of Marais and Miranda's lives and work. However, here is an excellent post from one who knows better, the folk singer (and much else) Sam Hinton, lightly edited from a recent email (Jan 5, 1999):

I knew Marais and Miranda fairly well; they spent their last years in Idyllwild, California, where for many years I was director of the summer folk music programs at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts; they were on the Board of Directors of that school, usually known by its acronym, ISOMATA.
Josef and Miranda were also on the staff of several of the great Berkeley Folk Music Festivals at the University of California, Berkeley.

Everybody seems to have called Miranda by that name, although it was a made-up one; her maiden name was Rosa Lily Odette Baruch de la Pardo.

I first became aware of Josef's music while I was a student at UCLA; this must have been in 1939, 1940, or early 1941. My chief professorial mentor and employer was Dr. Raymond Bridgman Cowles. who had been reared in Africa with his missionary parents. He had a set of 78-rpm records of Josef Marais and His Bushveld Band, which I lost no time in securing: I still have them. I think this is the original form of the entry listed in your excellent discography as
"Songs of the South African veld" [sound recording] 1952 Josef Marais and his Bushveld Band. [Decca DL 5014 ] 1 sound disc : analog, 33 1/3 rpm ; 10 in."
My set consists of 3 10" 78-rpm records; the title of the album is "Songs of the South African Veld", Decca Album no. 113, 18,000 series. The 1952 date given in your discography must be for the re-issue in 10" LP form; there is no date shown in my album. (I also have another album--a later one--by the same title -- Decca Album No. A-471. It contains 8 10" 78s, and Miranda sings with Josef. Again, no date!

Josef moved to the U.S. in 1939, and had a weekly radio program called "African Trek" which ran for two years. In 1941 he went to work for the Office of War Information as head of their Voice of America broadcasts to the Netherlands and to South Africa. "Miranda" Baruch (a professional concert pianist) was a member of the same team; they became good friends, began working together as professional musicians, and were married in 1946.

Both Josef and Miranda were schooled in classical music; he was trained as a violinist, and for several years played that instrument in the Capetown Symphony Orchestra before continuing violin studies in England. I don't know where he learned classical guitar. Miranda especially was steeped in the classical tradition, and in my opinion she seemed to think that folk music was worth consideration only if treated in a classical manner. The pair on several occasions conducted classes at ISOMATA in the presentation of concerts, and Miranda always insisted that performers should not only plan their programs very carefully, but should wear formal clothes; she disliked Woody Guthrie, in his dress, in his choice of songs, and in his manner of singing. Josef was a little more relaxed . . .

Josef with the Bushveld Band used to perform a number called "Pack Your Things and Trek, Fereira" with its chorus of "Johnny with the wooden leg." During the War, when jokes about maiming and injuries were in particularly bad taste, they changed it to "Johnny with the bandy legs." That's quite understandable, but they went further, and made up a story about a familiar character named Johnny Fereira, an itinerant salesman who rode a mule, and thereby developed bowed ("bandy") legs, and they always used this story in introducing the song.

I remember in one panel discussion at the Berkeley Festival where a number of us were on the stage, and Miranda voiced some of her disapproval of genuine folksong styles. Frank Warner was one of the panelists , and in disagreeing with her said emphatically "Well, you're WRONG!" Miranda appeared upset by this directness, and Frank, a large but gentle person, got up and went over to her and enveloped her in a reassuring bear-hug. (I think I have a photo of this particular panel on stage, and will try to find it and copy it if you are interested.)

They were great at working together on stage in concert. Miranda had a pixieish quality to which Josef responded as a straight man. After his death, Miranda tried to continue concertizing, working as a soloist and for a while with a talented young woman named Carol Merrill, but the magic simply wasn't there. She gave up public performances some time before she died, and I lost contact with her. I'm sorry I don't have the date of her passing.




From the liner notes to Marais and Miranda in Person
Josef Marais and his wife, Miranda, have earned the title of "International Balladeers." They are modern minnesingers - troubadors who not only collect and arrange songs of many lands but present them in their own inimitable way. Marais composes and plays the accompaniments on a classic guitar, and he and Miranda collaborate in conveying the spirit of the originals by free English adaptations and enlivening renditions.

Josef Marais was born in South Africa and the beginnings of his extensive repertoire of South African folk songs dates from his boyhood which was spent on a sheep ranch. Later he studied violin and composition in London, Prague, Budapest, and Paris. For a time it appeared that he would become a violinist, but his recordings of songs in Afrikaans became immediately popular, and Marais was soon established as a singer and recorder of folk songs. In America he became famous for two albums of "Songs from the African Veld" which were made for Decca in the early 1940's. It was while he was with the Office of War Information, supervising its broadcasts to South Aftrica, that he met his future wife.

Miranda (Baruch de la Pardo) was born in Amsterdam. Her father was a dentist who was also a music critic and collector of ancient instruments. Her mother was a concert singer and her brother a violinist. destined to be a musician, she came to new York in 1939 where, after teaching piano, she was engaged by the Office of War Information and assigned to the department supervisedf by Marais. It was two years before Marais discovered that his assistant was also a singer; thereafter the two began to appear together on broadcasts.

When the war was over Marais and Miranda decided to form a team. they made their Town Hall debut in 1946, married, and moved to Hollywood, and established a home. Their success in many fields was sensational. They appeared throughout the country in countless recitals; they gave concerts, made recordings, and appeared on Radio and TV. For thirty-two weeks they were on NBC and CBS networks. They were guest stars on the Ford Hour, the Paul Whiteman program, Omnibus, and other top shows.

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