Beverly Glenn-Copeland

Beverly Glenn-Copeland (b. 1944) is an American/Canadian musician and actor. He sports a three-octave range and occasionally uses vibrato. He has played folk and New Age music, with jazz, gospel, blues and classical influences. Among his albums are Beverly Copeland, Primal Prayer, Live at le Guess Who? 2018 and Transmissions: The Music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland. Keyboard Fantasies, a New Age album released in 1986, has recently been rediscovered, leading to his new-found popularity. He has also written music for Shining Time Station and Sesame Street, and he appeared for several years on the show Mr. Dressup. A transgendered man, Copeland is a mentor to the trans community. (He declined testosterone during his gender change, retaining his broad vocal range, and now goes by the name “Glenn”). Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story, Posy Dixon’s recent film, recounts his life.

Copeland has Quaker roots. In the 1940’s his mother was the first black woman to be admitted to Penn State University to pursue a master’s degree. Due to racism, however, she was unable to stay on campus or get lodgings nearby. She did find a room finally after a Quaker woman opened her home to her. Through friendship with the Quaker woman, his family began attending State College Meeting, and his mother later joined a Philadelphia Friends Meeting. His family moved to the Quaker-based Greenbelt Knoll integrated community in Philadelphia when he was a child. Copeland became a member of Soka Gakkai, a Japanese Nichiren Buddhist group, as an adult. Soka Gakkai bases its beliefs on the Lotus Sutra and the “Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō” chant. They work for peace and environmental concerns.

I went on something of a journey, listening to Copeland’s music. At first I did not like it. I was put off by the synthesizer, an instrument done to death in the 1980’s. But as I became more familiar with -and surrendered to -his music, in the end I found Copeland’s music very moving. He really is unique.

I especially enjoyed “Sunset Village”, a song on Keyboard Fantasies, with its lyrics very close to what Friends experience in Meeting for Worship: “Let it go/Let it go down/It’s okay/Let it come/Let it take all thoughts away”.

A link to Copeland performing “Sunset Village”:

Please note: just as Copeland was becoming better-known, the Covid-19 plague started, and like many musicians, touring for him is impossible. He and his wife almost ended up homeless, His daughter set up a Patreon account for him at Keyboard Fantasies, which I recommend, is available as an MP3 at…/dp/B086BRW2KX/ref=sr_1_1…

Gary Sandman

November 2020

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