The composer Beverly Glenn-Copeland weaves his way towards the stage, so slight and unassuming that he is barely noticed by the hipsters thronging the bar. Dressed in a uniform of pressed chinos, neat tie, and a mile-wide smile, he looks out over the audience and says, “Wow!” under his breath, as if he can’t quite believe all the fuss is for him. He seems more like an excited kid than a man in his mid-seventies. His band, who are all 40-odd years his junior, begins layering hypnotic, looping melodies. Glenn-Copeland lifts his arms toward the rapt crowd and sings “Ever New,” his ode to blooming flowers and regeneration, in a voice like summer rain itself.
Versions of this scene, from the 2019 Posy Dixon documentary Keyboard Fantasies, were meant to play out across the United States this year. After his back catalogue, spanning nearly a half-century, was rediscovered by a Japanese aficionado a few years ago, then reissued to great acclaim and wide appeal, this was the year that Glenn-Copeland, who goes by Glenn, was supposed to tour the world and finally turn a profit. Then the pandemic devastated that plan. At the end of May, his daughter Faith started a GoFundMe page to help her parents finance their new home.
“COVID threw a right-hand uppercut,” Glenn-Copeland told me over the phone this week, from his home by the ocean on the east coast of Canada’s New Brunswick, across from Prince Edward Island. “And then, once I got off the floor, presented me with gifts I could not possibly have known about.” Fans, moved by the plight of this septuagenarian Black trans artist who had just been on the cusp of receiving his due, rushed to his aid, donating enough money to keep Glenn-Copeland afloat.
That Glenn-Copeland was buoyed by a younger generation is no coincidence. He has known the indifference of their predecessors, as well as their prejudice, and now his time has come.
His life began in Philadelphia in 1944, born to a talented pianist father and a mother who sang everything from lieder to spirituals. Glenn-Copeland (then Beverly) listened to whatever he could find on the radio and bought records galore, his tastes ranging across China, India, and different parts of Africa. He received a classical education in music, and you can still hear that training in the sound of his voice, which has deepened over the years but retained the burnished, controlled vibrato he learned as a child.