Jackson Tuesday Musicale History
Written and Presented for the 1977-78 Club Year
Once after a hunt, members of an Irish clan were gathered together and someone asked the leader what was the finest music in the world. He asked each one present to contribute ideas and many were put forth….the cuckoo’s note, the ring of a spear on a shield, the laughter of a girl, the whisper of a loved one. “Grand sounds, all” said the chief, “but the music of what happens, THAT is the finest music in the world.”
This fairy story, for it is that, serves to introduce a history of fifty years of Tuesday Musicale for it is a club that has been making things happen in Jackson for all that time and the melody of the club’s work runs like a theme through the symphony of city life.
Tuesday Musicale has been exciting, innovative, solid…a club that has moved and changed as the world around it changed, yet always hewing to its original purpose. In the beginning there were 37 who joined to form a club whose purpose was, and still is (according to the club constitution) “To encourage and acquire a broader knowledge of music and musical literature, and to promote a higher standard of this art in the city of Jackson, Michigan.”
The committee which has compiled this history probably had more fun than all who will read it, for the work entailed re-reading old year books, scrap books, handwritten notes, minutes, newspaper clippings and more. And after all the sifting came the question: What is important to set down for the future?
The beginnings just naturally come first…..so we find ourselves back in September 1927 when the local club was organized by Mrs. Thomas Dee from Battle Creek. The thirty-seven met at the First Methodist church and plans for an entire year were quickly formulated. The group would study and perform good music…..it was as simple as that.
The club was federated immediately with the state federation of music clubs and has always contributed in many ways to that group. Federation with the national group came on March 30, 1939.
The club was off and actively working. From a newspaper clipping “On the fifth anniversary of the Tuesday Morning Musicale, a birthday party was held at the home of Mrs. Harry Johnson and the comment was made that the organization has added much to the musical advantages of the city.”
The meetings of the club in those days were held for the most part in the First Methodist Church. Not all the members performed because from the beginning the necessity of an interested audience was realized and the listeners were the enthusiastic backers of those who performed. During these years a number of meetings were held in the home of Mrs. Mark
Merriman who fortunately had two pianos available for duo work. There were other ensembles formed and many hours of practice resulted in fine presentations. During the first dozen years or so of the club it was noted by researchers that the programs were simply stated and the chairman named. This was because printed programs were distributed to members as they arrived for each meeting and all performers, their numbers, etc. were printed on these programs, so that a “Beethoven Dramatization” under the direction of Mrs. C.W. Tuttle might have seen a dozen or more members as active participants.
The club has always had a year which begins with a fall luncheon or tea, usually in early October and meetings continue on the first and third Tuesday until early May when a luncheon meeting with an invited guest artist concludes the year. This means that from 13 to 16 meetings each year are the responsibility of the program committee. No wonder that group has always been considered the most important committee of all and the named in each year book. Other committees created in early years were membership, philanthropic, hospitality, publicity and library.
Before long these were joined by extension, music in hospitals, national music week, social, decoration, telephone, chorus, ensemble, radio and motion picture and others including war work during the early forties. Other committees and groups functioned as needed and more will be said about their work later.
It was in 1930 that one of the club’s important groups, a women’s chorus, was formed. It is reported in the chorus scrapbook that Myrtle Cook went to a convention in Benton Harbor and returned fired up with the idea that the club had enough good voices and that it should form a chorus of members. Mrs. Frederica Brown Rogers was the club president and became the chorus’ first director. Rehearsals were held on Wednesday mornings, as they are now, and there have been only five years in the club’s history when a chorus was not a part of our members’ lives…..the first three and the years 1935-36 and 1926-27. The first appearance of the chorus was on November 25, 1930 and the group sang three more times that club year. There have been many outstanding directors of the group to follow Mrs. Brown – Mrs. Margaret Brier, Mr. F. Dudley Vernor, Mrs. Frederick Baumgartner, Mr. J.E.F. Chase, Mrs. Marjorie Dowling and Mrs. Alice Horning. Accompanists have been equally important and there have been many of the club’s outstanding pianists serve in this capacity. In 1945 when the chorus sang for the Christmas program there were 36 members, and in 1949 there was perhaps the most exciting event for members until that date. The Tuesday Morning Musicale chorus sang for the National Federation meeting at Dallas….but only after a long period of rehearsals, concerts, and affairs designed to raise funds for the trip. Later the chorus gave a program the proceeds of which were given to the scholarship fund. In the past ten years or so the chorus has been one of the most active club participants in community and area outreach. The bicentennial year saw the group, dressed in tri-color out-fits, appear many times for groups large and small, including the state convention of the D.A.R. Thirty years ago in 1948, the chorus (numbering 40) gave the annual guest night program in Jackson High School auditorium. A group picture appeared in the Citizen Patriot.
Talking about the work of the chorus brings up the club’s annual Christmas programs given for the public. For many years this December occurrence was a part of the community’s celebration of the season. Many members took part and much variety was offered over the years. The programs usually started about 4P.M. and continued for three hours. Various audiences came and went during the time and this was a much praised endeavor of the club. Reading the lengthy programs for some of those events, one cannot help but consider the hours of work, practice and organization that went into those thoughtful presentations.
This club has met in a variety of places, starting with the First Methodist Church, then moving to the studio of the radio station WIBM. Here one year all but six of the club’s programs were broadcast, in 15 minute segments aired by the station. In 1937 the club membership had grown to over 200 and another larger meeting place had to be found. The Hotel Hayes Georgian room was chosen and the hotel’s grand piano was used for performances. Meetings continued in the hotel until its sale in 1976. Hunting for new places led the group to Calvary Methodist Church, the First Congregational Church, the Ella Sharp Museum and various other spots, including the auditorium of the Jackson library. At the present time, the year 1977-78, has seen the club in seven different meeting places.
Another part of the club’s history, the committee agreed would have to be called “The Piano Years”. Some new club member might ask, “Why did we need a piano in the first place?” As mentioned, the meetings were being held at the Hotel Hayes in 1937, and the hotel owned a grand piano which the club used. However, when two-piano work was desired, there was little to be offered in the way of an instrument. The club had started a “piano fund” with the purchase of War Bonds, and as this fund grew and dissatisfaction with the available instruments grew also, club members (and pianists in particular) decided that something had to be done. In 1946 Mrs. George Webber and Mrs. Earl Speisberger offered to put on an evening recital to raise funds. They were assisted by an outstanding guest artist, Alexander Schuster, cellist. Every club member should hear first- hand about the effort that went into that concert. The monetary outcome, over $1600 tells the finale of the tale. That public offering of club talent certainly is one the high points of its fifty years, for it affected club work ever since. Now we should like to quote from a short club history Mrs. Marian Shea wrote several years ago. “At a meeting in 1947, when I was president, Mrs. Grace Winchester Wilson asked to make an announcement which was, (and I quote) ‘At a recent meeting of the board of trustees of the St Ambrose Artist and Recital Fund Association, it was moved by Mrs. Raynor Field that the St Ambrose Society give to the Tuesday Morning Musicale an amount ( approximately $2,000.00) to complete the purchase of a piano, and pay any necessary expenses such as a platform and tarpaulin, the latter for the protection of the piano.’ Needless to say, I was much surprised and pleased, as were many of those present, to hear of the gift from this Society which was organized in 1917, but had dissolved and then formed into the St. Ambrose Artist and Recital Fund Ass’n. Mrs. Earl Spiesberger headed a committee composed of Mrs. George Webber, Mrs. W. Powell Cottrille, Mrs. Grace Winchester Wilson, and two persons appointed by the St Ambrose Ass’n, namely Mrs. Luther Paul and Mrs. Shirley Poole, to select a piano. Grinnell’s offered a seven-foot Steinway, ebonized finish for $3700, 1 ebony finish bench ( no charge) a fabric cover (no charge), one finished plywood cabinet $100 and one wheeled truck $65, plus 3% tax, totaling $3980. At the present moment (1975) an ebony-finish 6’11” piano sells for $8830.
When the piano was delivered in 1949, it was dedicated on October 12, Gizi Santo, pianist from Detroit being the celebrating artist. Our books showed a member ship of 140 active and 277 associate members, totaling 417 at that time.”
Being women, owning that one beautiful piano was not enough for Tuesday Musicale girls. Two piano work was becoming increasingly popular with the large membership and there was a desire to own a second instrument. It was in 1951 that a Mason-Hamlin piano became available but the president of the club, Mrs. Winnie Torwick, was off on a vacation, so the board acted without her and committed the group to the purchase of this second piano for over $1000. The money to pay for it was raised during the following year and members felt that Mrs. Torwick spoke for all when she said. “This club can do anything it puts its mind to.”
Where are the pianos? In 1966 the Hotel told the club that there was no longer room to store two pianos, so one was moved to the Jackson Junior College (the main building being on Wildwood Ave at that time) and the club held some meetings there. When the college moved in 1970, the Mason-Hamlin was moved to the Calvary Methodist church where it has been housed and used by the club. When Consumers Power Co. took over the former Hayes Hotel, the Steinway was moved to the First Congregational Church. So as of this writing, these two pianos are seldom united, but they are owned, insured and kept in repair by the club. (It is not history, but it needs to be said that we need place where both pianos can be kept and used by club members and where the club can meet.)
What about other groups which have formed from Tuesday Musicale members who have performed over the years? There have been many. There have been string ensembles, varied in instrumentation and in personnel as members came and went, played and didn’t play. There has been a Madrigal group…in the 1050’s under the direction of George Cripps this group of 8 o 10 sang in costume, making its first appearance in December of 1951. There were many junior music clubs. These have always been a part of club activity…the encouragement of young talent is close to the hearts of Musicale members…encouragement to perform and to be heard. Started in the 1930’s these groups have been active off and on and under a variety of leaders and teachers.
The Twilight Musicale grew out of the fact that women went to work during the war (WWII). This club met in late afternoon after work and its members carried on a club group much like the parent Tuesday Morning Musicale. They met and played and performed for others for eleven years.
What about the already mentioned “War Service Committee”? It shows up in the books from 1940 through 1946 and after that the Music in the Hospitals group took over. This work was part of a state project. At a meeting of the local club in November 1945, Mrs. A.P. Peterson, state war service chairman spoke on placing music in the veteran’s hospitals and out of her suggestions, the committee was formed. The local group became extremely active, putting in countless hours of work with veterans and patients in Battle Creek and Ypsilanti. The dedication that went into this outreach activity cannot be measured for it is hard to tell exactly how much the women’s smiles and music encouraged and brightened the days of those less fortunate. Music has always been a great leveler and nowhere is it more true than in the work of this committee.
National Music Week has always been celebrated in Jackson through the activities of this club. It is a part of the National Federation’s work and our club has been most active over the years. The first committee for the week was headed by Mrs. Mildred Carr in 1939-40. This is the week when the community really gets to know the club. In the early years a full page ad was sold to sponsors and run in the Citizen Patriot. All of the programs to be given throughout the week were listed. There are even more programs now than in early days……our groups visit schools, libraries, downtown locations, banks, etc….the entire week is full of good music being played, sung and heard throughout the city. It would be good to know just how many hours have been spent in just this effort in these 39 years! But needless to say, nearly everyone knows that is it because of Tuesday Musicale that the week is so full of pleasant melody.
By the way, did we say “Tuesday Musicale”….when did we drop that “Morning” designation? It was in the year 1952, right after the 25th anniversary that the club, meeting morning noon, afternoon and night, decided that the shorter designation would be more appropriate. After all, to have the Tuesday Morning Musicale meet on Wednesday night was hardly tenable.
Our club has hosted its fair share of state conventions for the federation, the first being held for four days in 1934 when the meetings were held at the Hotel Hayes. There have been numerous occasions since then when a big club effort and lots of work for lots of members have made successful state meetings. Even the Junior Clubs have entertained state meetings.
The scholarship committee has not been mentioned until now except in passing. The committee, usually composed of past presidents, has been active in awarding young people of our community money to attend summer camps, music workshops, and advance schooling. While one cannot point with pride to an internationally known artist as a product of our efforts, we can say with a great deal of pleasure, there are many we have helped who have made music a part of their lives who many not have gone on without club help.
Federation Day is a necessary and well planned event each year, one that program committees spend a great block of time on since the state president is nearly always the honored guest. In 1947, Mrs. Trent Hall played a violin number; Mrs. George Webber, piano selection; and the chorus sang a group of songs, all greeting Mrs. A.B. Crow who was the state president that year.
In 1957 it was decided that coffee hours would be help before morning meetings, coffee to be served at 9:30 and the meetings to start at 10:00 a.m. This half hour of fellowship and visiting proved to be very stimulating and successful and members enjoyed it because it gave them a chance to know one another better. This practice has been carried on each year since.
What about the programs the club has had for its own members? It would be quite impossible to choose any one or two or even one each year that was outstanding, for in the minds of performers and listeners, each program given has been that. Just for fun, the committee has chosen to go backward in time, choosing some programming each ten years.
In 1967-68 the theme was “Light a Lamp Through Music” and one of the outstanding programs was the presentation of a biblical choral-drama “Child of Promise” written by Eusebia Simpson Hunkins. A baroque chamber ensemble was featured on the Lenten program and there was also a program climaxing Tuesday Musicale’s first string workshop for Jackson area students.
In 1957-58, American Music Day features included a clarinet concerto with a string quartet, soprano and piano solos. A Christmas program headliner was the Madrigal Group and club member Mrs. Charles Dengler presented a seasonal story.
In the 25th anniversary year, a silver covered program booklet announced a charter members’ day and a guest evening billed as a Mr. and Mrs. Recital, with the following taking part: Mr. and Mrs. Clark Manning, the George Cripps, the Harold Prices and the Gerald Strongs. This year also saw many recital programs with member artists performing.
In 1946-47, there was a German Music day and a Russian Music day as well as a day set aside for musical therapy.
And finally in 1936-37 there was a Brahms program, a Bohemian night and a program about music in the home. Through all these years the club has drawn upon talent from our surrounding colleges and universities, bringing many persons of great talent to appear in Jackson. Thus you can see, it was an ever varied fare that greeted members, and sometimes guest, each of the fifty years of existence and music making.
We’re sure we left out a lot. We couldn’t possibly write it all down unless we published a book. But if you want to have fun, go through the year books and read about the past. The names and dates are there, but remembrance is in the minds of those who attended the meetings and heard the programs.
History doesn’t stop….it is like a pontoon bridge…we are always standing at the end of it, waiting to make our contribution so that we may reach the opposite shore, unable to be where we are without the contributions of those who went before. So, we stop and think of the future of a club such as Tuesday Musicale. The importance of clubs of all types waxes and wanes as does the moon. In the years when fine artists traveled and appeared before audiences even in towns the size of ours, club importance may have diminished, but local people of talent have always needed an outlet for their work and a chance to perform. This will always be true. Tuesday Musicale is a beginning, middle and an end. There is something for those who are starting out, something for the mature artist and a definite place for the senior members in an advisory capacity and as accomplished listeners. And here a word about all those associates….the non-performing members who do so much. They also serve who sit and listen….it takes an audience and the rapport between the performer and the audience to make a successful program. What a joy to hear new music or old, prepared just for you. So it is onward into the second fifty years for Tuesday Musicale, whose members are always conscious of the music of what happens, for “that is the finest music in the world.”