Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

1924: Classical Music on the Montana Frontier

Classically trained in Vienna, violinist / music teacher Gustave Foret attempted to start a music club in Baker, Montana, in 1924. It was announced in The Fallon County Times on January 10th:


But on January 31st, this unfortunate announcement was made:


Nevertheless, as Gustave stated, the show must go on. The program for an upcoming classical concert featuring Baker's own talent was published in The Fallon County Times on February 14, 1924:


Reader, have you met me? I'm not a big fan of classical music. In college, I met my Humanities requirement with a 3-credit class called History of Rock & Roll. In my 40s, I once dumped a well-educated, well-employed professional guy I was dating because he said anyone who liked rock & roll was immature. Yeah? So be it, then! I rock on! Never too old to rock & roll!

But, sadly for the folks who dwelt in the 1920s, I hear there was some roaring, but there was no rockin' and rollin' goin' on yet. And in any case, Gustave Foret would not have had R&R in his musical kit-bag, coming as he did from the Conservatory of Vienna. So, classical it is, I guess, if opera is considered classical. Is it? Well, whatever. We're droppin' some culture on you this evening!

After an unidentified selection by the Forde Orchestra, the Baker School Girls were first up with Street Boys Chorus from the opera Carmen. I hope they had as much fun with it as this group obviously did:


I suspect Gustave of being more staid, though. If he was, the Baker performance probably resembled this one, where there was really only one girl having fun with it. See if you can spot her:


Next we have the Duett of Micaela and Don Jose from Act I of Carmen. If you'd like to know the backstory, click through to this synopsis of Carmen, and if you're still not sure about that Don Jose guy, Dr. Opera will tell you a thing or two about his dubious charms. In any case, be reminded we're in Baker at a concert, not a fully-staged opera, and our dear Mel Schneider is merely singing the part.


Would there be any point in coming to a concert staged by a violin virtuoso if he wasn't going to fiddle us a tune? Mr. Foret selected a piece originally written especially for the violin, Charles de Beriot's Scene de Ballet. Reader, this is as close as we'll ever get to that Baker concert, because surely Gustave Foret's performance, accompanied by Lucille Wolters on the piano, was just like this one:


Are we having fun yet? Well, this party is just beginning. With apologies to Mrs. Leon LaCross--I'm pretty sure the Lake Theatre didn't have a fake ficus--I chose this from several possible versions of My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice in the interest of keeping in the small-theatre-on-the-frontier spirit. And because it was the most fun you can have with Mon Coeur S'ouvre a ta Voix.


Our choices for a live performance of Krakovienne Fantastique were considerably more limited, i.e., to this one, which is very nicely performed in any case.


I couldn't find a live performance of James Carroll Bartlett's A Dream, but I had two good recorded choices. The first, made in 1920 by heartthrob Enrico Caruso, sounds pretty good despite his supposedly having a head cold at the time, and if nothing else, is in keeping timewise with the era of our concert tonight.


As an alternative, this 1950 recording by Jan Peerce has much better sound, and besides, what a charming sheet music cover to gaze at:


Musetta's Waltz from La Boheme, it turns out, is much more fun with the lyrics translated! And don't be distracted by the gorgeous dress! After all, Mrs. Jesse Hayes was probably wearing something a little more frontiersy... or maybe not!


I don't know why we wouldn't end on that happy, humble note, but Mrs. LaCross is up again with  Habanera from Carmen, and since Puccini has increased my previously low interest in opera with something I can sink my teeth into (Thank you, translator!), I'm going to give Bizet another chance... or two, as it happens, since I'm not sure how Mrs. LaCross would have envisioned playing this. Reader, have you ever had Habanero Pepper Jelly? So hot! So sweet! So hot! But I digress. On the one hand, concertwise, we have:


I must admit, I have a little case of the giggles going, although I am now given to understand that Carmen is apparently not a comedy. Misogynist meets sociopath, according to Dr. Opera, and it doesn't end well. But again I digress. We are considering how Mrs. Leon LaCross might have imagined herself in the role of the sociopath... um, I mean Carmen. Do you suppose we nailed it the first time or shall we consider our on-the-other-hand version? Let me just hasten to say that any possible nipple-sightings are not my fault! Cleavage lovers, this one's for you!


Well, either way, I'm sure Mrs. LaCross brought the house down, and whatever the Forde Orchestra played after that was, without a doubt, anticlimactic!


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Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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