restricted access 4. Toward Union and Concord
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chapter four Toward Union and Concord D uring the late nineteenth century, when one could find amateur ensembles in many Maryland communities, Baltimore reigned as the musical capital of the Chesapeake. The city supported a large number of music publishers and instrument makers, especially piano manufacturers. In Baltimore as in other large American cities, people of means welcomed the traveling artists who played music for a living, whether orchestral or “popular,” and benefited from resident theater orchestras. Small groups made loud music. At the end of the war, still under the tutelage of Otto Sutro, the Allston Club reopened at 67 North Charles Street, and membership grew swiftly. A former soldier in Lee’s army, Innes Randolph, came to Baltimore in 1868 to practice law and soon joined the group. Besides legal work, he devoted time to writing poems and sketches for city newspapers. At length he left the bar and became an editorial writer on the Baltimore American, a position he held for the remainder of his days. Highly respected as a critic of music and art, Randolph enjoyed a reputation as a poet, composer—mostly of humorous songs written chiefly for his friends—and sculptor.1 He enjoyed entertaining them with satires of Italian grand opera. The artistic dentist Adalbert Volck sketched club members as they staged these events, which included The Grasshopper: A Tragic Cantata and a club favorite, Randolph’s Good Old Rebel. In 1869 Sutro’s marriage to Arianna Handy threatened to put an end to Allston congeniality, but William Prescott Smith, along with others, including, eventually, the Sutros themselves, formed a new ensemble they called the Wednesday Club. For years it met for evening soirées and hosted visiting musicians at 207 West Baltimore Street. Members persuaded Sutro to preside over this club and chose other officers and a board. The bylaws called for a committee of five professors of music, who would take turns overseeing “the direction of music.” The club carried on the tradition of celebrating Sutro’s birthday. One of the original members, the piano industrialist Ernest Knabe, providedtheclubwithanewpiano.Unlikeearliermusicalgroupsofitsilk,theWednesday Club welcomed ladies (as “auxiliary members”) to its monthly evening sessions. As the club waxed, murmurs and then voluble cries of alarm went up as billiards and 90  Musical Maryland cards threatened to displace art. Sutro led a revolt that produced yet another Wednesday Club, one made up of nearly one hundred music lovers. Their rules made their purposes clear. “The amusements and entertainments of the Club at the regular meetings on Wednesday evenings shall be Strictly Musical,” they declared, “until½ past ten o’clock. . . . Perfect Silence must prevail.”2 The club’s numbers reached two hundred, with a long waiting list of men clamoring for admission into the magic circle of seventy-five “active members.” The Wednesday Club built a splendid new concert hall, seating 750, at the corner of Centre and St. Paul Streets. On January 31, 1877, it held its first gathering in the new quarters. “Crockery, glassware, furniture or other property of the club, broken or injured by a member must be paid by him” the governors warned.3 With Sutro at the piano and Knabe’s smiling face in the audience, harmony prevailed, and the club exerted a powerful influence on the musical life of the city for years to come. Another musical society testified to the persistent German influence in Baltimore. Late in the war, with the city’s Männerchor Singing Association performing at the ceremony, the Concordia German Association of Baltimore laid the cornerstone for Concordia Hall, a new building on the west side of Eutaw Street, south of German Street (now Redwood Street). Opening at about the time the war ended, and aptly named, the new hall seated nearly two thousand people and featured a garden with a pavilion for outdoor gatherings. Charles Lenschow himself wrote the Concordia March to mark the event.4 He went on to form the Baltimore Amateur Orchestra and, as director after 1869, to breathe new life into the German Männerchor. A New Birth of Music For decades young American musicians had relied heavily on teachers with European training. Parents may have worried about exposing their talented and impressionable young children to the corrupting influence of the Old World, but in any event few American families Cover for The Grasshopper: A Tragic Cantata, by Innes Randolph, illustrated by A. J. Volck, facsimile ca. 1865. This fanciful satire of Italian grand opera, dedicated to the Wednesday...


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