restricted access 5. My Maryland
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chapter five My Maryland T he Beethoven Terrace Orchestra, perhaps Baltimore’s best-known amateur musical group in the late 1880s, grew out of a club that Edwin Litchfield Turnbull had organized at age 16.1 It rehearsed on Saturday nights at Turnbull’s home at 1530 Park Avenue (in the Bolton Hill block known as Beethoven Terrace),2 and kept busy performing benefit concerts in Baltimore and nearby cities, including an event in Pennsylvania that featured the two-hundred-voice York Choral Society. After graduating from Johns Hopkins in 1893, Turnbull went to Europe to study music. Returning to Baltimore two years later as a skilled violinist, conductor, and composer, he resumed work with the Beethoven Orchestra. He also organized the Johns Hopkins Musical Association, which in turn sponsored the Johns Hopkins Orchestra. The group performed at university events, gave benefit concerts for local hospitals, and took music into the community. In about 1914 the university moved from Monument Street to the new campus at Charles and 34th Streets, Homewood, where the orchestra began rehearsing in the old Carroll family barn under the baton of the Peabody faculty member Charles H. Bochau.3 Far away from the sedate parlors and evening musicales that took place in select Baltimore homes, wasp-waisted beauties in purple tights scandalized and delighted masculine audiences behind the gaslights of the Odeon Theatre at 3 South Frederick Street. The show starred “Mlle. Ordlar,” a dreamy-eyed young woman who made history when she became the first performer to strip off her clothes on a Maryland stage. The mademoiselle’s act reached either its zenith or its nadir when she tossed her garters into the audience. The show ended in February 1904, when the Odeon and its neighbors literally went up in smoke in the Great Baltimore Fire.4 But the city boasted plenty of like establishments. The Monumental Theater stood on the south side of Baltimore Street beside the Jones Falls. Built in 1874 on the site of the recently incinerated Washington Hall, it was known at various times as the Casino, the Baltimore Opera House, the Central, and finally, the Folly. A streetcar ran past its door. The hall hosted burlesque-circuit performers like Sliding Billy Watson, Dave My Maryland  119 Marion (as Snuffy the Cabman), and Billy Arlington, the Happy Hobo. James L. Kernan, the owner, had such success at the Monumental that he could afford to purchase a truly legitimate venue, the Holliday Street Theatre . Just before curtain time, the Monumental orchestra would assemble on the sidewalk outside the theater and play a march to attract patrons. The pit musicians, who received a princely fifteen dollars a performance, played outside even during the winter months, when the temperatures dipped so low that fingers turned blue and the valves on their cornets nearly froze.5 For decades, visiting sailors, Maryland farm boys, and otherwise respectable businessmen from out of town found their way to the Gayety Theatre, the centerpiece of the city’s lurid “Block” on Baltimore Street, for an evening of risqué entertainment. The Gayety was built on the ashes of the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. A brand-new, one-thousand-seat establishment with a gilded interior and a sixty-light chandelier, it began as a venue for legitimate vaudeville shows, featuring firstrate comedians and beautiful chorus girls touring on the Columbia Circuit. It had its own ten-piece orchestra , Charles Weber’s Gayety Harmonists. Adding more color to this musical tapestry, far more respectably, the Arion Singing Society of Baltimore participated in all the great singing festivals of the North Eastern Saengerbund, winning prizes in Philadelphia and Brooklyn. In 1863 the Arion sang for Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg in a memorial service for the dedication of the National Cemetery.6 Resuscitating the Conservatory; Envisioning an Orchestra Following Asger Hamerik’s painful departure in 1898, the Peabody trustees drew from the ranks of the faculty and named as his successor Harold Randolph, a pianist from Theodore Thomas’s chorale-supporting orchestra in Baltimore. Thomas invited Randolph to tour with him in 1888 after hearing his performance of Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy.” Two years later, in 1890, he became a member of the Conservatory faculty, making him the first American-trained musician to serve as a full-time instructor at the Peabody. Randolph toured with the violinist Franz Kneisel’s quartet, performing in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and elsewhere. Kneisel described Randolph as “the best ensemble player I have ever played with...


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