- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Jo Ellen Hayden always thought she’d like to have a musicale in her home. She lives in the Harbour Master’s House in Lower Marlboro. The Harbour Master’s House, built in 1640, and beautifully restored and maintained, is a half block’s walk away from Magruder’s Ferry pier on the Patuxent River. On Sept. 30, she realized her ambition, as she and her husband, George Meng, hosted the second concert of the 2012 season of the Spotlight Music Series. This concert series is an annual program to benefit the Sheldon E. Goldberg Center For Breast Care at Calvert Memorial Hospital.
The center is named in memory of Dr. Goldberg, a highly-respected surgeon and member of the CMH staff, who died last year in a tragic accident. After he lost his first wife to breast cancer, he dedicated his work to saving other women’s lives from the same disease. He had been deeply involved in the development of the breast care center at the hospital, and became the center’s first medical director. His legacy to the women of Southern Maryland is this new, state-of-the-art facility.
Kasia Sweeney, director of public relations at CMH, described the features that make the center’s services cutting edge. The center, opened in 2010, offers comprehensive breast care with the newest breast cancer testing and treatment technology. The staff is an interdisciplinary team of CMH physicians and technicians. The center partners with The Johns Hopkins Hospital technicians, who spend a day a week on site to read imaging test results. The center also maintains a library that’s free and available for any member of the public to visit and use for research.
Needless to say, maintenance of this facility is expensive. To provide additional financial support for the center’s programs, CMH created a subgroup of the CMH Foundation with a specific mission to raise funds for the center. The CMH Foundation is a nonprofit organization staffed by volunteers who are responsible for raising funds to strengthen and support the hospital.
Robin Henshaw is a CMH Foundation member, an accomplished musician and a breast cancer survivor. She agreed with Hayden, who also is a breast cancer survivor, that Harbour Master’s House would be a wonderful setting for the second 2012 Spotlight Music benefit concert. Hayden owns a rare piano built in Baltimore, circa 1870, that she and her husband bought from a once-grand mansion on the Patuxent. Fully restored and tuned, this glorious instrument graces Harbour Master’s Great Room.
So, on the last Sunday in September, a talented group of local musicians assembled for this afternoon musicale. Soprano Cindy Russell Voshell joined tenor Dan Boyer, bass David Reyno and alto Robin Henshaw for a program of four centuries of American music. Pianist Sandy Melson Griese accompanied the singers, and made the handsome old piano sing. Guest artist Ramona Crowley-Goldberg gifted the audience with two solos in her elegant soprano.
Hayden, a historian, designed the concert program from a historical perspective. Until radio and television appeared on the scene in the early 20th century, concerts, or musicales, often were held in private homes. These private concerts might be formal or informal, depending on the locale and the social position, and purse, of the host. Music at home was only obtainable if a family owned a musical instrument or instruments. The piano was the instrument of choice: A piano in the parlor guaranteed social respectability and financial solidity. Pianos weren’t just for show — they were used regularly for entertainment. Hayden noted the custom of family Sunday night music get-togethers, a time for everyone to gather around the piano and sing old favorites and new popular songs.
The program, titled “The Harbour Master’s Melodies,” featured music from the colonial era through the early 20th century, with Hayden providing a brief historical commentary for each number.
“I wanted every song to be one that could have been heard within the walls of this house,” she said. The program began with British folk songs, including “Scarborough Fair,” and progressed through “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” the taunt our ragged revolutionary soldiers sang at the well-clothed and well-shod Brits.
Hayden provided the background story of a song originally composed for a British social club, titled “To Anacreon in Heaven.” Soprano Voshell and tenor Boyer sang the original words to a melody the audience knew very well. This listener, and perhaps other listeners, felt mildly disoriented to hear the music to the “Star Spangled Banner” sung with a set of silly 18th-century lyrics about Greek gods. It felt unpatriotic, somehow, to keep sitting down, when hearing the music that is our national anthem.
The program moved smoothly through the 19th century with what was called “parlor music,” popular songs and gospel songs, to the Civil War era. Hayden encouraged the audience to join the performers in singing a rousing rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The program was designed to be interactive, with the audience asked to sing the choruses of well-known songs. The concert came to a fitting close with all the performers and the audience singing “God Bless America.”
The penultimate number was a song written in the 1920s by a local resident of Lower Marlboro. “Hanging Round A Country Store,” by Ralph Ellsworth Hinman, was very apt, since the Harbour Master’s House was used for many years as the general store for Lower Marlboro. Hayden pointed out that most of the county roads weren’t paved until the 1950s, and were often hard to negotiate in bad weather, so local general stores were a necessity.
To make a memorable afternoon even more memorable, the weather was perfect that Saturday — warm and sunny, with views from the back garden to the Patuxent River, a few yards away. There isn’t enough room here to describe in detail the wonders of this 17th-century house, so beautifully and creatively restored by its owners. Hayden and Meng graciously opened their home for a great cause, one that will bring benefits to the county now and for years to come.
There will be a third Spotlight concert at St. Nicholas Lutheran Church in Huntingtown, on the evening of Dec. 5. Tickets are $20, a small price to pay for a good cause, and, if the concert this past September is typical of the series, it will be a great show. For further information, or to reserve tickets, go to www.calverthospital.org. For more information about the Sheldon E. Goldberg Center for Breast Care at CMH, or any of the excellent proactive health programs offered by CMH, go to www.calverthospital.org.