Counting years with the Beethoven Society

 ... $11,000 provided Melrose High students

from Phil Pendleton

The Beethoven Society of Melrose was founded in October 1927 by Alice Webster Eldridge and Archibald Hume. Its first president was Constance Bevan Whitcomb. The initial group of 35 members were dedicated musicians who performed in each others homes with one guest night a year.

Among the earlist members was Harold Sewall who played viola and served as treasurer for many years. Mr. Sewall had earlier in 1919 been a founder of the Melrose Symphony. Others who made significant contributions are Marion Severn, viola; Sidonia Weiner, soprano; Ruth Johnston, cello (and first cellist in M.S.O. for many years); Beatrice Donovan, violin; Nevarte Adrian, piano; Cecily Gittes, piano; Hortense Williams, piano; Marjorie Burgess, composer; Michael Power, piano; Alberta Mathiesen, piano/organ; and James Mrose, violin (concertmaster of M.S.O. for many years).

There are three members still performing after 40 years or more: Ruth Sullivan, piano; Charles Sullivan, violin; and Polly Harlow, piano. Two others warrant special mention: George Brown, an outstanding cellist who taught at Yale and was conductor of the M.S.O. for 32 years, was an honorary member of the Society.

Many will recall Eleanor van Buskirk Harris, soprano, who not only sang at Beethoven Society programs, but was also a stellar attraction at Polymnia's Pops concerts. Many other talented and hardworking persons should also be cited.

In 1992 the Society voted to establish a category of "Associate Members" who would support the organization and could hold office but who did not wish to perform. The society presently has 42 members and 20 associate members.

The Beethoven Society has long been involved with furthering the cause of music in general. Many of its members have been music teachers or professors. In earlier years the Society made an annual donation to the Melrose High School Permanent Scholarship Fund. In 1986 it began its own music award program, and in these 18 years it has awarded $11,050 to 52 candidates. Another philanthropic venture was to donate in 1973 a set of wooden shelves to the Melrose Public Library in memory of Dorothy Knight, a long-time member.

In recent years the Society decided to share the gift of music with the general public, so today nearly all programs are presented in local churches. Notice of meetings appear in the Melrose Free Press.

Another change is that membership is no longer restricted to residents of Melrose. Members come anywhere from nearby communities to the North Shore and southern New Hampshire.

As the Beethoven Society celebrates its 76th birthday - it hopes to continue for many years to present music of high caliber to all those who might enjoy it.

March 5, 2004

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