Reviews ...

Beethoven Society honors long-term members

... program provides an afternoon of music and friendship

by Jackie Wattenberg

Who says classical music is stuffy! Just ask any member of this quartet -- these classy ladies added pizzazz to last month's Beethoven Society special awards program. The group includes Regina Lucas, Barbara Finnegan, Jean Danciewicz and Marcy Holbrook.

Jackie Wattenberg's article first appeared in the
Melrose Free Press, and is reprinted here with permission.

Members of the Beethoven Society of Melrose who have belonged for 30, 40 or 50 years or more were honored in a surprise segment of a meeting in the Highlands Congregational Church last month. Certificates of honor were presented to 15 members by Rose Sena, a soprano member and publicity chairwoman, and Jackie Wattenberg, mezzo soprano and program chairwoman, who together planned the surprise event with tenor Sam Chen.

At the left are the Sullivans, at the right are the Pendletons -- all long-time members of Beethoven.

Longest-term members Charles and Ruth Sullivan joined Beethoven in 1948. She is a pianist, piano teacher and church organist who at 15 was a  member of the Junior Beethoven Society in 1936. Charlie Sullivan a very promising violinist and violin teacher, but decided to become a research follow in science. However, he performed on his instrument for many years, accompanied by his wife, Ruth, giving recitals all over Massachusetts and in Maine, where they maintained a summer home.

Ruth Sullivan recalled how the early meetings "were held in our homes, playing just for each other, with only about 25 members, all performers or music teachers."

"We were a little fussy about whom we admitted then," Mr. Sullivan said. "Today, by opening our meetings to the public, we're inadvertently exposing music to a broader group of people."

Left to right are tenor Sam Chen, long-time member Margaret King, and pianist Winifred Harlow.

Phil Pendleton, then a psychology professor at Northeastern University and a pianist, and his wife Jean Pendleton, soprano, joined Beethoven around 1962, shortly after joining the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church where Beethoven's meetings have been held for many years now, and where Jean Pendleton has sung in the choir for 40 years. She has also sung with Polymnia choral Society. Songs with special amusing words were sung to Phil Pendleton by singers he has accompanied, Sam Chen, Jean Danciewicz and Marcy Holbrook, with Starr Demitre at the piano.

The traditional first half of the meeting presented a recital of two-piano works by Pendleton and Winifred "Polly" Harlow, a member in the early 1960s who was also honored. Mrs. Harlow was, for many rears, a piano teacher, a member of Polymnia choral Society and long a member of the Highlands Church where Sunday's meeting was held.

John Montanus, pianist, church organist and choir conductor at the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church, was honored for his 30 years-plus membership. A song praising him was sung by two local singers who recently celebrated 25 years of collaborating with him, Regina Lucas and Barbara Finnegan, plus Marcy Holbrook and Jean Danciewicz.

Soprano Marcy Holbrook gives accompanist John Montanus at hug of congratulations.

This group was accompanied by Demitre, also honored for her long membership as a pianist in Beethoven, noted as a devoted member of Polymnia, and a conductor of the Melrose Senior Chorus. Soprano Regina Lucas, a well-known singer in Melrose and the Boston area, for 25 years the soprano soloist at the Melrose Methodist Church, also received an honorary certificate.

Awarded the form of honor in absentia were soprano Erna Hooten-Koester, originally from Germany; clarinetist Tony Fulginti, who has performed with symphonies and as soloist for many years; and Marjorie Burgess, pianist, piano teacher and composer, all members of Beethoven for more than 30 years.

Surprised also to receive honorary recognition was soprano Rose Sena, who has assisted in planning the event. Sena is a soprano, loyal member and sometimes soloist with Polymnia Choral Society, and a member of Beethoven for more than 30 years. Ms. Sena joined with Ms. Wattenberg to sing an original version of "I'll be Loving You Always" dedicated to Beethoven members, and Marcy Holbrook, singer and actress, closed the program with a poem to music.

-- Photos by Stringer Don Norris

June 3, 2005

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