March is both National Reading Month and Women’s History Month, and the two are linked in a book by George Thornton Edwards.
“Music and Musicians of Maine” describes the role of music, beginning with the Maine Native Americans as observed by early European explorers, and ending with the state of Maine music in 1928. It covers the breadth of state music from spiritual and classical to country, choir and orchestra.
Edwards described the important organizations that are at the forefront of Maine’s musical legacy. Among them were the Hayden Association of Portland, the Maine Festival Chorus, and the Hallowell Harmonic Society. He wrote about composers, musicians, music study clubs and the use of certain musical instruments. One area where the influence of women was at the fore was the Portland Rossini Club, which is exclusively made up of women and is considered the oldest music club in America.
The Biographical Section – 1927-28 – lists all of the men and women who participated in the Maine musical world that year. A number of women known for their contributions were born in Lincoln County.
Helen S. Kelley from Wiscasset studied piano and violin with experienced musicians in Boston. She was concertmaster of the Portland Orchestral Society for three years. In the 1920s she performed as a professional violinist and taught violin.
Annie S. Kennedy was the daughter of Samuel and Clara Kennedy of Jefferson. In the 1920s Annie taught piano and was organist at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Brunswick.
Rena Hammond Ludden was born in Bristol in 1884 and was teaching aspiring singers the year Edwards wrote his book.
Ms. HW Coombs was mentioned as a music teacher in Whitefield, and Ms. JS Chandler of Damariscotta was an accomplished pianist.
Ethel Wentworth Box, born in Boothbay Harbor, has performed as a mezzo-soprano. During her career she taught singing and piano.
Ms. WH Parsons’s place of birth was not given, but she was listed as the pianist and accompanist for the Newcastle-Damariscotta Festival Chorus.
Each of these Lincoln County ladies contributed to the quality and prosperity of Maine’s musical culture. Reflecting on the importance of the Maine Music Festival, Edwards wrote: “In addition to providing the population of the state with some of the greatest experiences that can be made through music, the Maine Music Festivals have been in for that long period (1897-1928) incalculable educational value for music students. Their glorious past will be kept in the memories of men and women in Maine until the last of this generation dies, ”said a press release from the historic association.
Edwards’ Music and Musicians of Maine is available via interlibrary loan and online at Internet Archives archive.org.
This look at the history of Lincoln County is presented by the Lincoln County Historical Association, a nonprofit that owns the 1754 Chapman Hall House in Damariscotta, the Old Prison and Museum from 1811 in Wiscasset, and the Pownalborough Court House from 1761 in Dresden administrates.
For more information about the association, visit lincolncountyhistory.org and the Lincoln County Historical Association Maine Facebook page.