Vintage local waltz recovered

December 04, 1999|By ANDREA ROWLAND

The notes have for decades rested flat upon the frail, yellowed original copy of the Dagmar Waltz.

The 1911 tribute to a prominent Hagerstown businessman's youngest daughter will come alive Monday as the Washington County Free Library hosts a presentation of songs written mainly by Hagerstonians.

"Hagerstown Music" will be the latest topic in the library's Robert McCauley lecture series.

The body of music, much of which is in hand manuscript form dating from the early 1800s to the 1970s, was recently "rediscovered" in the archives in the library's Western Maryland Room, said room curator John Frye.

The presentation will not include the work of longtime Hagerstown Municipal Band Director Peter Buys, whose music is in a category all its own, Frye said.


Frye's interest was piqued as he leafed through the old file of music, so he called upon his friends Paul and Gayl McDermott of Gaithersburg, Md., for help.

Paul McDermott, a retired Montgomery College professor, and his wife, Gayl, a professional musician, will demonstrate how the local music evolved over the ages, Frye said.

Paul McDermott said he has created a narrative to put in historical context the series of songs his wife will perform on the accordion or synthesizer.

"It's going to be interesting to hear these songs performed to see how they really sound," Frye said.

Some of the musical scores provide commentaries about life in Hagerstown and the impact of the Civil War on the area, McDermott said.

"The Hagerstown March- A Booster Song," written by Hagerstonian John C. English and published in 1922, boasts of the city's populace and then-booming economy.

"Oh Hagerstown, thy sons and daughters are very proud of you ... this is the town of progress and good cheer ... not a place has handsomer girls," the song reads.

It praises such downtown businesses as Roesner's Confectionery, Thomas H. Porter Wholesale Tobacco and Confectionery and "Luemm's fine restaurants" on Washington Street.

All these businesses- including Charles L. Lumm's Arcade Dining Room and Charles M. Lumm's Maryland Dining Room- are listed in the 1922 City Directory.

"You can see how everything was focused downtown," said Frye, who added that the song's author probably had a reason for misspelling the Lumms' last name.

Another song written 40 years later laments an area event that occurred a century earlier.

Clear Spring resident Ora Ann Ernst's "A Lark at Antietam," with music by Mildred K. Seibert, describes a bird's confusion over the carrion-covered remains of her battlefield home.

"In a listless glide she wondered what destroyed her simple world that day," the song reads.

Some of the 20th century songs also reflect their authors' patriotism and pride in their industrious community, Paul McDermott said.

Hagerstown aircraft defense worker Mark Twain Clement's "In God We Trust," 1942, illustrates his faith in God, his country and his community.

"There is even some philosophy about the meaning of life," Paul McDermott said.

And, of course, there are songs of love.

Keedysville resident Anita Synder, who died in 1992, wrote in a 1918 ditty: "I want you when the summer sun hangs rainbows in the sky."

The presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the library's B/C Meeting Room downstairs. Due to limited seating, interested persons should reserve free tickets by calling the reference desk.

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