The spirit of the music

HCA recognizes long-time arts supporter at "Potpourri for the Spirit" performance

HCA recognizes long-time arts supporter at "Potpourri for the Spirit" performance

May 16, 2002|BY KEVIN CLAPP

As a boy, Gregory P. Shook would go to Machen Music on Pennsylvania Avenue with his father, shopping for sheet music or other musical paraphernalia.

Later, an older Shook serving as director of Hagerstown Choral Arts would rely on the music store, once run by local mainstay Frances Machen, as a place to sell tickets to HCA performances.

He was not alone. Often behind the scenes, Machen - whose father, William, founded the music shop - avoided the spotlight.


Until now.

"She's done so much for our arts community and Frances doesn't do things to be recognized. She does things because she has a passion for the arts," Shook says. "What she's accomplished with the Potomac Symphony years ago and the Maryland Symphony. ... She's just been involved in so much."

Machen was instrumental in the founding of the MSO and is a long-time supporter of the arts.

During "Potpourri for the Spirit," the HCA spring performance Saturday night, the organization will also recognize Machen's contributions to the arts community.

Touched and appreciative, she nonetheless doesn't see what all the fuss is about.

"I was rather astounded," Machen says during a break from spring cleaning last week. " I think it's totally unnecessary they do it, but I'm very excited about it."

Also on tap is a smorgasbord of musical selections, encompassing spirituals, showtunes and easy listening favorites.

The show centerpiece is Louis Vierne's "Solemn Mass," a challenging piece HCA member Kathleen Wold says puts singers through their paces vocally.

"It's challenging, with sustained vocal lines," Wold says. "Singing is very physical, and it's the same as a swimmer or runner or someone who goes distances would work on their lung capacity."

Shifting from the mass to spirituals, the program will then shift sharply into an arrangement of Cole Porter, a version of English composer Charles Stanford's "The Bluebird" and a recitation of "Danny Boy."

If it sounds wildly divergent, Shook agrees. He admits to initial concern that the selections would not thread together to form a cohesive program. Seeing his singers reaction in rehearsals, fear has receded.

"We called it 'Potpourri for the Spirit' because each of the pieces is spiritual. It's not that they're religious pieces, but they're kind of mellowing and calming," Shook says. "They're varied, but they all tend to accomplish the same thing."

The last show of their ninth season, Shook says attention will now shift to HCA's celebration of 10 years, a milestone made easier to achieve thanks to Machen's support.

Told of the group's plan last month, Machen says support for the arts - by her or others - is essential.

"I think it's important for all musical groups, starting with (Hagerstown Community College-sponsored series) Kinder Konzerts right up to groups like the Maryland Symphony and choral arts," she says. "They all deserve support, and it can be hard to come by."

Saturday night, HCA will take a moment to applaud the ultimate arts patron, a woman who has made making music in Hagerstown easier for all.

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