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Mozart fans celebrate composer's 249th birthday

February 03, 2005|by Marie Gilbert/Staff Writer

For years, Phil Kelly and his friends would get together in December to observe the anniversary of the death of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Fans of Mozart's music, they would gather at Schmankerl Stube restaurant in downtown Hagerstown and turn the evening into a social event.

"This year," said Kelly, "I decided to make a change. Instead of observing his death, I thought it would be more appropriate to celebrate his birthday."

So Monday evening at Schmankerl Stube, about 50 people joined together to mark the Austrian composer's 249th birthday.

Each person attending the event paid $20 for tickets, with proceeds going to the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

"I'm a big supporter of the MSO," Kelly said. "It just makes sense that the Symphony should benefit from an evening like this."

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Kelly said it's been fun to watch the Mozart party grow over the years.

"It started out with me and a few of my friends," he laughed. "Now it's a pretty big fund-raiser."

Helping to make the annual event a success, Kelly said, is Charles Sekula, owner of the Schmankerl Stube. "He's been terrific opening his restaurant for the party and providing food. He's been very generous."

Sekula said he believes in supporting community events like the Mozart evening.

"I'm glad I can help," he said.

Kelly admitted he's not a musical expert but has developed a love of Mozart's music over the past 15 years.

Next year will be the Austrian composer's 250th birthday, and Kelly already is thinking ahead. "I would love to celebrate it in Salzburg, where Mozart was born," he said. "But I doubt that will happen. So we'll make his birthday bash a special one in Hagerstown."

During Monday night's fund-raiser, people in attendance enjoyed listening to Mozart, talking Mozart, and several lucky ticket-holders won Mozart prizes, including a Mozart bobblehead doll, action figure, puzzle and candy.

"It's just a fun evening," Kelly said. "I think Mozart would appreciate the fact that, centuries later, we're still celebrating his birthday. He was a whimsical guy, someone who lived life with a flourish. I think he would like what we're doing."

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