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Memorial concert honors Dr. Comstock

January 28, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN - At a memorial concert Sunday for Dr. George W. Comstock, a noted medical researcher and founding member of the Washington County Museum Consort, performers decided to let the audience in on Comstock's "last joke."

"When he knew the end was coming, he helped prepare the memorial service," consort member David Styer said of Comstock, who died July 15, 2007, at the age of 92, after a long battle with prostate cancer.

"It was a great memorial service, but George did not want anyone leaving there in tears," Styer said.

So after the eulogy was read and the folded flag had been presented to his widow, the Museum Consort began to play Comstock's final selection: the upbeat, whimsical "Colonel Bogey's March."

"People were laughing through their tears," said Comstock's granddaughter, Barbara Comstock-King.

Comstock-King, a music teacher from Connecticut, joined the Museum Consort Sunday to play a selection of recorder music inspired by Comstock, including "Colonel Bogey's March."

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There was standing room only in the Bowman Gallery at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, where more than 100 people gathered to hear the remembrance concert.

Comstock, best known for his influential research on tuberculosis prevention and treatment, also was a passionate, lifelong musician who favored the recorder since playing one in his high school band, his son, Gordon Comstock, said Sunday.

"He was a good example of a well-rounded person," said Comstock-King, who attributes her love of music to her grandfather.

In fact, nearly everyone in the Comstock family shares George's musical inclinations, as demonstrated Sunday when several family members from throughout the country joined in to play a selection by Johann Sebastian Bach on their recorders.

Other pieces from Sunday's concert included "Catawba Valley," a song written by a friend for Comstock's 57th wedding anniversary, and "Variations of Schonster Herr Jesu," which the consort had commissioned based on Comstock's favorite hymn, "Fairest Lord Jesus."

Another personalized piece was inspired by a nickname Comstock's medical students had for their tall, slim professor. An acquaintance adapted and expanded the Kukuspolka for recorders and called it, in Comstock's honor, the "Cornstalk Polka."

"He had a great sense of humor," said Comstock's daughter-in-law, Ginger Comstock. He used to sign his name as "G. Wilikers Cornstalk," Gordon Comstock recalled.

Styer said Comstock's contributions to the Museum Consort were numerous. A researcher at heart, he relished digging up interesting background information about the music and composers, and usually wrote the background notes for the programs, Styer said. He also suggested alternate fingerings and articulation techniques, and brought back creative ideas from his world travels.

Comstock, who always taught his children to leave a place better than they found it, also made contributions as a supporter of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, and as a member of numerous local music groups, Styer said.

"As was his goal wherever he went, he did leave the Hagerstown community in a better condition than when he arrived," Styer wrote in the program.

The next Washington County Museum Consort performance will be "Step Up With Dutch Masters" at 2:30 p.m. March 30 at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Styer said.

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