Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lottie's Daughters' Memories of Music in their Family

Glinda writes:

This section focuses on Lottie Hart Brenz's 3 daughters' memories of their Mother, memories her stories of the Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages, and memories of the role of music in their family when they were growing up. Text comes from 3 sources: their "Round Robin Letter" of childhood memories (mid 1980s), Mother's (Dorothy's) response to Granddaughter Melanie Crawford's questions about women's family history for a Women Studies class (2000), Mother's and Aunt Ruthie's discussions of their memories (February 2008), Mother's responses during for an interview with Truman State University Professor Jay Bulen and his graduate students on her Mother and the Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages (February 2008).

Mother tells us (February 2008) that at the time her Mother was enrolled in the Conservatory of Music, Lottie and her family lived on a farm east of Greentop. She was unmarried at the time. Her Mother's Father (Robert Nelson Hart) would drive his daughter (Lottie) to meet the train at either Sublette or Greentop (7 or 10 miles from Kirksville). Mother says that horse and buggy almost had to be the mode of transportation, considering the times. Her Mother would board the train and travel to Kirksville. She would live with her Grandparents (Isaac and Catherine South) during the week while she was taking lessons at the Conservatory of Music. Isaac and Catherine South lived across the street from the Brenz's (her Father's family).

Mother says (February 2008) her Mother had a piano at home on the farm. She does not know if the Souths had a piano but she does know her Mother had access to a piano in town for her long sessions of practice. Aunt Lula had told Mother years ago that having a piano was not something everyone had during those times.

Aunt Louise wrote in the 3 sisters "Round Robin Letter" (about 1983): "Daddy got acquainted with Mother [Lottie] who was staying with her Grandmother South who lived across the street from the Brenz's. Mother was finishing her musical career which she was studying piano ... She had to practice 6 and finally 8 hours a day before she finished. Grandmother Brenz would send Daddy after eggs --- to her neighbor. She wanted our Daddy, (her son) to meet that Miss Lottie Hart, who was to be our Mother in a few years."

Mother wrote to Melanie (fall 2000): "Regarding education, Mother (Lottie Hart Brenz) who was born in 1884 came to Kirksville from Greentop to study classical piano and language at the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages. She graduated in 1909. As we were growing up, we often met someone who had heard Mother perform. At her graduation the invitation mentions she would play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Adagio Movement for piano. She also played William Finks Romance Op 200 No. 2 for the left hand only and Keler Bela's Lustspiel Overture, a piano duet with class mate Edith Kaster. Her accident [about 1923] kept her from public performances later."

Mother said her Mother played the piano at her church, Trinity Methodist Church east of Greentop (February 2008). She does not know the years.

Ruthie wrote in the "Round Robin Letter" (April 1986): "When I think of Mother I remember so many things. Her love of music, her reputation as a musician. Many times someone mentioned her music at a wedding, or church or funeral and how they remember her playing from years ago. "

Mother wrote to Melanie (fall 2000): : "Besides Mother playing the piano, Daddy loved to play the French Harp and sometimes the neighborhood men would get together with their harps. Louise played the piano and in the school band she played the cornet. Daddy bought a violin for Ruthie from Mr. Mellinger and she took lessons from Mr. Jay Hatton and then Mr. William Ulrich. Ruthie still has her violin. Louise played the piano all her life. She had Mother's piano until she moved from the farm (East of Sublette) ... Dorothy took piano lessons from Ruby Diehl who drove from Greentop to our home for the lessons. Later she took from Anna Margaret Downing. (She was one of Jack's school teachers at Willard School.) Regardless of the shortage of work for Daddy they somehow provided music lessons for us. Our Daddy and Mother frequently sang while working around the house. I can still hear Daddy sing three of his favorites, 'Beautiful Dreamer,' 'I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen' and 'Let the Rest of the World Go By.' The latter song, I believe was popular when they were going out together." (When I reviewed this section with Mother 3/1/08, she says she remembers her Mother telling her that this song was popular at that time.)

Jay Bulen asked Mother if she had observed in those times that women were more likely to play the piano and men the French harp (interview 2008): Mother responded yes.

Aunt Ruthie wrote in the "Round Robin Letter" (Summer 1985): "And of course Mother played and sang hymns at her piano. The songs I remember she sang were 'The Old Rugged Cross,' 'In the Garden,' 'Almost Persuaded,' 'God Will Take Care of You' and of course the Christmas Carols. Louise tried to teach us to harmonize with our voices as she played popular music."

Aunt Louise wrote in the "Round Robin Letter" (above 1985): "Before Mother's hands got so crippled up, she gave many piano lessons, as she was an accomplished piano player. Mother tried to teach me to play the piano, but I should have been whipped---I just didn't try very hard. So, she paid $1 a lesson for me to take from Mrs. Margriete and she didn't know as much about piano as Mother did. Both of my little sisters took from Ruby Deal."


Photos above: Lottie Hart, date and occasion unknown. In conversation February 2008, Mother remembers Aunt Lula saying that Lottie had beautiful clothes and that not all the young people did. Aunt Lula also said this "did not turn Lottie's head", which meant that Lottie did not let what she wore distance her from those around her.

Photo below: Lottie Hart, date and occasion unknown. Mother notes on the back that she lived east of Greentop.


Glinda's notes:

(1) Thinking about Grandmother traveling by buggy and by train in 1909, I can imagine how how dusty, smoky, loud, and bumpy that must have been. I can almost hear the train go "Chug-Chug-Chug", and that whistle blow. As she would travel by buggy, the countryside would have been filled with people living on and working small farms with their diversity of crops and livestock; that's very different from today when our lives are so focused on town. I can almost see her Dad and she wave as their buggy goes by.

(2) One of Jay Bulen's students Ashley commented on the special clothes one would need for attending the Conservatory of Music during those times.

(3) I also can imagine that Grandmother must have had considerable family support for such a venture (both from her parents and grandparents).

(4) I wonder about the social sphere surrounding a choice to go to music school for a woman in the early 1900s. Continuing education was surely not a privilege available to all at that time.

(5) I keep wondering about that train ride. What was the fare? How long did it take? What did the train look like?

(Edited: 3/3/08)

Depot Photos: (Above) Sublette Depot 1900s and (below) Greentop 1907. (Thanks to Deleta and Hollis Dale for helping me find these!) Source: Missouri Train Depots (3/2/08).

No comments: