1929:  All-State Orchestra and Chorus Organized


NOTES DA CAPO – By John L. Puffenbarger, WVMEA Historian

Fall 2008


The invention of the phonograph was a great source of home entertainment, and by the late 1920s, the invention of radio gave people an opportunity to listen to performances by outstanding orchestras of the day. In 1930, a radio program titled "The School of the Air" pointed out that "The School of Music is 'on the air'." Radio station WMMN in Fairmont, WV, played various types of music includ­ing symphonies by classical composers. These types of broadcasts did much to promote interest in school music programs.


In 1917, the WV Federation of Music Clubs was organized in Clarksburg, with the purpose of promoting and stimulating an interest in good music an encouraging music education and creative talent. In 1929, there were eighty-eight local clubs in the state. A scholar­ship loan fund was established to help students further their music education. Interest in music was growing in many communities.


In 1926, several music teachers in the state became interested in promoting music in their schools by giving students an opportunity to perform in an all-state group. They believed such exposure would help create interest in instrumental and vocal music. Karl Brown of Terra Alta, Glenn O. Sallack of Beckley, and 1. Henry Francis of Charleston began to discuss the possibility of organizing an all-state concert.


The first WV State High School Orchestra concert was held on October 31, 1927, at the State Education Association meeting in Charleston. A symphonic band under the direction of Glenn O. Sallack also performed. Records do now show performances by either group in 1928. The second WV High School Orchestra performed in Parkersburg on February 8 and 9, 1929. The first WV State High School Chorus was also on the program. 1. Henry Francis, director of music education, Charleston, directed the orchestra, and Clarence C. Arms, supervisor of music, Clarksburg, directed the chorus.


Interest in music programs in state schools was growing, indicated by the fact that 143 students performed in the fifth performance of the orchestra and 198 students sang in the fourth performance of the chorus in concerts held on Thursday and Friday, October 29 and 30, 1931, in Charleston. These concerts appeared on the Friday and Saturday programs of the WV State Education Association's an­nual meeting. Representing the best in secondary school music from a wide range of high schools, programs of unusual merit were presented to capacity audiences at Charleston Senior High School, where general sessions were held.


In 1930, Karl V. Brown ("Doc" as he was respectfully called by his students) moved from TerraAlta to Spencer. He served as general chairman of the 1931 chorus. The conductor of the chorus was Marie D. Boette, supervisor of music, Parkersburg. Mr. Francis was the accompanist. Mr. Francis and Mr. Shadwell conducted the orchestra.


Schools represented in the chorus were Beckley, Charleston, Dunbar, Elkhorn District at Switchback, Elkview, East Fairmont, Fayet­teville, Huntington, Martinsburg, Montgomery, Moundsville, Pennsboro, Point Pleasant, St. Albans, St. Marys, South Charleston, Spencer, Triadelphia district at Oak Park, Wheeling, and West Union. (See the November 1987 Notes da Capo article titled "Focus On School Orchestras," by Clifford Brown, on the WVMEA website for a listing of orchestra schools.)


The orchestra performed four selections: Overture to Der Freischutz, by Weber; Minuet from Symphony No 1 (strings only), by Glo­rges Valansen; L 'Arlesienne (Concert Suite No.1, Prelude, Minuetto, Le Carillon), by Georges Bizet; and Grand American Fantasie (America Forever), by Tobani.

The chorus program consisted of six selections: La, How a Rose E'er Blooming, by M. Praetorius, A.D. 1609; The Sea Widower, by 1. Henry Francis (performed by the girls); Summer is A Coming In, edited by W.S. Rockstro; Were You There, arranged by H.T. Burleigh; Solders of the Captain, by L. Spohr; Stars of the Summer Night, by LB. Woodbury (performed by the boys); and A Song of Victory, by Percy E. Fletcher.


The West Virginia School Journal reported, "The organization of the voice parts in the chorus was beautifully balanced and from many sources was regarded as the best concert that has been heard in this series of assembling the young folds from the high schools in West Virginia. The instrumentation of the orchestra left some things to be desired in the way of some of the woodwinds and some of the lower string parts and was also a little overbalanced in the brass and clarinet section." The concert given by this organization, how­ever, was accounted as "the finest work yet heard in West Virginia."


(Editor's note: For further information about the beginning of the WV All-State High School Orchestra and Chorus, see the Novem­ber 1989 Notes da Capo article, "All-State Groups: Part of Our Heritage" by John L Puffenbarger on the WVMEA webpage.)