WESTFIELD, NJ — Since 1915, the Musical Club of Westfield has promoted classical music within the community. An organization originally only open to women with gatherings held in each other’s homes, the club opened to men in the 1980s. For the last 25 years, performances have been held in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, 170 Elm Street, where performers can play the organ and the Steinway piano that was given to the club by the late Mrs. Janet Grimler Gleason.
Members have a strong sense of the club’s history.
“It’s grown from something in people’s parlors to sharing music with the community,” said Jenny Cline, recording secretary and publicity chairman. “It’s a lovely chance for people to socialize.”
Cline estimated that close to 800 classically oriented performances have been held by the Musical Club since its inception. Programs run from October through May, excluding January.
“The performances are high caliber,” said Cline.
General memberships are available in two categories—active (performing members) and associate (non-performing). Associate members support the club's dual purposes of promoting music and supporting scholarship students.
Auditions for performing members are held a couple times a year, according to Cline. Every member is expected to support the club through its biennial scholarship concert and fund drive. The scholarship concerts are the only performances that are not free—a $10 admission charge goes toward the scholarship fund.
Scholarships are available to gifted high school students who wish to pursue their music studies at college level. Five or six scholarships are given each year to encourage and recognize local musicians. Matthew Sklar, who wrote the music for the musical “The Wedding Singer” received his scholarship in 1991.
With the 100th anniversary around the corner in two years, Cline isn’t exactly sure what the Musical Club will do to celebrate.
“We’re hoping to commission works by local composers in honor of the event. It will certainly be a big deal. There are members who have been in the club for sixty years,” said Cline.
The club’s next performance will be held on Wednesday, April 10, at 1:30 p.m. Glen Crane, bass-baritone, accompanied by Mary Beth McFall, piano, will perform a set of songs called “One Poem, Five Settings.” The poem is Goethe’s “The Harper's Lament,” and Crane will sing five different composers’ settings of the text: Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Hugo Wolf and Karl Friedrich Zelter.
Mezzo-soprano Drude Sparre Roessler, accompanied by pianist Marie-Danièle Mercier, will perform four Songs from La Belle Époque by Reynaldo Hahn. Roessler will also sing the aria “Faites-lui Mes Aveux” from Charles Gounod's opera Faust.
Cellist Douglas Hardin will perform the Adagio from Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly's Sonate for solo cello in B minor (Op 8), a work widely considered to be the greatest composition for solo cello since J. S. Bach's cello suites.
Flutist Helen Bartolick and pianist Beverly Thomson Shea will join forces to perform several popular works of the late 19th century, including rags by Scott Joplin, a popular tune called “Call Me Thine Own,” and the Nightingale Serenade by WilhelmPopp.
The concert is free and open to the public. Afterward, light refreshments will be served and the audience will enjoy an opportunity to meet the performers.
For more information on membership, scholarship and performances, visit westfieldnj.com/mcw.