Watercolor painted by M.E. Parmelee
Taken near Crowner Camp, ca. 1971
Although I have known Lake Titus for many years yet my present visit has impressed me more vividly than ever before with its many charms. Instead of losing its wilderness characteristics by the passage of the years and the increasing occupation of its shores by people the lake has developed a still greater appearance of unspoiled seclusion. The lovely forests clothing its shores and the embracing hills continue to grow and extend a sheltering fellowship to the homes set in their midst and to welcome the people to one of nature's delectable places. To the wayfarer like myself Camp Edgewater with its dear and friendly habitants adds the human touch that makes a sojourn here an added joy and departure a gloom.Another entry, this one from September 3, 1923:
- EW Nelson August 1/24
"Labor Day, Sept 3rd, 1923.The Mah Jongg set mentioned in this entry is still owned by Nancy Hale:
The Day we leave. "The best summer yet" was the unanimous vote at the breakfast table on this the last morning of the vacation of 1923. Good health, good eats, good funs, much gaming (mostly Mah Jongg) and dancing have all helped to make glad the days that have passed all too swiftly. A pleasnat time was had by all on two grand picnics; one on Brown's Mountain, the other on Owl's head Pinnacle; not to forget the most enjoyable expedition to Skerry and Coat Hill. Many fine hikes have been particiapted in by various members of the camp - some along familiar trails and some over new territory. "Yes, we have no bananas to-day," "Beale Street Momma," "Barney Google" and other classical melodies have enlivened our spirits and our feet at early morn and late at night. Only ten months till we come again. Hasten the glad day."
THE CHART KEEPER----------------------------------------------
One panel in the living room is lined
With weater charts full ten years old and more.
And all the years my memory serves there's been
Beside the wet thermometer upon the wall,
A paper neatly lined and numbered off
Showing the days both passed by and to come:
And those passed by all neatly written in: -
What wind- what sun and what precipitation.
The Fiddler of the Northern Lights
James Houston Spencer (1985–1967)
These past few weeks, the Music History class of Fall 2010 has had the opportunity to delve into the past and become acquainted with our wonderful new building’s namesake, James Houston Spencer. We would like to thank Hildreth Spencer, James’s daughter, for taking the time to help us reconnect with our past. Peeking into this composer’s mind has allowed us to experience history, both in the past and currently in the making. We invite you to join us as we venture deeper into the life that was James Spencer.
James Houston Spencer was born on July 28, 1895 in Malone, New York, a small town on the border between New York and Quebec, to parents Franklin Talmadge Spencer and Mary Elizabeth Houston. Even without formal training, both of his parents were proficient musicians, his father in trumpet and violin and his mother in piano, which exposed James to the joys of music from a very young age. Spencer studied piano and cello during his childhood in Malone and later pursued music at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts. It was here that Spencer made the decision to give up the cello in favor of the organ and pursue his interest in conducting and composition, studying under Arthur Foote as well as George Whitefield Chadwick. In the summer of 1921, Spencer interviewed for the position of music director at Adrian College and soon made Adrian his home, teaching and composing numerous works. Tonight, we remember Spencer with the premiere of his final work, The Fiddler of the Northern Lights.
Fiddler was finished, according to the final page of the score, at 4:00 pm on September 29, 1966. It combines Spencer’s natural story-telling ability with his mature musical style. Living so near the Canadian border, the local store would sell to customers not just from Malone, but also those who came down from Canada, specifically those from Quebec. We see this cultural influence in the appearance of the two French folk songs employed in the piece, "Frère Jacques" and "Allouette," and in the story from which the work draws its inspiration.
Fiddler is a tone poem depicting the old French Canadian folk legend of the myth of the northern lights. According to the legend, a mysterious, grisly old man would appear unannounced in the night carrying with him a black fiddle and would come knocking on the door. If the unsuspecting family allowed him entrance, he would begin to play. As the stranger began to play, the Aurora Borealis would appear in the sky and the more frantic the music became, the more brilliant the ethereal lights would flash, until as quickly as he had come, the fiddler would disappear again into the night.
The Fiddler of the Northern Lights was the last piece James Spencer ever composed. After his death, Hildreth and her mother decided to allow the Detroit Public Library to house his compositions in the Burton Historical Collection, but elected to retain his last, feeling that it would not live up to his normal standards due to the fact that Spencer was dying of prostate cancer at the time of its composition.
However, sometime after her father’s death, Hildreth Spencer brought the work to the attention of a Dr. Poole, a staff conductor for the Detroit Symphony, who pronounced the piece workable after viewing it. After holding back the score for over 50 years, Hildreth brought the manuscript to Adrian Symphony Orchestra Music Director John Thomas Dodson, who then prepared a performing version of the work for tonight’s premiere. The Fiddler of the Northern Lights, then, is the last fantastic tale told in music by James Houston Spencer, the father of our new building.
"Byron A. Whitney, for many years engaged in the piano and music business in Malone, and a former trustee of Malone village, passed from mortal life Saturday evening at his home, 115 West Main street, aged 85 years.
Byron A. Whitney was born in the town of Dickinson in June 1845, a son of Peter ad [sic] Lucinia Whitney. His parents were pioneers of the town and came to Dickinson with others from Alburgh, Vt., making the journey by ox team and cart, when this North Country was little more than an unbroken wilderness. Peter Whitney and his wife were among the founders of the hamlet of Alburgh, a community which lies partly in the town of Dickinson and partly in the town of Moira. They gave the first settlement the name of Alburgh in honor of the Vermont town from which they came.
Byron A. Whitney received the rudiments of his education in the district schools of Dickinson, and later completed his education in the old Lawrenceville Academy. For several years after his graduation he taught school in the districts adjacent to his home, being an instructor [in] nineteen school terms. He possessed natural talent in music, and while engaged as a district school teacher also taught singing school in various communities.
He later went to Des Moines, Iowa, remaining there for a few [years]. Returning east he established himself in business in Norwood, remaining there until he removed to Malone in 1893, and established his piano and music business here, eventually purchasing the property at 115 West Main street, which was thereafter his home and business location. At the time of his comign to Malone he conducted an insurance agency as a branch of his business, but later disposed of the agency to O'Neil & Hale and devoted his entire time to the sale of music merchandise.
In this he was busily occupied and for years he personally delivered the pianos and organs he sold, driving his delivery team and wagon long distances to all parts of Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. Always greatly interested in church muisc he presented organs to many churches in the local territory. Four years ago he sold his business to his son, Olin H. Whitney, who has since conducted the piano and music business at the West Main street location. For a time the firm was known as B.A. Whitney & Son."