Friday, June 20, 2014

Tuesday Musical Club

The living presidents of the TMC at the Stephen Foster Memorial dedication in 1937
(Photo credit: The Pittsburgh Tuesday Musical Club)

The Tuesday Musical Club is a non-profit, small arts group that provides free concerts of classical, chamber and contemporary music, music scholarships and stage opportunities for members. They're one of the many long-running and dedicated but under-the-radar organizations that keep Southwest PA a vibrant cultural region.

In 1889, the year Schenley Park was born, Andrew Carnegie was revolutionizing the steel industry and Gustav Mahler's First Symphony premiered in Budapest, a handful of prominent women in Pittsburgh formed a musical club. These female musicians, whose social status shut them out from doing anything professionally in a male-dominated age (this was way before Madonna), organized private recitals of classical music.

First calling their group Tuesday Afternoon Musicale (The Tuesday Afternoon Club concept was common back in the day; at least a dozen other cities had groups with the same, or very similar, names), their first performances were held in the rooms of the Mozart Club in the Hostetter Building on Fourth Avenue, by permission of Henry Clay Frick, a trustee. After a year, the performances were moved to the music room of Eleanor & Christopher Magee's mansion in Oakland, "The Maples," on the site of today's UPMC Magee Hospital.

In 1902, the club admitted non-musicians as associate members, resulting in larger audiences and more presentations. They played in top flight halls like the Schenley Hotel, Soldiers and Sailors Hall, the Masonic Club, and the Fort Pitt Hotel.

The hall-to-hall existence led to their most notable achievement, a collaboration among themselves, Pitt and a well-to-do Stephen Foster collector from Indiana.

They naturally wanted their own hall, and wanted it dedicated to Pittsburgh's own Stephen Collins Foster. TMC worked together with Chancellor John G. Bowman of Pitt and Josiah Lilly of Indianapolis for ten long years to achieve their goal. Bowman gave them some land and helped with fundraising while Lilly donated 10,000 pieces of Foster memorabilia and wads of cash. The building cost $550,000 in depression-era money, and Lilly and his son Eli (does Eli Lilly & Company ring a bell?) came up with nearly half the cost.

The result was the Stephen C. Foster Memorial, dedicated in 1937 on the lawn of the Cathedral of Learning. In a nice touch, ground for it was broken on January 13th, 1935, the 71st anniversary of Foster's death.

The Stephen Foster memorial from All

The club didn't stop there. TMC members are credited with forming the Pittsburgh Opera Society in 1939, as well as the Pittsburgh Concert Society and The Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh.

And though it took a few decades, TMC broached the final frontier and began admitting men in 1976.

More than a century after its inception, TMC remains on the go. Their first scholarship was awarded in 1928, and auditions for the scholarships are held biannually, with $40,000 in tuition money going to young musicians in the latest round. TMC also has a community outreach program called Musicare, which provides recitals for residents of nursing homes, subsidized housing, and senior centers throughout Allegheny County. The club musicians often perform at public and city events as well.

Many club activities are in-house and take place during their meetings in member's homes or churches (which are awesome venues in their own right), with musical performances as well as coaching sessions provided by PSO musicians and university faculty.

This year, they'll present eight free public Tuesday afternoon concerts, three Saturday afternoon recitals and one Sunday afternoon concert to showcase current TMC scholarship winners. 125 years and still going strong...

(The info on this post was shamelessly swiped almost verbatim from Anne Marie DeGeorge's TMC history on their website. Check them out; they're one of the oldest-running and quietly active musical groups in the region and handily headquartered at the Stephen Foster Memorial in Oakland.)

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