In the month of the Christ Child’s birth, our hearts turn with reverence tot he simple beauty of that far away scene, when in the lowly manger, “The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.” Now, almost 2000 years later, in times of such fears and forebodings as the world has never before known, the hearts of mankind turn to that scene in humble supplication, that there may yet be a time of “peace on earth, good will to men.”
Except in our churches, there are, perhaps, no times when groups of people can feel this unanimity of Christian hope so strongly as they do when they come together for a presentation of Christmas music. Many in the audience assembled in the Saturday Club on Tuesday evening of last week for the Musical Coterie Christmas Concert must have felt this, when at the close oft he program, all were asked to join in the singing of Christmas carols. As voices rose in the lovely strains of such old favorites as “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful” and “O, Littls Town of Bethlehem”, all could feel the upsurging of hope for real peace on earth that to all Christians is symbolized by Christ’s Birth.
This Christmas concert is now an annual event to which the community is always welcomed. Started some years ago by the Musical Coterie, Wayne’s oldest extant musical organization, it is now a joint affair of the Coterie and the Saturday Club. This year’s program opened, as it usually does, with a group of Christmas songs, sung by the chorus. After several piano solos, a string ensemble number and one of vocal solos, the chorus again made its appearance to close the foremost program before the general singing of Christmas carols. The Concert is, in truth, a real contribution to the community.
On February 10 of the coming year, the Coterie will celebrate 41 years of continuous activity, having been organized in 1911 at the home of Mrs. Humbert Borton Powell, The Powells then lived in the large yellow house on the north side of the 200 block of Windermere avenue, which was their home for many years before they moved to Devon.
Mrs. Powell was the newly-formed organization’s first president, serving for the first eight years of its existence from 1911 to 1919. Other charter members were Mrs. Robert LeBoutillier, Mrs. Charles Walton, Mrs. Chlarles C. Shoemaker, Mrs. David Hoopes, Mrs. Frederick P. Ristine, Mrs. Sheldon Catlin, Miss H. Velma Turner, Mrs. W. H. Sayen, Miss Marguerite Elder, Mrs. Rufus Waples, Miss Grace C. Roberts and Mrs. Thomas E. Walton. Others among the community’s musically talented residents soon joined these original 13, until shortly thereafter some 50 women were in active membership.
In 1911, as in 1951, there were many women in Wayne and its general vicinity who had had extensive musical training. Many of them were married women with young children, who, without some direct incentive and objective, found it more than difficult to continue their musical activities. Among older women in the group Mrs. Walton and Mrs. LeBoutiller were, perhaps, especially inspirational in their leadership, and in planning ways and means by which all the members of the newly-formed Coterie should find expression for their talents. Or Mrs. LeBoutillier, one of the club’s charter members recently said to your columnist: “Her idea was to present a worthwhile musical number, no matter what the seeming difficulties were. If two hands were not enough, then get four hands, or even six . . . if one piano did not suffice, then get two.”
There was never any thought of exploiting the individual with talent. Rather, it was to benefit the group by presenting opportunity for all to take part in the presentation of programs and to participate in the study groups. At first, only women who were willing to take part in programs, either by performing or by writing papers, were asked to join.
Later, those who were to be listeners only were admitted, thus greatly enlarging the membership as well as altering the original character and purpose of this musical organization. As time passed, membership became more geographically extended. Largely local to Wayne in the beginning, it now embraces the entire Main Line, as well as a number of its neighboring suburbs. It is still essentially of Wayne, however, always retaining its original name of Wayne Musical Coterie.
Although primarily a woman’s organization, it has at times had men soloists on its programs and at other times has joined with men’s choruses. In 1926 the Junior Section of the Coterie was formed to further the mutual interest of talented children of the community.
Among notable achievements of the musical group was the publication in 1925 of a book of programs compiled from those presented during the first 15 years of the Coterie existence. In 1929 a Memorial Library was established, with each volume in it given in memory of a deceased member of the organization. Neither wars nor depressions have called a halt to its existence, which ahs now been one of more than 40 years’ continuity.
(To be Continued)
A Merry Christmas from Mrs. Patterson to all the readers of this column, whose interest is a great inspiration in preparing her material for presenting Wayne and its environs, both of the past and of the present. To these readers, an especial thanks for the almost daily expressions of their interest. Again, Merry Christmas. E. C. P.