Concert association seeks members
With the Fairfield Concert Association’s annual membership drive underway, member Robert Tree said this seems like a good time to review the origins and development of the organization that has played a role in the musical life of the Fairfield community.
The concept of “community theatre” appeared simultaneously in Chicago and a few Atlantic Coast towns in the very early 1920s. The underlying idea was “raise the money first, then have the concert.” As it worked out, it meant community groups would raise their money with an annual, one-week drive in order to have three or four concerts during the coming year. Only members of the association could attend, hence the term used for such groups as “organized audience” and single admissions were abolished.
The “community” idea spread fairly rapidly through the 1920s and, despite the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression and World War II, on into the 1940s.
The concept of “ community concerts” was probably known to the Fairfield citizens in 1948, who gathered together to establish the Fairfield Concert Association, said Tree.
By 1930, the country’s largest association of musicians and singers, especially opera singers, Columbia Artists Management Inc. of New York had organized a subsidiary, Community Concerts Inc. With the Great Depression underway following the stock market crash of 1929, and the collapse of many large urban music organizations, the Columbia people sought to keep many of their members employed by creating concert organizations in the nation’s small cities and towns. It was an effort that enjoyed considerable success prior to the outbreak of World War II in the 1940s and many survived the war and continue on to this day.
It did not take long for the Fairfield Concert Association and Community Concerts Inc. to find each other and it would be a happy relationship for a number of years, said Tree. Community supplied the artists, and they were among the best of their era.
“It is interesting to go back in the minutes of the association and note that very big name opera singers of that day graced the Fairfield stage,” said Tree.
Community supplied the programs, membership cards and the professional information on how local people could put on a successful membership drive. Indeed, said Tree, a representative of Community often showed up to help start the drive and would stay with it through its successful conclusion.
Fairfield, in the early 1970s was largely unaware of the turmoil going on in the music business in New York and on the West Coast, partly because of the Justice Department and its enforcement of anti-trust laws and partly because of the appearance of new competition for Community Concerts Inc. What the board of the concert association knew was that it was not getting the good service it expected from Community, said Tree.
The Fairfield Concert Association opted to join one of the newcomers, Allied Concert Services of Minnesota, continued Tree. It was once a very small midwestern operation. Today, it has “organized audiences” in two-thirds of the states, and its motto is “we supply every thing except the applause!”
This coming season, in addition to the usual four concerts, Fairfield is hosting the Choir of Augustana College of Rock Island, Ill. The program is open to the public, free of charge. However, as is the custom of touring college choirs, a free-will offering will be taken up during the program.
Also, in partnership with the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, the association is presenting two concerts using the John & Coralee Day Barhydt Organ. These concerts are part of the Fairfield Concert Association’s 2013-14 season at no additional membership cost over the current season.
The membership drive for the Fairfield Concert Association’s 2013-14 season is underway through Monday.
For information and memberships, call Jane Rowe at 472-4347 or Mary Gagnon at 472-6096 or visit the website at www.fairfieldconcertassociation.com.