By Jean Clark
Robert Savage, retired Pleasant Hill music teacher, shares his expertise with Pleasant Hill folk who have played a wide variety of instruments. Most of the Pleasant Hill Ensemble is retired and many have taken up again instruments they played in younger lives, some not since school. Others like pianist Liz Lewis have spent their entire professional career with music. Others like Franklin Parker, college professor and author never had the time to devote to learning a musical skill. That has not deterred him from becoming an energetic percussionist in his 90s along with his mentor, Jane Heald and cohort, Dottie Bishop. Adapting musical arrangements for such a diverse group is a continuing challenge for director Savage.
The Pleasant Hill Ensemble practices once a week. They are a group of dedicated musicians whose repertoire includes jazz, rock, modern band music and religious pieces. Their music encompasses the 1920s through today. There are 19 members in the Ensemble. The instruments are two violins, two flutes, four clarinets, two alto sax, one French horn, one euphonium, one trumpet, one trombone, one tuba, three percussionists and one pianist. During school vacations some of Savage’s former students join this motley crew. The members of the Ensemble range from ages 16 to 98 and they all have fun playing music. In the past and present, members come from Pleasant Hill, Tansi and Fairfield Glade. Savage welcomes all incipient musicians and will find a way of fitting them in. Call him at 510-3859 if you are interested in joining or having the Ensemble perform.
They have lost some of their long-time members to death or retirement. The Ensemble had its beginnings in 1992 when Charlie Lord (now deceased) stood up at a meeting and said, “If anyone is interested in making music, see me after the meeting.” Charlie and Joy Lord had served in Tanzania, a country in central east Africa, at the Mbeya Moravian Theological College. U.S. churches had donated a number of brass instruments and Charlie formed a student band. He also started a band at the New Goshenhoppen, UCC church in East Greenville, PA, where he was assistant pastor. It seemed only natural that he would start a band when he retired to Pleasant Hill. Lord played a baritone horn. Among those earliest members was Phil Thomforde on the violin or viola (also deceased), Donna Braun on the cello, Peg Muenstermann on the flute, John Grant on the clarinet (deceased) and Naomi Rowland on the trumpet. Peg is the only one still playing in the Ensemble.
Dick Braun and flute joined in 1993, Phyllis Dickinson with her flute in 1995 and Jack Yates with clarinet in 1996. In those first years, they took turns directing and selecting music. When Liz and Jerry Lewis moved to Pleasant Hill in 1996 they were soon drafted into the ensemble, Jerry on the trombone and Liz playing the piano or sometimes the violin. Jerry had a long career in music, which encompassed high school band directing and a successful freelance recording business. It wasn’t long before he became the Ensemble leader and with the help of his computer arranged the music for their presentations. After his death in 2008, Bob Savage with his trumpet took over the reins of the group.
When Donna Braun felt unable to continue playing her cello she offered it to Dan Allcott, conductor of the Bryan Symphony in Cookeville, who was delighted to get it. Allcott found out that Donna’s cello had been created sometime in the 1800s. Her mother had given it to her when she was 10 years old, but Donna never asked where it had come from. Allcott played a piece on Donna’s cello at a Bryan Symphony pre concert luncheon in Crossville to her delight.
This week in Pleasant Hill:
• Jan 7 – The GRAB Thrift Shop at 1944 West Main St. in Pleasant Hill reopens. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. If school is cancelled, then The Grab will not open. Call 287-3018.
• Jan 10 – Surprising Cuba. Six members of the Cuba Study Seminar report on their visit to Cuba earlier this year. Potluck at 5:30 p.m. in Adshead Hall of Fletcher House followed by program at 6:30 p.m.
• Jan 12 – Hike Fall Creek Falls Woodland and Overlook trails, Fall Creek Falls State Park. Three-mile hike. Meet at Pleasant Hill Community Church at 1:30 p.m. to carpool. Call Cheryl Heckler at 277-3518.
• Jan 13 Wharton Association Semi-Annual Meeting. David Willier, RN, will discuss the role and importance of men in the nursing profession. Refreshments at 2:30 p.m., followed with program in Adshead Hall of Fletcher House at 3 p.m. Call 277-3176.