From the Archives with Byron Hanson: July 2014

Crescendo issue: July 2014
  • James Christian Pfohl
The Tale of a Shirt

Undaunted by a $40,000 deficit from the first summer, our founders resolved to push even harder to increase enrollment and offer a program for 1929 that would exceed the campers’ wildest expectations. New faculty were hired, renowned guest conductors and soloists were invited. Some campers returned and many new ones joined them making a total of 232, double the number of the first season. The summer of ‘29 included many “firsts”: the first oratorio (Mendelssohn’s Elijah), the first operetta (The Pirates of Penzance), the first composition dedicated to the Camp (National Camp March [sic] by Chas. J. Roberts). Possibly first article about Camp in national periodical - The Music Camp at Wah-Be-Ka-Ness - was written by Earl Chapin May [1873-1960] and appeared in the July, 1929 issue of The Country Gentleman.

A number of those 1929 campers kept diaries to record their new experiences; many had autograph books and urged their friends to write a few words, or at least their names. One new camper, violinist James Christian Pfohl, took the novel approach of having his friends print their names on his sweatshirt and, thanks to his daughter’s gift to our archives, we now have his “autograph garment” bearing the names of over 40 campers, counselors, teachers, guest artists from 85 years ago. This unique roster includes two teachers from the Cincinnati Symphony, Mikail Stolarevsky (viola, 1929-44) and Alex Trempenau (double bass, 1929); guest artists John Erskine (president of Juilliard Foundation, piano concerto soloist), Edgar Stillman-Kelley and Karl Busch, (conductor/composers), and A. Austin Harding, long-time director of bands at University of Illinois bands.

As Dr. Maddy wrote on several occasions, he expected campers would return to their home schools overflowing with exuberance, determined to encourage and inspire their communities by their own increased energy and diligence. Raymond Dvorak, a cabin counsellor who also printed his name on the sweatshirt, joined the faculty for the next two summers and quickly found his place in Interlochen history. His lyrics to the trio of a well-known march, Edwin Franko Goldman’s On the Mall, produced our first Camp song “Interlochen, Interlochen, We Love You” These words are forgotten today, but following Maddy’s wish, Dvorak became a music teacher and later, director of bands at the University of Wisconsin. His creative writing prompted Dr. Goldman to announce a contest to write words for the trio of his Interlochen Bowl march which he dedicated to the Camp. The winner was J. Henry Francis, Director of the Men Supervisors’ Division. His “Sound the Call” text was included in the publication of the march in 1934 and became our most enduring camp song. Mercifully, his words for the trio of Sousa’s Interlochen march The Northern Pines (Oh, softly the music floats afar) and those for the Interlochen Theme (“Lord as we greet the morn”) have not withstood the passage of time!

Some of our readers will recognize the name James Christian Pfohl, the owner of the sweatshirt, who founded what became the Brevard Center in 1936, instituted the Davidson College Music Department, conducted orchestras in North Carolina and Florida, and was instrumental in the establishment of the North Carolina School of the Arts. Indeed, a great many seeds were planted that summer of ‘29, borne by the silent testimony of a faded sweatshirt.

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