Farmington Musicale celebrates 50 years of harmony

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published April 13, 2016

 Farmington Musicale President Fern Barber holds open a scrapbook showing past group activities April 5 at the Farmington Community Library.

Farmington Musicale President Fern Barber holds open a scrapbook showing past group activities April 5 at the Farmington Community Library.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — Inside the Farmington Community Library, Barbara Fern and Anne Greenstein opened up the pages of their past.

The Farmington Musicale members dug into a row of teal boxes neatly labeled and organized by date. Inside were scrapbooks full of pictures, program fliers and decorations from past events.

“The glue has been on there since 1977,” Fern, the group’s president, said April 5 of one of the scrapbooks.

The group’s scrapbooks of 50 years of history may be found in the Farmington Community Library’s Main Library Branch historical room. Plaques and other awards are stored at the Farmington Community Heritage and Historical Center in Heritage Park, according to a press release.

The group has kept busy all these years and has no intention of slowing down — working a full schedule of social outings; and volunteer performances at hospitals, nursing homes and schools; as well as providing youth scholarships and promoting fundraising efforts.

“We are trying to step forward into year 51,” Fern said.

“Times have changed, and we do only go year from year,” Greenstein said in agreement.

The group began when then-Niles resident Irene Winnie came to Farmington in the mid-1960s and discovered there was not a large music presence.

“She came here thinking there would be a big club, and so she decided to start it,” Fern said of the club’s first president. Winnie placed an article in a local newspaper advertising a meeting at her house in December 1965. The next year, the club was formed.

By May 1966, the club was affiliated with the Michigan Federation of Music Clubs and the National Federation of Music Clubs, according to club documents. The first program was an organ recital at Nardin Park Methodist Church. 

Fern said that at that time, there were about 6,000 national clubs — there are now about 3,000.

“A lot of the tinier clubs folded,” Fern said, adding that it is a condition of the times.

“Women don’t have enough time in their schedule anymore to come to a weekly (meeting) in the daytime.”

For the past 50 years, the group has met at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, plus for special Sunday programs. The group started with 15 or so members, and it had the highest membership count of 87 from 1981 to 1985; the group currently has 56 members.

“I think it was (a) very positive (reaction),” Fern said of people joining. “The club grew right away and kept climbing up (for the) first 10 years. It grew pretty fast.”

In 1968, the group held the first communitywide music competition, Awards for Musical Excellence, and awarded prizes for instrumental, piano and vocal performance to students in grades seven-12, according to a press release. 

The Farmington Musicale 50th Anniversary Concert is scheduled at 3 p.m. April 17 at Nardin Park Methodist Church,  29887 W. 11 Mile Road in Farmington. A reception will follow.

The concert will feature some former winners of the club’s Awards for Musical Excellence competition who are now professional musicians.  

Fern said the concert will be something to look forward to.

“This will be a great milestone for the club, bringing in talent that has been auditioned,” she said.

Farmington Musicale concert programs are open to the public free of charge and feature classical, American and other genres of music, according to a press release. 

Fern and Greenstein agree that music styles in the group have changed over the past five decades. The early focus was on classical, operatic and American music, and now more genres are included.

“We used to have only a lot of pianists and vocalists through the years,” Fern said, adding that the group has grown to include other instruments like violin, flute, clarinet and more. “We’ve had some Filipino and Hawaiian music.”

“We’ve had music around the world,” Greenstein said. “We want to be a lot more diverse in what we are doing … which I think everybody wants.”

The group has had in its midst a local television personality, and currently boasts numerous professional musicians, including composers, lyricists, violinists and others. 

The city of Farmington Hills and the state of Michigan have honored the group for its contribution to the arts in the community.  

“So many of them (were) just plain fabulous players,” Fern said. “These people were just the best of the best. Farmington was blessed with some really fantastic talent.”

Fern said the Farmington Musicale is what it is because of dedicated people.

“All these people, the culmination of all those people working together to make these programs happen ... is phenomenal,” she said. 

The Farmington Musicale is looking for new members. For more information about the group or to join, go to www.FarmingtonMusicale.org or call (248) 626-7768.

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