Stephenson Tales


My three part saga with "Dr" Joseph Maddy began early. The elementary school I attended was at the corner of 4th Street and Jefferson - on Ann Arbor's west side just 2 blocks from my home on 3rd Street. For some reason that I have never known "BACH" School was pronounced "BAW." I think I must have been in the second grade when a wonderful new feature was added to the school's offerings. Every Friday afternoon the entire student body would be herded into the auditorium where a big "console" radio was sitting in splendid isolation in the middle of the otherwise bare stage.

At precisely two o'clock an announcer from WJR would say, "And now we take you to New York for a broadcast by the New York Philharmonic..."

Then would come on the delightful German voice of Walter Damrosch. "Good afternoon. My dear shildren, vee haf some vonderful music for you zis afternoon. Wee are going to play for you..." It went on for a full hour!

This was my first introduction to "Classical" music and those broadcasts made a profound impact on my life.

Joseph Maddy: Canto one:
It could have been the next year or perhaps a year after that when I was in fourth grade, when an oddly rumpled and intense man burst upon the scene. He had black hair, black shaggy ridges for eyebrows, black eyes, a black moustache and more energy than anyone I had ever met!

He had several several musical instrucments with him and his mission was to "turn us on" to want to play them. I do not remember any of the details of our individual lessons except one ghastly little tune that had an even ghastlier lyric "I can play my violin Just as well as Henry can." Even at that age I knew that was an imperfect rhyme. (I had already started on my life work of memorizing and could not bear to utter:
"North winds do blow
And we shall have snow
And what will the robin do then; poor thing?
He'll fly to the barn
To keep himself warm
And hide his head
Under his wing."
because of the imperfect rhyme. I did not care if Robert Louis Stevenson DID write it, I knew it was bad poetry - just like his abomnible:
"Every day when I am good
I have an orange after food."
and the tune was unforgettably bad, as well.)

Anyway - the upshot of his visits to Bach School was that he meted out instruments to any who promised to practice them. First he tried me on cello but my arms were not long enough. Then he tried me on a baritone horn - called, then, a mellophone (like a small tuba), but it was so heavy I could not carry it. Finally he got to the trumpet. I loved it and practiced "I can play my violin" trying not to think of that gosh-awful lyric. Every week he would give me a new piece of music and, mirabile dictu, I really did practice and by the time I got to 7th grade at University High I was proficient enough to be admitted by Clyde Vromen into the band and the orchestra.

When I joined the Boy Scouts (I was a tenderfoot for three years!) Dad bought me a Boy Scout bugle, which I still have, and when I was in the ninth grade bought me a King Silvertone cornet which I gave, ultimately, to Miranda, Toni's eldest daughter.

Dr. Maddy was still lurking on the perimeter of my life, soon to make a second appearnace.

Joseph Maddy - Canto two:
On Sunday mornings from 9:00 to 9:15 Joseph Maddy had a radio program on WJR produced by Dr. Kenneth Westerman of the School of Music. He presented a quartet doing a "hymn sing." The quartet was composed of Westerman's two daughters - Miriam who sang soprano, Jeane who sang alto, a tenor, whose name I have forgotten, and Dr. Chown who sang bass.

They sang four hymns, but that was not all. He or Dr. Maddy got the novel idea of writing brief radio dramas to tell the story behind the composing of the four hymns. He wrote and directed the scripts and he asked me if I would play roles in them, which I did every Sunday for 13 weeks.

Some of these "background" stories were very dramatic and Dr. Maddy wrote some compelling scripts for us to play. One stands out in my memory after all these years. When George Matheon was engaged to be married, he suddenly learned that he was gradually and irreversibly going blind. When he told his fiancée she broke off the engagement, saying she could never live with a blind husband. He went home and wrote the words to the hymn "O Love that Will Not Let Me Go." Maddy wrote the dramatization of this story in 3 short scenes: 1) the doctor breaking the news to George, 2) his heart breaking rejection by his fiancée and 3) his prayer as he began to write his hymn about the love of God. The members of the quartet could hardly sing because they were so moved by the drama. They got through all five verses - tears streaming down their faces as they sang. We were all struggling to keep control: everyone in the studio - announcer, organist, Dr. Westerman, Joe Maddy, my fellow cast members, the radio engineer in the control booth, and me.

Joseph Maddy - Canto three:
The first semester of my university career I was a first tenor in the University Men's Varsity Glee Club under Dr. David Mattern. This lasted such a short time because I had too many rehearsals interfering with Glee Club practice and I was concientiously lowering my voice from tenor to baritone. So there was a long period during which the paths of Joe and Jim Bob did not intersect. When they did the confluence was to begin an association that lasted over twenty years.

The National Music Camp was founded by Dr. Maddy in 1928 to give high school musicians an opportunity to develop their art and to play for the public in a thoroughly trained ensemble. Beginning in 1946 a main feature of the 8-week summer program was the production of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta - the first one was The Gondoliers. Dude began assisting directing at the Camp in 1953, and in 1957 he became the director. During the regular school year he also directed the U of M Gilbert and Sullivan Society. He held this post for nine years. After he left I directed the Society for two years, doing four productions. I joined the Camp faculty in the Theater Arts Department in 1955, teaching courses for Dr. Maddy in Public Speaking, Acting and "Speech Arts" (2 weeks public speaking; 2 weeks oral interpretation; 2 weeks radio; 2 weeks acting for stage and radio). I also gave the sermen (noted in the Stephenson Tale titled "Sermon at Interlochen") which ecumenically was called the "message" the second Sunday of Camp. I did this in addition to directing two full-scale stage productions each summer. I became the director of the University Division Dramatic Program until the University of Michigan cancelled the entire University Division Program.

While doing all this, I also performed in Stravinsky's "Story of a Soldier", Carl Sandburg's "A Lincoln Portrait", as well as roles in several of my own productions.

Envoi: Joseph Maddy died in 1966.
I worked with Dude on the High School operattas and Junior High musicals from 1984 through 2005 when our final high school production was Ruddiogore. Then Evie took over my job working with Dude and the junior high school students and producing two revues in 6 weeks!! She does this each summer and is very good as an assistant to the Director. She was at age 15 the best stage manager I EVER had!

Composed 31 November, 1 December 2008, transcribed by Robin.

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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