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Highbrow Hoe-Downs

May 23, 2001

Historian's Notes

This Almanac subject attracted me because of the obvious love of music held by the early day settlers of Oklahoma Territory. It's an interesting thought that one of the most important priorities of these people was getting their music programs in order!


The Angie Debo Papers are held at OSU's Special Collections & University Archives.

Material for this week came from a variety of Oklahoma history texts.

Almanac Transcript

This week highbrow hoe-downs on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Kite.

Many people think just because Oklahoma leads the nation in the number of flip-flops per capita that its residents do not have an appreciation of elegance and refinement. Nothing could be further from the truth. During the winter of 1889 after the first land run, many people were still living in wagons, tents, dug-outs or sod houses. Streets, where there were any, were seas of mud making travel close to impossible.

In the middle of this mud and snow filled chaos residents of Oklahoma City formed the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Society. Sixty members presented mainly choral works in a series of well attended concerts given during the winter and spring. It was two years after settlement that a concert was presented in Oklahoma City revealing how far the philharmonic had progressed. On May 20, 1891 Oklahomans from far and wide flocked into the City to hear a concert featuring the works of Haydn, Handel and Beethoven, as well as popular arias and choral works.

The concert hall was packed, and people loved the featured pianist, Maude Richards. Miss Richards moved to Oklahoma from Iola, Kansas and once here gave a much needed boost to the state's music program. Richards gave weekly recitals, taught lessons and served as the principle pianist of the Philharmonic Society. With the arrival of Miss Richards came also a new look for the city.

Henry Overholser, by 1891, had financed the construction of several large buildings, most notably the Overholser Theater. For a number of years the theater was the center of artistic life in the young community. A glance through newspapers reveals that Oklahoma City was not alone in its appreciation for the arts. The microscopic community of Sheridan, just west of Hennessey and currently a ghost town, was widely known for its concerts and musical productions held in the local church. The night the Guthrie opera house held an oratorical competition, the venue was "standing room only" with people turned away by the dozens at the door.

Oklahomanís today still appreciate art and culture and in that sense they are carrying on a tradition as old as Oklahoma itself.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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