The Music Makers

Colonel James Allen, father of Ann Arbor’s founder John Allen, provided a welcome diversion for the early settlers by playing his fiddle at local gatherings. The growing German community brought strong musical traditions to the town, with local bands and singing societies. Many a family enjoyed music played in the parlor on an organ manufactured by David Allmendinger’s Ann Arbor Organ Works.

UM students and faculty were also devoted to music. Formed in 1850, the Student Lecture Association often included musical performances in its programs. In 1879 a group of enthusiastic singers persuaded professor Henry Simmons Frieze, a talented amateur organist, to join them in a performance of Handel’s Messiah. Out of this grew first the Choral Union and then the University Musical Society and its University School of Music. UMS remains an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting top-quality musical performances, including the Choral Union’s annual performance of the Messiah.

Caption 1: Reuben Kempf / Lyra Gesangverein. Music teacher Reuben Kempf founded the Lyra Gesangverein, a popular German men's chorus. His daughter Elsa, here about age 6 in 1890, was their mascot. The silk banner made for the group by their wives and sweethearts is at the Kempf House Museum on South Division Street.

Caption 2: Henry Otto's Band. Henry Otto’s Band, seen here in 1875, was the town’s largest and most popular band. Henry’s son Louis ran the band after 1895 and, according to family legend, was the first to play the UM fight song, “The Victors.”

Caption 3: Albert Stanley. Beginning in 1888, professor Albert “Dad” Stanley, a man of “tireless energy and enthusiasm,” reorganized the Choral Union and the School of Music and initiated the annual May Festival.

Caption 4: Built in 1893 on Maynard Street, the University School of Music was later remodeled and expanded. After becoming a formal part of UM in 1940, the school eventually moved to its present location on North Campus in 1964.

Caption 5: Charles & Alva Sink. Charles A. Sink became secretary of UMS upon graduating from UM in 1904. By 1927 he was named UMS president, a post he held with great distinction until 1968. He and his wife, Alva Gordon Sink, often entertained visiting musical artists at their home on Olivia Street.

Caption 6: Concerts were held in University Hall until 1913, when Hill Auditorium opened with more than twice the seating capacity and world-renowned acoustics.

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