“Spirited” Painting Connects Generations at Concord
Athens, W.Va. – “At their best, the arts invite us into a spiritual realm where time loses meaning and the generations join hands,” explained Concord University President Jerry Beasley.
Charles Peterson was a professor of art at Concord in the 1950s who is now well known internationally. He paints realistic and detailed paintings and incorporates images in his paintings that are left to the interpretation of the viewer.
One painting, in particular, portrays a beautiful old home in Athens as it is viewed out of a window in a room with a beautiful upright piano where a music teacher appears to be teaching piano lessons.
Mr. Peterson based this painting on his recollection of a quaint and humorous story about Miss Ella Holroyd, who taught piano lessons to children in the community, and taught at Concord in the 1940s, and was chair of the University’s music department from 1932 to 1951. She was instrumental in the development of a quality music department and was known for her dedication and artistic skills. She also taught piano lessons to Dr. Jane Smith’s mother. Dr. Smith now teaches at Concord University.
In describing the painting, “Piano Lessons,” Mr. Peterson noted on his web site, “In the little college town where I began my teaching career, there was a beautiful Victorian house still occupied by the daughter of its original builder, Doctor Holroyd. In its front parlor, this little lady gave piano lessons to boys and girls until well into her eighties, sharing her gift of music with literally hundreds of students over the years. Even though I did not know her personally, a story I heard delighted me and has kept her in my mind since. Well past ‘normal retirement age,’ Miss Holroyd had ordered a new grand piano to replace her aging Baldwin upright. Finding it impossible to negotiate the entrance hallway, the piano movers were obliged to remove a bay window and bring the thing in through the large hole in the wall. Miss Holroyd could not bear to watch, but when the piano was safely set up in its new home, she came back and played a short recital of Chopin for the men. Following appropriate applause, one of the crew, a very large black man, reciprocated by sitting down and playing for her a set of blues. I love that picture. I suppose the house showing through the window and the Chopin on the piano are my private little reminders of that delightful event.
“I think most of us remember our piano teachers with a certain amount of gratitude. Obviously, very few students are destined for the concert stage, but many do continue to play for a lifetime; even those of us who do not, are enriched with a better appreciation of a majestic art form. In ‘Piano Lessons’ I tried to paint a lady true to the spirit of dedicated piano teachers like Miss Holroyd, diligently sharing her devotion to music with a firm yet gentle hand. Thank you to you all for filling your communities with music,” Peterson noted.
Peterson continued, with comments on his painting style, "While my paintings are often based on specific places and special people I have known, I intend for the work to be meaningful to people without my peculiar experience: first, as a straight forward study of some gracefully aging location (an old country church, for instance), then, prompted by that atmosphere, an invitation to speculate with me on what might have gone on there on a day like this, in its heyday of activity. In reality, it is the viewer's own rich memories that give a painting its special appeal, not mine -- not me.”
Concord University purchased a print of the beautiful painting that may currently be viewed in the foyer display case located in the J. Frank Marsh Library. The painting will then be housed permanently in the Alexander Fine Arts Center.
“Miss Ella’s spirit hovers over this institution, and Jane is part of that tradition and spirit … I think that this, in a way, captures the essence of Concord, and represents a special tradition in the arts that we encourage,” stated President Beasley.
“I am a fan of Charles L. Peterson, and my assistant, Nancy Meade, found this beautiful painting, which invites us all to think about the arts and music in a way that is introspective and thoughtful,” continued Beasley. “We want to share it with the community and keep it as a reminder that our history, which includes Miss Ella and countless others like her, have made us what we are today.”
Peterson is represented by Koshkonong Galleries located at 149 West Main Street in Cambridge Wis. 53523. The gallery’s web address is www.koshgall.com. Peterson’s works are published by White Door Publishing.
“Piano Lessons” may be viewed in the J. Frank Marsh Library now through Janaury 31, 2005. The Library is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. through 10 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. through 4 p.m.; Saturday, noon through 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 p.m. through 10 p.m.
The Holroyd house is still standing in Athens.
For more information call 1-304-384-5224 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO: “Piano Lessons” by Charles L. Peterson
(image used with permission, Mark Quale, White Door Publishing)
PHOTO: Dr. Jane W. Smith, professor of music at Concord, proudly displays “Piano Lessons,” painted by Charles L. Peterson.
CONCORD UNIVERSITY NOTES: Persons with disabilities should contact Nancy Ellison, 1-304-384-6086 or 1-800-344-6679, extension 6086 if special assistance or help is required for access to an event scheduled by the University on campus.
FOLLOWING IS TEXT FROM AN ARTICLE THAT APPEARED IN THE BLUEFIELD DAILY TELEGRAPH, APRIL 1976, FROM THE CONCORD UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES:
Athens Musician Outstanding
Dr. Ella Lively Holroyd, 91, professor emeritus of Concord College, was named Outstanding Citizen of the Town for 1976 by the Athens Woman’s Club.
Awarded a plaque commemorating the occasion, Dr. Holroyd was selected for the honor by a committee of club members, chaired by Mrs. Milton Belcher.
The award was based on Dr. Holroyd’s many years of service promoting the cultural enrichment of Athens and its citizens.
“Miss Ella,” as she is affectionately known throughout southern West Virginia, has been sharing her outstanding musical talents and her zest for life since she was 12 years old.
She still gives music lessons, and speaks to clubs about her world-wide travels, sought as a guest, advisor, historian or participant in many cultural events.
Handicapped by fading eyesight, the award winner keeps up with current events, walking daily around the town settled by her ancestors and named by her grandmother.
She was born Oct. 17, 1885, in a house still standing on Vermillion St., the oldest daughter born to Bettie Lively and James French Holroyd, children of pioneer settlers of Athens.
When she was only 12 years old, she began playing the organ for the Athens Methodist Church, formerly Concord Church. In January 1965, she completed 25 consecutive years of musical service to the church. She was honored at an “Ella Holroyd Night” for that and for her faithful teaching of the Bettie Lively Holroyd Sunday School Class, which she inherited from her mother.
Holder of the first diploma of music granted by the Concord Normal School in 1904, she returned to her alma mater in 1932 as head of the Concord College music department. She was the lone member of the department which had grown to five teachers by the time of her retirement in 1951.
A Golden Alumnus of the college, she was awarded the honorary degree of doctor of Music on June 1, 1964.
Graduate of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Julliard School of Music and the Verdi branch of the Royal Conservatory of Italy, Dr. Holroyd holds a master’s degree in music presented to her by the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower, granted while he was president of Columbia University.
She performed “Dedication” by Schuman-Liszt on the concert piano at the age of 85 during the dedication of the Alexander Fine Arts Center and was soloist on the memorial organ installed in October in the Athens United Methodist Church.
Besides being a world traveler, “Miss Ella” volunteered to serve as a test user of the West Virginia Library Commission “Talking Book” service when her eyesight began to fail in the late 1960s. Her comments helped form the standards established and maintained by the services for all users of the recorded books in the state.
“It is fitting,” said Mrs. Belcher, “that this selfless woman of Athens be honored as the outstanding citizen of the Bicentennial year by a club of which her mother was a charter member, and which she has supported faithfully through her lifetime.”
PHOTO CAPTION (photo unavailable): RECEIVES HONOR – Dr. Ella Lively Holroyd, center, was named Outstanding Citizen of Athens by the Athens Woman’s Club. With her are Mrs. M.R. Coiner, president, and Mrs. Milton Belcher, chairman of the selection committee.