My Musical Family - Joy Riggs

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My great-grandfather, Bandmaster G. Oliver Riggs, right, gives a cornet lesson to my dad, William J. Riggs, near Bemidji, Minnesota, in the early 1940s.
Updated: 7 min 20 sec ago

The Charming Debut of Mrs. Riggs

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 3:48pm
I will be attending the Northfield all-district orchestra concert tonight to hear Sebastian perform on viola, amid a gym floor filled with student musicians ranging in age from fourth grade through 12th grade. It’s a fun concert because everyone, including the students themselves, gets to hear the progression in skills as the orchestras play in order from youngest to oldest.

In anticipation of tonight’s event, it seems fitting to quote from a Polk County Journal front page article about a different concert in January 1899 that included both band and orchestra pieces. I like how the writer took the time to philosophize about why it might be a good idea to conclude one’s long day by attending a concert. You just don’t see that kind of writing anymore. In fact, it’s rare to even preview a concert these days.

The January 18, 1899, concert was the second one in which the Crookston Band was directed by G. Oliver Riggs, and the first concert in which his new bride, Mrs. G. Oliver Riggs (aka Islea), was a featured performer on piano.

Islea Graham Riggs in 1899Here is the text of the Jan. 12, 1899 article:

After the day’s ceaseless toil, and often agonizing struggle, there is nothing more acceptable, as a general thing, to the tired body and the spent mind than music. Music hath, indeed, charms to soothe the savage beast. At the playing of Orpheus, in olden times, the wild beasts stood still and listened, and even inanimate nature applauded for the hills and dales echoed and reechoed with the melody of his refrain.

Music is a language that becomes more perfect with time. Through it as a medium greater thoughts are being expressed every day, and in no other way can these particular thoughts be brought to the knowledge of mankind. But not merely is knowledge gained but culture and refinement are secured through listening to the concord of sweet sounds and it is the same with music as with any thing else, the more one tires to appreciate it, the more capable one becomes of understanding it. One must learn to grasp the thought of music by listening to music and if possible by producing some harmonious sounds himself.

Crookston is indeed fortunate in that it has always possessed much musical talent and that talent is being added to all the time. Prof. Riggs is a comparatively new man here, having been with us only a few months, but during that time he has organized the largest and best band Crookston ever had, and this musical company, under his most efficient leadership, is fast becoming one of the leading bands of the state.

By way of entertainment and education they are furnishing a concert in the opera house once a month. The one given last month was a decided success and the public are eagerly looking forward to Wednesday evening, Jan. 18, when the second in the series will be held. The program will consist of numbers by the band, and by the orchestra, violin and cornet solos and duets.

But the special feature of the musical soiree will be the piano work of Mrs. Riggs, a graduate of the Chicago conservatory. Mrs. Riggs has spent the last two years in studying under Emil Liebling, one of Chicago’s talented teachers. She comes to Crookston an accomplished musician and will be warmly welcomed by the musical circles of the city. She will play two piano solos and assist in a violin and piano duet, the professor himself making the violin speak. This will be a musical treat that Crookston people will most liberally patronize.

And here is the order of the Jan. 18, 1899 concert program:

March, Hamiltonian, by Hall – Crookston Band
Variations on Melodies from the Opera Donizetti, for piano and violin by Osborue-De Bériot – Mrs. G. Oliver Riggs assisted by Mr. Riggs
March (two-step, new) – Mandolin Club
Cornet solo, Islington Polka by Rolhieam – Mr.Riggs, band accompaniment
Piano solo, Hungarian Dance op. 5 No. 2 by Schoenberg – Mrs. Riggs
March, Cake Walk, new – Riggs orchestra
Concert Waltz by Fischer – Mandolin Club
Sceur de Bullett for violin by De Bériot – Mr. Riggs
Overture, Sunrise - Riggs orchestra
Piano solo Valse de Concert in E Major by Moss Kowaki – Mrs. Riggs
Squeeze box polka (comic) by Casey – Introducing vocal strains, whip snaps, sleigh bells and a grand chorus of squeezies – Crookston Band

I have not seen the program for tonight’s orchestra concert, so I don’t know if there will be any overlap. I’m guessing not. But if someone could find the music for the polka, it would be interesting to have a gym full of students give it a whirl!
Categories: Citizens

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