Saturday, March 08, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 9

Abilene Methodist Women Bring Culture to West Texas   March 9, 1894

Many cities in East Texas were hacked out of the forest and grew slowly over time.  Many cities in West Texas seemed to pop up like mushrooms after a rain as soon as the railroads established a depot. 

Abilene is only one of many examples that could be cited to illustrate the process of city building.  It went from a stop on  a railroad track to a city with cultural and religious attractions in just a few years.  The Texas and Pacific RR platted the town.  Lots were auctioned in 1881, and it was incorporated in 1883.  Just ten years later it had a population of several thousand and all the refinements one could ask for.  Naturally the churches played an important “civilizing” role.  

On March 9, 1894, the Abilene Reporter announced that the Methodist women were sponsoring a fund raising concert in the opera house.  The surviving program reveals a sophisticated musical evening that would have delighted music lovers in New York, Paris, London, or any other major city. 

There were piano soli by Mendelssohn and Wendel, but most of the program consisted of vocal performances.  Handel was the most performed composer, and selections from his oratorio Esther, made up most of the evening’s performance.  His magnificent soprano solo, I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, from the Messiah, was also performed.   A mixed octet opened the program with the Gloria from Mozart’s Twelfth Mass opened the program, and the entire chorus finished the program with Praise Ye the Lord, from Esther.  

The Methodist women in Abilene were doing their part to bring refinement and culture to the Plains. 


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