Francesca Falk Miller.

Across the little space; the life of Dr. Louis Falk, as told to his great-grand daughter, Dorothy Cara Strong online

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our Ziegfeld dinners; The Edelweiss, Perfecto, and old "Quiney
No. 9" — all famous for good cooking, beer, and camaraderie. Then
at the West entrance to Lincoln Park was the "Relic House" — built
entirely of grey melted debris from the Fire of '71. Scattered
through the lumpy, lava-like walls, one might see a cup or a part
of a plate or even a colorful fragment of a vase sticking out gro-
tesquely. Unfortunately it was one of the old, utterly charming-
spots that this modern city chose to tear down during the Real
Estate boom following the Great War. It is a pity there is so little
sentiment in a growing town. The Relic House was quaint and an
interesting reminder of a past period in Chicago's history — and it
served most excellent food. It was on its walls that great fire picture
was hung, to which I have already referred.

On the North side were other eating places known humbly as
"Beer Gardens" where fine concerts were given during the summer
months. Whether you were a frank admirer of this sort of open-
air entertainment, or visited merely in a "slumming" spirit, you
were well repaid. Entire families used to flock to these "Gardens"
sitting quietly and soberly around a table, eating and listening to
good music. I never saw anyone intoxicated at such a place !

A moment ago I spoke of the "Ziegfeld Club." This was an
organization composed of members of the facult}^ and teachers' roster
of the Chicago Musical College, that met once a month for dinner,
program, and a general good time. I was the president of this club
for over four years, and each year was given a very handsome gift
by the members. There are two fine steins, my Cara, tliat were pre-
sented to me — one with an inscription on the silver lid, and the
other a fine piece of work, cleverly showing organ pipes on its carved
sides. They will both be yours some day, my dear, and I want you
to value their sentiment.

To these "banciuets" — as we chose to call our dinners — came
many guests of honor ; Leoncavallo, who wrote ' ' Pagliacci ' ' and Mas-
eagni, composer of "Cavalleria Rusticano" — also singers of note from

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the Metropolitan Opera of New York. Twice a year we had a special
"Ladies' night" with an extra fine dinner and a great deal of
champagne. It was considered quite the thing to be invited to one
of these affairs, for there one met many really famous artists of
that day.

Oh, Cara mia, what good friends I had in those closing days of
the last century! Clarence Eddy, one of the best organists Chicago
has ever known ; my good friends Johnny Hand and John J.
Hattstaedt, also men who started new music schools, such as Walter
Spry and Charles E. Watt. Later Clarence Dickinson, Arthur Dun-
ham and Albert Cottsworth joined the ranks of the great organists
of this city. Yes, an organist held a high position in those days
before the mechanical instrument and the theatre bands crowded the
grand old organ out.

In 1896 I received the degree of Doctor of Music. At that time it
was much more difficult to secure this honor, for it meant the sub-
mitting of an original composition — such as a symphony — for full
orchestra. I was presented with this degree at our College Com-
mencement, receiving the medal — a heavy one of gold with diamond
inset — from the hand of my life-long friend. Dr. Ziegfeld. This
medal is yours, Cara mia, along with the beautiful old watch the
College gave me when I had completed twenty years on the Faculty
board.

So now I dropped the "Mr." — and took the title that I carried
to the end and by which my friends, still living, knew me best —
Dr. Louis Falk.

The end of the last century brought new faces into the College,
and graduated many pupils who are/ today well-known Chicago
musicians. Maurice Rosenfeld, for many years musical critic of
The Daily News, joined the Faculty, and x\rthur Rech. During the
next decade, Arthur Granquist, Mabel Sharp Herdien and Max
Fischel won honors. The famous school was now at its peak.

I had been giving montlily oratorios in my church, augmenting
my fine quartette with artists like Madam Josephine Chatterton,
popular harpist of the last century, J. T. Ohlheiser, violinist, and
Blatchford Kavanaugh, famous boy-soprano, borrowed for special
occasions from H. B. Roney's boy-choir. These sacred services, where
The Messiah, Elijah, The Creation, and other noted works were
produced, brought record congregations from all over the city. The
chorus numbers were sung by a picked group of voices, from which
later came many fine artists.

And so I entered the new century, with only bright skies over-
head, and all the work I could possilily do to occupy my days and
nights. I was fifty-one when 1900 dawned — which is supposed to be
the height of a man's career.



87



I Inioa vrark f ongregalional 'f hurcK,



Hev. Dr. F. A. NOBLK.
Pastor.



Corner WASHINGTON AND ASHLAND BOULEVARDS.




TWCNTY-NINTH



SONG + SERVICE

Sunday Bve., Jan, 23, at 7.30 O'Cioc/v.

eRATeRie*^

"THE Q rEATION,"



, By JOSEPH HAYDN.

Gabriel and Eve, Soprano, • - Mrs. LOUIS FALK

Uriel, Tenor, - - • - Mr. CHARLES A. KNORR

Raphael and Adam, Bass, Mr. JOHN R. ORTENGREN ^

Miss FANCHON THOMPSON, Alto.

LOUIS FALK, Organist and Diractor.



-©rder • of • ^erolces.^



Organ Voluntary and Doxology. ....

Invocation, followed by chanting of the Lord's Prayer.
Reading of Scriptures. - - -

Hymn, .... Choir and Congregation.

Oratorio — •' The Creation," Part L ....

ADDRKS.S BY THK PASTOK.

Oratorio — " The Creation," Part U. - ...



8. BbNEDICTTON.



The next regular Song Service will be held Sunday Evening, Feb. 22, 1891.

Program
Oratorio: "The Creation," 1891



CHAPTER X



''Sunset and Evening Star''



HAD I KNOWN, Cara mia, that I was to live another quarter of a
century in the one beginning 1900, I would not have feared
for the end in the terrible train wreck I was in, and from
which I had such a miraculous escape.

It was during a short tour of several concerts through Wis-
consin and Minnesota. Coaches were not made of steel in those
days, and flimsy wood is quick to smash and quicker to burn.

It was late afternoon and I was sitting in the Pullman nearing
my destination when the crash came. When I felt our car reel and
start to roll on its side, some sense of preservation made me spring
to my feet, grab the old-fashioned rack above my seat and hang on
desperately as the train turned over. We somersaulted three times
down the steep bluff we were skirting at the time of the accident and
landed on the top of the car with wheels in the air. I found myself
also on my head, but as far as I could tell, unhurt.

All around me were cries of the wounded and frightened pas-
sengers. Fire was the immediate danger, for it was winter and
stoves still in use. The coach \s door was upside-down, but rescuers soon
had hacked it open. A burly man stuck his head in and demanded
to know if any were still alive. A few moans answered him, and
then I stepped forward — hurridly and trembling with excitement —
to be greeted with a cheer and grabbed into someones embrace. They
never expected to see a living soul come out of that crushed car, and
as it was, I happened to be the only one uninjured on the entire train.
When the train 's official hurried around to settle for immediate dam-
ages, my reply M'as, that I wanted nothing but a bottle of Witch
Hazel and a new hat. Later I was told that I might have collected
damages from the company, but I was so filled with gratitude over
my escape, that I only asked to sing my own "Jubilate Deo!"

Looking back to several such experiences, I wonder that I ever
lived to the "ripe old age" that I did. There was the snow-slide in
Colorado that buried our train for t\^enty-four hours, and the hotel
fire in Kansas. And there was a deadly storm on the Atlantic and

89



an eleventh-hour decision not to attend the Iroquois Theatre with my
wife on the afternoon it was destroyed. Kindly Fate had other
plans for your great-grandfather, Cara mia.

In checking over the list of notable events during the early days
of the present century, I have decided that the Pan American Fair
in Buffalo — 1901 — comes first. It was a smaller exhibition than the
Worlds Fair, but noteAvorthy.

Many of the country's organists were engaged to give series of
concerts in the Temple of Music on the Fair grounds. I drew the
dates of July 3rd to 6th and left, prepared to introduce some of
the newest Pan-American composers of organ music. My wife and
daughter accompanied me, as we were planning to continue our
summer vacation in New England.

It is not of my concerts I wish to write, my Cara, but of an
unusual event that brought me much publicity in the East — although
I know of several men who would have done the same under the cir-
cumstances, or at least tried to.

Just as the concert was about to begin on the evening of July 4th,
a terrific electrical storm descended upon the city and surrounding
country, devastating enough to cut off the electric power from the
great plant in nearby Niagara, and plunge the Exposition in gloom
and the interior of the buildings into utter darkness.

The great hall was filled to capacity, but with the first down-
pour of rain, crowds of Fair visitors fought to squeeze into the aisles
for shelter. Just as I was about to open my program the ear-splitting
crash came and all lights went out. The Woman's Building across
the lawn from the Temple of ]\Iusic had ])een struck by lightning,
and we could hear the disorder that reigned on the Fair grounds.
Someone screamed and a panic seemed inevitable, when one of the
officials rushed up to the organ bench and cried in desperation —

"In God's name, what can we do!" My hands were already
on the keys.

"Begin the program!" I yelled back, al)0ve the noise of the
storm.

He hurried forward and at my loud chord for silence, spoke
to the frightened audience, telling the great throng that we were
in no danger and the concert would proceed as scheduled. It was
only a feeble cheer that answered him, for the crowd doubted the
possibility of such a thing under the circumstances. They did not
recognize the Chicago spirit that was mine. With a true sense of
touch and musical pitch I struck the opening notes of the "Overture
to William Tell" — that great favorite of all organists — and plunged
ahead, thereby averting a possible panic and perhaps tragedy.

For one hour I played in total darkness, choosing my stops by
touch only and finding the right pedals by an experienced sense of

90



direction. I had covered six difficult niimbers — interspersed with
much hysterical applause — when some man brought a little tallow
candle and placed it beside me. I immediately burst forth with the
Doxology^" Praise God From AVhom All Blessings Flow!" — and the
great crowd, rising as one man from its seats, sang it with me. The
next day the press made much of the affair, giving me credit for
saving thousands of lives — praise that I did not deserve, for after
all, to the music goes the credit. In that same Temple of Music
only a few weeks later, William McKinley, 25th President of the
United States, was shot down by an assassin.

In 1912 I returned to Buffalo to play on that same organ— it
having been removed to a great municipal hall in that city — with my
daughter as my soprano. And after eleven years, the press remem-
bered how I had played my program in the dark. This time there
was no storm, which was fortunate for my daughter.

In 1904 I gave a group of recitals at the St. Louis Fair, and in
1905 and 1915 at the Portland and San Francisco Expositions. Only
a confusion of dates kept me from the one at San Diego. You see,
Cara mia, The World's Fair in our own city had started quite an
ei)idemie of this sort of entertainment.

During these days of Exposition concerts, our daughter mar-
ried, and another big wedding flashed its colorful way across the
pages of my life. This time I again took part in the service — "giv-
ing the bride away" — and another organist played the Lohengrin
march. It was my good friend Wilhelm ]Middelschulte. John Orten-
gren, Swedish baritone and leader of the Swedish Glee Club of
Chicago, who was also connected with the Chicago Musical College,
sang during the service, and as in that far-off day at another wed-
ding, all my musical associates were on hand. To see your only
daughter marry, my Cara, is sometimes saddening, but I was en-
tirely satisfied with the man of her choice, which gives any father
a feeling of thankfulness. This man is your own grandfather, whom
you love dearly.

And so another page of our family history was written. Yes,
and before long another, for your sweet mother — the loveliest child
ever born into a home — became one of our number. She was named
Dorothy — which means "Gift of God."

For several years my daughter kept up her concert work, ex-
tending her tours into more distant territory than her mother had
done. Then suddenly .she gave it up, for her little daughter was
growing rapidly into girlhood, and like my wife, her child and home
came first.

My dear old German father died soon after our grandchild
Dorothy was born, in the eighty-third year of his life. His passing
seemed to close the pages of that part of my life forever. Then in

91



1909 my wife's mother left us at the age of eighty. Two strong
spirits — yet so utterly unlike.

Closer the twilight was advancing upon our afternoon, my Cara,
and my wife and I found the hitherto excitement of musical careers
just a little tiring. I left Oak Park in 1908 and while I always
kept a church position— the last one covering fifteen years at the
New Church, Kenwood — I never attempted great concerts and ora-
torios, as I had in the days when my Avife was my soloist and we
could work together. We were willing to hand over the torch to
younger hands than ours. And speaking of hands, Cara mia, I al-
most forgot to tell you, that one of the "casts" of a man's hand in
the Chicago Art Institute — from which thousands of students have
sketched — was sculptured from mine. So if you ever study art in
that grand old school and should see a long slender hand that looks
as if it might have pressed the keys of a hundred organs, take your
pen and pencil and make your drawing, for it may be the model of
that same sensitive hand that once belonged to your great grand-
father.

Dr. Ziegfeld by this time was getting well along in years, for
he was several years older than I. After a serious illness, he decided
to sell the old college that he had founded fifty years before. Many
of his Faculty left at the same time and I was one. I had rounded
out nearly that length of time myself, and remaining without my
old friend seemed more than I could bear. The Chicago Musical
College still goes on, however, with even a few of the same teachers
\\\\o were there in my day — Kudolph Ganz, the president, and (Uenn
Dillard CTunn. But it is in another building now, with so many new
faces that if I should return I know I would never recognize it.
Soon after this change, Dr. Ziegfeld died,* and with his going some-
thing vital seemed to go out of my life forever. Youth, early friend-
ship, and musical associations.

But I must hurry on, my Cara, for the shadows are lengthening
and I fear you are growing weary.

In 1924 my wife and I moved to Cedar Street near the drive,
to live with our daughter. In doing this, I had completed the circle
of the city. West, following the fire of '71, South for ten years,
and now back North — only a few blocks from where I had started;
my homes on Townsend and later, on Oak.

I would often walk through that neiglil)orhood alone, musing on
the changes of the years. It gives one a peculiar, sad pleasure, Cara
mia. There where the Opera Club stands on Walton near Dearborn,
stood our second home, from which our old i)iano was rescued when
the city burned. There my church, with Dr. Collyer at its head. A
bit further south the spires of re-built Holy Name Cathedral re-
minded me of my first organ position in Chicago at the age of four-



* May 20, 1923.

92



teen. To the west, where the Ogden house stood, now rises the
massive walls of the Newberry Library, and on the grassy lawn of
Washington Square, soap-box orators rant and rave where in that
far-off night my brother John dug a hole in the ground in a vain
attempt to escape from the heat of a burning city.

Change all around me! A new Chicago! A new age of which
I was not a part. Well, that is as it should be, Cara mia. Why
should the old leaves remain clinging to the bough when there are
so many fresh young buds unfolding? I would have loved to see
my city fifty years hence ! So thought I then — little realizing that
I would ever return in this way, not only to see beyond the years
we call our lives, but to speak to our beloved posterity.

But there are a few dear landmarks left of my early life that
you will learn to love. *The old Union Park Church still stands
and the house from which we were married. Then in Oak Park,
the Congregational Church, and the house where your own mother
Dorothy was born. Everytime you go into the old Auditorium you
will think of me, your great-grandfather, w^ho sat on that organ bench
so many, many times and brought forth music of the old masters
from the splendid instrument. And the same with Orchestra Hall
and many old churches.

Yes, the new is blended with the old in this city we love. Changes
have come since 1871 and 1893, but is it so different after all? Is
not the same spirit alive in this year of 1933 1 Great fires and world
wars, disaster and panic — nothing daunts it ! In those early days
it was a brave child, a daring youth. Today it is a full-grown man.
But its heart is the same — big and understanding; ready to press
on with the tide of the coming years.

My Chicago! The city where I spent sixty-four years of my
life on earth. Where I worked and loved, and where my earthly
heart now sleeps in the quiet beauty of Rosehill. Always love Chi-
cago, Cara mia — it is your place of birth.

My brother Theo, who for more than forty years had been out
of the ministry and had followed his dearer love. Art — (which he
was not allowed to do in his youth) — now went back to his church
at the age of seventy-four, and started a new parish in the far-
northwestern part of the city. In four years, he had completed a
new church building** and had a fine growing congregation. Then,
as if realizing his work was done, left us one beautiful autumn
day. To me it was a severe loss, for of all my family, Theo and I
had been closest to one another. It seemed only yesterday that we
were boys together, tossing down pebbles from the church roof in
Rochester. With his death, I seemed to age.

But I am not through with this chronicle, Cara mia. There is



* New First Church. **St. Timothy's Evangelical Lutheran.

93



always a last page to write in every story, and being a musician
to the end, I must write of it.

The last time I played an organ ! Yes, that is it — and such a
happy occasion ! So beautiful a closing page to this little story. It
was at the wedding of your father and mother, my Cara — think of
that! In old St. Chrysostom's on North Dearborn, where later you
were christened, and where years before, I had dedicated their first
organ.

Three happy weddings in my long life — my own, my daugh-
ter's, and now my granddaughter's. No part was there for me to
fill in the wedding procession as on the two other occasions. I could
sit on the organ bench calmly and look out over my famil3\ They
were all there: my wife — with whom only five weeks before I had
celebrated our Golden Wedding ; my daughter and her husband — the
best pal a fatlier-in-law ever had. And now their daughter Dorothy,
and the man she was to marry. . . .

Lohengrin again ! Triumphant ! Eternal !

A man leaned over and spoke to me at the organ. . . ,

"How does it seem," he asked, "to be playing your grand-
daughter's wedding march?"

"Fine!" I replied, my fingers throbbing to the familiar chords
of Wagner. And then added — "And I expect to play at my great-
granddaughter's wedding too!"

That would have been you, Cara mia!

But it was not to be! In six weeks I had journeyed on — fol-
lowing where others had blazed the trail — just across the little space.

Pneumonia they called it, but to me it was only that I was very,
very tired — as I told them that last morning. Tired of the years
pressing down upon me. Willing to hand over the torch to younger
and stronger hands than mine. Anxious to seek new adventures
and hear new symphonies not of this earth.

So with no teai*s, no pain, no fear and no regret; witli my
wife — who was to follow me in less than three short years — by my
side, I fell asleep . . . with my head pillowed on the arm of my
daughter — she who had been named for my German mother !

Dear little Cara mia — ])orn into this old world on a bright, sum-
mer morning — expecting only joy and laughter to follow your adven-
turing steps — do not feel one l)it of sadness at the close of this little
story. Love endures — so does music. And the harmonies of earth
and nature are the same as the harmonies of the Infinite. So listen
carefully . . . for who knows but what the voice of that greatest-
of-all-goddesses-of-art may speak to you, and you may inherit talent
for music- — especially the golden voice of her for whom you were
named. It may be written in the stars !

I hope so, dear!

94



"I'd love to think ...
That after I have gathered patiently
A cargo full and fair
From every source, and see with pride
The treasure reach my vessel's side,
That though I cannot wait
To see the voyage through,
There will be someone of my own . . .
Still here ... to grasp the oar,
When other hands than mine
Shall bring my barque ashore ! ' '



The Enp,



95



UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS-URBANA

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Online LibraryFrancesca Falk MillerAcross the little space; the life of Dr. Louis Falk, as told to his great-grand daughter, Dorothy Cara Strong → online text (page 7 of 7)