H.L. Mencken's Saturday Night Club reconvened by Concert Artists of Baltimore
That legend stepped into the sunlight Sunday afternoon when the Concert Artists of Baltimore presented a diverting program in the atrium of the Engineer's Club, offering nearly a dozen of the arrangements once played by Mencken and his fun-loving buddies. I hope this won't be the last such event. Given that there are 54 boxes of the club's music held by the Pratt Library (staffer David Donovan has devoted a great deal of time and clearly rewarding effort in digging out the material there), Concert Artists could make this reconvening an annual event -- a Sunday Afternoon Club, maybe.
From the first sounds of
The faithful arrangements of the Schubert work and the opening of Beethoven's "Eroica" offered reminders of how serious Mencken's club members could be about their music. Hearing such biggies reduced to salon orchestra size took a relatively minor ear-adjustment, and Polochick treated the material as if he were conducting a 50-piece ensemble -- there was a lot of expression packed into those performances.
The program featured plenty of lighter fare, the sort that clearly went down very well with the Mencken crowd as the beer flowed freely. "Valse Vodka" by Cheslock and "Fox Trot" by Strube contained intriguing, even quirking ideas. Bright arrangements of favorites by Johann Strauss -- father ("Radestsky March") and son (waltzes from "Fledermaus") -- received particularly colorful performances. Same for the march "I Am a One," a club anthem with music by William Woolcott and barbed words (not sung here -- maybe next time) by Mencken. The finale hit precisely the right note for the occasion: the "Beer Barrel Polka."
Seems to me that Concert Artists should look for a way to launch a recording project of treasures from the Mencken club (I'd bet Naxos would be interested). It would surely have an appeal beyond Baltimore.
SUN FILE PHOTO OF SATURDAY NIGHT CLUB DINING IN A PRIVATE ROOM AT SCHELLHASES RESTAURANT