North Country
5:00 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

A Musical Postcard from the North Country's Grand (Mostly Gone) Hotels

Almost all of the grand hotels that once brought the North Country fame, fortune and tourists are gone.

But now some of the music that was composed specifically for each hotel has been played and recorded, possibly for the first time in 100 years.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen sends this audio postcard.

Rick Russack runs a web site on  White Mountain history.

Not long ago he was going through some material.

“Stereo views, photographs, postcards and prints, graphic things.”

Then, something caught his attention.

“Sheet music is one of the types of things that was illustrated.”

There was lots of sheet music.

“Dinner Bell Polka, which was written for the Crawford House”

“The Glen House Galop.”

“The White Mountain March”

“Dreaming of Old New Hampshire”

“The White Mountains Gallop”

“Mount Pleasant Waltz”

Russack says these were compositions created specifically for each hotel.

“Each of the grand hotels had house orchestras there for the summer. Music was a major part of the guest experience.”

Russack mentioned the sheet music to a friend, Rebecca Oreskes, who lives in Milan.

She immediately had a thought.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to know what it sounds like.”

It was that question that started a chain reaction.

Forrest Seavey of Campton has worked on the White Mountain History web site for years and he thought hearing the music would be terrific.

He had a friend, Betty Nicholson of Holderness, who played the piano. So, he asked her about trying some of those old, old melodies.

She was intrigued so she turned on the heat in the piano room and sat down.

Then she began to play, bringing to life compositions that – it seemed possible – hadn’t been heard for a century.

It was a bit like an audio time machine.

“I had pictures in my mind as I was playing of the old fashioned ballrooms and people swirling around and women in their long skirts and all of that.”

Some of them were fast. Spirited. Like the Mount Washington March.

Some were slower and sentimental.

“The ‘Call of the Woods.’ That is another pretty one. You sort of have a vision of wild flowers and people walking in the woods and that kind of thing.”

So far four of the songs have been recorded and can be found on the White Mountain History.org web site.

And from time to time Betty Nicholson finds herself sitting in front of the piano, working on some of the other tunes and taking a tiny trip into the North Country’s past.

For NHPR News, this is Chris Jensen

To hear more music go here.