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Fair Lane Music Guild (1970-Present) | University of Michigan-Dearborn Archives

Name: Fair Lane Music Guild (1970-Present)

Historical Note:

The Fair Lane Music Guild started out as an idea of the musician Raymond Benner, an accomplished bass player for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Benner first approached the University of Michigan-Dearborn after touring the Henry Ford Estate in the spring of 1970. He was interested in starting a music guild that would showcase concerts performed in the estate by a resident group of DSO professionals. This group became known as the Village Chamber Players and on August 4, 1970, they played the first of two preview concerts in the Henry Ford Estate. The critics wrote in favor of the events, and the audiences indicated general approval of the Guild’s efforts. The first regular season concert was held on October 18, 1970.

Ray Benner ran the Guild as its artistic director through the 1972-73 season, whereafter he resigned. Taking his place of leadership was Vern Copeland, chairman of the board, and Dr. Margarette Eby, assistant professor of music history at the UM-Dearborn, who became the new artistic director.  Richard Reynolds, co-founder and later chairman, credits Copeland with the “quiet persistence and business acumen” that helped keep the Guild operating during a tough financial year. Eby’s arrival was also instrumental, shifting the focus from the Village Chamber Players to a series of visiting performers. By the 1975-76 concert season, the Fair Lane Music Guild held its first international performance featuring the Berlin String Quartet. Later international performances would include the Japan Trio and the Talich String Quartet from Czechoslovakia.

Richard Reynolds, who was also the head of the Office of Community Relations from 1969-72, wrote of the Guild’s first decade in its 10th Anniversary Season program. In detailing the Guild’s early years, Reynolds has high praise for Gordon Staples, then DSO concertmaster, who performed for the Guild during the 1971-72 and 1972-73 seasons, “His virtuosity in Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” the first time the complete work had been performed in the Detroit area in over a decade, still ranks as one of the Guild’s all-time great concerts. The Fair Lane Music Guild owes a great debt to Staples. His donation of time, boundless enthusiasm and artistic brilliance gave the Guild a mark of high professionalism, a characteristic that continues today.”

The Guild’s concert season has followed a four concert a year format, with later seasons including café style seating, a dessert bar, and an annual holiday dinner. The Guild, along with hosting events at the Henry Ford Estate, also held more intimate concerts in the homes of select Guild members. These were called “Music Walks,” and functioned as fundraising events for the Guild’s normal concert season. The first “Walk” was in 1976, and featured music in four Guild homes, each showcasing a different period of music.

Over the years the Guild’s administration has included some UM-Dearborn faculty. The following is a list of Guild presidents from 1970-1989: Richard Reynolds (1970-71, 1974-75), Rollin P. Marquis (1971-72), C. Edward Wall (1972-73), Verling Copeland (1973-74), Phil Beggrov-Peter (1975-78), Joan D. Irwin (1978-80), Earl K. Lundy (1980-83), Eileen C. Prinsen (1983-86), and Carol Ann Ligienza (1986-89).

As of 2013, the Fair Lane Music Guild is entering its 43rd concert season. Frequent groups in recent years include the CutTime Players, CutTime Simfonica, and the Fair Lane Chamber Players, and included within these groups are Gabriel Bolkosky, Michele Cooker, Mary Ann Ramos, Rick Robinson, and Pauline Martin. Information about the Guild’s most recent concert season can be found at http://flmg.umd.umich.edu/, or by contacting Fair Lane Music Guild representative Karen Holland at her email kholland@umd.umich.edu.

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