In the winter of 1960/1961, the Homestead Valley Improvement Club presented a series of three Candlelight Concerts in Brown’s Hall. The enthusiasm of the audiences, averaging 177, plus favorable press revues encouraged the music committee to present more such concerts. Candlelight Concerts were presented for 20 more years.
An outgrowth of the first Candlelight Concert series was a Mozart Festival in Stolte Grove held on the day before Labor Day in 1961. It was such a success that annual Mozart Festivals became a tradition in Stolte Grove. The concert was free in the early years when musicians were paid by a grant from their union’s trust fund. Usually about 400 people would attend. During its last few years when there was a $10 admission charge, fewer than 200 attended. Financial losses mounted and the music committee decided to end the series in 2004.
Here is an example of the classical music scene in Homestead Valley in the early days. The 1977/1978 concert season included a Mozart Festival in Stolte Grove followed by six Candlelight Concerts at the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley—Brown’s Hall had been sold in 1972.
The 1977 Mozart Festival orchestra consisted of 21 musicians directed by Raymond Duste, principal oboist of the San Francisco Symphony. The other musicians were from the San Francisco Symphony, Oakland Symphony, Marin Symphony and San Francisco Opera orchestras. There were four violins, two violas, two cellos, a bass, a harpsichord, a flute, a clarinet, two oboes, a bassoon, two French horns, two trumpets, and two vocalists, a soprano and a baritone. The program consisted of seven pieces composed by Purcell, Mozart, Handel and Franceschini.
The first Candlelight Concert of the 1977/1978 season was preceded by a Homestead Christmas Medieval Feast. Forty gaily costumed residents met at a home on Melrose at 3 PM for a “jolly hour” of mead, wassail and aphrodisiacs. This was followed by a procession to the Community Center for the feast: cock-a-leekie soup, crabbe, suckling pig, vegetables, and pears, all served by local wenches. Trumpet fanfares announced each course. The feast prepared everyone for the Candlelight Concert. The San Francisco Pro-Musica played ancient music on ancient instruments. Other Candlelight Concerts in the 1977/1978 season featured the Danzi Woodwind Quintet from Holland, a recital by clarinetist Frealon Bibbins of the San Francisco Symphony orchestra, and three concerts by the Bach to Mozart Chamber Players directed by Raymond Duste.
In 2007 and 2008, the music committee produced two highly successful jazz festivals in the meadow at the community center on the day before Labor Day in 2007 and 2008. Times change.
If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.