New York! New York! Energies Synergize with Cumberland
Written by Amy Shuman, with Photography by John Shuman
Judie Brown was commuting at least 90 minutes one way as she served as the Minister of Music of The Larchmont Avenue Church in Larchmont, NY, a suburb of New York City. Her friend, Pat Kelby, a mezzo-soprano, was performing in the NYC area and teaching classical voice in the Westchester County suburb of Larchmont. Her education in Philadelphia at the Academy of Vocal Arts as well as her professional career both in Philadelphia and New York provided strong credentials for a successful vocal studio and career.
In 2005, they were visiting friends near Cumberland and remembered that Judie’s friend, Dr. Sue Raver, who was a classmate at Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA, where Judie received her Bachelor of Arts, and is now Health Officer of Allegany County, lived in Cumberland. They arranged for lunch downtown. While meandering in the morning, they scanned a Cumberland Times-News newspaper and an ad for a Minister of Music at the First Presbyterian Church in Cumberland popped off a page in the classifieds. Judie walked into the church, introduced herself and left her resume. While having lunch with Sue at The Creamery, Judie was paged. Joyce Macy, a member of the search committee, asked to meet with her.
Judie and Pat then happily ebbed and flowed with the whirlwind of additional people who paved the way for their move to Cumberland as Judie was considered for and quickly offered the new opportunity. As a graduate with a Master of Sacred Music from Union Theological Seminary, School of Sacred Music in New York City, and with 25 years as organist and director of five choirs in Larchmont, Judie was well qualified to take a leadership role at First Presbyterian. Pat investigated the opportunities at Frostburg State and became an adjunct faculty member in the Music Department there, with 17 voice students this year. “It was my hope to be able to teach here and I’m so thrilled,” smiles Pat. She is so grateful for the opportunity to impart to voice students her passion for the art song, oratorio, opera and lieder repertoire.
After that memorable lunch with Sue Raver, Andy Vick, Executive Director of The Allegany Arts Council showed Judie and Pat the Saville Gallery and Kauffman’s Music Store. Again, as fate would continue to shine brightly, Bill Chesno, Long and Foster Realtors, walked up and the conversation changed to real estate. Bill arranged several house hunting trips and corresponded by e-mail. In October, 2005, when Judie walked into a home on the west side, near Allegany High School, she sighed with deep relief. The openness, high ceilings and sunroom near the entry of this 1913 Mediterranean, Spanish Mission style house whispered, “You’re home!”
The house was built for Warren Mellinger, who was then manager of The Maryland Theatre in Cumberland. Al Jolson is reported to have been a guest. The architect, Wright Butler, was the son of a local furniture manufacturer of note. He also designed the local courthouse, Masonic Temple, German Brewery and the Footer Tool and Dye Works. He lived on Columbia Street, in the home that became The Columbia Street Funeral Home. Judie and Pat quickly established their priority list for the restoration of this special place. They hoped to refurbish the kitchen and upstairs bath to original beauty. However, one evening, turning on a light switch ignited a small fire in a hallway and they wisely invested in Braddock Electrical services, whose employees spent two months totally rewiring the nearly 2000 square feet. The kitchen and bath are patiently waiting their turn.
Frank Parry, a local craftsman who Pat notes “has the soul of an artist” has worked on various projects, like refurbishing the front stairs and porch. “He even tries to match the original texture of the paint from that period,” she adds. Anna Urbanski of Down to Earth Landscaping assisted with a spectacular plan so Judie and Pat’s special rescue pets could enjoy being outside. Using beautiful stones from Mount Savage, in hues of sienna to match the terra cotta roof and pale greens to co-ordinate with the mellow misty emerald of the outside stucco, Anna placed every stone, from grande to mini, in beautiful patterns to create walkways, a patio and perfectly terraced yard.
From the street level, there are 20 stair steps leading to the concrete sitting porch. Stepping into the “living room turned dining room,” Judie’s dramatic six-foot Yamaha grand piano with glossy ebony finish flows from the sunroom. An antique metal RCA logo dog Nipper stands guard. Built in china cupboards on either side of the marbled mantled gas fireplace are balanced with Judie’s family cut crystal and china heirlooms on the left and a new set of white contemporary Mikasa dishes on the right. The cherry dining room set can easily seat 12-14 friends. In a corner is a unique antique hand carved wooden nursing rocker, with a pop-up side armrest. A beautiful walnut banister that Frank restored leads up the double staircase to the four bedrooms. Pat’s retreat faces east to catch the morning sun and showcases three very unique “rounded corner” walls that are throughout the house. Wright Butler might have understood the fine points of feng shui, as he crafted the plans for no square corners pointing anywhere. An early American pine hope chest and a collection of the softest floral watercolors by New York artist Brigitte Loritz are of particular note.
Judie’s haven, which leads to a private balcony, was planned with interior decorator Shirley Giarritta’s touch. A friend in New York had gifted Judie with the bed linens and window treatments from one of Isaac Stern’s, famed violinist, homes. A Victorian chair was covered and Roman shades were made with fabric to match the pillows, which feature violins, musical notes and other contemporary motifs. Judie’s love of sunflowers prompted ‘sweet orange’ trim as an accent to her sunflowers art pieces. In the wide expansive hallway outside the bedrooms, Judie and Pat chose to feature two wonderfully colorful prints, “The Sources of Music” and “The Triumph of Music,” by Mark Chagall, Russian avant-garde painter, which are reproduced from his huge murals at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. In the guest room, friends are welcomed with beautiful fluffy winter white comforters, Victorian lamps and an antique chest of drawers from Judie’s parents that sports various shades of veneer applied in a design like the rays of the sun. The fourth bedroom, with gray leather overstuffed chairs, a wide screen TV and a myriad of CD storage that matches Judie and Pat’s love of music, provides the perfect sanctuary for relaxing.
As Pat and Judie talk about their two years in Cumberland, they finish each other’s sentences. “It’s a wonderfully warm community. Everyone has been so gracious and open. People wave as you pass on the street, whether or not they know you. The community reception to our work in making music has been top notch.” Judie’s choirs are expanding and she is particularly thrilled to have 15 youngsters in the children’s choir she initiated. She has also established a teaching studio at First Presbyterian, where she offers organ, piano and voice lessons. One of her dreams is to develop a fine Allegany/Garrett community children’s chorus offering unique musical, educational and life-enhancing experiences and training.
Pat confides, “The pace is very different here and I really enjoy it now. It took me awhile to slow down.” Judie adds, “It was interesting to realize that I could sip a cup of coffee and read the morning paper. Instead of the long commute, I’m now 6/10 of a mile from the church!” Judie and Pat enjoy that they are only two hours from the metropolitan centers they have grown to love, often traveling to Baltimore and Pittsburgh symphony orchestra concerts. However, it is a sure thing that both of them are here to stay. Pat says it all as she reminisces, “I remember the evening after we had lunch at the Creamery. We were enjoying dinner outside at the Manhattan. As the sun set over the church spires, we could see them lighted, one by one, and I felt like I was in Germany. Everything felt right. It was a magical moment!”