A Local Hidden Gem: Otsego Polka

Authored by Michelle Weigel

“Otsego Polka” Composed and Respectfully inscribed to the Young Ladies of Mrs. Cotes’ Seminary, Springfield NY by J.A Fowler

Collections begin with wants from a collector. In the case of the Clarke family, that want was sheet music. George Clarke loved to play the flute, so much so that he had all three children classically trained to play the flute. On top of that, he also sang, and one could say music was a passion of his. He collected thousands and thousands of music sheets, which were stored in the family library or next to the piano in the drawing-room (Aborn 2021). Their collection can be viewed at their long-time residence Hyde Hall located in Cooperstown, New York. Hyde Hall is now a historic landmark open to guests to come tour and learn about the estate.

One piece of sheet music found in the Hyde Hall archives is “Otsego Polka by J.A Fowler in 1847 and was “inscribed to the Young Ladies of Mrs. Cotes’ Seminary, Springfield” (Otsego Polka, n.d.). This piece was written specifically for the area; Opera pieces were considered for the high class in contrast to folk pieces which were played by the lower class. The “Otsego Polka” combines both worlds, and since it is heavy with the flute, it was a piece George Clarke wanted to have (Aborn 2021). There is a painting in Hyde Hall’s drawing-room, the Gallery of the Louvre by Samuel Morse (Brownlee 2014) were below a piano sat. Guests would gather around and listen to this piece, and more pieces were performed by other guests and members of the Clarke family.

Recently the “Otsego Polka” was brought back to life thanks to The Musicians of Ma’alwyck. They recently partnered with Hyde Hall to bring some of their archived pieces back to life by recording their second CD, “Hyde Hall and the Silver Goddess” (Observer-Dispatch 2021). The original plan was to host a Mother’s Day concert in 2020 at Hyde Hall; however, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, those plans turned into a virtual album release party instead. The release party occurred on February 26th, 2021, at Caffe Lena, located in Saratoga Springs, New York. Viewers could watch the Livestream on Caffe Lena’s YouTube channel of The Musicians of Ma’alwyck playing select works from both of their albums and some Scottish songs. You can still watch the recorded Livestream by going to Caffe Lena’s YouTube page. Purchases for the CD can be made through the Hyde Hall gift shop online and The Musicians of Ma’alwyck website. It seems that “Otsego Polka” was chosen from Hyde Hall’s collection to be on the album because “It’s just this charming, very representative polka, clearly meant for dancing,” (Nash 2021, para. 10) and “it captures the flavor and the lighthearted mood of the era” (Goepfert 2021, para. 9).


Aborn, John, and Michelle Weigel. 2021. The Clarke family and Hyde Hall. Personal.

Brownlee, Peter John. 2014. Samuel F.B. Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre: A guide to the Painting. Chicago, IL: Terra Foundation for American Art.

Goepfert, Bob. 2021. “Musicians of Ma’alwyck Unites Historic Sites with Music their Era.” WAMC. February 28, 2021. https://www.wamc.org/post/musicians-ma-alwyck-unites-historic-sites-music-their-era.

Nash, Indiana. 2021. “Musicians of Ma’alwyck Revive Historic Transcriptions.” The Daily Gazette. February 24, 2021. https://dailygazette.com/2021/02/24/musicians-of-maalwyck-revive-historic-transcriptions/.

Observer-Dispatch. 2021. “Chamber Ensemble Partners with Hyde Hall to Bring 1800s Music to Life.” Utica Observer Dispatch. Observer-Dispatch. February 25, 2021. https://www.uticaod.com/story/entertainment/2021/02/25/hyde-hall-and-silver-goddess-operatic-brilliance-auber-bellini-meyerbeer-rossini-drawing-room/6752071002/.

“Otsego Polka.” n.d. Hyde Hall : Online Collections. Accessed March 1, 2021. https://hydehall.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/920258F0-383F-40E0-824B-684028533576.