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.

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