Bicentennial concert will take you back into Belleville's history

News-DemocratMay 1, 2014 

Listen to Christina Witkowski play Frank E. Macke's Belleville Homecoming March that he composed for the Belleville Centennial Assn. in 1914. This year is Belleville's 200th anniversary and the city has a variety of events scheduled to celebrate this milestone. Thanks to the descendants of Frank Macke for sharing photos and the music. Also, thanks to Christina Witkowski for taking the time to learn and perform the music, for more information about the recent SIUE keyboard performance graduate visit. Also thanks to Piano Distributors 455 Salem Place Fairview Heights, Il 62208 (618) 589-1900 for letting us use a Yamaha piano and record in the store.


To help the city celebrate its 200th birthday, the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra will perform a concert of music that early residents might have enjoyed.

One piece is "Overture to The Barber of Seville," which also is familiar in modern times because of its use in everything from movies to commercials.

Italian composer Gioachino Rossini premiered his comic opera in 1816, two years after Belleville was selected as the new St. Clair County seat and three years before it was incorporated.

"(Rossini) would have been working on it as people in Belleville were deciding to have a city," said Robert Howard, the orchestra's music director and conductor.

The orchestra also will perform Howard's arrangement of the "Belleville Home Coming March."

The late Frank E. Macke wrote it for the city's centennial in 1914. He was a machinist who played trumpet, taught music lessons and conducted the Philharmonic from 1921 to 1922.

"I was only 6 months old when he died," said Macke's granddaughter, Kathy Liddy, 65, of Belleville. "But I always knew that grandpa wrote the 'Belleville Homecoming March.' His picture is on the sheet music, and we kept it in a frame. We were proud of it."

Also on the program are four movements from "Peer Gynt," including "The Abduction of the Bride," "Morning Mood," "Ase's Death" and "In the Hall of the Mountain King."

Norwegian Edvard Grieg composed the music in 1875 for the play that Henrik Ibsen wrote in 1867. The latter date is significant because it's when the Belleville Philharmonic performed its first concert.

Howard feels the orchestra's formation was partly due to a community effort to heal wounds inflicted by the Civil War.

"It was like, 'We have this painful period behind us, so let's move on,'" he said.

The concert also will feature the Almeda Trio from Cleveland, Ohio. Cellist Ida Edwards Mercer is a 1973 graduate of Belleville West and an inductee on its Wall of Fame.

The trio will perform Beethoven's "Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major," more commonly known as the "Triple Concerto." He composed it in 1803.

"It's filled with soaring, beautiful melodies and very virtuosic passage work for all of the players," said Mercer, 58. "It's heroic and noble."

Almeda is trio in residence at The Music Settlement. Mercer also is a cello teacher and co-founder and program director for the Cleveland Cello Society.

Mercer joined the Belleville Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in sixth grade and continued with the adult orchestra until she went away to college.

"The Philharmonic was very influential in developing my love of music and my musical skills," she said.

The Philharmonic concert Sunday is a signature event for Belleville 200, which is being celebrated all year.

"We're very honored that the city has recognized us and included us," Howard said.

At a glance

What: Belleville Bicentennial Tribute concert

Who: Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra with special appearance by Almeda Trio

Where: Lindenwood University's Belleville campus auditorium, 2600 W. Main St.

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens (55 and older) and military personnel and $7 for students (free for Lindenwood students with ID)

Information: Call 618-235-5600 or visit

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