Ogden Sempre Musical Society turns 100

Friday , March 17, 2017 - 5:00 AM

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Consistency and accountability are key components to accomplishing any goal.

Members of the Sempre Musical Society say their association has kept them and those who went before moving forward in their musical abilities for 100 years.

The Ogden society, formed for women who wanted “serious music study,” has survived a century of monthly performances and lectures about music. A requirement for joining is having a bachelor’s degree in music or the equivalent.

“Life gets busy,” said Renee Warner, 84, who has been a member for about 60 years. “These are the kinds of instruments you have to play a lot in order to stay up. If you have this challenge, you have to keep going.”

Although lifestyles have changed, the focus for those who participate has remained on classical music and self-improvement.

The group was formed by members who dressed their best for meetings, but members now wear casual dress. The meetings have changed from twice monthly to monthly. And some members now live outside of Ogden.

Members say they are better for their participation. 

“Your performance lifts them up and they lift you up. Together, you make better music,” said Charlene Burnett.

Currently, there are 19 members.

“Music is very inspiring, and to be able to participate in music is an especially soul- and spirit-energizing experience,” said Meredith Ashton.

Ashton, Warner and Burnett discussed their membership in Sempre after practicing a four-part piano piece Thursday for a Saturday performance. 

“If we took our blood pressure right now, it would be up,” Warner said. The four women who practiced together Thursday have a combined 211 years of experience playing piano and a combined 96 years in the Sempre Musical Society.

The public is invited when all members of Sempre perform in the group’s spring musical at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 18, in celebration of a century of learning and performance in Ogden.

The group will perform in the Garrison Choral Room, Room 136, in the Browning Center at Weber State University, 3848 Harrison Blvd. in Ogden. Members will perform works on flute, piano, voice and in a string ensemble, a piano quartet and voice ensemble.

The selections Saturday will honor their founders, who were some of the most influential women in Ogden.

“These ladies all came with hats and gloves and best shoes,” Warner said, noting that the group started at a time when women’s rights were coming to fruition.

“It’s not new that women are pushing for stuff,” she said.

Founded in 1917, Sempre has never allowed male members. Only in the last 10 years have men been allowed to attend the concerts.

The group’s history includes a campaign in the 1920s and 1930s to expose area children to “serious” music by performing regularly in the schools.

Members have supported establishment of Utah’s performing musical organizations and encourage student piano study through the Squire Coop method. Coop was a noted musician and founder and permanent conductor of the Oratorio Society of Utah.

According to the group’s history, the nucleus of the founding group was formed by Coop’s students who attended the Ogden Conservatory of Music.

The motto “to attain the highest in art” has appeared regularly on the group’s performance programs.

“Music, we have concluded, is a thing of change and growth and never-ending,” wrote Rosina C. Nicholas in a history of the group in 1977.

Jean Miller, 78, attributed much of her ability to keep her mind active to the group.

“It’s kept us alert to all kinds of music,” she said. “We have quite open minds. We’re able to study.”

With the chance to learn, perform and enjoy each other’s company, Miller said the group meets many needs for participants.

Margie Dean said being part of the group keeps music continually flowing through her. “It’s really great to collaborate with other performers,” she said.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis. 

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