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Wiser’s Wramblings-Musical Mom

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By Chuck Wiser, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels

As I write yet another piece about a loved one lost, I reflect upon all those of my generation who have left this earthly world, as far as I am concerned, way too early. “Why” they passed is not the focus today, but rather “What” they passed on to us.

As often mentioned, I love to learn, and almost as much, to share what I learned. Before I get to the true focus of this piece, I wanted to use the term The Mother of Music. In doing so, and researching who might be called by that, it wasn’t clear as to who that might be. In my mind then, Norma Bartlett, who sadly, passed away early the morning of Christmas Eve, and who is well known throughout the region as the epitome of music, is deserving of that term, at least to those who knew her. Lacking any clear definition of the Mother of Music, I turned to the topic of who might be the Father of Music. Therein was included much more history and three people.

It is no mystery that Pythagoras, who many in the Engineering field were very aware of for his Theorem, is also included in a discussion on Music. Music is very much reliant on mathematics in that you have to account for counting (math) as there are so many “beats to a measure.” Music is divided into measures and its pace is determined not only by how frequently, But also how rapidly they are repeated in a measure. My love of music goes back to the late 50’s when I got my first harmonica and would sit outside my house playing the instrument, with no musical knowledge except an ear for music, and that which I felt in my heart and mind. The first song I learned to play was “Red Sails in the Sunset”. Mathematically, the first thing I had to memorize in high school mathematics was the “Pythagorean Theory”. I can still recite it from memory…”In a right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse side is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. Mathematically shown it is C² = A² + B². And of course we had to extrapolate that to the “square roots of the…” which made repeating it even more “sing-songy.”

Math lesson over with apologies to those hating math and to those who fell asleep during my swing off track.

Norma Bartlett, 77, of Hillcrest Drive, Wellsville, NY, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, December 24, 2022, in her home. She was born in Wellsville on November 16, 1945, the daughter of the late Felix and Marie (Cristini) Biancuzzo. On July 17, 1965, she married her husband of 57 years, James E. Bartlett, who survives. She is survived by: two children, David L. (Andrea) Bartlett of West Henrietta, NY and Karen Bartlett-Morse of Auburn, NY; two sisters, Ann McKay of Rochester, NY and Marie (David) Vaklyes of Reston, VA; and several nieces and nephews.

In addition to previous writings, by and about, Norma, I will add the history of my personal “musical love affair” with her, which began in 1975-76 as we were both honored to have been a part of a choral group started by John Molinari.

Some of which follows is taken from Norma’s History of the Genesee Valley Chorus.

“The Genesee Valley Chorus was first organized in the fall of 1975 as “The Wellsville Bicentennial Chorus” when patriotic Americans throughout the country were planning activities to celebrate the upcoming Bicentennial.

The performance of the first major concert featuring authentic early American music in the spring of 1976, was made possible by the donations of music by the JCPenney company. John Molinari, then the Wellsville Central School band director and his wife Iris, also a noted musician, volunteered their musical leadership. The enthusiasm and momentum of members of the fledgling group blended and culminated into the Genesee Valley Chorus (GVC) in 1977. Financial challenges were eventually met by obtaining an “Arts” support grant from the New York State Council on the Arts. This financial support was renewed annually until gradually the group became self-sustaining thanks to the generosity of the attending audiences and patrons.”

My relationship with Norma grew as we became closer friends through our joined interest in the GVC. In the early 80’s I became first the Publicity Chairperson, and then the President of the organization. In both capacities I worked closely with Norma with her musical experience and talent. Also, early in the 80’s in what I believe was my last year until fairly recently as a full-time member of the chorus, we had the opportunity while under the direction of David (Dave) Dunbar, formerly Director of Choral Music at Portville Central School, to expand our musical horizons.  The Chorus was invited to participate in the annual New York State School Music Association Conference. This is an annual event that collects thousands of school music professionals at what is now known as the Concord Resort and Golf Course at Kiamesha Lake in the Catskills. The invitation followed submission and evaluation of a recorded performance for their acceptance and invitation. Being able to undertake such an ambitious goal, was a challenge to the group and the numerous generous benefactors who gave the chorus donations to offset the trip and overnight stay at the Concord.

To facilitate the significant personal expenses and make this historic (to us) visit and outreach affordable to each who wished to participate we needed to develop and implement fund raising activities to do so. Norma, as the coordinating leader, and many others, embarked on a series of outreach concerts and activities to raise the funds. Norma worked tirelessly contacting local businesses and enterprises, and was very successful in accumulating a sufficient reserve of financial support to greatly offset the personal expenses of each participating member. We would not have been able to build this monumental memory had it not been through the efforts of Norma, and undoubtedly her family, husband Jim, son David and daughter Karen.

During that period of significant massive, sometimes grueling effort, there were some challenging, stressful, and very trying times. At one point Norma reached out for some moral support as we often discussed the process by phone. In one of my more philosophical moments during one such conversation, I said to her: “If you feel like talking, talk to me. If you feel like crying, cry to me, for I will share your burden.”   

 Having already written several poems, some even published, those words stuck in my head and I wrote the poem which follows. As I had a couple of times previously, I shared the poem with Dave, and wouldn’t you know it, he added some notes, and thousand-fold meaning to my words, and came up with the song, Trust in Me, which soon after submittal was published by Glory Sound.

I share with you now the Poem and musical artwork for Trust in Me, and dedicate any future use of this song, which never would have come to pass if it were not for the love of music and for the love of all who knew her, to Norma Bartlett. RIP Mother of Music to so many.

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