Events

Biographer, Military Sleuth, and Historian: Don Deignan’s Talk at Shaker Museum on October 15

He’s written a book that is a double biography, a World War 2 mystery, and a book about family, industrial and local history. Even more, it is a story of inspiration overcoming disability. Rhode Island author Don Deignan spoke at Alfred Shaker Museum at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 15, the last of four speakers in this season’s Sid Emery Memorial Forum sponsored by the museum and the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society.

His book recounts a tale of personal commitment that is a repayment of a “debt of honor” to the uncle who helped him overcome enormous physical disabilities. And part of his story is set in Alfred during the years of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression.

Deignan’s book is titled The Shadow of Sacrifice / The True Story of a Pearl Harbor Survivor and His Nephew and Namesake. Deignan has a doctoral degree in history from Brown University and is one of the primary forces behind establishment of Providence’s Irish Famine memorial.

In the Alfred portion of the book, he was helped to do research by Gus Hedden, director at Alfred’s Parsons Memorial Library, local historian and author John Cook, and Irish historian and author Mary Lee Dunn Maguire, a board member of Alfred Shaker Museum, who helped him tap records about the CCC at Alfred’s town museum, thanks to help from Allison Williams.

Deignan was born with serious disabilities affecting both his sight and his ability to walk. For years he was a student at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. There, at the Perkins School when he was 10 years old, on one anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was inspired by the service of his uncle who had died there on military duty.

It was his Uncle Donald whose life had most captured the boy’s commitment and imagination and given him the inspiration to press on despite his physical disabilities. With that early epiphany, he had developed a spiritual link with his late uncle that lasted and comforted him for a lifetime. But there were surprises as he focused on repaying his debt to Donald, the war hero. Don started to research his uncle’s war experience and encountered a record that presented questions that he set out to answer and mysteries he aimed to solve. Thus, he went up against the military bureaucracy in trying to find out how his uncle had died. And the answers, when he found them, did not comport with the family story he’d been told.

In the end he made peace with his Uncle Donald and satisfied his mission to repay the debt of honor that he felt he owed his uncle which he had undertaken so many decades earlier as a forlorn 10-year-old with overwhelming burdens.

Scenes from “Simple Gifts”

Here are some photos from our 5th annual “Simple Gifts” concert.

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“Simple Gifts” Music Festival July 16

Come join FASM in celebration of the 169th anniversary of Alfred’s Town Song, “Simple Gifts.” The play-along begins at 5:00 PM. Bring an instrument (or your voice) and join in! At 6:00 PM, the concert commences. As usual, it will feature a variety of interpretations of “Simple Gifts” as expressed in various musical combinations and dance.

For more information: Contact Andy Happel.

Limerick Composer Discusses Maine Music History


Speaker John Secunde, right, and Brother Albert Heinrich discuss music history after Secunde’s presentation at Alfred Shaker Museum on Sunday (June 11).

Limerick music composer John Secunde engaged his audience at Alfred Shaker Museum on Sunday, June 11, with his history of early Maine composer Supply Belcher. He offered samples of Belcher’s music, which Secunde thinks has been “largely neglected today” and has “fallen by the wayside” despite his significant early role in music in America.

John Secunde, who recently graduated with a degree in music composition from the State University of New York at Fredonia and is headed to a master’s program at the Longy School of Music at Bard College in the fall, focused on Supply Belcher (1751-1836).

Belcher lived and worked in Farmington and Hallowell (now Augusta). He moved from Massachusetts to Maine after the Revolutionary War, in which he served and was designated a captain by George Washington. At one point, he also interacted with Paul Revere over payment for a town bell. In Maine, Belcher was a well-known civil servant.

The presentation was the second this season in the Sid Emery Memorial Forum, which is now in its third year of sponsorship from the Shaker museum and the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society. Funding has been provided by the Davis Family Foundation.

Belcher, Secunde explained, was a member of the New England School of five musicians who banded together through common interests and geography and produced “tune books”. The school included William Billings and Justin Morgan (for whom the Morgan horse is named). In 1794, Belcher published a book called Harmony of Maine, with a preface that Secunde termed “important” for its redefinition of music’s place in contrast with the European position. Belcher’s view was that music was about “bringing communities together.” There was a “trend toward sacred music… to be used in churches.”

Secunde played samples of three Belcher pieces, including a “Sacred Harp Performance,” “Heroism,” and “Majesty.” In “Majesty,” Belcher employed chance as a controlling factor over which notes are played. A member of the audience, who seemingly was skeptical about that piece, questioned whether chance could actually produce good music. Secunde said the approach was interesting, “colorful,” and “not sacred music,” and that chance “removes the influence of intuition.”

Secunde also talked about the strong influence on American music of the influx of German immigrants to the United States about 1800. And he praised Belcher as one of the “few musicians who is completely American and unique but… largely neglected today.”

The final two talks in the Memorial Forum, by book authors, will take place in October. For more information, see Speakers’ Series.

Massabesic Student Wins Shaker Museum Essay Contest

Sarah Bouley (center), shown with her family at the contest awards ceremony at the museum last year.

An eighth-grade student at Massabesic Middle School has won the student essay contest sponsored annually by the Friends of Alfred Shaker Museum (FASM). It is her second consecutive win in the contest.

The winner is Sarah Bouley of East Waterboro with her essay titled, “How the Shakers Earned a Living in Alfred”. She will receive a $100 prize and a collectible from FASM. Her essay will become part of the museum’s archive.

Sarah will read her essay in an award ceremony at the museum on its opening day of the new summer season — Saturday, May 13, at 2 p.m. The museum will open to the public at 1 p.m. that day at no charge.

A memorial tribute to the late Shaker Sister Frances Carr of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community, who died in January, will follow the award ceremony, and then treats will be served.

The judges for the essay contest were Elizabeth DeWolfe, Harland Eastman, and Al Carlson.

The museum will introduce the new season’s exhibit — titled Donations a Museum Make — that same day. New donations to the Shaker Museum, which recently established a dedicated fund for acquisitions, given the high prices commanded by Shaker items on antiquity markets, will be displayed.

The museum also is undertaking an exterior paint job this season which is funded by a grant from the Davis Family Foundation. The work will begin as weather permits and will be performed by Greg Knight of Alfred.

Announcing the 2017 Student Essay Contest

The Alfred Shaker Museum Student Essay Contest is now open for entries! See the contest flyer for the rules.

To submit your essay, visit the Student Essay Contest page.

Deadline for submitting your essay is March 1, 2017 at 5:00 PM. Winners will be announced in early April, and awards will be presented soon thereafter.

FMI or to make arrangements to use the Museum library for research, call Mary Lee Dunn Maguire at 324-7088.

Videos from the 2016 Speakers’ Series

Video: Tonya Shevenell’s The Home Road

Tonya_ShevenellWalk from srctv on Vimeo.

Video: Noah Binette’s The Saga of Malaga

Final Speakers’ Forum Talk of the 2016 Season

Adam Nudd-Homeyer speaking at our final Speakers' Forum session for 2016. His subject was the making of Shaker chairs.

Adam Nudd-Homeyer speaking at our final Speakers’ Forum session for 2016. His subject was the making of Shaker chairs.

Coming on October 23: Shaker Chairs

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Coming on October 16: A Stonecutter’s Tale

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Museum Hours:

Museum Hours: 1 PM – 4 PM on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and by appointment.

Closing for the season on November 11.

Admission: Free. Donations are gratefully accepted.

We are dog-friendly. Well-behaved dogs on leash are welcome in our building.

Become a Friend of the Alfred Shaker Museum!


FASM meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 7 PM at the Alfred Shaker Museum. The public is invited to our meetings (unless announced otherwise).

We welcome new members! To join FASM, see our Become a Friend page.

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