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.

Honored Young Historian Tells Story of Malaga Island Injustice

Noah Binette discusses his research on the story of poor people evicted from homes on Malaga Island in 1911. The event, which opened this season’s Sid Emery Memorial Forum, was held at Alfred Shaker Museum on Sunday, May 22.

Attendees examine Binette’s prize-winning exhibit to learn details about the island people who lost their homes when Maine uprooted them.

York County student Noah Binette explained his study of an early 20th-century tragedy, involving about 40 poor but contented residents of the mid-coast Malaga Island near Phippsburg, for an audience of two dozen at Alfred Shaker Museum on Sunday, 5/22. His work on the project gained state and national prizes in highly competitive National History Day contests. Binette, who will be a senior at Noble High School in the fall, did the work in 2014 to address the contest theme “Rights and Responsibilities.”

His talk was the first in this season’s Sid Emery Memorial Forum, which is sponsored by the Shaker Museum and the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society. The talk was well received by his audience, whose members asked many questions. The event was free and open to the public. Treats were served after Binette’s talk; the talk was filmed by Patrick Bonsant of the Saco River public access TV station for wider dissemination.

In his presentation, Binette first described the competitions that led to his awards, and then told the story of Malaga Islanders using the title, “The Town That Maine Erased.”

It is not known how long people had lived on the island, but Binette said the inhabitants — black, white, and multi-racial — had been there for at least 100 years. They drew their livelihoods from the sea as fishermen, and on the nearby mainland as laborers in private homes and tourist spots. Early in the 20th century, the island had a schoolhouse where even some mainland children received schooling. Nevertheless, the people were evicted, their homes burned, and their cemetery moved elsewhere in what Binette, in his summary for the contest, called a “gross injustice perpetrated in 1911.”

In developing his Malaga report, Binette cited recurring threads embedded in the chain of events, such as journalistic pressure, widespread interest in eugenics (which linked physical qualities to mental and moral status), and public concern about the island as a financial burden (neither nearby town wanted responsibility for the island and its residents). Some mainland residents saw it as compromising tourism, and believed that a hotel might be built there after the island’s residents left.

Binette argued that the State of Maine, under Governor Frederick W. Plaisted, violated the inhabitants’ rights. The events “broke the state’s responsibility to protect and serve its citizens.” In 2010, then-Governor John Baldacci formally apologized to the evictees’ descendants. Some of their earlier family members had been institutionalized for the rest of their lives as mentally deficient, due to inappropriate and biased evaluations. Seventeen gravesites on the island had been disturbed and the remains removed to mainland sites. Binette and others contend that those remains should be returned to Malaga for reburial there.

For long years, though, descendants mostly wanted to forget the story, unwilling to have the stigma become their own burden before the public. During the last few years, however, changing views have brought the story more into public sight. The Maine State Historical Society, for one, presented an exhibit, “Fragmented Lives”, about what happened there. The exhibit drew much attention.

The second speaker in the Alfred Shaker Museum’s Speakers Series will be Tonya Shevenell, who filmed a replication of her immigrant ancestor’s walk in 1845 from Canada to resettlement in Biddeford, where he was the first permanent French-Canadian resident. Her presentation will take place on August 21. For further information about this and other talks in the series, check the Museum web site at www.alfredshakermuseum.com/events-workshops/speakers-series/.

Felting Workshop Announced for October 2016

FASM announces a needle felting workshop with Beva Meagher on Saturday, October 29. The class details and costs are still TBD, but mark your calendar now!

Merry Christmas from FASM


The Friends of the Alfred Shaker Museum would like to wish all our Friends and Members the Love, Peace, and Happiness that the true meaning of Christmas brings.

Shaker Museum to Show Film on Buxton’s Local History


In an addition to this summer season’s programming, the Alfred Shaker Museum will screen Buxton, Maine: An American Story on Sunday, Nov. 15 , at 1:30 p.m. at the museum. The video is a production of Saco River TV’s director, Patrick Bonsant, and Matthew Fletcher, with support from the Narragansett Number One Foundation.

Bonsant will provide an introduction to the film before the screening. He and Fletcher taped, produced, and edited the film.

The film involved three years of work for Bonsant, who grew up in central Maine. He holds a BA in communications and media studies from the University of Southern Maine and enrolled in a seven-week program on video and film at Media Workshops in Rockport. He has worked as an evening editor at an ABC affiliate and has served as a media specialist for community tv networks in Portland and Gorham. He joined Saco River in Hollis as its director in 2007. Another documentary he produced, Saco River Indian Cellar, was a community film selection for MPBN three years ago.

While the current film focuses on Buxton, “the personal stories and the historical narrative will resonate with anyone who grew up in a small New England town,” he said. The narrative captures the distinctive history and development of much of Maine and its people. Since the full video is more than 2½ hours long, the Alfred museum’s screening will excerpt roughly the first 95 minutes for this presentation.

The film begins in the 1700s with the Native Americans and the first settlers and their families. With beautiful photography and a strong narrative, the film shows the emergence of dominant individuals and families, livelihoods, and industries over centuries and presents interviews with experts and current residents to capture its past and comments on its future. Many cultural institutions cooperated in the effort.

There will be no charge for viewers to see the film, but donations will be accepted with appreciation.

“We are very grateful that Patrick Bonsant offered us this program,” said Barbara Carlson, president of the Friends of Alfred Shaker Museum. “It is both insightful and enlightening.”

Museum Curator Linda Aaskov, who has ancestral roots in Buxton, noted that the production “might be said to be part of that ‘renaissance of Maine history’ that Sid Emery Memorial Forum speaker Richard Judd of the University of Maine recently cited in his Forum talk as a development of the last 20 years or more.

Videos of three presentations in the Forum series are now posted on the museum’s website. They include talks by Authors Anita Sanchez and Judd, and one about the history of Maine’s Native Americans by George Neptune of the Passamaquoddy tribe. The Forum co-hosts — Alfred Shaker Museum and the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society — hope that schools in Southern Maine will incorporate viewings of these talks in curricula for their students.

Wool Felting Class Open for Registration


Come enjoy a day of crafty fun on Saturday, October 24! Join Beva and learn to needlefelt a black cat and a Jack O’ Lantern. Wouldn’t this pair be perfect for your Hallowe’en decor?

Student kit will include all the materials needed to complete the project.

Cost: $15 for the kit, plus $10.00 for the museum. Total: $25.00.

Pre-registration is required, and class size is 12 students maximum. Call 490-5709 to register.

Come See Us on December 12-14!

Our 2013 Christmas tree. The Museum will be all decorated for this year's visitors, too!

The Alfred Shaker Museum will be open from 10 AM – 4 PM on Friday, December 12 through Sunday, December 14 to coincide with Christmas in the Shire/Alfred Snowflake Walk. Come and visit us!

We’ll be serving seasonal refreshments, including mulled and regular cider. The Museum Gift Shop will be open for shopping, and it features lovely and thoughtful gifts for all ages.

The Museum Gift Shop includes many Shaker-style items, books, and art prints, cards, and hand-braided rugs and runners.

More Gift Shop items, including homemade pickles and jams, honey, handknit scarves and other items, and Shaker style measuring boxes and carriers.

Some festive seasonal items from the Museum Gift Shop

See Us at the Alfred Elementary School Fair!

The Alfred Elementary School Craft Fair is taking place this weekend, November 22-23. Stop by the FASM booth and say hello! We have a variety of books, crafts, pickles and jams, Shaker boxes, and many other items from the Museum gift shop.


July 31 is Almost Here!


Don’t forget! July 31 is the deadline to enter the Painted Chair Contest! The entry form and all you need to know are on the Painted Chair Contest Events page.

Simple Gifts Music Festival


Next Saturday is July 19, which is the date for the Alfred Festival Day and for our Simple Gifts Music Festival. FASM will be on hand with refreshments, and the Museum Gift Shop will be open.

The open “jam session” begins at 5 PM, and the concert begins at 6. Come and enjoy an enchanting evening of music and performance dedicated to the Alfred Shakers.

The Alfred Shaker Museum in the News

The Museum gets a mention in this article from last Sunday’s Portland Press Herald.


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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