January 2011: MacDonald Barn, by Margaret La Ponsie
Header image: MacDonald Barn, by Margaret La Ponsie

Featured Artist: Marian MacLeod

Last updated: January 1, 2011

..Marian MacLeod.

Marian MacLeod

Editor’s note:

Ever look at someone and wonder where all the energy and talent came from? Marvel at how they can segue from one creative area to another, excelling all the way? A case in point is Marian MacLeod, whose enthusiasm and enjoyment of what she’s doing never seems to waver; whose energy never seems to flag; who is a great cheerleader and booster of the efforts of others. Part of the secret is that the arts give back to the participants, but even when this is factored in, Marian is remarkable. She is a sterling illustration of the fact that the joy of the arts is in the doing. Not only that, but she can tell her own story better than anyone, and we can just lie back and let her do it, beginning the New Year with a mini-vacation!


If you are on Marian MacLeod’s Community Events Email List, a service she provides to anyone who wants it just because she loves her community and wants people to know how many great things go on here, then you know perhaps more than some other local residents how wonderfully diverse are the opportunities for growth and enjoyment in our area. This service is provided in tandem with the Alberta House News, and its advantage is just that Marian can let you know about last-minute events that didn’t get to Jean Jones in time for her publication.

Marian does not originate these events. Others send them to her, and then she sends them on to the hundreds of people who are on her email list. (If you are not on her list, but would like to be added, just contact her at macwoman at charter.net and ask to be included, giving your whole name and email address. You can also send her event notices.)

She loves being a part of the music/arts/theatre community of both Sault Ste. Maries (which she has always thought of as One Big City With a River Running Through It).

Born and raised in Sault, Michigan, Marian studied dance in her early years with Trixie Hardy in Sault, Ontario, serving in her teens as a student teacher for Miss Hardy in tap, ballet, Highland and modern jazz. (Those were the days when even at eight she could walk from her home on East Spruce to the ferry dock on Water Street with a quarter and a note from her parents, and cross the St. Mary’s.)

In high school Marian was active in music, singing in choir (at that time it was very popular to be in high school choir, and Sault High had about 50 boys and 50 girls in the ensemble) and playing French horn in the band, both groups under the direction of Joseph Deike.

After graduating from Sault High in 1960 she attended LSSU (then Michigan Tech Sault Branch), CMU and NMU, graduating in January 1964. She married Jon MacLeod and taught school in Muncie, Indiana until Jon entered the US Army in the summer of 1964. The couple moved to Germany for a couple of years, where their daughter was born.

Jon left the Army in 1967 and worked for CMU as Assistant V.P. In order to stay home with their daughter, Marian operated a dance school in their home in Mt. Pleasant, with 100 students a year for eight years. By this time the couple had a son, as well.

When both children were in school, Marian started and completed a master’s degree at the age of 40 in modern dance with cognates in music, theatre and art. For a year she taught at CMU in the dance department. Then she took a position as children’s librarian in one of Mt. Pleasant’s elementary schools for five years.

In the 1980s Marian started working on a degree in music theory and composition. She completed two years of this study at CMU, and then Jon took a position with University of Iowa in Iowa City. Marian was accepted as a composition student with Dr. Richard Hervig, who was in his final year at Iowa before going to New York’s Juilliard School. She also worked in Iowa City for the Preucil School of Music, the second-largest Suzuki School in the nation, as development director.

At 48, she completed the music degree, and then accepted a position in Sault Ste. Marie with C-L-M Community Action Agency as editor of The Communicator, a newspaper for senior citizens, with a circulation of 3,500.

Marian came back here 20 years ago, January 1991, and Jon followed in September of that year to teach at LSSU. They have never looked back. Marian held that editorial position for about five years, until Gov. Engler cut the funding for the project. Then she opened a desktop publishing business in her home, which she operated for several years until retirement. She also directed the Central Methodist Church choir for about 10 years, and taught computers and library skills at St. Mary’s School for four years.

Honors and commissions Marian has received for her music compositions include the following:

The American Society of University chose her SATB a cappella piece, The Strange Beauty of Emily, a song cycle of Dickinson poems, for their 1988 composition award.

Also that year, she received the Iowa Foundation Award for Moonrise for basset horn* and piano, which was performed at the International Clarfest in Virginia.

Isaiah 55 for organ and flute was commissioned and performed for the dedication of the new organ at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa in 1989.

A setting of May Swenson’s poem Women was performed at the U. of I.’s Center for New Music. Swenson and MacLeod carried on a lively correspondence prior to Swenson’s death in the early ’90s, and Marian has set several of her poems.

A music organization in Iowa City hosted a public performance of several of her works in 1990.

I Am Not There was commissioned by Hospice of Chippewa County for their community memorial service in 1993.

Central Michigan University’s School of Music commissioned My Grandmother’s Love Letters (choral setting of poetry by Hart Crane) for dedication of its new music building in 1998. This work has been performed in Toronto, and was also one of 12 chosen from a field of 188 entries for a Czech choral festival.

The Chamber Singers of Algoma performed her Jubilate Deo in the Czech Republic at two music festivals in 2004.

Marian has been singing with Chamber Singers of Algoma for 18 years. This ensemble, founded by Patty Malone Gartshore, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season. With them she has sung in Rome, Assisi, Prague, Jihlava (Czech Republic), Toronto, Sudbury and Vienna.

Marian MacLeod
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Marian MacLeod at the Bratwurst & Beethoven MusicFest

Marian MacLeod at the Bratwurst & Beethoven MusicFest

Marian has transcribed music for the Sault Symphony Orchestra for a couple of concert pieces and for her choral groups, working with Finale software on her MacBook Pro.

In her 60s she took up the cello when the Soo Theatre was revived and STARS (Soo Theatre Arts Resource Studios) opened. She plays cello with a string ensemble called New Horizons Strings under the direction of Dottie Case (formerly The Not-Quite-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players under Nancy Powers), and therefore has the great joy of making music with others. Whenever she has a chance to make music (two friends do duets with her on a semi-regular basis), she grabs it! “You can take lessons for years, and play all by yourself in your home, but until you are making music with others and for others, you don’t really experience the full joy of music.”

The New Horizons Strings
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The New Horizons Strings

The New Horizons Strings: Leon Bennett, bass; Nancy Powers, violin; Cindy Knepper, violin; Amy Christenson, violin; Margie Wierzbicki, violin; Marian MacLeod, cello; and Rachel Denis, viola. Director Nancy Powers, second from left, has now been replaced by Dottie Case, not pictured

Some of her recent musical endeavors have been producing two concerts as a benefit for the Soo Theatre. Sault native Mike Dempsey returned in 2009 and 2010 for “Mike Dempsey and Friends,” featuring Mike on piano and local musicians. The 2009 production was the music of George and Ira Gershwin and in 2010 the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Mike plans to return in 2011 for another great evening of music. Marian will produce this show, as well.

The arts are alive and well in Sault Ste. Marie and Marian is happy to be a small part of keeping them that way.

Basset hornEditor’s note:

We have to horn in again, basically to admit ignorance. Marian refers to “Moonrise, for basset horn and piano” and we didn’t know what a basset horn was. For the edification of those similarly ignorant, we looked it up in Wikipedia and learned: The basset horn is a musical instrument, a member of the clarinet family. Like the clarinet, the instrument is a wind instrument with a single reed and a cylindrical bore. However, the basset horn is larger and has a bend near the mouthpiece rather than an entirely straight body (older instruments are typically curved or bent in the middle), and while the clarinet is typically a transposing instrument in B flat or A (meaning a written C sounds as a B flat or A), the basset horn is typically in F (less often in G.) Finally, the basset horn has additional keys for an extended range down to written C, which sounds F at the bottom of the bass staff. Its timbre is similar to the clarinet's, but darker and less brilliant. Basset horns in A, G, E, E flat, and D also were made. A number of composers of the classical period, the most notable being Mozart, wrote for the basset horn. The Italian name for the instrument, corno di bassetto, was used by George Bernard Shaw as a pseudonym when writing music criticism.

Sault Area Arts Council Home Page 217 Ferris Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
e-mail: saac@saultarts.org Phone: (906) 635-1312