Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Musical Philadelphia
Quakers never cared much for music, but the city has nonetheless musically flourished into international fame. At the same time, quarrels and internal battles have also been world class.

To Cy Curtis, magazines were just vehicles for advertisers. In fact, his mags taught former farmers how to manage urban life, more or less accidentally creating a focus for American books, authors, politics and literature. The fall of his empire teaches the lesson that antitrust laws against vertical integration are probably unnecessary.

In Memoriam
Charles Peterson
Lewis B, Flinn, M.D.
Wilton A. Doane,MD
Henry Cadbury
Martin Orne, MD, PhD
George W. Gowen, MD
Kenneth Gordon, MD
Mary Stuart Fisher, MD
Orville P. Horwitz,MD
Lewis Harlow van Dusen, Jr.
Hobart Reiman, MD.
Lindley B. Reagan, M.D.
Allan v. Heely
Frederick Mason Jones, Jr.
Russell Roth,MD
George Willoughby
Earle B. Twitchell
Jonathan Evans Rhoads, Sr.
Garfield G. Duncan,MD
Hastings Griffin
Joseph P. Nicholson
Howard Lewis
Al Driscoll
Henry Bockus, MD
Mary Dunn
William H. Taylor
Abraham Rosenthal

Chester County, Pennsylvania
Chester was an original county of Pennsylvania, one of the largest until Dauphin, Lancaster and Delaware counties were split off. Because the boundaries mainly did not follow rivers or other natural dividers, translating verbal boundaries into actual lines was highly contentious.

Personal Reminiscences
One of the features of aging past ninety is accumulating many stories to tell. Perhaps fewer are left alive to challenge insignificant details.

Favorites - II
More favorites. Under construction.

Frederick Mason Jones,Jr. 1919-2009

Mason Jones

Classical music, however else it may be defined, strongly implies music played by an orchestra, or at least a group of musicians. It thus should be no surprise that the members of a famous orchestra bond together for most of their lifetimes in a sense far beyond the ordinary meaning of teamwork. If you are good, really, really good, you will come to the orchestra as a boy, devote every hour of every day to the orchestra, and step down only as a famous old man when you sense that reaction times have slowed. You sit together, travel together, rehearse together, and talk a language of detail which no one else can fully comprehend. Mistakes that one of you made forty years ago in performance, are still joked about because your colleagues know you still feel the pain of it, just as they share their own infrequent but no less fully remembered, moments of failure, largely unnoticed by the audience. When one of your colleagues dies, you turn out by the hundreds for the funeral. And when the hymns are sung, the organist is ignored, struggling to keep up with the people who really know music.

Mason Jones attended the Curtis Institute, itself a collection of prodigies, and was hired by Ormandy after a single audition; a year later he took the position of a first horn and kept it until he finally sensed he was passing his prime and laid it down. He was featured in the many recordings which defined the orchestra, and the Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet. He sometimes recorded as a soloist, but he thought of himself as an orchestral horn player, teaching orchestral horn at the Curtis to many generations of aspirants. He even conducted a little, usually in small groups. His comment on that was that it doesn't take much to be a conductor. "Just ask any orchestra player." At his funeral, it was related that the second horn once had two solo passages repeated within a larger piece, but when its time came there was silence. The second time around, it was played faultlessly. Afterward, Mason was asked what happened. "Fell asleep," he answered. And the second time? "I just played it for him."

St. Peter's in the Great Valley

Mason's funeral was held at St. Peter's in the Great Valley, illustrating that strange combination of artistic prodigies with modest beginnings, and the highest of high society, who mix together to create a great orchestra. A very well-groomed lady was heard to remark that this was where she had her coming-out party. St. Peters was founded as an Anglican mission church in 1700 in the Welsh Barony, built a log cabin church in 1728, replaced it with a little white jewel of a church in 1856, and added new buildings in the past few years to accommodate the population growth in the valley. The church has abundant well-tended land, sited on a hilltop surrounded by high hills, quite suitable for a college or private school campus. The homes in the area are a step beyond splendid, hidden in the wooded countryside. Unless you know precisely where to go, the tangle of country roads will defeat you. But the arterial of U.S. 202 is only a few miles away, and Philadelphia's silicon valley nestles beside the highway, inevitably closing in on the countryside. There will be horses and kennels and fox hunts in the region for another decade perhaps, but the new world is moving in on the old one, from all directions.

Originally published: Sunday, March 08, 2009; most-recently modified: Monday, May 20, 2019

Mr. Jones, you have a grandfather and wonderful musician to be admired. I was sorry to hear of his passing. It may be that your grandfather and my father had an amazing chance meeting during WWII. During his military service was your Grandfather perchance at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 during the attack? If so, I would appreciate your contacting me at pdxangel1 at gmail dot com. He and my father had quite an amazing and unusual circumstance of meeting each other.
Posted by: V. H. Briggs   |   Nov 30, 2011 12:55 AM
Thank you for all the kind words about my grandfather, they were very nice to read.

Posted by: Frederick Mason Jones IV   |   Oct 30, 2011 10:46 PM
It may not be known by many, but he was a heck of a ping pong player!
Posted by: Maurice Heckscher   |   Sep 1, 2010 6:41 PM
In 1952 I began 2 years in the Army Dental Corps at Valley Forge Army Hospital in Phoenixville,PA, and had just begun to play the horn. I was supremely confident that I could do anything in those days and asked Mason if he would teach me, a beginner, though I had a piano and band (trumpet) background. He graciously agreed,and for those two years, I experienced the most wonderful time of my life as a serious musical hobbyist, I had a lesson every other Saturday afternoon, always arriving early to chat with his wife, Margaret. After returning home I played second horn in the Rhode Island Symphony for six years, a satisfying experience.
Posted by: FRANK BLISS   |   May 16, 2010 9:01 PM
I feel sad to learn of Mason Jones's death. I admired the hell out of his playing. I have his rendition of the Mozart horn concertos on cassette and have vowed to hang on to that cassette, as obsolete as tape cassettes are shortly going to be. Mason Jones was everything I ever wanted to be on the horn, but I never got to his level, not even close. With Mason Jones goes a precious part of my past.
Posted by: Bill Winkelman   |   Dec 7, 2009 10:55 PM
Thanks so much for acknowledging Mason Jones , former Principal Horn for the Philadelphia Orch. I’m a hornplayer and take it seriously . I met Mason and heard him play when the orchestra came through Asheville , NC (my home) several times . I try to model after his style and sound as I am of the “old school” . I first met him in 1954 when I was a teenager . We had interesting talks backstage . He was a wonderful man and I always think of him and his fabulous sound as I , Principal horn of two orchestras , play rehearsals and concerts .

You guys have a wonderful heritage up there in Philadelphia . My Dad was born in Worcester , Mass. All the Whitman’s , Hobart’s ,and Nash’s are from the family .

Thanks again , Hobart Whitman
Posted by: Hobart Whitman   |   Apr 2, 2009 5:42 PM