by Shannon Butler
We know the people who read these blog posts are history lovers, but are there any music fans out there? Well, we found a music fan in the boxes of our archives. A woman who devoted her entire life to getting great talent to the stages of Poughkeepsie so that everyone could get the chance to hear the best music from all over the world. She took pride in her work and one of the perks of her job was that she was able to meet everyone who came to perform! Her name was Bertha M. Round. And she brought music to Poughkeepsie.
Bertha was born in Poughkeepsie in 1879 and began singing at an early age in quartets for the Reformed Church. She joined the Choral Club where she sang as an alto. She performed with them during the 1903 season. She continued to perform in and around Poughkeepsie and received positive feedback from the press. In 1910, she performed with the 21st Regiment Band at College Hill to which the Poughkeepsie-Eagle proclaimed, “The solo work of Miss Bertha Round was a rich, musical treat.” But Bertha was not destined for glory as a singer. Her true gift was the ability to see talent in others and she had the show-business sense and the drive to showcase that talent.
For over 18 years she worked as the concert manager for the Dutchess County Musical Association. She organized performances for the stage at the Collingwood Opera House, the Poughkeepsie High School, Vassar College, and other various stages around town. When performers came to play she managed to get their photographs signed. We have some of those photographs here in our collections. She brought Ernest Schelling, the prodigy pianist to play at the Collingwood Opera house on February 12th 1917. Another amazing prodigy pianist of the day that she managed to get to perform at the Poughkeepsie High School auditorium was Josef Hoffman. She had tried for a long time to get the dramatic soprano opera singer Elisabeth Rethberg to perform in Poughkeepsie and she finally succeeded in February of 1929. The list goes on and on. Of course these names might not sound familiar to you, but they were big names in the early 20th century (see links below to recordings of some of their performances)
Sadly, even though we have all of these great photographs that Bertha collected, there doesn’t seem to be any photographs of her. You can find her name in the Poughkeepsie Journal all over the place since she was the one you would want to contact if you wanted a ticket to any of these performances. She was praised for being the woman responsible for bringing the best music to Poughkeepsie, yet there is not much left to remember her by. When she died rather suddenly on January 13th 1935, the local papers wrote of her,
“Poughkeepsians who have been indebted to Miss Round for the privilege of hearing in their own city the best that the concert stage affords will remember her gratefully”
If you have any information on Bertha Round we would be very curious to see it. We here in the local history department are always on the lookout for historic photographs (if properly identified) and papers. Feel free to share with us anytime. firstname.lastname@example.org