The Music of Florence Harding

News Release Date: 
01.20.11

Locals join forces to bring history and Harding’s love of music to life

The Warren G. Harding Symposium at Ohio State Marion will take an historic peak into America’s musical past through the ears of First Lady Florence Harding in a special community collaborative performance entitled, “The Music of Florence Harding,” Thursday, January 20, 2011, 7:30 p.m. in Morrill Hall Auditorium on the Marion campus.

Florence Harding was an accomplished pianist and music teacher, in addition to her role as first lady. The community is invited to join local musicians Merrill Cooper Bender, Carol Becker, Louise Vance, and Gary Iams as they join forces with author and re-enactor Dr. Katherine Sibley and theatrical advisor and re-enactor Tina Salamone for a delightful evening featuring the music played and enjoyed by Florence Harding.

The concept for the performance, which originated with local classical musician and university chorus accompanist Merrill Cooper Bender, features Dr. Katherine Sibley, who is a professor of history at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and the author of the latest book on Florence Harding—First Lady Florence Harding: Behind the Tragedy and Controversy (Modern First Ladies series) April, 2009, University Press of Kansas.

This historical re-enactment is set in the President’s bedroom at the White House, August 11, 1923, just after President Harding’s funeral train finished its journey across the country. Florence Harding (played by author Sibley) is reminiscing with her good friend and owner of the Hope diamond Evalyn Walsh McLean (played by Tina Salamone, executive director of the Marion Palace Theatre).

The two women recall the journey that was the Hardings’ rise to prominence. They engage in brief dialogue (written by Sibley) referring to prominent events in the Hardings’ lives. The conversation occurs between musical numbers, serving as a lead-in to music that was popular in the day and known to be enjoyed by the Hardings.

According to Dave Claborn, Director of Community Relations and Development at Ohio State Marion, the performance combines informative history and musical entertainment with the goal of transporting the audience to a time, not so many years ago, when Marion was the quintessential American small town symbolizing President Harding’s “Return to Normalcy.”

Tickets for “The Music of Florence Harding” are available in advance by calling 740-725-6341 or in Maynard Hall, Room 240. Tickets will also be available at the door the evening of the event. Ticket prices are $10 general admission, $9 seniors (60 and up), $8 campus faculty & staff, $4 students.

Sibley will have copies of her book available and will be on hand after the performance to autograph them and chat with the audience.

The Warren G. Harding Symposium is an academic, social, and cultural exploration of the life and times of America's 29th president. The Warren G. Harding Symposium presents in-depth analysis and research by authors, historians, and experts on the Harding Era and related areas of interest.

The Warren G. Harding Symposium is a collaborative effort between The Ohio State University at Marion, the Ohio Historical Society, Marion Technical College, Harding Home & Memorial, and Marion County Historical Society.

Special thanks to Katherine Sibley, Tina Salamone and Steve Beltz of the Palace Theatre, and musicians Carol Becker, Merrill Cooper Bender, Gary Iams, and Louise Vance for their volunteer efforts in bringing this performance to life. Proceeds from “The Music of Florence Harding” will benefit WOSB-FM Endowment Fund, which provides operating funds to strengthen and bring the WOSU-FM radio signal to the people of Crawford, Marion, and Wyandot Counties.