January 10, 2003
Inez Day Richards may not be a familiar figure to many, but a mention of the late Houlton woman makes staff at the University of Maine at Fort Kent Blake Library take notice.
After all, it was Richard's grandson, Daniel Richards, a 1967 alumnus of UMFK, who, upon his untimely passing in 1996, bequeathed more than $40,000 to the campus library in his paternal grandmother's name.
Upon receipt of the gift, the university established the Inez Day Richards Collection in 1997, and has since purchased in excess of $13,000 of books and videos for the library, which at the request of the donor, have focused on music and American poetry.
Although 271 items on the shelves at the Blake Library include a donation decal with her name on it, little was known at UMFK of Inez Day Richards, aside from the fact that she had paid for her grandson's education at the university, and he in turn left money to the institution in her name.
The mystery of the grandmother from Houlton has unraveled a little in recent months with the accidental discovery of her name in the pages of an obscure book found on the very same shelves as many of the publications which bear her name as a donor.
The book, published in 1959 by the Maine Federation of Music Clubs, is entitled Maine Composers and Their Music, and the name Inez Day Richards appears alphabetically on page 83 along with the titles of four original musical compositions which she created and had copyrighted.
Songs listed under the entry are "The Faded Rose" 1925, "Oh Mother Dear" 1935, "I'm Drifting to Heaven With You" 1938, and "Because of Thee" 1937.
The discovery was made by Scott Brickman, UMFK's associate professor of music and a member of the Inez Day Richards Fund Steering Committee, who was conducting research for a class and immediately recognized the name because of his work with the library.
"I was intrigued. I assumed that there had to be another Inez Day Richards from Maine, who happed to be a composer. I couldn't believe it was our Inez Day Richards," said Brickman.
Wanting to share his finding, Brickman photocopied the page of the book with Richard's entry and left it on the desk of Leslie Kelly, UMFK's assistant director of the library. Kelly, in turn, brought the copy to the attention of Sharon Johnson, dean of information services.
"We were amazed. We had no idea she had composed music," said Johnson. "I thought, given the generosity of her grandson and the fact that we had a library fund in her name, we should have the musical compositions in our collection, so I asked my staff to help me track down the sheet music."
Blake Library staff then put over 900 librarians in Maine and elsewhere in the country on the hunt for the compositions through an e-mail listserv, but one by one, each of the public, school and university libraries reported they did not have possession of the musical scores.
One respondent suggested that UMFK contact the Bagaduce Music Lending Library, which collects and archives musical compositions from throughout the country, however, that search was fruitless as the company reported no record of Inez Day Richards or her compositions.
That's when a former St. John Valley native and librarian in Saco, Maine, Jerry Morin stepped in, responding to the UMFK library's request for assistance on the listserv. Morin, who it turned out, was once a roommate of Daniel Richards when both attended UMFK in the late 1960's had the address of Eric Richards, his former roommate's brother, who resides in Houlton.
Taking a chance that he might know where to find copies of the four pieces of sheet music, Johnson wrote Eric Richards asking for his assistance.
The response she received was better than expected. Eric Richards, who possessed original copies of the published music, wrote back to Johnson, enclosing sheet music for the four published pieces, as well as a fifth song composed by his grandmother, a handwritten piece entitled "The Dicky-Dicky-Doo School Song", which Inez Day Richards wrote for her nephew Richard Lynds. The song does not include the date in which it was written.
In the letter from Eric Richards to Johnson, the Houlton man explains he is donating the five musical compositions to the University to pay tribute to two very special people.
"I would like to donate the enclosed songs to the library in memory of my brother Daniel, in honor of our grandmother Inez," wrote Eric Richards.
Although the original compositions will be placed in the special collections room at the Blake Library, staff at UMFK are now in the process of making an electronic image of each musical score to be placed on the university website, which will make them accessible to people around the world.
"Digitizing the pieces of music will not only allow someone at a distance to see a citation of what is available in our special collections room, but actually see the music," said Johnson.
Visitors to the UMFK website may soon be able to do more than just see the compositions, if all goes according to plan, the music professor who first discovered the name Inez Day Richards in an outdated book of Maine music composers, will digitally record the music for the world to hear.
"I have almost finished making computer generated sound files of the five compositions. UMFK's web page will provide a link to the files so you can listen to her music," said Brickman. ""A Faded Rose" and "I'm Drifting to Heaven with You" are really first rate. They are as good as, if not better, than any early 20th Century popular/salon music. I'm really excited to find out as much as I can about Inez Day Richards. It would be small repayment for the vital role that her fund has played in making the music collection at UMFK a valuable resource."
In an ironic twist of fate, the all but forgotten and thought lost original music of a woman who remained largely a mystery to the campus community where her name is found on hundreds of volumes in its library collection will no longer be obscure and now be heard by its largest audience.