As long as there has been Cape Ann there has been music. The Cape Ann Museum is proud to present our first of many looks at the history of Music in our region.

July 23, 2020

Zygmund Jankowski (1925-2009), Six Men in Green, 20th century. Watercolor on paper. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Linzee and Beth Coolidge, 2017 [acc. # 2017.041.4]

Cape Ann Music   

As long as there has been Cape Ann there has been music. This week, the Cape Ann Museum presents the first of many looks at music in our region and how this universal and timeless art form is deeply ingrained in every corner of our community. From the long legacy of jazz, countless orchestras, festivals, internationally known artists, to the more obscure—harpsichords, carillon bells, instrument makers, organ manufacturers, and paintings inspired by symphonies, we have it all. So, join us as we learn about influential artists and hear some beautiful music along the way.

Docksiders Performance

The Docksiders perform Cape Ann Blues at the Cape Ann Museum Green

Four members of the Docksiders recently visited the Cape Ann Museum’s new campus, the CAM Green, and gave a performance in front of The Janet & William Ellery James Center. In this video, Ivan Demarjian on tenor saxophone, Martina Gallo on piano, Brooke Cleary on drums, and True Sayess on bass performed Cape Ann Blues

The Docksiders are Gloucester High School's premier jazz ensemble that began during the 2000-2001 school year. Over the last two decades, the band has become one of Gloucester's most well known musical groups and can be found performing all over Cape Ann and beyond. This coming school year, the Docksiders will be celebrating their 20th anniversary here on Cape Ann!

Find out more about the newly completed Janet & William Ellery James Center and the entire Cape Ann Museum Green.

CAM Docents perform FHL Sheet Music

Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865), Song of the Fisher’s Wife, 1840. Lithograph on paper (sheet music). Drawn by F.H. Lane; lithograph by Sharp & Michelin Lithography, Published by Oakes & Swan, Boston. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Museum purchase, 2012.

Outside of giving detailed and educational tours of the Cape Ann Museum, CAM’s group of docents are full of talent in countless areas. In this recording, Frances Fitch plays Song of the Fisher’s Wife while Sarah Wetzel sings accompaniment. 

CAM Docents Frances Fitch and Sarah Wetzel perform Song of the Fisher's Wife

Song of the Fisher’s Wife was a sentimental composition, a genre popular with American audiences during the years Fitz Henry Lane was most intimately involved in lithography. The music was composed by George O. Farmer (1809-1875) of Boston and the work was dedicated to Miss Phebe L. Lithgow (1826-1911). The illustration shows a young woman looking wistfully out to sea, waiting for her beloved to return. Lane incorporated many objects related to life at sea into the frame surrounding the vignette. They include nets, blocks, gaff hooks and oars. The two vignettes on the page are carefully rendered: in the center, the young woman sitting pensively, looking down to the shore where a schooner has been beached and is being unloaded; at the bottom of the page Lane has added a wooden stump in front of which is a large shell. The shell is flanked by two anchors.

To view the sheet music performed, click here. 

Musicians buried at Oak Grove Cemetery   

Oak Grove Cemetery’s front gate and entrance.

Looking for a new place to stretch your legs and, at the same time, learn a little bit about the history of music on Cape Ann? Oak Grove Cemetery in Gloucester might be the place for you. Designed in 1854 by landscape architects R. M. Copeland and H.W. S. Cleveland and consecrated the following year, the site is the final resting spot for four musicians, each with their own story to tell. Oak Grove is located at 177 Washington Street and covers 11 acres. A Romanesque inspired granite chapel welcomes visitors and footpaths wind through the property, a site that was envisioned as a place for the living to enjoy.

John Jay Watson, the Fiddlin’ Fisherman, was born in Gloucester in 1830, rose to musical fame in New York City during the 1870s and was buried in the northeast corner of Oak Grove Cemetery in 1902.

Read more about Watson and three other musicians buried at the Cemetery.


Lanesville trumpeter, Sylvester Ahola, leading a parade of strollers past the Rockport Art Association, May 1961. Photographer: John Fields. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library and Archives, Gloucester, MA.

Music fans may already be familiar with the trumpeter Sylvester Ahola (1902-1995) and his contributions to early 20th century jazz. Perhaps some of you were his neighbors in Lanesville and enjoyed his spontaneous backyard concerts that wafted melodiously across the quarry on warm summer evenings. Or maybe you and a classmate attended a scholarship tea at his house in the 1950s. Regardless, we can appreciate that a historical jazz collector from England decided to come to Cape Ann and write a book about Hooley, as he was affectionately known, to help us remember and celebrate this unique and humble native Gloucester talent.

VL01 - Hooley: Gloucester's Own Jazz Trumpeter, Sylvester Ahola with Dick Hill - 1992

This video records a lecture that the author Dick Hill gave at the Cape Ann Museum in 1992 that draws upon research for his book, Sylvester Ahola: The Gloucester Gabriel. Hill humorously recounts the many amazing stories told to him by Ahola about his playing days in pre-World War II London and the people he worked with, including such greats as legendary cornetist Bix Beiderbeck. To punctuate his narrative, Hill plays tunes from several of the numerous records made by Ahola over the course of his career including such hot jazz classics as “There’s a Cradle in Caroline” and “In the Moonlight.” Continue reading here. 

And for more on Ahola:

  • Listen to an Oral History given by Ahola in 1985 at his Lanesville home.
  • View CAM's Syvlester Ahola Papers Archival Collection consisting of letters, photographs, recordings, and much more.

CAM Spotify playlist featuring Cape Ann artists

Aino Clarke (1914-1995), Jazz, 1958. Folly Cove Designers Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA

While putting together this week’s issue of CAM Connects, we realized that there was no way we could fit every musical artist from Cape Ann in one issue. To further our experience of the sounds of Cape Ann, we've put together a playlist on Spotify of musicians who have family ties or have lived, worked, written about, or performed regularly on Cape Ann. We’ll continue to add to this list, and hope that you’ll share some of your favorites with us too!

Listen to Cape Ann Music on Spotify.