Golden Chamber Music
at Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow chamber music was first established in the fall of 1969 by Sam and Paula Golden, cellists from Hyde Park in Chicago. Until 2011, the Goldens ran these wonderful chamber music gatherings. Alison Edwards and Tom Morgan now handle the organizational arrangements with help from other volunteers.

Sam Golden passed away in March of 2016, leaving one very great void in the hearts of all who ever participated in the Sleepy Hollow experience. The following is the story of Sleepy Hollow in his own words.

A Little History: A Fond Remembrance
By Sam Golden


In 1969 Richard Gray, a prominent Chicago art dealer, asked a friend of his, Zita Cogan, whether she thought amateur musicians might want to come to Sleepy Hollow, the resort he owned on the shores of Lake Michigan. Zita was the administrator of the University of Chicago concert program and a friend of ours as well. (In fact, Zita, who died a few years ago, was known and beloved by many, including a large number of leading musicians. We still miss her a lot.)

Virginia with other players
Sam at the back and Paula on the right, with friends. A good time is being had by all.

Zita asked what we thought and we decided to try it. So, that fall, three quartets of musicians went to this beautiful resort, We found we had a ball playing music and enjoying the lake, the grounds and the South Haven area, with its many orchards and berry farms. Why not do this every year, we thought. We talked to Mr. Gray and he came up with a format. He would pick weekends outside of the peak months of July and August when the resort usually had few guests. (In the first few years he selected the weekend after July 4 for one, believing that most people would not be vacationing right after the holiday. It turned out that the resort was always busy that weekend, but not with our people, who were out vacationing elsewhere, so the July weekend was dropped.)

Organize it and they will come?

How did we get the word around? We tried music schools, but that netted nothing. We called or wrote all the friends we could think of who played chamber music. And we wrote to the people listed in the Amateur Chamber Players’ Guide from the Chicago and Detroit areas and some others in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana. We found other names in the Interlochen directory. The results were encouraging, and we had a successful weekend in June of 1970.

Although most of our musicians came from the Chicago area, we lucked out when Jim McClellan, a fine violist and chamber musician from the Detroit area, decided to try us out. Jim was very active in Interlochen and knew scores of musicians in greater Detroit. When he returned to Detroit and gave Sleepy Hollow the stamp of approval, we started to get a number of his friends, and what began was a Chicago-Detroit connection that has continued to this day.

The Sleepy Hollow Philharmonic

Early on we got the idea of all coming together on Saturday nights to form an orchestra. Paula and I had been active members of the Hyde Park Chamber Orchestra in Chicago and hence had access to a good library. We also obtained music through Sylvie Koval, our dear, lamented friend who was head of the string program at Northeast Illinois University.

It wasn’t long before Alan Garber, a longtime friend whom we first met at Interlochen Music Camp back in the summer of 1942, became the regular conductor of the orchestra, and he still wields his baton! Once the artists started coming, they willingly performed concerti and other solo pieces with us. The artists have also conducted master classes and can always be counted on for some kind of lively musical session.

Of course our players have predominantly played string instruments. Quartets are the basic fare, but we have accommodated every size group from duets to nonets. Although the quality of the pianos has been variable, there have been wonderful times playing from the rich piano-string literature. Wind players have come and we have explored the limited but enjoyable works for wind-string combinations. In our earlier days we had as many as two wind quintets at one weekend; in recent years we have had anywhere from one to five wind players on a weekend.

Extra-musical activities

Sleepy Hollow has been a place where lasting friendships have been made—and even some romances! It has fostered the joy of good music-making and provided a welcome respite from the cares of everyday life. People find that they hone their musical skills, most notably their sight-reading. Families have gotten together and had a pleasant weekend with much music. Sometimes almost our entire Golden family has been there, with many playing in the sessions.

The next movement

As we move onward, we look forward to fun chamber music playing by fine musicians—or is it fine chamber music playing by fun musicians? However you describe the experience, we’ve found it to be deeply rewarding.