Frances Grimes sat in her easy chair and was in tune with every note of this “Legacy of Love” birthday gift composed by her son and performed by Megan Kenny, Holland Phillips, Clark Spencer and Jesse Smith of the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra.
The musicians had her attention.
She didn’t miss a single melodic beat or chord of the violins, viola or cello.
“That was outstanding,” Frances Grimes, 100, would say. “It was delightful. Absolutely delightful. It was something special. This has been a great party and seeing all of my friends. I’m so happy to have these years of music in my life.”
Bill Grimes, 69, sat on a living room piano bench beside his mother. Longtime friends attending included Pat Paschal, Eleanor Barker, Gillie Revelle, Carole Goforth and Helen Bostic.
“She knows the history of the symphony,” a proud son would say.
Symphony genesis, and before
Indeed, Frances Grimes does as a founding member of the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, circa 1956.
“We had a group that played at shows,” Frances Grimes says. “After the shows, we said, ‘Why don’t we start an orchestra?’”
After all, Frances Grimes was among musicians who had performed in 1937 and 1938 with what was known as the Fayetteville Junior Orchestra under the direction of Katherine Monaghan at the downtown YMCA.
Eighteen years beyond, and Frances Grimes would join with Monaghan, William Adcox, David Bryan, Boyce Bryant, John Butler, Charlotte Butler, Teofilio Cruz, Howard Culbreth, Harold Fisher, Virginia Gallian, Bobby Gamble, Boyce Helms, Elaine Horner, Wayman Humphrey, Roger Jackson, Mrs. Roger Jackson, Peter Jackson, Howard Jackson, Garrett Jones, Mrs. Garrett Jones, Marty McDaniel, Robert Merrill, George O’Hanlon, Bob Shaw, Mae Skinner, Frank Smith, John Taylor, Barbara Terry, Jim Tilloston, Mildred Watson, Lawrence Blackwood and Nita Wolf to bring the symphony to life.
John Butler was the symphony president. Frances Grimes was secretary. Lawrence Blackwood was treasurer. The orchestra conductor was Marion Rogers, then band director at Fayetteville High School.
Frances Grimes had a passion for the sounds of the cello, flute, clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, percussions, and the strings of the violins that she could share with the symphony when it would perform at the old downtown high school.
“Frances Grimes was instrumental in the founding of the FSO,” says Anna Meyer, 23, executive director of the symphony. “She and other founding members started the organization to provide entertainment to the Fayetteville community and give local musicians an opportunity to perform together. Her dedication as a musician, board member and supporter has helped us become the community-centric professional orchestra that we are today. Mrs. Grimes also endowed our Second Bass chair with the William F. Grimes and Frances Loy Grimes Endowment for string bass. Frances Grimes is an FSO legend, and we were honored to celebrate her 100th birthday.”
‘What a great symphony’
Frances Grimes would pass along her love of music and the symphony to her children, including son Bill Grimes, who in 1984 would become a professor of jazz studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, until his retirement in 2018.
“They provided me with private music lessons,” he says about his mother and late father, William Grimes, a Fayetteville dentist. “And summer band camps. They sent me to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and then to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, for my master’s and doctorate. I’m so lucky to have attended those institutions. When my wife, Jan, retired from LSU in 2017, my mom endowed a scholarship in her name through the LSU Foundation to support a graduate student in piano, the area in which my wife taught. I retired a year later, and Mom also endowed a scholarship in my name to support a graduate student in jazz with additional funds.”
Composing “Legacy of Love” was a labor of love dedicated to his mother, who was born Aug. 16, 1923, and raised along Robeson Street by parents Charles and Nellie Davis Loy. Frances Grimes’ father worked for Carolina Power & Light. Her mother was a telephone operator.
The birthday composition, Bill Grimes says, took about eight hours to write.
“I enjoyed writing it,” he says. “I think it is important for everybody here to know what a great symphony we have. This is what my mother started in 1956, and this is what we have become. This is the level of artistry we have in Fayetteville, and I am grateful today. And bravo to this quartet. I can only hope that what she started in 1956 will continue to thrive through the work of Anna Meyer and these great artists who play in the Fayetteville Symphony.”
Frances Grimes no longer attends FSO performances at Huff Concert Hall on the Methodist University campus or at Seabrook Auditorium at Fayetteville State University.
“The last time was about six or seven years ago,” she says about taking in an FSO concert. “But I thought it was great when I would try to go to concerts.”
So, Megan Kenny and Holland Phillips on their violins, Clark Spencer on his viola and Jesse Smith with his cello brought the FSO quartet to Frances Grimes’ living room for this 100th birthday celebration to perform “Legacy of Love” written and composed from a son’s heart.
“That was outstanding,” Frances Grimes would say. “It was delightful. Absolutely delightful. It was something special. This has been a great party and seeing all of my friends. I’m so happy to have these years of music in my life.”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.