Frederick is older than the United States. Founded in 1745 by German immigrants, the city quickly became an important intersection of trade routes. In 1804, it was the staging ground for Lewis and Clark’s expedition West (known as Fredericktown back then). Later the city’s location put it in the center of Civil War struggles, with both Union and Confederate troops passing through on their way to the bloodbath at nearby Antietam in 1862 and to the fateful battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier offered a glimpse of what Civil War-era Frederick and it surroundings looked like in a poem Barbara Fritchie devoted to a women who, according to the legend, waved a Union flag in defiance of Confederate commander Stonewall Jackson as his troops were approaching the city in 1862.
Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,
The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.
Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple and peach tree fruited deep,
Fair as the garden of the Lord
To the eyes of the famished rebel horde.
The layers of history are clearly on display when you walk through Frederick’s 40-block historic district. To me it looks very familiar – just like Alexandria, Virginia, Georgetown, or parts of Capitol Hill. Same charming federal-style brick houses, same narrow streets, although arguably more “clustered spires.”
But our visit to Frederick was motivated by more than the historic sites. The primary reason was a performance I’d been looking forward to ever since tickets went on sale in August. Grupa Mocarta – the Mozart Group – is a Polish quartet of brilliant classically trained musicians who made musical humor into an art form. This is how they describe themselves: “We exist despite the sober formality of great concert halls, despite the boredom of classical musicians’ life, despite fanatic lovers of classical music, despite fans of rock, rap or pop who are afraid of classical music. We treat our Muse with a humorous irony and we’re sure, she will have nothing against it!” I could explain more but instead you should just take a look – this video is from some performance in Sweden but they performed the same pieces on Saturday in beautiful, historic Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick:
Combined with a delicious dinner at the Acacia (we left the Volt for the next time), dessert at Zoë’s Chocolate, and a comfy overnight stay at the Hollerstown B&B it was a perfect weekend getaway. Note to self: we should do it more often!