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Waseca celebrates career of LeRoy Shield

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 10:55 am    Post subject: Waseca celebrates career of LeRoy Shield Reply with quote

    Waseca celebrates career of LeRoy Shield

    Jack and Mary Williams grew up with “The Little Rascals” and “Laurel and Hardy,” but they never gave much thought to the music behind the programs until recently.

    About 18 months ago the couple learned a composer, conductor and musician named LeRoy Shield had been born in Waseca and lived there for 10 years. He also happened to be the composer and musician behind more than 100 movies and shorts, including “Our Gang” and many “Laurel and Hardy” films.

    The Waseca County Historical Society had a file on Shield, but it wasn’t very extensive. So the Williamses took it on themselves to fill in the gaps.

    For the first time, Waseca will celebrate the life and career of Shield beginning tonight at the Central Intermediate School auditorium. The celebration continues Saturday and at the museum for the next few weeks.

    “We learned that this gentleman was very, very talented,” Mary said. “We felt it was time for the Waseca area and community to really get to know the gentleman.”

    Shield was born Oct. 2, 1893, in Waseca and died Jan. 9, 1962, in Vero Beach, Fla. He was a film and radio composer and worked for RCA Victor’s National Broadcasting Company.

    He worked part time for the Hal Roach studio and composed a great deal of background music that became associated with 1920s and ’30s Roach series, such as “Laurel and Hardy,” “Our Gang” (also known as “The Little Rascals”) and “Charley Chase.” One of the pieces he composed for “Our Gang’s” 1930 short “Teacher’s Pet,” called “Good Old Days,” became the “Our Gang” theme song.

    When the Williamses began researching Shield, they found it fascinating such a talented musician got his start in Waseca (before moving to Sanborn and later Iowa until adulthood). With local music being such a cultural influence at the time — including local bands, orchestras, concerts in the parks and church choirs — it’s possible Shield was influenced by Waseca music, they said.

    “At the age of 5, his mother was already giving him piano and organ lessons,” Jack said.

    A two-hour program called “LeRoy Shield, A Hometown Tribute” will be held tonight at the school auditorium. The event includes a presentation of Shield’s life, guest speaker Tracy Tolzmann, president of the Twin Cities chapter of the Laurel & Hardy Fan Club, a concert by the Steam Heat Band and the screening of three short films.

    A reception will be held 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the museum to introduce the public to the exhibit “LeRoy Shield, Native Son, Hollywood Bound.”

    Sheila Morris, co-director of the museum with Joan Mooney, said she tried to broaden the scope of the exhibit to include the musical climate at the time and photographs and artifacts of Waseca during the era.

    Pictures and artifacts submitted by Shield’s family and movie posters of 1920s Hal Roach films also will be included.

    A “Milk & Cookies” reception will be held Saturday, as will creative dramatic workshops for kids.

    A “Little Rascals” Film Festival will be held Saturday afternoon. Admission is 10 cents.

"Any bird can build a nest, but it isn't everyone who can lay an egg!"

Ross Owen, Grand Sheik,
Fra Diavolo Tent, Scotland
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