Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside

Background History of Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside

The wayside in question has, over the years, been referred to as the Agate Beach Wayside. This has caused some confusion as there is a formally designated Oregon State Parks Agate Beach Wayside located adjacent to the Best Western Agate Beach Inn, just south of the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside off of NW Oceanview Drive.

The primary reason for creating this memorial to composer, Ernest Bloch, is the fact that he lived nearby from 1941 to 1959. He came to this point on a fateful day in 1941 as he was returning from fulfilling his obligations at UC Berkeley, heading back to the Portland area where his son lived. Having discovered Agate Beach and the house here, he and his wife, Marguerite, moved into the only house they would ever own. It was during those eighteen years that Bloch continued to grow his reputation as the world-renowned composer he had become. To this day Bloch’s music continues to find its place on concert schedules around the world. This is the reason we celebrate Ernest Bloch.

The thought of one day purchasing his former home and creating a formal heritage site has been around for several decades. The house is now privately owned.

In 2016 and 2017 when it appeared that the City of Newport would be developing the wayside, Mark McConnell and Frank Geltner had discussions about naming the wayside in honor of the composer. This process took time to percolate through the Oregon Department of Transportation until a decision was made to formally name the wayside in honor of Ernest Bloch. This process required the cooperation of the City of Newport. Thankfully, the City of Newport has been a very generous partner in providing the concrete work making the path to the installation possible, but also the fifteen foot diameter monument pad. The City of Newport also provided the highway sign marking the entrance from Highway 101 for those traveling north or south.

It is important to note the longtime involvement of Mark and Cindy McConnell in the story of preserving the legacy of Ernest Bloch. As former owners of the Tyee Lodge | Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast they lived next door to the former home of Ernest Bloch and served as caretakers of the property for the owners. This made them de facto historians of the former Bush Family home which was built in 1910, and to all who would seek information about the Bloch legacy. Mark McConnell has always been available to the Ernest Bloch Legacy Project for keeping the flame burning in efforts to preserve the legacy of Ernest Bloch and the historic home.

It should be mentioned that the original Ernest Bloch Memorial Stone was formally dedicated in this same wayside in 1976 by Governor Bob Straub, in the presence of Bloch’s three children, Ivan, Suzanne and Lucienne, but was moved to the entrance of the Newport Performing Arts Center in 2006 (through the generosity of Road and Driveway Company) owing to it being neglected and overgrown in the wayside; which had never really had a formal name.

It is worth pausing here to reflect on the announcement by the Oregon Arts Commission (OAC) on December 5, 2005 of a grant to the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts (OCCA) Ernest Bloch Legacy Project to produce a publication, videotape some interviews, and move the existing 1976 Memorial Stone to a more prominent site, which turned out to be a site near the entrance to the Newport Performing Arts Center, the home of the OCCA.

When all the planning for the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside got underway, Frank realized that it would be necessary to bring the 1976 Memorial Stone back to the wayside to be part of the new Ernest Bloch Place installation. The work of moving the monument was performed by Glen Carrier of Tri-Agg Inc.

In 2009, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Ernest Bloch’s death in 1959, the City of Newport approved the designation of this general area as Ernest Bloch Place, the manifestation of which was a sign shared with 49th Street — which is no more than a point of reference in traveling Highway 101, since once you enter the wayside you are either in the wayside, on Woody Way or on Gilbert Way. It should be mentioned that the idea for naming this Ernest Bloch Place was inspired by a similar sign installed in Bloch’s birthplace, Geneva, Switzerland, in 1988.

Once the wayside was formally named the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside, we set out to create an installation that could serve as a destination for visitors looking for more information about the composer.

Frank Geltner has been the so-called Flamekeeper of the Ernest Bloch Legacy Project and is the author of this piece. He has been closest to the developments. He realized that the best way to preserve the legacy of the composer was to have some kind of destination that was more than a plaque on a stone. He also realized that whatever was done, it would have to be modest, since anything truly monumental like a formal bronze sculpture was outside the realm of financial possibility. This pointed him toward the Cedar Creek Quarry in 2017 and a search for an appropriately-sized stone. Through discussions with the Road and Driveway Company and members of the Wienert family, a stone of just the right proportions, weighing around five tons, was purchased for less than a hundred dollars.

After checking around, Frank entered into discussions with Kelly Barker of Zen Stone Garden. Kelly immediately understood the concept and agreed to work to make it happen. The two parts to the monument are the iconic Bloch family logo, created by Ernest Bloch’s daughter, Lucienne Bloch, and used by the Ernest Bloch Society in many of its publications and selected quotations from Ernest Bloch. The blockprint created by Lucienne Bloch shows Ernest Bloch standing on the bluff in front of his house looking out over the Pacific Ocean. The monument has been placed in a position so that the image inscribed on the monument has Bloch facing the Pacific Ocean. Since much of Bloch’s writings are in French, Sylvain Fremaux, former conductor of the Yaquina Orchestra (now the Newport Symphony Orchestra) and a French native born, was contacted to help find appropriate quotations expressing Ernest Bloch’s thoughts on music, life and Agate Beach, since many of Bloch’s writings are in French. Speaking of language and translation, two people have been of immense help over the course of my involvement with preserving the legacy of Ernest Bloch. Anne Hendrickson helped to translate an enormous amount of material from the massive four-volume Ernest Bloch: His Life and Thought by Dr. Joseph Lewinski and Dr. Emmanuelle Dijon so we could better understand the composer. Emily DeHuff helped to craft the words used on the monument; plus a tribute to Dr. Lewinski upon his passing.

Since Kelly has been producing stone benches through his Zen Stone Garden, he recommended including the concept of surrounding the monument with benches for visitors to sit and rest. We started with the idea of three benches, which expanded to five. Each bench expresses the thoughts of its sponsor.

The monument work was done in Seal Rock over 2017 and 2018 and transported by Tri-Agg, Inc. to the wayside on Friday, July 13, 2018.

The benches were also produced in Seal Rock and moved to the wayside just prior to the dedication.

Another important player in the development of Ernest Bloch Place is Ken Spencer and Newport Signs. Newport Signs helped install a banner that Kelly Barker produced for display at Hunter Noack’s Classical Music in the Wild tour entitled “In A Landscape.” Newport and the Agate Beach Golf Course was the site of the September 13, 2017 concert performance. Hunter had agreed to have the concert serve as a part of the announcement of the dedication of the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside. Later, Hunter and Thomas Lauderdale would donate money to create one of the benches in honor of Ramona Martin, a well-known local musician and matriarch of the Agate Beach Golf Course family. The banner was then repurposed as a special four by ten foot display announcing the Go Fund Me Campaign for the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside. Newport Signs later created some additional signage announcing the dedication.  Newport Signs also produced the interpretive sign to help visitors better understand why we have all gone to so much effort to recognize Ernest Bloch.

Final thanks to the Ernest Bloch Foundation for its work over the past decade helping to preserve the legacy of the composer.

If you have read this far and have yet to participate in these activities, it is not too late to donate what you can in support of our efforts to preserve the legacy of Ernest Bloch. You can find our address on the www.ernestbloch.org website, or choose the Contact Us link to ask a question.

Published on July 21, 2018 for the dedication of the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside.