Mary Anne Rennolds, along with her husband Edmund A. “Ned” Rennolds Jr. (1916–2006), left behind an incredible cultural legacy in Richmond, VA. They were instrumental in the establishment of some of Virginia’s most essential musical offerings today, including The Richmond Symphony, The Virginia Opera, and the Mary Anne Rennolds Chamber Concert Series.
As stated by Style Weekly, “If she is fire, he is ice. Together, and for decades, they were a force of nature in Richmond musical circles.”
Mary Anne Winston Pinder was born on January 31, 1922, to John Benjamin Pinder and Helen Hastings Winston. She grew up in the Pinder family home located on the corner of Bellevue and Hermitage Road in Richmond, VA. Ned Rennolds was also a native of Richmond and it was here that he met Mary Anne, who was his sister’s classmate at the time. Ned and Mary Anne married in Richmond on March 19, 1949.
Mary Anne Rennolds had a passion for the arts, especially music. She began playing the piano at a young age and became quite an accomplished pianist in her early life. Mary Anne went to grade school at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond and then attended a small liberal arts women’s college, Bennett College in Milford, New York, on a music scholarship. She continued to play music her entire life and shared her passion with her husband, who had a love for music much like Mary Anne but found it difficult to become involved in music as a child. At a young age Ned recognized that music was something he had great interest in and hoped to find more resources for it in the city.
“[Being involved in music] was hard to do in Richmond when I was young,” said Ned. “I remember my mother arranged for me to have some piano lessons. She had to come and yank me out of St. Christopher’s to do that. I was ‘the one’ who had piano lessons at St. Christopher’s, which was not a very pleasant way to be when everyone else was doing something different…my family wanted me to have more to do with music, but it just wasn’t around here.”
Ned and Mary Anne had 6 children together; 4 violinists, 1 cellist, and 1 pianist. Mary Anne began studying the violin at age 40 with her young children and soon realized that in the world of quartets, which she greatly loved playing with her friends, there was a greater need for violists than violinists so she took up the viola and even the bass. The Rennolds family often teamed up with another musical family to create an orchestra at Christmas time that would visit nursing homes to play carols. The Rennolds family orchestra even provided live music for musical productions by the theater departments at St. Catherine’s and St. Christopher’s schools for several years. Mary Anne also provided music for many family and friends’ weddings and receptions. She especially loved playing chamber music, not only with her family but also with friends and occasionally even symphony musicians.
Mary Anne and Ned worked tirelessly together to cultivate the music culture in Richmond. They even held “house concerts” in their home on Three Chopt Road in Richmond, VA, where they would set up rows of folding chairs in their living room and main hallway and invite as many as 50 guests at a time to hear solo and chamber music performances. Mary Anne became known as a “bridge” between the musicians and the financial elite of Richmond. She was an exception for her time because she was a fundamental part of both worlds, easily connecting the two. Mary Anne helped musicians become a larger and more integral part of the community.
It was Mary Anne and Ned’s combined interest in music that gave our city the symphony orchestra we know and love today. The Rennolds loved to travel together to see music performances of all kinds, especially symphony, opera, and chamber music performances. They were inspired by symphony performances they had attended in other cities, and had a strong desire for Richmond to have its very own symphony. In 1956 at an interest meeting held in the Rennold’s living room, The Richmond Symphony was founded.
“The Symphony was an all-consuming adventure for Mary Anne and me in those early years, and our involvement helped stimulate an interest in music for all of our children,” said Ned. “I think it has been a wonderful and enriching thing for the town.”
After Mary Anne’s passing on April 26, 1989, Ned wanted her passion for music to live on. In 1990 he helped establish the Mary Anne Rennolds Terrace Concerts in her memory to present chamber music events in Richmond. The chamber series was originally established in 1983 as the Terrace Concerts in affiliation with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and is known today as the Mary Anne Rennolds Chamber Concert Series hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music.
“Those chamber music concerts are the best of their kind,” said Ned. “To have them come six times a year to Richmond adds a lot to the things that are here.”
Ned and Mary Anne Rennolds rest together today at Richmond’s beautiful Hollywood Cemetery. Mary Anne’s marble tombstone was specially selected by her husband and shipped from Dutchess County, New York. Atop the marble lies a bronze sculpture of stacked books representing Ned’s passions and dreams, one entitled “The Richmond Symphony.” The inscription on the marble below is one of Mary Anne’s most beloved quotes by Jacques Cœur.
It reads, “To a valiant heart, nothing is impossible.”