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News of Woodstock, Shandaken, Phoenicia & Beyond

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  • 10/12/12--14:00: Jeremy’s mountain song
  • The Woodstock Film Festival has become an annual burst of new energy to the town, perfectly timed — after the summer bustle settles and winter threatens. For the last twelve years, sometime in October, Woodstock becomes extra rich with talent. Filmmakers, directors, actors and musicians come with creativity at the forefront of their minds. Film buffs and fans wander the village in search of new and interesting things to take in. As a local, I can say that the film festival is one of the more global events to happen here. This year, the not-so-new kid in town, Paul Green (School Of Rock founder) is the Musical Director of the festival and he has generously flanked the weekend with a couple of local gems, making this year’s festival uniquely Woodstock-centric. The opening concert on Thursday night is our own songstress Simi Stone. And to send festival-goers home with Woodstock fresh in their minds — Jeremy Bernstein & Friends will play the Bearsville Theater at 9 p.m. Sunday, October 14. If you want a taste of who we really are in Woodstock, I highly suggest you put these shows onto your agenda. Jeremy Bernstein is about as Catskills as you can [...]

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    Film lovers and indie industry people swarmed into town for the 2012 Woodstock Film Festival, which ran from October 10 to 14. Visitors and residents attended almost 130 events, including film screenings, concerts, panels, parties, and the wind-up award ceremonies, which honored director Jonathan Demme and director/actor/writer Tim Blake Nelson, along with winners of this year’s competitions. Recipient of the juried Maverick Award for best feature narrative was California Solo, directed by Marshall Lewy, about a failed rock musician facing his demons. The Audience Choice award for this category, chosen by exit votes, was Any Day Now, director Travis Fine’s story about a gay couple trying to adopt an abused 14-year-old with Down syndrome. For best documentary, Maverick Award jurors, all industry professionals, chose Treva Wurmfeld’s Shepard & Dark, about playwright Sam Shepard and his long-time best friend Johnny Dark. Audiences picked Once in a Lullaby: The PS 22 Chorus Documentary by Jonathan Kalafer. Maverick Award honorable mentions went to Exit Elena and First Winter (feature narratives) and Virgin Tales (documentary). Other juried awards were given to Junkyard for best animation, Curfew for best short narrative, Past Due for best student short film, El Ultimo Hielero (The Last Ice Merchant) [...]

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    Paul Butterfield used to be a household name in Woodstock. You’d see him out at nights in the bars, at local clubs and restaurants. He played with everyone. His band, as tight as any around town, was always in demand…as was his own demon harp playing and tried and true blues chops. It’s hard to think he moved away 30-some years ago and passed away 25 years ago last spring. This Friday night, Butterfield’s talented son Gabe will be playing the Bearsville Theater in a tribute and retrospective concert for the great bandleader and seminal rock and roll figure alongside a band put together by longstanding Conan O’Brien sidekick Jimmy Vivino, and including a host of top local players…many of whom shared the stage with Gabriel’s father, back when. The idea is to raise funds for a full-length documentary film that Butterfield’s been putting together about his father, The Life and Times of Paul Butterfield, that he’s hoping will ensure the man who plugged electric blues into the rock and roll world, and Bob Dylan to The Band, a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “This would be our second nomination,” Gabe Buterfield says. Who was Paul [...]

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    Over the course of an epic life Julio De Diego, one of the more flamboyant Woodstock characters of any era, supported himself as a costume, scenery and textile designer, a jewelry, sculpture and furniture maker, performed on stage, in film, circus and ballet, illustrated bodies, books, and magazines; was a printmaker, draftsman, romantic legend, and throughout it all, a painter of remarkable ambition and accomplishment. A rare, authoritative retrospective of his work at the Fletcher Gallery opens at 5 p.m. Friday, December 7 (in conjunction with Woodstock’s Open House) and runs through January. Born in Madrid in 1900, Julio left home at age 15 when his father destroyed every drawing in the house. The boy found work apprenticing backstage at the Madrid Opera as a set muralist — distinctions between “art” and “craft” blurring forever. His first show at a gambling casino resulted in the sale of a painting at 17 — an early success which failed to diminish his father’s disapproval. Augmenting his income as a dancer (he shared the stage momentarily with Nijinksy in Petrouchka) Julio soon spent a few detested years in the Spanish army, including active service in North Africa. Cutting off all contact with his [...]

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    Woodstock bow-maker Susan Lipkins has won a gold medal in the Violin Society of America’s 2012 international violin and bow competition. She received the award for one of her bass bows and is the first woman ever to win a gold medal in the prestigious contest. Lipkins and her husband, David Wiebe, who makes stringed instruments in their workshop on Glasco Turnpike, are on the board of trustees of the Maverick Concerts, and they both play bass in the Esopus Chamber Orchestra. “I made the bow specifically for this competition,” says Lipkins, who has entered the biennial contest five times before. “When you make a competition bow, you use the best material that you collect for this purpose — the most dense black ebony, the most beautiful pernambuco stick, mother-of-pearl that’s the most reflective and colorful. It’s more warm-looking and appealing to mount in gold instead of silver. And it has to be clean and perfect.” This year, she had received a commission from Jeff Turner, principal bass player of the Pittsburgh Symphony. “He wanted a gold-mounted bass bow, and he wanted to see it win a gold medal,” says Lipkins. “He paid in advance. I had to make what [...]

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  • 12/09/12--06:00: Books / Hidden meanings
  • Hidden meanings Sam Truitt’s DICK may be one of the most obfuscated and impenetrable works to have come along in some time. And yet it’s full of rewards…and an opening (and opener) to great worlds of understanding, both personal and political. A novel of sorts, it started “publishing” in short one and a half minute long segments of 450 words apiece on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook November 22, one year from its anticipated conclusion — and full publication — on the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination next autumn. But described by Truitt as being in the genre of Metanoia — a term that refers to the idea of repentance (or at least a change of mind) in theology, a “correction” in rhetoric, or a psychological process that uses psychotic breakdown to allow for internal rebuilding and healing — “Dick” somehow weaves a deep effect with seeming too affected. In fact, it somehow imparts a sense, in the final rounds, of being as perfect to our age as Truitt’s slice-of-moment poetics, for which he is best known, or the various seemingly-obscure works by Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and James Joyce were to the beginnings of the last century. “It’s ‘about’ the [...]

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  • 12/15/12--06:00: Grammy hopefuls
  • Not one but two local women have been nominated for the 2013 Grammy awards: music writer Holly George-Warren of Phoenicia for the liner notes of The Pearl Sessions, a reissue of Janis Joplin’s 1971 hit album, with supplementary material; and Woodstock resident Elizabeth Mitchell for her new CD Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie. Both recordings also have a Woodstock resonance among their studio personnel, evidence of the creative ferment nurtured by the community. George-Warren learned about her nomination through a congratulatory email from a friend. “I had no idea!” she said. “I was shocked and surprised and delighted.” The Pearl Sessions is a two-CD set, also released in vinyl, that includes both Joplin’s platinum album Pearl and alternate takes dug up from the Columbia Records vaults. The alternate versions are interwoven with talkback in the studio. “You hear Janis coming up with ideas,” said George-Warren, “telling the guitar player what to play, choosing the tempo and the arrangement — although all that is usually the producer’s job.” Paul Rothchild, who produced the first four Doors albums, was known for being dictatorial and authoritarian in the studio. “He made Morrison do 20 takes” of some songs, noted George-Warren. [...]

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    There’s a beauty about art at its most challenging edges. The underlying idea behind “difficult” literature — as with any medium — is to impart a sense of curiosity as to how the visible elements of all we touch, smell, hear, taste and see coalesce into patterns, make sense of our experiences and memory, and shape our belief in a future. We turn to those brave and/or lucky enough to publish, perform, exhibit or build their thoughts and visions because they validate our own. And feed them. Et tu? It’s deadline time, holiday gift-wise. Fortunately there are some really great books available out there for those seeking to really have an impact this season. The following five are local, deeply original, and now vetted, as it were. All entail memory, the process of conscious and unconscious thinking (and thoughtfulness). Each is invigorating in the ways in which their creators, invariably at the top of their powers, push their limits. Taken together, they demonstrate the breadth of modern art-making, the complexity of contemporary existence, and the universal urge we all harbor to not only make some sense of things, but find peace and solace in such attempts.   Spring Creek Nick [...]

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    Performing Arts of Woodstock [PAW] will be 50 next season. At the moment that feels like 49 consecutive miracles in a row. Despite a solid string of very strong shows, lousy logistics dog the company, primarily in the form of a rogue-ish re-model of Town Hall, sure to shrink PAW’s shoe-box of a theater by a half size. On nights court isn’t in session, that is. While Town Supervisor, Jeremy Wilbur vows support (and well he should — his first run for office hinged upon a series of plays he penned and starred in, lampooning the-then highly fragrant issue of a town sewer), these days PAW’s hopes hang on a yet-to-be budgeted Les Walker design for an addition on the existing Community Center.  The proposed building includes plans for a “shared” PAW home, and but for such half-born hopes, the company survives with no “official” town sponsorship. Though PAW president Edie Le Fever, (“Mother Courage” to local theater folk) seldom complains, with several other new theater companies nipping at her heels, PAW has little choice but to soldier on. Astoundingly, despite these and other challenges, this year’s annual Winterfest fund-raiser, looks and sounds like a million bucks, largely due to the [...]

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    Two weeks ago the first installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit was sliced out of first place at theaters by The Chain Saw Massacre, and thus the forces of good once again seemed in a terrible spot. True, there was some comfort knowing Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy raked in roughly three billion worldwide, but actual solace even today can only be found in one place. It’s a tiny hamlet called Bearsville, bordering the anomaly of Woodstock. Yes, it’s Bearsville, for only there might be found the one surviving pioneer of the Tolkien phenomenon. Betty Ballantine is 93 and was just declared legally blind. As “Ian Ballantine’s better half,” she could, if she wished, lay claim to co-creation of the American paperback. Widowed since 1995, she lives today in the same large, drafty, hillside house she shared with Ian and their son Richard, which was recently emptied of a complete collection of Ballantine Books — or at least the 1200 titles its founders published under the name. When the father of the modern paperback, Allen Lane of Penguin, entrusted Ian Ballantine with the responsibility of bringing his brainchild to America in 1939, he also fulfilled conditions allowing the 23-year old [...]

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  • 02/02/13--06:00: Stephen Kerner’s world
  • “When the water splits the painting open, magic happens at the subatomic level,” says Woodstock artist Stephen Kerner. “I feel like I’m shifting worlds of atoms around. It feels like flying.” Kerner’s mystical approach to making art has grown out of inspiration from indigenous cultures, experimentation with multi-layered painting techniques, and a youthful period spent hobnobbing with creative New Yorkers of the sixties and seventies, from Allen Ginsburg to Larry Rivers to Sal Mineo. In Woodstock, Kerner also runs a business, Stone River Archival Printers, providing giclée printing services to artists, photographers, and galleries, an outgrowth of his early efforts to submit copies of 40-foot paintings when applying to museums. Sitting in his house near the top of Meads Mountain Road, with a view that includes the Ashokan Reservoir, Kerner is reminiscing about his life on East 10th Street, where he rented an apartment at the age of 16 in 1965. His parents had moved from the Lower East Side up to the 90s and were ready to advance to Long Island. Kerner stayed behind to mingle with Beat writers: Ginsburg, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs. “They would use my apartment to take drugs and sleep and get together,” he says. [...]

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  • 02/07/13--14:00: Embracing the New
  • “How do you like your husband’s new paintings,” historian Alf Evers reported that artist Henry Lee McFee’s wife was asked (she also being the sister of artist and Byrdcliffe co-founder Bolton Brown). “I mean to like ‘em,” she is said to have replied. “Even if it kills me.” Embracing the New: Modernism’s Impact on Woodstock Artists — the show that opens alongside a swath of exhibits at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum Saturday, February 9 — captures a time when art could shape a town’s future, and lead to fisticuffs and political battles. It harks back to a day when to discuss an art work you had to go and see it. The new wasn’t reproduced in print, let alone online. More importantly, we’re talking about an era, a century ago, when folks could spend a summer, years even, talking about what they may have seen on a European trip, or down in the new galleries just starting to open in New York City. It was a time such talk helped shape the way this community of Woodstock spoke about art and, in turn, attracted other artists who wanted to join such conversation, both in words and via their [...]

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    Many people in this world brag and shouldn’t. Others never brag though we sometimes wish they would. Case in point: The late Larry Hoppen once berated Eric Parker, who had just returned from a world tour with Steve Winwood: “You have a lot of nerve!…going out on the road with one of my all-time heroes, then coming home and walking around town without even wearing the f-ckin’ tour jacket!” Eric grew up in a house with four other brothers, three of whom — like dad — were drummers. Eventually, the Parker place boasted as many as five “active” drum sets. Whoever finished dinner first put on a record, cranked it, and bashed along. The first tune Eric remembers nailing was Jimmy Reed’s, “Any Way You Want It.” He learned to read in the drum section of “band” at school. His first foray into an ensemble was called “Dog Breath” in the tenth grade. Invited to join the successful “Razzamatazz,” Eric was allowed to move to Ithaca at 17. Razzamatazz rehearsed in the home of pianist Bob Leinbach, soon morphing into “Hot Sweets” with Leinbach on keys and trombone, and Arti Funaro on guitar. Meanwhile in Woodstock, circa 1972, The Fabulous Rhinestones [...]

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  • 02/15/13--14:00: On Being Stalked
  • James Lasdun’s new book, Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked — from which he’ll be reading and of which he’ll signing copies of at Golden Notebook’s new upstairs space at 4 p.m. Saturday, February 16 — is scary good. And deeply complicated in the rare ways one seeks in the best of literature. It’s completely non-fiction, although it references a wealth of works that have come before it…and sets the tone for a whole new genre of necessary works. It all starts in as safe a place as one can imagine, living here — a creative writing class that the celebrated British-born poet, short story writer and novelist teaches in a New York college. He talks about the anxieties bred by sharing one’s creations in such settings, showing empathy for his students and humble humor about his own literary standing. Then, like a classic Hitchcock narrative (or one of his own, as he eventually points out), things start to run awry. He lets one student, who he’s pegged as being more talented and likely to reach the stage of getting a novel published, get a bit closer than is usual. He introduces her to his agent, who says [...]

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    From the start Andrew Dasburg was the ring-leader of “The Rock City Radicals,” that group, including Konrad Cramer and Henry Lee McFee, which in the early teens of the last century utilized Cubist and other European influences to twist traditional landscape and still-life painting in Woodstock inside out. Dasburg’s artistic odyssey found its feet here, as evidenced by his painting [dated around 1910] included in The Woodstock Artist’s Association and Museum’s current show “Embracing The New.” Married many times, Dasburg demonstrated a devotion to Woodstock which — like a marriage — was passionate, dramatic, and fraught; his life here becoming a near constant struggle to reconcile domestic and financial difficulty with an over-riding need to create. Eventually, for a time, he happily balanced the vastly contrasting environs of Taos, New Mexico with Woodstock, until a final break with his “Catskill wife” presaged his permanent relocation to New Mexico. There, after decades of poverty, artistic vacillation, disastrous health, periods of desolation (including one in which he stopped painting entirely) and indeed a highly adventurous romantic life, the hard-won mantle of genius finally settled over this stooped master — albeit qualified to the region of his greatest and most dedicated accomplishment: Taos, where still at [...]

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  • 04/12/13--03:30: A sound purpose
  • Q. Peanut butter: creamy or chunky? A. Chunky. Creamy does virtually nothing for me audibly. – From an interview of Robert Euvino In a clearing on a hill to the east side of Yankeetown Pond early last Saturday afternoon, about half past one, four parallel white lines from two planes crossing the blue sky together moved very slowly from one side of the horizon to the other. About half way across the trajectory, the sound of jet engines could be heard, proving once again that light travels faster than sound. The sound grew louder, soon reached its peak, and then began to diminish. Everyone who walks in the woods around here has had this experience at one time or another. Few natural settings are free these days from reminders of human-produced sound. Silence in this setting did not return. This particular hillside, tucked into a secluded part of Wittenberg, was infested with a multitude of microphones spread throughout the clearing and surrounding woods. One mic, which looked like a dry mop, was being carried from spot to spot by an earnest young man, John Chiarolanzio. He moved quickly at times, but always stepped delicately and with an obvious self-awareness to avoid [...]

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  • 04/13/13--03:30: Every penny helps
  • “It’s a chance to listen to international stars in a rustic, picturesque setting — without having to pay hundreds of dollars,” said Louis Otey, co-founder and co-director of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice with his wife, Maria Todaro. The Phoenicia festival’s 2013 program will observe the bicentennials of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, while also featuring its usual wide-ranging mix of world music, theater, jazz, gospel, Gregorian chant, prose reading, and more. The fourth annual festival will take place August 1-4 on an outdoor stage on Phoenicia’s parish field and at other venues around the town. The third member of the Phoenicia-based founding group, baritone Kerry Henderson, has withdrawn to focus on his new company, LiederWorks, reviving the art of the classical song recital. Other changes this year include a bigger stage and bandshell, plus a 42-piece Festival of the Voice orchestra. A campaign on Kickstarter.com has been launched to come up with the funds to pay top-notch players, many of them drawn from the Westfield Symphony Orchestra of New Jersey. Todaro sang the role of Carmen last year with the Westfield Symphony under the direction of David Wroe, who is helping to assemble the festival orchestra. Garry [...]

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    Paul Green, of School of Rock fame, has a raspy voice and man-child ways that make his cinematic doppelganger Jack Black look like a naïf. He bounds about Todd Rundgren’s old Utopia Studios, reading inspiring notes from his iPhone or leaping onto the stage to thrash out some licks to the music he’s rehearsing a roomful of local kids through — Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” — with a minimum of self-consciousness. He’s as rock ‘n roll, in his jeans and black shirt, slight paunch and oft-noted ass crack bared, as anything bad ass not seen on a record cover or in some publicist’s promo package. He’s as rock ‘n roll, to put it another way, as Woodstock’s ever been. Yet his Academy of Rock’s first sessions, bounding for a pair of May performances of both the Floyd classic and a full-throated kids tribute to the evergreen wonders of Led Zeppelin, are also as professionally run and organized, in their way, as the recording industry that once kept the town’s economy humming…or the Woodstock Day School where Green’s kids and so many of these 50-plus students learning their rockin’ craft, go. “If you know your songs, sit in a chair…Jody, get [...]

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    In a corner of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a five year old Jewish boy blinds himself in the left eye with a kitchen knife while sharpening a pencil. The surgeon, understanding the child yearns to be an artist, explains: “There is no hope for the eye, and no hope for a one-eyed artist. Drawing requires seeing three dimensions — for that you need two.” Sixty one years later a different surgeon botches a retina repair on the same patient’s other eye. Between these two blindings another set of extraordinary events provide the groundwork for the achievement of William Pachner. First: in 1939, at the age of 22, Pachner is provided a three month visitor’s visa to the United States where his portfolio of European illustrations, though turned down by Esquire Magazine, provide him jobs elsewhere. Hounded by the FBI for working on a visitor’s visa, Pachner’s updated portfolio is submitted directly to the publishers of Esquire just as the artist is about to be deported. Now it all turns around: the job of his dreams is offered, a worker’s visa negotiated, a leggy beauty first seen in his own drawings is courted and married; in short — a [...]

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    Miss the Rock Academy take on Pink Floyd’s The Wall up at the Byrdcliffe Barn last weekend? Needing to hear some hot music outdoors to completely shake the winter’s cobwebs, and the past week’s rainy hangover, once and for all? The 8th season of the free Woodstock Concerts on the Green, curated and engineeed by the Woodstock Music Shop’s Jeff Harrigfeld, who also records everything he presents, starts up this Saturday, May 25 with a 1 p.m.-6 p.m. line-up that starts with those talented and fired-up students from the new Paul Green Rock Academy (who go on to perform the best of Zep in Bearsville next weekend), the booty shakin’ bluegrass group Two Dollar Goat, Sin City playing “cosmic American music,” world musicians Passero; the Hamilton Hill Robotic Steel Band from Schenectady, classic rock and blues from the Ronnie Bait Band and up-and-comers Two Dark Birds closing out what promises to be a truly great bill. “The concerts have developed into a tradition by building community, promoting business and most importantly, giving local musicians a chance to share their music with locals and visitors,” noted Harrigfeld of the Village Green events he’ll be putting on for the town every other [...]

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