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News of Woodstock, Shandaken, Phoenicia & Beyond

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    Part II (In last week’s Part I, a 15 year old San Franciscan Pele deLappe found herself in Woodstock in the early 1930s, befriended by Diego and Frida Rivera, Arnold and Lucille Blanch. She studied at The Art Students League in New York, where she first encountered lithography, and came under the influence of the great American scene painter, Reginald Marsh, while becoming immersed in the artist’s life.) The year after Pele’s second summer in Woodstock, she would send off a poet friend, Edwin Rolfe to the Abe Lincoln Brigade to fight fascist Franco in Spain, recalling, “Rolfe’s poem, ‘City of Anguish,’ about the bombing of Madrid, brought tears to the eyes of Ernest Hemingway.” She danced the jitterbug with her Lefty pals in Harlem’s Renaissance, winning the friendship of Jazz greats Sidney Bechet and Willy the Lion Smith, who performed for and courted her at “The Log Cabin” (as would at least one of them, under cozier circumstances.) Soon re-united with friends Frida and Diego Rivera, Pele assisted in creating the ill-fated mural at Rockefeller Center, washing brushes and posing for one of the figures, “hanging on every word of Diego and Ben Shahn, one of his assistants.” After […]

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  • 10/14/13--03:30: Film festivities
  • Andres Mudge’s The Forgotten Kingdom, a tale of reconnection in South Africa was presented with The Maverick Award for Best Feature Narrative at the 14th annual Woodstock Film Festival Awards Gala that was held Saturday, October 5 at Backstage Studio Productions in Kingston. The festival, which ran from October 2-October 6 in venues in Woodstock, Kingston, Rhinebeck, Saugerties and Rosendale, included panels, concerts, events and parties and 24 world premier films and some 130 films in all. Director of The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, Peter Bogdanovich received the Honorary Maverick Lifetime Achievement Award and filmmaker and activist Mira Nair, whose features include Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay! was given the The Meera Gandhi Giving Back Award. The star studded cast of the festival included Vera Farmiga, Andy Garcia, Stephen Dorff, Liz Garbus, Leon Gast, Bill Plympton, Joe Berlinger, Nancy Savoca. Other awards included American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, directed by Grace Lee, as Best Feature Documentary; Daniel Sousa’s Feral was given the Maverick Aware for Best Animation; The Diane Seligman Award for Best Short Narrative was presented to The Earth, the Way I Left It, directed by Jeff Pinilla; Best Student Short Film was presented […]

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  • 11/19/13--03:30: Crawling man
  • Many in the area know Robbie Leaver. For years he and his wife Blair lived in West Shokan. He’s written screenplays with Olive-based filmmaker Larry Fesenden and shown his own short works in the Woodstock Film Festival. He’s shown art in local galleries. He’s played music at local venues…and is one of those thoughtful folks who’s also deeply funny. He now lives in Greene County…and writes. Earlier this month he started crawling the length of Broadway in the New York City borough of Manhattan…or at least a long stretch of it from the Customs House, down in the Wall Street District, to his apartment way uptown in the 160s. “I imagine if you don’t live in Manhattan crawling up Broadway could seem sort of self destructive. It’s true, I could get vomited on, or kicked in the face, or spit on,” he noted in his first crawling day’s blog. “An insane homeless man limps by me now with bare torn up feet, muttering to himself, stabbing at the air with his hand. He might jump on my back and try to ride me. I see construction workers who look sort of drunk on the sidewalk smoking and spitting and cat calling at passing […]

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    “The Jews were massacred, the Gypsies humiliated and persecuted, the Arabs exterminated, the Moriscos (converted Arabs) expelled, and the Andalucians generally exploited…if we do not relate the music…to brutality, repression, hunger, fear, menace, inferiority, resistance, and secrecy, then we shall not find the reality of cante flamenco…it is a storm of exasperation and grief.” –Historian Felix Grande, writing about the origins of flamenco in 15th- to 17th-century Spain “Flamenco is one of the most visceral forms of art that speaks about the human condition,” said Martín Santangelo, director of Noche Flamenca. The company of musicians and dancers will bring their talents to a nine-day residency at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli, culminating in public performances on Saturday, November 30, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 1, at 2:30 p.m. With a Jewish father from Philadelphia and maternal grandparents from Spain and Argentina, Santangelo’s ancestry reflects some of the influences that combined to inspire flamenco. He was born in New York City and moved to Madrid in the 1980s to study flamenco. There he met and married Soledad Barrio, who became Noche Flamenca’s lead dancer. In the past year, they have relocated to New York City, which has become their […]

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    It’s by no means a revisionist version of the Nativity, but when Ars Choralis performs Miracle in Bethlehem, an opera composed by Barbara Pickhardt with lyrics by Johanna Hall, audiences may be surprised by the vividness of such characters as Herod, the Magi, the innkeeper, and an invented but entirely appropriate innkeeper’s wife. “The story has taken on a new life, and yet the story that we read in Luke and Matthew is all there,” said Pickhardt. “It’s a ‘popera,’” said Hall, “written in the style of opera, but the melodies are so accessible.” The production will premiere at Overlook Methodist Church in Woodstock on Saturday, December 7, at 7 p.m., with another show on Sunday, December 8, at 4 p.m. It’s been ten years in the making, a labor of love for chorus director Pickhardt and pop lyricist Hall, who wrote the words to such hits as “Still the One” and “Dance with Me” by Orleans and “Half Moon,” the B side of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” The merging of two widely different musical backgrounds makes for a dynamic creative mix that could have been awkward, but Pickhardt said, “Working with Johanna is a pleasure and an […]

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    The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild — now calling itself Byrdcliffe at Woodstock — announced the hiring this past week of New York arts administrator Jeremy Adams, a British-born resident of Lomontville, near Stone Ridge, as its new executive director starting January 2. Adams, with degrees from Kingston College and the University of Winchester in England, and Pratt University here, has served as Executive Director of the CUE Art Foundation in New York’s Chelsea art district for the past decade, where he was responsible for creating and growing programming, liaising with board members, increasing awareness of the organization, and raising the funds necessary to help the organization expand and provide more services to serve its mission fostering emerging arts talents in the midst of the Manhattan art market. “We are delighted that Jeremy will be the new Executive Director of Byrdcliffe. Jeremy is a leader who can build on Byrdcliffe’s legacy, manage the organization effectively, and help Byrdcliffe achieve its full potential as a magnet for artists and a center of creative and economic vitality for our entire region,” said Henry T. Ford, chair of the Byrdcliffe board of directors in a press release this week. “We were looking for someone with a […]

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    It’s a complex wall at this point, the mash up of bits and pieces on the wall of the old Laundromat on Library Lane, which is pegged to come down in the coming year to be replaced by a sparkling new community-oriented Woodstock Library Annex. There’s tattering remnants of what look like old posters and other historical artifacts, until close inspection shows they’re all a spoof, albeit without any bad intent. Plus a growing number of large-scale doodlings, colorful additions, art posters and found materials that lend added beauty to what’s been morphing for a year, with considerable new activity in recent weeks. Seeming to hold it all together is a No Trespassing notice from the Ulster County Sherriff’s office. “That No Trespass sign was there first, from back when the building was seized for back taxes,” noted Library Director Amy Raff this week. “I never took it off because I liked it.” The rest of the stuff has evolved, she added. First, Friends of Library member Michael Hunt, an artist with a penchant for poster media, started the series of faux posters and artifacts he calls “You’re In The Midst of It” over a year ago. Then someone “art […]

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    “My vision for Byrdcliffe at Woodstock is currently very broad,” writes Brydcliffe’s new, incoming executive director, Jeremy Adams. “I need to get in there, get the lay of the land, meet as many people as possible connected to the organization, and also as many people from the community, to get a clearer idea of where the organization is currently situated and where it can go.” Adams, hired in the past month after an extensive search that started in late summer after Matthew Leaycraft, who had come on as director on an interim basis three years ago, was formerly director at New York’s prestigious and pioneering CUE Foundation for emerging artists. He starts work Thursday, January 2. Leaycraft came on after the Woodstock Guild board of directors hired a nonprofit New York gallery founder to replace Carla Smith, who retired after over a decade in the position. That replacement, Peter Nesbit, lasted only a matter of weeks and left leaving a trail of charges against the Byrdcliffe board and town’s cultural scene. “For me, the long term goal for Byrdcliffe at Woodstock is to remain true to its origins — to be a utopian enclave for creative activity, and to be […]

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    Woodstock as we know it begins with Bolton Brown (1866-1934), a prodigy whose gifts brought him fame, before ego accompanying these ripped them away again. He was an art instructor at 19, arguably the first great mountain climber in America (as well as pioneer of notations and adventure-writing documenting such); a draftsman without peer, masterful painter and extraordinary teacher of painting; a builder, designer and architect, and a father of modern lithography (with more than 60 technical breakthroughs and several books on such to his credit); a lecturer, author, memoirist and “survivor of modernism.” Brown’s accomplishments are particularly astounding for the fact that he remains a marginalized figure today, even if such “shoddy treatment” by history is largely the consequence of a singularly tempestuous and uncompromising nature. Locally, a fair amount of attention has been paid over the years, of course, to “the discoverer of modern Woodstock” and — if you look for it — fascinating material on and by Brown is not hard to find. We are extremely lucky, however, that the Woodstock Guild’s Derin Tanyol has brought her own mountain-climbing mastery to bear in curating a new synthesis of Brown’s accomplishments, since prior to Bolton Brown: Strength and […]

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    He who knows the secret of sounds, knows the mystery of the whole universe.–Hazrat Inayat Khan If you are as prone to anxiety and racing thoughts as I am, relaxation can be tricky. That’s why I was lucky, at the end of a week sky-high with stress, to interview Baird Hersey, whose overtone choral group, Prana, is performing at Mountain View Studio in Woodstock on Saturday, February 8. I went home from the interview with medicine — a copy of Prana’s new CD, entitled Sadhana, and Hersey’s book, The Practice of Nada Yoga: Meditation on the Inner Sacred Sound, just published by Inner Traditions and scheduled for a book-signing event at Mirabai Books, also on February 8. Thus equipped, I spent most of a snowed-in Saturday focused on mental therapy, immersing myself in the complex, ethereal vocal harmonies of Prana, reading about the ancient practice of sound yoga, and experimenting with the simple listening exercises Hersey outlines in his book. Try it. It’s a lot cheaper than drugs. Prana’s music is meant to induce a meditative state, said Hersey. The nine-member group, founded in 2000, represents the latest stage in his long and distinguished musical career, spanning jazz, world music, […]

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  • 02/17/14--03:30: Sailing Directions
  • It seems logical that a bookstore owner would be a writer — especially the former proprietor of Woodstock’s used bookshop, The Reader’s Quarry, where owner Anne Benson used to stock the shelves according to her fine and wide-ranging literary tastes. I was not surprised to learn that since she sold the store in 2012 to Daniel Sofaer — another quirky and well-read litterateur — Benson has been writing a novel. When I went to her home to pick up a copy of Sailing Directions (CreateSpace, 2013), I was startled to learn what an adventurous life she has had — with plenty of grist for novel-writing. She has not spent all her time reading and selling books but has flown airplanes, worked as a chef, and sailed aboard boats in New England, the Bahamas, and Greece. During our visit, a number of stories unreeled from Benson’s lips, such as an account of her trip to India with her second husband. A member of a Newport, Rhode Island, family of artists, artisans and stone-carvers, he took her on an art-buying expedition on behalf of an antique dealer. She described the dislocation of an American in India with astonishing precision and detail. Finally, […]

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  • 02/21/14--03:30: A lost brother comes to life
  • John Kedzie Jacobs was in his 80s when he discovered, in the attic of his childhood home in Highland, a trove of letters to and from his older brother, Edward, who had died in the Spanish Civil War in 1937. For twelve years, the now 95-year-old Jacobs has been writing about the memories revived and transformed by his discovery. He has assembled the letters, his brother’s artwork, and his own commentary in the recently published The Stranger in the Attic: Finding a Lost Brother in His Letters Home, a searching portrait of Edward and his times — the Depression, the New York City Art Students League of the 1930s, and the idealism of young Communists going off to fight Fascism. Jacobs will read from the book and sign copies at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock at 4 p.m. Saturday, February 22. Having written a great deal about my ancestors and the writings they left behind, I know how powerful it can be to learn about their personalities and try to understand how their stories — both personal and historical — feed into my own life. It’s riveting to watch Jacobs at this task, as he grapples with a lifetime of […]

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  • 10/14/13--03:30: Film festivities
  • Andres Mudge’s The Forgotten Kingdom, a tale of reconnection in South Africa was presented with The Maverick Award for Best Feature Narrative at the 14th annual Woodstock Film Festival Awards Gala that was held Saturday, October 5 at Backstage Studio Productions in Kingston. The festival, which ran from October 2-October 6 in venues in Woodstock, Kingston, Rhinebeck, Saugerties and Rosendale, included panels, concerts, events and parties and 24 world premier films and some 130 films in all. Director of The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, Peter Bogdanovich received the Honorary Maverick Lifetime Achievement Award and filmmaker and activist Mira Nair, whose features include Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay! was given the The Meera Gandhi Giving Back Award. The star studded cast of the festival included Vera Farmiga, Andy Garcia, Stephen Dorff, Liz Garbus, Leon Gast, Bill Plympton, Joe Berlinger, Nancy Savoca. Other awards included American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, directed by Grace Lee, as Best Feature Documentary; Daniel Sousa’s Feral was given the Maverick Aware for Best Animation; The Diane Seligman Award for Best Short Narrative was presented to The Earth, the Way I Left It, directed by Jeff Pinilla; Best Student Short Film was presented […]

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    Speculation about the plans for the former Zena Elementary School has run rampant ever since the Kingston City School District’s Board of Education voted to accept a $926,000 bid for the property from Zena 4 Corners two months ago. But now all parties are talking openly about the future of the school as the Woodstock Music Lab. If all goes according to plan, the Woodstock Music Lab, a partnership between Paul Green and Michael Lang, could be open by autumn 2015 as a music school that would prepare its students for a possible career in the music industry. “We don’t want to call it the Woodstock Music School, because it’s so much more than that,” said Green, founder of the Paul Green Rock Academy, and before that the School of Rock. “It’s going to be a business that’s one-third college-level music school, one-third artistic and technology think tank, one-third artist development hub. The focus by no means will be just rock music, but we’ll look at popular music as a whole, film scoring and writing music for television commercials. And all of our students are going to do a little bit of everything, we’re not going to have majors. Every […]

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    “This is one of my Woodstock dreams coming true,” said drummer and recording engineer Pete Caigan, who, after several years working with Jerry Marotta at the revived Dreamland Studios in West Hurley, now has filled the historic Colony Café on Rock City Road with recording equipment for use as a studio on weekdays, and will be booking local and national acts into the room come weekends. “Our beautiful town is packed with talent with no place great to showcase it. This will allow us to make records and create a launching pad for the whole scene. There’s not been anything quite like this since the Joyous Lake.” To accommodate all he wants, Caigan’s put in a new sound system he characterizes as “amazing,” worked on making the acoustics in the tall, balcony surrounded main room more conducive to louder acts (via curtains, baffles and a host of other engineering tricks, and been working at giving the entire trapezoidal building a thorough cleaning. Along the way, he’s been finding hidden treasures and finding that the magic that first drew him to the place is growing on a daily basis. The Manhattan-born, Bard-educated Caigan got his start learning Pro Tools for music engineering […]

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    The big classical music news this month is the return of the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra. With the demise of numerous American orchestras over the past few years, including our own Esopus Chamber Orchestra, it was re asonable to assume that once the WCO shut down operations it was gone for good. But it’s not. At a press conference in Kingston on March 31, the WCO’s president Gregory Dinger and new interim Executive Director Dana White-Marks (she plays viola, no joke) explained the difficulties that had led to suspension of the WCO’s activities. But renewed fund-raising activities, including direct approaches to every member of the Woodstock and Ulster County Chambers of Commerce, have brought in enough donations to get the orchestra back in action, and not just for one concert. “We’ve also had lots of support from ‘average people,’” White-Marks said at a press conference on March 31. The orchestra will be performing at its usual venue, the Woodstock Playhouse, on Sunday afternoon, April 13, at 3 p.m. Music Director Nathan Madsen decided to get things going in an impressive way, with an all-Beethoven program. He has enlisted soprano Kimberly Kahan as soloist, to perform the concert aria “Ah! perfido,” major […]

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    “Napping is a crucial part of being a writer. A good nap is like an oasis. When sinking into a nap, I get my best ideas.” — Abigail Thomas “I’m more of a walker. I walk four to five miles a day, and I bring pen and paper with me.” — Bar Scott A writers festival tells us what to read and how to write. The fifth annual Woodstock Writers Festival, April 3-6, did both with a festive flair and was also tremendously entertaining. I didn’t make it to all the events, but here are highlights, including my favorite quotes. The onstage conversation between local memoirist Abigail Thomas and her former student, Bar Scott, provided both laughs and poignant moments. Scott, a Woodstock musician who now lives in Colorado, read from The Present Giver, her book about the death of her three-year-old son from cancer. They discussed the importance of writing about life’s pain, with Thomas remarking, “The hardest stuff opens you.” Thomas also gave practical advice: “As a thing is happening to you that you can’t believe is happening, take notes. There are so many details you’ll forget.” On the other hand, anything can become grist for the mill, […]

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  • 04/26/14--03:30: Old Folkies Never Die
  • We’re on the outer edge of an era when everyone in the Catskills has known of Dean Gitter. But not as the folk singer making a return to the stage at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at the Emerson Resort and Spa, as a fundraiser for the Belleayre Music Festival while premiering his first album in 57 years, “Old Folkies Never Die,” Gitter turned a scenic relic known as the Riseley Barn into The Emerson. Only then, when he rebuilt it, the place was Catskill Corners, home to the world’s largest kaleidoscope (still there). Earlier, he had founded WTZA (later morphed into RNN), Ulster County’s first television station that was embroiled for years in a fight over the broadcast tower and its light on top of Overlook Mountain. He also championed big dreams for the area that ranged from the moving of a Steamtown old train museum here to the creation of a massive multi-national ethnic theme park. Most, though, tie Dean Gitter to his Belleayre Resort vision and the 15 years it’s struggled to get built as a destination resort on the same mountain where the state owns the Catskills longest-in-service ski area. They recall vociferous battles and barbed […]

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    Jim Rooney’s journey through American music has taken him from low down barrooms to fine halls and grand stages throughout the world. Originally from Boston, he began playing guitar and singing with Woodstock banjo legend Bill Keith when both were in college, got immersed in the Cambridge music scene and ran the seminal club in Harvard Square, Club 47, in the 1960s and put together music for the Newport Folk Festivals; traveled the world as tour manager with Thelonious Monk, Dionne Warwick, Herbie Mann and other jazz acts; was the first manager of the Bearsville Studios here in Woodstock; made one of the seminal folk-country albums, Sweet Moments with the Blue Velvet Band, with Keith and Eric Weissberg; sang with the Woodstock Mountains Revue; landed in Nashville where he became a producer and publisher, making records with John Prine, Iris DeMent, Nancy Griffith, Don Everly, Alison Krauss, Townes Van Zandt…published music of Van Zandt, Jesse Winchester, Prine…and on and on. The stories in his new memoir, In It For The Long Run: A Musical Odyssey, range through Cambridge, Woodstock, Nashville, California, Ireland, Texas, and it’s clear that Rooney was in the right place at many right times, but marked the […]

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    If not for that single, tantalizing word on the windowless white wall — six black capital letters, spaced wide, like a line on an eye chart: U T O P I A — a passerby might conclude that this is the blandest building in Bearsville, a place where a ladder lies abandoned at the foot of an unmarked gray door and little worth seeing or hearing is likely to happen, inside or outside. That passerby would be mistaken. In fact this building, at 293 Tinker Street, is a preserve of Woodstock’s still-unfolding modern musical history. For decades it has been the home of Radio Woodstock 100.1 (WDST), whose offices — entered on the south side of the building, opposite the Bearsville Theater — teem with music memorabilia and include the former Utopia Video Studios, now known as Utopia Soundstage. Those stark, sans-serif letters on the buildings’ north side signify a seminal period that began 35 years ago, when the legendary impresario Albert Grossman, a k a the Baron of Bearsville, presented his newly built Utopia Video Studios to one of his clients, Todd Rundgren, a k a the Hermit of Mink Hollow, the innovative rock guitarist, founder of the band […]

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