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News of Woodstock, Shandaken, Phoenicia & Beyond

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  • 07/19/15--03:30: Gearing up at Voice Fest
  • “We’re training a new generation, a new breed of artist,” said Maria Todaro, mezzo-soprano and executive director of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice. “They are equally balanced between the right and left side of the brain. They have the creativity and disconnect from reality that you need as an artist, and the super-Cartesianism and rationale that you need to be organized.” As the festival brings its sixth year of world-class vocal music to Phoenicia, from July 29 to August 2, participants will include youngsters educated by the Catskills Academy for Performing Arts (CAPA), a year-round series of community programs sponsored by the festival. Eight CAPA students and several other interns will be performing and helping to run the festival, with chances to meet opera star Frederica von Stade, jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan, Emmy-nominated actor and Broadway singer Ron Raines, an American Idol finalist, a former Miss America, and a multitude of other professional musicians. This year’s offerings revolve around the theme of American music, with opera (Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men, Italian-American Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium), musical comedy (Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music), gospel, barbershop, theater, Native American music, and other genres. At the festival […]

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    “We want to demystify opera and counteract the idea that it’s just for the elite,” said Maria Todaro, co-founder and executive director of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, which features many kinds of music but emphasizes the organizers’ opera roots. “To demystify, we have to create a deeper relationship with the community.” Now that the festival office occupies the entire ground floor of the 1894 House on Phoenicia’s Main Street, it has become the locus for events involving the community, from voice lessons and choir practice to a series of public gatherings that will kick off with a Halloween concert on Saturday, October 31, at 7 p.m. Todaro and her husband, baritone Louis Otey, will perform songs by opera witches and villains. Pianists Justin Kolb and Nancy Kamen will play, and the audience is invited to come in costume. Next summer will mark the seventh annual Voicefest, which takes place over five days in early August, presenting world-class performers at a bandshell imported to Phoenicia’s Parish Field. To scratch the seven-year itch, Todaro is revisiting the festival mission statement, seeking a broader audience, and strengthening the business model of the organization. Three new board members have been recruited […]

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  • 11/20/15--03:30: Sante’s The Other Paris
  • In Luc Sante’s densely-conjured and deeply researched new book The Other Paris, the now-infamous Bataclan Concert Hall is referenced in a long litany of examples of establishments that presented the entertainment beloved by the ancient city’s rough and tumble lower classes, as well as its emerging bourgeoisie and upper crusts. Back then it was the Ba-Ta-Clan, one of many cafes-concerts that drew on its neighborhood’s pre-boulevard days as the center for both Paris’ theatrical world, and much of its crime. As well as a great example of what a working, everyday but still grand place the city was in its heyday. Sante, who lives in Kingston and will be reading at Golden Notebook at 4 p.m. Saturday, November 21, is considered by many as one of our great writers and thinkers. He teaches at Bard, is a regular in the New York Review of Books, and has built a reputation for hard-boiled analysis based on a historian’s eye for both telling idiosyncratic details and intuitive leaps of empathetic understanding that has made his first work, Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, a modern classic. Yet he manages something new, and particularly apt given the past week’s tragic […]

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    It was 1978 when Larry Campbell first came to Woodstock. He was introduced to the town by the legendary John Herald who was “looking for a guy to join his band who does what I do,” says Larry. And there are not many people that can do just what he does. He’s a connoisseur’s musician, master of many stringed instruments, who first picked up a guitar at age 11. He’s recorded on countless sessions for a who’s who of every style of music imaginable, produced numerous recordings including three Grammy winners for Levon Helm. And that just touches the surface. He has toured with K.D. Lang, Bob Dylan, and along with his wife Teresa Williams, with Phil Lesh, Hot Tuna, and, of course, Levon Helm. The couple has just come off the road, performing with Jackson Browne and this past summer released their debut CD on Red House Records, eponymously titled, “Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams.” They bring their show home to Woodstock at 9 p.m. Saturday, December 12 at the Bearsville Theater. Teresa Williams has been singing ever since she can remember. “[It] was like learning to breathe. I don’t ever remember not singing in public. I was ‘the […]

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    Hannah Frieser started her new job as executive director at the Center for Photography at Woodstock a few weeks back. She and her partner had found a cottage to rent in the hamlet after driving across country from the Los Angeles area, and several months residency working on a book project in Chapel Hill, NC. Formerly a director at Light Works, a larger, slightly more established photography center in Syracuse, with ties to the university there, she’s been familiar with CPW for years, through its exhibits and currently-dormant publication, as well as a long acquaintance with the center’s former director, Ariel Shanberg. She’s excited about her new life. Yet she’s also quick to note how, as a working artist all her life, she’s also looking to reconnect with her own photography and other projects as she settles in to Woodstock. And in doing so, fit into what Shanberg described to her, years back, as “a community of makers, and not takers.” “I think more as an artist than as an administrator, and all that’s involved in art making is always on my mind,” Frieser says. “And yet I’ve also spent most of my working life as an administrator. I know […]

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  • 12/21/15--03:30: I could be wrong
  • On December 6, 2015 during the Woodstock Holiday Open House celebration I handed out a bumper sticker that read, “I could be wrong” to people on the streets, in the stores, and the galleries. As I went about, I took notes on some of what people said. “I could be wrong and so could you,” one person suggested. A man said, “I would not put that on my car because then my wife would say, O.K., you’ve finally admitted it.” Another said, “If everyone thought this way, the world would be a better place.” A woman said, “I’m going to put this on my husband’s forehead.” I chatted with two friends. One said, “No thanks, I don’t do bumper stickers. And no: I don’t want to be wrong.” The friend said, “I’m usually wrong.” Everyone laughed. One woman said, “I’ll put the bumper sticker in my back window. Most bumper stickers seem like the person is showing off (she made a gesture of a pompous person) but this I could put in my back window.” A lot of people asked why I was doing this and I said I thought it would be good for the upcoming political season and […]

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    Elliott Landy stands over a stack of proofs that he used to decide what would go into his new book, The Band Photographs, 1968-1969. Each one represents what two facing pages would look like in the book, printed on glossy paper, each page a 12-inch square (coincidentally, the same size as a vinyl record album.) “First Rachel (Ana Dobken), the editor of the book, went through 12,000 slides and negatives and contact sheets — 12,000 images and picked out ones that she thought belong in the book. Over the years I’ve had my own choices of images, so we piled everything together, the ones she found that I had never picked before, and then made proofs. There are a lot that are not in the book…look at this…wow, I haven’t seen these…there’s enough for another book!” The book is a sumptuous volume, indeed. It’s out now, on Backbeat Books, an imprint of publisher Hal Leonard. But it represents the artistic concept of Landy alone, financed by Kickstarter, the crowd funding source, from which Landy gathered an astonishing $200,000, the most ever collected for a book of photography. And so there they are — The Band, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie […]

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    Janice La Motta says things have moved very quickly since she was appointed Executive Director of the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum (WAAM) in October. She found a great cottage with mountain views, not far from town, and she’s experienced two major events — the Woodstock Film Festival and WAAM’s annual Fine Art Auction. “I hit the ground running and have yet to find a ‘typical’ week. It’s a lot to get used to, transitioning into a new position, but I’m older and wiser now,” she said. La Motta brings over 30 years of fine arts experience as an entrepreneur, non-profit/arts organization leader and a practitioner of the visual arts. She was a curator at the New Britain Museum of American Art for over five years before running her own contemporary fine art gallery, Paesaggio, for 18 years. A graduate of the Hartford Art School, La Motta has served as a juror for artist fellowship grants for the CT Commission on Culture and Tourism and other entities, and continues to create and show her own visual art. Her decision to move to Woodstock from Connecticut, where she spent most of the past four decades, was sparked by the freedom that […]

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  • 01/08/16--03:30: Hattie Iles at Oriole9
  • Hatti Iles — whose 6 foot 8 inch by 3 foot oil on wood painting “Bonfire Moon” graced the cover of Ulster Publishing’s Gift Guide a few weeks back and will be the focus of the latest exhibit at Oriole 9 starting with an afternoon reception on Saturday, January 9 —came to her singular art the way all her life has landed in her lap. By happenstance. But also as the result of her strong will to follow the whims she cares about. “There’s a natural evolution to it all,” she says from her Plochmann Lane home nestled at the edge between forest and fields, the high face of Overlook Mountain smiling down on her collection of gardens and village-like outbuildings. Iles speaks about how important it was to grow up in England, post-World War II, when fairy tales still seemed alive in family visits to castles, Stonehenge, and the old beech woods nearby their Surrey village that also prompted the imaginations of J.M. Barrie, George Eliot, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and Douglas Adams of the Hitchhikers Guides series. “I was always very attracted to animals and the animal world. I’ve always spent my time drawing animals, observing them, learning […]

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    I’m just a poet who lives in a little town in the Catskills,” Ed Sanders says with a laugh. And, though the year has only just begun, that might be one of its biggest understatements. Activist, archivist, author, editor, founding member of the satiric rock band The Fugs, Sanders is also a noted poet, yes. But the poem he is currently working on is more than 200 pages long and focuses on the assassination of Robert Kennedy — a piece that, like most of his work, is large in scope and staggeringly ambitious. Sanders simply doesn’t do anything half-way. That’s clearly true of his newly released biography, Sharon Tate — an immersive journey into the life of the doomed actress that also touches on everything from New Age mysticism to the moon landing to the RFK assassination (including a possible link between Tate, the Manson Family and Sirhan Sirhan.) The book will be the subject of a Sanders’ reading at 6 p.m. Saturday, January 16 at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts in Woodstock. In all of his non-fiction writing, Sanders is big on context, focusing not just on the subject at hand, but on the period it sprung out […]

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    When J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were in college at Oxford in the 1930s, they belonged to a writing group called the Inklings. A group of local teens have borrowed the name for their own writing and critique group, which meets at the Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock. “There are so many good young writers around here,” said Phoenicia resident Jack Warren, who started the group with his friend Dante Kanter of Woodstock. “We wanted to utilize each other’s talents, give us a reason to keep writing and a way to start writing better.” The two had belonged to a more informal teen writing group in 2012-14. “We shared stuff we’d written,” explained Warren. “It wasn’t a critiquing but a writing support group, to foster each other’s writing passions. Then half of us went to college and the rest of us didn’t.” After awhile, the boys began to miss the group and decided to start over. They approached Jackie Kellachan of the Golden Notebook, where Warren has worked part-time for several years. She agreed to sponsor the group, and they put out a call for members, who were invited to submit a few pages of sample work. “It was just […]

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  • 02/02/16--03:30: Inside WAAM’s vault
  • Spring cleaning, a little color on the walls and preparations for the beginning of the 2016 season have kept everyone at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum busy behind closed doors this January. On Saturday, February 6, (2 p.m.-4 p.m.) the doors open wide for the inaugural reception of the year, highlighted by Director’s Choice: The Responsive Eye, a show of 30 works from WAAM’s Permanent Collection in the Phoebe and Belmont Towbin Wing. “It’s one of my great pleasures and privileges to have access to WAAM’s collection of over 2000 objects. There’s nothing better for me, just to be in the vault, and to be quiet and intimate with these pieces,” says Janice La Motta, Executive Director and Curator of the Permanent Collection. “It’s a privilege, as an artist and as an arts administrator, and it’s an act of discovery. There’s the kinetic part of looking at them one by one, opening boxes or pulling them out of racks. It’s the first time I’ve gone through this collection,” she adds, “and it’s an odd phenomenon. When you look at an object online or as a reproduction, your eye sets it at a certain size. You might think of a […]

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  • 02/05/16--03:30: First show at Zena Music Lab
  • Woodstockers can get their first glimpse of The Woodstock Music Laboratory that’s being created out of the former Zena Elementary School by Paul Green (of the local Paul Green Rock Academy) and Michael Lang, when the Rock Academy debuts the new space with its Best of Season Show at 7 p.m. Friday, February 5. The performance will include hits from shows throughout the Academy’s latest season, such as Folk Heroes (Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell), Jesus Christ Superstar, Led Zeppelin, and the Ramones. There will also be carnival games and food provided by Saugerties’s Miss Lucy’s Kitchen. The space is still raw, but Green and Lang, the co-creator of the Woodstock Festivals, along with Bill Reichblum, the former dean of Bennington College, and hospitality man David Jarrett, are working toward the vision of the space as the Woodstock Music Laboratory, a post-secondary school for rock music The Woodstock Music Lab, as envisioned, will offer a two-year, multifaceted, and comprehensive curriculum that diverts from mainstream, performance-based programs. “We have no majors. Every kid who walks in that door is learning to write, perform, produce, engineer, arrange, and market music,” said Green. Lang stated, “This is not just for kids who want […]

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    According to the European Fine Art Foundation, (TEFAF), online sales of art reached $3.6 billion in 2014, or about 6% of all worldwide sales. “That’s a big number, and I was surprised to see it,” says James Cox, referring to a January 2016 article published by The Economist. “The trend is that people are more and more comfortable using online commerce and, with the high cost of brick and mortar, it’s cost efficient too. I am willing to bet that figure will rise,” concludes the owner of The James Cox Gallery of Woodstock. Cox, who operates the gallery with his wife, the artist Mary Anna Goetz, is striding confidently into the ranks of those wielding virtual gavels. His upcoming Collector’s Exchange — Online Cabinet Sale will not supplant his 25-year old brick and mortar operation. Nor will it remove him from the world of live auctioneering that he has come to enjoy over the past years. It will offer collectors yet another avenue to find pieces they will cherish. The gallery’s online auction will take place in March and the soft deadline to offer objects for consignment is February 20. Cox says he may accept items a few days beyond […]

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    In the classical music world, opera singers used to be scorned for performing in other genres. “If you had recorded CD’s in the rock industry, you changed your name, and you didn’t put it in your resume,” said Maria Todaro, opera singer and co-founder of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice. “Now if you have vast experience in rock or on Broadway, you claim it.” Todaro, enthusiastic about the potential inherent in crossover, has become a teacher of vocal music at the Paul Green Rock Academy in Woodstock. Students from the academy will open this year’s British-themed Voicefest with a performance of songs by the Beatles from their psychedelic period. “Classical training informs your end product,” commented Green. “People can end up in very different places from where they were heading in this muddled music landscape. You have great rock musicians scoring movies, and some of my favorite rock musicians started out in classical.” Green and Todaro met three years ago when they were both on the board of the short-lived Byrdcliffe Festival of the Arts. “We hit it off,” said Green, “because we both take music seriously, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously. Maria and […]

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    Want to listen in on a lively conversation between two longtime writer friends discussing one of their brand new books? Then go to the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Saturday, February 27 when New York Times bestselling author, Abigail Thomas, will interview USA Today bestselling author, Alison Gaylin, about Gaylin’s ninth book, What Remains of Me (William Morrow/Harper Collins). Twenty years ago in New York City, Gaylin took a writing workshop from Thomas. Since becoming Woodstock neighbors many years ago, the two women get together often. “Abby’s great, such an inspiring and positive person. I always show my first drafts to my husband before I send them to my editor, but between finishing a book and the final copy edit, I have to look at it so closely. I was in a huge crisis with this last book, so I asked Abby to read it. She read it in one day, and was very encouraging. Whenever I’m with her, we both feel inspired and leave wanting to write.” While writing her new psychological suspense thriller, Gaylin fed into the two dominant streams of her own obsessions. “I’ve always been fascinated by pop culture and crime. My mom […]

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  • 03/09/16--03:30: Music: Spectacular Chi
  • Pianist Yalin Chi, assisted by the newly renovated piano at Saugerties United Methodist Church, opened her program there on February 21 with beautiful, luminous sound and gorgeous relaxation in Rachmaninov’s song “Dreams,” as transcribed by Earl Wild. Her playing of Bach’s “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue” was a bit pedally for me but her propulsive Fugue was very impressive. Scriabin’s music is always challenging, but Chi had no trouble with his Sonata No. 4, taking the Prestissimo second movement at a very fast tempo and making it float. I’m used to a more massive, powerful reading of Brahms’s Sonata No. 3 (in the Artur Rubinstein manner) than Chi provided, but her less volatile interpretation made its points and the way she made the second movement into a nocturne was completely convincing. For all the virtues of this program, though, the moment I have taken away from it was Chi’s encore: Schumann’s “Träumerei,” more “Dreams.” We’ve all heard this piece many times. I cannot remember hearing it played more beautifully, with great intimacy and tenderness. This was the playing of a great artist and I’m lucky I heard it. The series continues on Sunday, March 20, as the Boston Trio plays trios […]

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    Photographer Jeff Jacobson of Mount Tremper has had major success in his career. His work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney and several other important museums. He has worked as a photojournalist for the New York Times Magazine, Time, Life, Fortune, The New Yorker, and many other magazines. He is now working on his fourth book of fine art photography. Aside from continuing to take pictures that interest him, what does he want to do most nowadays? Teach photography, especially the political work that was his entrée into professional photography. This February found Jacobson at the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, leading a small group of students through rallies and press conferences to take shots of the presidential candidates and their supporters. “In Iowa and New Hampshire, you have a lot of freedom to move around,” said Jacobson. “There’s not so much Secret Service, if you get there early, unless there’s a sitting president running. Certain campaigns are more restrictive than others, when the candidates try to control the press. The worst this year are Hillary and Trump. They try to control every image.” Jacobson started shooting presidential primaries in 1976 and continued through 1988. He […]

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    The seventh annual Woodstock Writer’s Festival joins the local dialogue on the drug epidemic, offering inspiration from writers who have trod the difficult path from addiction to recovery. Executive director Martha Frankel has been considering a panel on addiction for some time. “I’ve been around a lot of recovery,” she said, “around people who are sober and happy, joyful, free. When I started thinking of it as a recovery panel, it opened up my heart and head.” The festival, held April 7 to 10, will also feature the usual story slam, intensive writing workshops, memoir and other panels, plus keynote speaker Nancy Jo Sales, who writes about the experience of teenage girls in the Internet age; Barney Hoskyns with his tell-all of Woodstock in the 1960s; activist Gail Straub moderating a discussion on spirituality and creativity. The daytime panels will be held at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts on Tinker Street, but the evening events have been moved to the new Woodstock Music Lab, four miles east of the village at 1700 Sawkill Road, Kingston. Michael Lang and Paul Green, who converted the former Zena Elementary School into the Music Lab, are among the sponsors of this year’s festival. […]

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  • 04/02/16--03:30: Twyla Tharp in Hunter
  • The story reveals a lot about Twyla Tharp and why she’s one of the century’s most renowned choreographers. Sitting with a handful of reporters at the Catskill Mountain Foundation (CMF) headquarters in Hunter, Tharp described what happened when she was asked to perform at the 1984 Olympics. “I decided I had to be in the best shape of my life,” she said. “I considered boxing the best training there is, for speed, coordination of feet and hands, stamina. But there were no women boxing in 1984.” A friend put her in touch with Teddy Atlas, protégé of Cus D’Amato, the trainer of Floyd Patterson and who discovered and trained Mike Tyson in Catskill. At first, Atlas refused to work with then 43-year-old Tharp, but she wore him down, cut off her long fingernails, took off the polish, and wrapped up her hands. “Good trainers have horrible people around them, but they themselves have good hearts,” said Tharp. “He took me on for six months. We were jumping rope, running up and down stairs, running stairs backwards. It was a really good discipline, not just physically, but for concentration. When you’re working with stuff coming at you for 15 or 20 […]

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