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News of Woodstock, Shandaken, Phoenicia & Beyond

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    “It’s funny seeing that we all call him Randy and not Dr. Rissman,” says Cindy Cashdollar, the Grammy award winning steel guitar and dobro player. “I think that says a lot right there, because to me, he was not only my doctor but he was a friend and a confidant. None of us will ever have a doctor like Randy Rissman again. He’s probably one of the last of those kind of doctors. I don’t think that this health care system allows for Randy Rissmans anymore. We were all very blessed to have Randy in our lives.” Rissman retired last December after serving Woodstock for 36 years. Now, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, there will be a Retirement Party/Concert for the doc at the Bearsville Theater, with all proceeds going to the Woodstock Rescue Squad. Performers will include Happy Traum, Cindy Cashdollar, Harvey Citron; The Beki Brindle Blues Band with Ralph Legnini, Eric Parker and Frank Ganci; Marc Black, Ralph Scala, Nancy Kame, Victoria Levy and more. Luthier and musician Harvey Citron knows Rissman a long time. “I sent Randy a text and I said I feel like a man without a country. For some reason or other […]

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    The Maverick Concerts season opens this weekend with a Young People’s Concert by Elizabeth Mitchell & Family on Saturday, June 25, at 11 a.m. That evening at 8 p.m., Actors & Writers presents a reading of Laura Shaine Cunningham’s screenplay “Sleeping Arrangements,” based on her memoir. Then the Big People’s concerts kick off on Sunday, June 26, as the Escher String Quartet plays works of Beethoven, Bartók, and Dvorák (his great Op. 106, not the usual “American”). All these events take place at the Maverick Concert Hall off Maverick Road in Woodstock. If you’ve never been there before, just drive down Maverick Road until you see the Maverick Concerts sign. Next week I will have a full season preview. Maverick schedules are available all over town. Take one and mark it up with your favorites. As in recent years, the Maverick Hall was the scene of a pre-season performance by Ars Choralis, under the direction of Barbara Pickhardt, on Saturday, June 18, and Sunday the 19th. The hall was packed on Sunday, as I presume it was on Saturday. This program was entitled “Música Hispánica: Then and Now,” and covered a range from 12th century Spain to living Brazilian and […]

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    If there’s one person that has a pulse on the heroin problem in town it’s Provisions’ Emily Sherry. Ms. Sherry’s “A Different Delicatessen” is on Tinker Street a few doors down from CPW, The Center for Photography at Woodstock. When Georgia Landman, CPW’s workshop manager became aware of the kids in town that were suffering from what seemed to be a heroin addiction upsurge she decided to do something about it. “I have been in touch with Emily at Provisions and any time that there are events like Harold Reilly’s funeral we talk about it.” Harold Reilly was only twenty-four years old when he died from a heroin overdose last December after just being released from a local rehab center. His memorial service drew a massive crowd at the Woodstock Community Center. Harold’s picture hangs on the wall in Provisions above their cash register. “After speaking with Emily and becoming aware of all the problems in town, it triggered something that I definitely wanted to do, something with what we are able to offer, being photography, to help these kids,” says Landman. “The article that I read in the Woodstock Times, which ran shortly after Harold’s death, ‘Coping with Kids […]

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    When I went backstage during intermission of the first regular season Maverick Concert, I spoke with members of the Escher Quartet. Reading through the ensemble’s bio in the program, it seems as though returning to this little theater in rural woods must be small potatoes for an ensemble with such credentials. This decade-old ensemble has already performed successfully throughout the United States, including a residency at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Both Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman invited the Eschers to perform in their summer festivals. They have played for the famous BBC Proms, at the Kennedy Center, and in Geneva, London, Paris, Perth and many other world music centers (adding Berlin and Hong Kong this season). Yet when I asked the members of the ensemble if there was anything special to them about playing at Maverick Concerts, they practically tumbled over each other in their eagerness to answer. I couldn’t even write down who said what. “It’s our favorite place to play,” said one. “Beautiful, and unassuming. Inspiring to play for audiences who have been coming for decades,” said another. A third added, “It feels like a pagan cathedral of music,” which could wind up being a […]

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    Mount Tremper Arts (MTA) has announced a shift from its usual seven-week summer festival of weekly performances and artist residencies to an almost year-round schedule of monthly events and month-long residencies. The new format will allow for intensive collaboration with New York City performance spaces and a more consistent relationship with the upstate community, said the organization’s executive director, Matthew Pokoik. Programming is proceeding under the name Watershed Laboratory as MTA explores “what it means to be located in the Catskills, the influence of the land and the locale on the artists who work with us,” said Pokoik. “The watershed is a complex ecosystem and interchange between two places.” Water from the Catskills proceeds downstate to become drinking water for New York City residents, who then come upstate to refresh themselves in nature and support the local economy. Performance art follows a similar cycle through MTA. While Catskills residents sometime chafe under the restrictions imposed by the city to protect its drinking water, the same regulations help preserve the natural beauty that attracts visitors and brings income to the community, observed Pokoik. Artists are among the city dwellers drawn to the serenity of the mountains, a key element of facilitating […]

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    Maverick Concerts’ classical series got off to a rousing start with two strong quartets (not a typo!) On Sunday, June 26, the Escher Quartet started things off with a superlative performance of Beethoven’s first published string quartet, Op. 18, No. 1 in F. The playing was so accurate you could have taken dictation from it, not only the notes but also the dynamic markings. (This was particularly true with Beethoven’s sforzandi, a startling sudden accent the composer was fond of.) The ensemble’s powerful sound made the music seem like late rather than early Beethoven, and that’s not a bad thing; he was, after all, the same composer throughout his life, and once he reached his maturity he was writing one profound masterpiece after another. The naive directness of the slow movement was particularly affecting, but this performance was outstanding throughout. Last year the Eschers played Bartók’s First String Quartet at Maverick. This year they brought us his Second, and they told me they hope to complete the cycle of six over the next four years. I’ll be standing on line waiting to get in for the rest of the series. This performance began with a very direct reading of the opening Moderato which […]

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  • 07/09/16--03:30: Beppe Gambetta plays Ashokan
  • In these post-packaged years when people no longer buy media in piece goods but prefer electronic sources…a pretty decent sized audience still prefers good old hand made music on wooden instruments, and fine players can be heard nestled into the niche with the misnomer ‘Americana.’ And we can trace the lines of the great flatpickers back to Doc Watson, who first began picking fiddle tunes on the steel string acoustic guitar back in the 1950s, and who begat the great Clarence White, and thus Tony Rice and Dan Crary, Norman Blake, Russ Barenberg, who have carried the lineage onward to players like David Grier and Bryan Sutton, and younger generations who can blind and dazzle you with their prowess. And so it happens that another who surely belongs in the pantheon, but with a different sensibility, a European feel, will be performing in our midst when Beppe Gambetta takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 10 in the Conservation Hall at the Ashokan Center, 477 Beaverkill Road, Olivebridge. He’ll also stay around for the week following for the Center’s Acoustic Guitar Camp, featuring world class players giving workshops on gypsy jazz and swing, slide, bottleneck blues, swing and ragtime; fingerstyle […]

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    The cover of False Documents shows two commedia dell’arte characters — medieval Italian clowns — dancing audaciously above the surface of the moon. I was surprised to discover that this literally illustrates a scene from the story “Lunar Mansions or, The Whole Rabbit” which concludes the collection. Set in a prison on the moon a couple centuries in the future, “Lunar Mansions” consists largely of individual prisoners recounting their semi-tragical life stories, while feasting on extravagant meals catered by their host Wali al-Taha, “poet and fat flautist.” False Documents is the selected fiction of Peter Lamborn Wilson, anarchist, theological scholar, artist, poet and local historian. (Wilson lives in the Hudson Valley.) Almost all the pieces in this volume are portraits of communities, in the tradition of Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy, the novel in which a man named Julian West falls asleep in 1887 and wakes up 113 years later in a perfectly egalitarian society (in Boston, Massachusetts!). “Pastoral Letter: A Fragment,” a memo from the fictitious Sion County, a rural paradise of hippies, “Amish-type farmers,” a small Iroquois reservation and a band of Anglican Benedictine monks (at the Monastery of St. John-in-the-Wilderness) could be a blueprint for a […]

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    Before Orphan Black, before the Olsen twins, before The Patty Duke Show, Elizabethan audiences laughed their arses off at the misunderstandings arising from mistaken identities in The Comedy of Errors. Humans have a long history of fascination with stories about identical twins. Like all Shakespeare’s plays, The Comedy of Errors revolves around fundamental human questions, in this case: What is the nature of the Self? How do others’ views of us affect our lives? Who am I really, if I can be mistaken for someone else? Just ask Christina Gardner, who looks a bit like me. She is often addressed, in complete seriousness, as “Violet” on the streets of Woodstock. We both find our doppelgänger status funny but unnerving. You don’t have to think about these existential problems in order to enjoy The Comedy of Errors, as presented by Woodstock’s Bird-on-a-Cliff Theatre Company. This summer’s production runs from July 15 through August 7, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, at 5 p.m., on the outdoor stage at the Comeau Property. The play is based on Menaechmi by the Roman playwright Plautus, but Shakespeare expanded on the theme of twins by adding a second set. As two young men named Antipholus, twins separated […]

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    Like a clearing in a forest, an unusual event on the weekend offers a step away from this year’s underbrush of police shootings, Brexit, missing State Department emails, impending threats of economic collapse and World War and other harrowing preoccupations into a deeper view of human society as it exists in our own neighborhood. At 4 p.m. Sunday, July 17, at the Woodstock Music Lab, 1700 Sawkill Road, former site of the Zena Elementary School, Sage Arts of Rosendale will present a concert honoring a selection of eight Woodstock seniors who have teamed with local musicians to celebrate their lives in song. “Songs have a way of penetrating us; going through the mind and into the heart,” explains Colette Ruoff, Sage Arts founder and president. “That’s why I’m doing this. Art is a means of inspiration. That’s why we started this off. We’d like to use other art forms as well. I think this is the most powerful way to transmit a message from an elder to the community.” Energy feeds ambition and the first spark of energy in this direction came from a ‘vision quest’ Ruoff undertook in 2012 after years of coaching leadership to members of large corporations. Traditionally a spiritually maturing […]

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  • 07/18/16--03:30: Acts of Utopian art
  • In 1988, artist and architect Mark Robbins, while visiting Woodstock’s Byrcliffe Colony of the Arts for a summer residency, built an installation entitled “Utopian Prospect” in front of Eastover, one of Byrcliffe’s buildings. The structure, still in place after almost 30 years, was recently repaired under the direction of architect Les Walker, whose son Jess, as a teenager, helped Robbins build the installation. Now president and CEO of the American Academy in Rome, which sponsors one of the world’s most sought-after residency programs, Robbins will speak at the Byrdcliffe Theater on Saturday, July 23, at 4 p.m. He will describe his youthful creation and discuss how residencies for creative people benefit both artists and society. Robbins was six years out of graduate school and installing his art in East Village galleries when he received a grant to create a site-specific project at Byrdcliffe. “I became interested in the history of Byrdcliffe as a utopian art colony with deep American roots,” recalled Robbins. Going back to the 1850s and 60s, there were two basic strands of thought about how to create a utopia, Robbins explained. One theory espoused a return to nature, which would allow people’s essential, natural goodness to emerge, […]

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    Jackson Pollock ran off an eastern Long Island back road 60 years ago next month and died among gnarled trees. He was still making money from his drip paintings of several years earlier at the time, but struggling with alcoholism. His wife and fellow artist Lee Krasner was in Paris at the time, giving him time for his womanizing and anger. She lived on another 28 years, nurturing his legacy while growing her own art and reputation and caring for their joint estate. She died in 1984. The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild celebrates the ongoing impact of these two epochal artists at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at its annual gala, where Charles C. Bergman, Chairman & CEO, and Kerrie Buitrago, Executive Vice President of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation will be honored with the arts organization’s Whitehead Award, named for the arts colony’s founders. “Lee had no children,” Buitrago said this past weekend at her Maverick Road home, where she’s busy preparing for a special brunch the morning of the gala, introducing the Guild to her foundation’s supporters. “Her attorney, Gerald Dickler, asked her what she wanted to do with her money and she said she wanted to give it to worthy and […]

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    The Woodstock Playhouse will delve into its only summer drama when it presents Cherry’s Patch for one weekend, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30 and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 31. The play is written by Ron Scott Stevens, who once again is a local resident after having lived in Woodstock in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He moved back here in late 2015. Cherry’s Patch is set in a Brooklyn Firehouse and brings to light a respect for and awareness of firefighters; humanizing the heroes, that we might appreciate the invisible struggles of their lives and the disruption of order in the firehouse spurred on by cutbacks and politics. It’s the story of a cowardly lieutenant who causes a heroic captain’s death, after which the firefighters in the company’s firehouse decide to deal out justice themselves. A portion of the proceeds for Cherry’s Patch, which made its debut at the SoHo Playhouse in 2006, will be given to the support of local firefighters and their families in our community. “When I was promoting boxing,” said Scott Stevens, “the person who sang the National Anthem for me was a firefighter, Vernon Cherry. He would come in uniform […]

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    “If people were going to concerts more and bathing in art, there would be less mess in the world,” said Maria Todaro, the co-founder and executive director of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice. “I see how we transform people, and that’s why I’m motivated to do this work.” Always inspired by the healing power of music, Todaro, an opera singer, is especially interested in working with young people. This year’s festival, running from Thursday, August 4 to Sunday, August 7, highlights the theme of Shakespeare and the British Isles, with an abundance of youthful energy brought to performing and running the events. The opener, on Thursday, August 4, on the main stage in Phoenicia Park, will be “Rock the Beatles!” Students from the Paul Green Rock Academy will take on some of the most vocally challenging selections from the Beatles’ psychedelic era. With Todaro recently taking on the job of vocal coach at the academy in Woodstock, John and Paul’s lyrics will resonate splendidly off the ring of mountains around the stage. Todaro also has private voice students, and she has chosen five promising young singers to be featured in a Master Class. They will work one at […]

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    Moving The Water(S): Ashokan Fugues 2016, the world class multi-media installation by West Shokan/New York City-based artist Margaret Cogswell that’s been filling the Kleinert/James Arts Center gallery for the last month in Woodstock, and runs through August 15, had at least a portion of its origins in two very local experiences. “Driving across the old ‘Lemon Squeeze’ by the reservoir got me thinking of all those who were displaced by the building of the reservoir,” notes Cogswell, whose installations have been supported by various grants, and shown in museums across the nation in recent years. “My husband and I moved up here in the early 1980s when he got a job as a studio assistant to [noted Minimalist artist] Al Held, who split his time between New York City and Boiceville. We didn’t want to live on his compound so we ended up renting and then buying a cottage in West Shokan.” Her new work continues a flow of similar installations she’s been working on for over a decade now. Enter the Kleinert and one’s immediately swallowed in by the sounds of water and voices, two looped series of videos, multiple sculptural components that include metallic facsimiles of New York […]

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    Yale Epstein, whose retrospective-like From The Ashes – (burned and saved) exhibit in the solo gallery space at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum runs through this month, is standing at the site where his home and studio burned this past April. A pile of plastic bags and mottled art works leans against a tree, more charred paper pieces sit on tables and boxes under a series of tarps. He explains how he’s been coming here daily, sorting through what’s remained of his 60-plus year art career, planning new works, and his new home and studio, which insurance requires must be built within two years of the conflagration being covered. Epstein wants to explain how his WAAM show — which juxtaposes calligraphic works on paper with mixed media abstractions, early acrylic paintings and even a self-portrait from his student days up against a dramatic wall of burned works — had several curators beyond himself and Sylvia Leonard Wolf. “The first curating was taken care of the night of the fire,” he says, describing the middle-of-night scene where he and those on hand, including neighbor Dr. Neil Ratner, got what they could out from the blaze. The second curator, Epstein adds, was the fire […]

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  • 08/18/16--15:00: Summer Salon at WFG
  • Seven women artists of the Hudson Valley are featured in the Summer Salon Show at the Woodstock Framing Gallery on Mill Hill Road. A sense of summery brightness — with a dash of dark humor — unites the wide but balanced variety of art that will remain on the walls through October 2. “I love to bring together works that are very different but complement each other,” said gallerist Sneha Kapadia. Instead of keeping each artist’s pieces in a cluster, she skillfully mixes them, putting, for instance, Mariyah Sultan’s lively abstracts beside Anna Contes’ shimmering landscapes, allowing them to correspond and contrast in intriguing ways. “After all,” Kapadia pointed out, “in most people’s homes that’s what it will look like. This is a show I’m going to live with for six to eight weeks, and that’s how I like looking at my art.” What could be more summery than laundry on clotheslines? Paintings by Harriet Livathinos show street scenes from Italy, Barcelona, and Bombay, evoking vacation travel and bright Mediterranean (or Subcontinental) light. The forms of the sharply delineated cityscapes are echoed in some of Sultan’s pieces, with dark rectangles suggesting doors and windows among a chaos of lines reminiscent […]

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  • 08/18/16--16:00: Race, Love, and Labor at CPW
  • When the current exhibit of the Center for Photography at Woodstock’s current artists-in-residence program, “Race, Love, and Labor,” first opened at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Fine Art in 2014, the nightly protest actions in Ferguson, Missouri were but a couple weeks old. Black Lives Matter was still primarily a hashtag, founded in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida a year earlier, and not quite a movement. “It is impossible to separate the history of photography from the history of labor, love, and race in America. A reflective look at the collection shows that a critical function of photography, through a vast range of aesthetics, is the labor of becoming and the work it entails — on the land and within our inner worlds,” wrote exhibit curator Sarah Lewis in a statement for the show’s catalog. “They [these images] function, as Frederick Douglass once reminded us, as images that both record what is and conjure a sense of what could be. What does it mean to work in this lineage? These photographs, each the gift of a moment in time through a unique residency, show us where a future path may lead.” The exhibition — which stays […]

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    The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild is opening its Handmade In The 20th Century: An Ode To Nature & Place exhibition with an opening reception, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, August 20 at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, 36 Tinker Street, Woodstock. The reception will be preceded by an informal discussion with collectors and lenders to the exhibition at 3 p.m. Saturday, August 20 at the Kleinert. The exhibit takes the nature-inspired work done at the early Byrdcliffe Art Colony and relates its influence to the twentieth century. Curated by Sylvia Leonard Wolf, Tina Bromberg, and Karen Walker, it will showcase work by the original denizens of the Byrdcliffe Colony as well as artists and artisans who lived in the Hudson Valley between 1900-1999 including George Ault, George Bellows, Robert Chanler, William Hunt Diederich, Robert Ebendorf, Mary Frank, Milton Glaser, Philip Guston, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Doris Lee, Judy Pfaff, and Carl Walters. There are approximately 200 pieces in the show, including important furniture and ceramics from Byrdcliffe’s permanent collection. Whether functional objects or unique art pieces, the works in the exhibition illustrate a spectrum of accomplishments in both fine art and design from the artist’s colony founded in 1902 by Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, Jane Byrd […]

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    The Woodstock Museum on Bach Road in Saugerties is a “living museum,” says co-founder Nathan Koenig, who along with Shelli Lipton created an environment there that celebrates the Woodstock experience beyond memories of that famous rain-soaked music festival of nearly 40 years ago. A living museum, says Koenig, is about not only the historical artifacts on display (which include a psychedelic bus), but also enhances the culture of a living colony of the arts. In doing its part to contribute to the cultural life of the region, the Woodstock Museum has sponsored an annual film festival every year over Labor Day weekend since 2000. This year, the 17th annual Woodstock Museum Film Festival will expand to fill an entire week, with films shown Tuesday, August 30 through Monday, September 5. Screenings begin at 6:30 p.m. each night, with the exception of the final day — Labor Day — when the first film starts at noon. Admission to any or all of the 38 films in the festival is free (although donations to the nonprofit Woodstock Museum are welcome). There are two theaters showing the films simultaneously — the same film in both theaters at the same time, largely to accommodate […]

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