If you are one of those that drives around the neighborhood to find the houses with the best glitz and cheer of the holiday season, you don’t want to miss the Berkshire Museum’s Festival of Trees.
This year’s Festival of Trees is the 28th annual, and it runs all the way from now until January 2nd. Over 100 holiday trees are featured and decorated under the theme “Myths & Magic”. The Berkshire Museum’s galleries are graced with these guest trees, installed as a fundraiser for the Museum. Businesses, schools, and community organizations sponsor the trees.
Admission to the museum gains you access to both the trees and the museum itself. Admission for adults is $13 and for children it is $6. Children aged three and under, and museum members, get in for free.
The trees themselves are not the only highlight during the Festival’s duration. Friday, Novermber 30th brings the Pittsfield tree lighting ceremony. Half price admission to the museum is available from 5-8pm that evening, and traditional songs and carols will lead up to the lighting of the official Pittsfield tree.
Saturday December 1st brings the jolly old elf himself to the museum, and December 8th offers a day of fun activities including a cookie baking contest and a performance of holiday carols sung by the talented Taconic High School Honors Chorus.
For a very traditional type of holiday experience, the Little Cinema is offering The Nutcracker from Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet on December 16th and 18th and the Nutcracker from London’s Royal Ballet on December 23rd.
So many beautiful ways to enjoy this beautiful season in the Berkshires. Make sure to book your rooms ahead of time so you aren't scrambling at the last minute.
Mark your calendars, travelers: December 7th through 9th, the 2nd Annual Lenox Caroling Festival graces our beautiful town of Lenox yet again. Last year’s inaugural festival was a delight.
The Caroling Festival competition fills Lenox’s streets, outdoors, with the glorious sounds of caroling ensembles. Ensembles are assigned to their own outdoor venue, where they sing a brief program of seasonal songs. There are judges for the competition but their votes are only weighted at 50%. The remainder of the determination is made by popular vote. Ballots are available at each outdoor venue, and are turned in at participating retail locations. Festive dress is encouraged – for both carolers and spectators.
The festival is accompanied by other seasonal events, including the Festival’s Opening Reception at our dear neighbor, Venfort Hall. From 6 to 8:30pm, attendees will enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, and music from last year’s second-place ensemble, the MCLA Allegrettos. Tickets for this elegant event are $16 Single; $30 Couple, with an advance RSVP or $20 Single; $35 Couple, day of. Venfort Hall is also the host of the festival after party, Dancin’ At The Mansion.
You will also be able to catch The Santaland Diaries, at Shakespeare & Co. on this special weekend, enjoy holiday menus and entertainment at Lenox restaurants, and you won’t want to miss the 8th Annual Gingerbread festival…we’ll post more on these additional events as the time nears.
On November 10, take a sonic journey at Mass MoCA. Because the Berkshires are more than just spectacular views…
Alsarah and the Nubatones bring their brand of Nubian (North Sudanese) music to the Berkshires. Alsarah is a Sudanese-born singer, songwriter and ethnomusicologist. She spent the first 8 years of her life in Sudan, but was forced to move to Yemen to escape the difficult political climate of their country. Unfortunately they were later uprooted from this new home, by yet more political unrest. This was 1994, and they came to settle in the United States. Alsarah started her musical training at the age of 12. She attended the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter High School, in Hadley, MA, and Wesleyan University studying Music.
Her music is eclectic, like her collection of many different home countries. You can get a taste of it here or at her website. Mass MoCA says “They blend a selection of Nubian ’songs of return’ from the 1970s to today with original, Western soul-inspired material and vintage Sudanese pop".
Tickets are $12 in advance or $16 day of, $10 for students – and members get a 10% discount (perhaps regular Berkshires visitors should consider a membership?).
An appropriately creepy theatre event in this October month: A live reading of Frankenstein, at Shakespeare & Co, right here in Lenox. The evening of October 31st, three actors will bring a monster to life before your eyes. The reading takes place in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre at 7:30 on October 31st. Tickets are general admission, $15 for adults, $5 for kids.
Frankenstein is a classic precisely because it transcends any superficial horror. Modern “horror” films gloss over the moral churning of the type that consumes Victor Frankenstein, in the wake of his creation’s debut. The elation of a creator at the moment of creation is quickly subsumed by his doubts, worries and suspicions. And the psychological power struggle between the creator and the creation are the stuff, indeed, of classics.
Shakespeare & Co.’s adaptation promises to take you on a classic journey filled with suspense, twists, and terror that will make your Halloween oh-so Halloweeny.
Some Fall fun for you from the Food Network – heads up, you’re going to need an apple corer (or some hard cider to keep you company while you do all the coring by hand). Not the cooking type? Well you’re in luck because Apple Cider Donuts are “in season” right now in the Berkshires. We can point you in the right direction when you get here.
2 red apples, such as Cortland or McIntosh
2 1/2 cups apple cider
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Vegetable oil, for frying
Core and coarsely chop the apples (do not peel). Combine with 1 1/2 cups cider in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cover and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the apples are tender and the cider is almost completely reduced, about 5 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth. Measure the sauce; you should have 1 cup. (Boil to reduce further, if necessary.) Let cool slightly.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
Beat 2/3 cup granulated sugar and the shortening in another bowl with a mixer on medium speed until sandy. Beat in the egg and yolk, then gradually mix in the applesauce, scraping the bowl. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk and vanilla, and then the remaining flour mixture. Mix to make a sticky dough; do not overmix.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper and pat into a 7-by-11-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: Simmer the remaining 1 cup cider in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup. Whisk in the confectioners' sugar until smooth and glossy, then set aside. Mix the remaining 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a shallow bowl; set aside for the topping.
Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cut the chilled dough into 12 rounds, using a floured 2 1/2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter, then cut out the middles with a 1-inch cutter (or use a doughnut cutter). Slip 2 or 3 doughnuts at a time into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side, adjusting the heat as needed. Transfer to the paper towels to drain.
Dip one side of each doughnut in the cider glaze, letting the excess drip off; dip just the glazed side in the cinnamon-sugar or roll all over in cinnamon-sugar, if desired. Serve warm.
New England is the region that defines the American version of Fall. The air crisps, the leaves change, the breeze practically takes on the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin. Farms bulge
with the fruits of the fall, apples, corn, pumpkins and gourds, pies fill the oven, and children (and grownups) plot their spooky costumes - making sure to think ahead about how to fit tights and warm gloves into their Halloween fashions. All over New England, right now, the tips of the branches are smoldering with color.
Fall is an amazing time to experience New England as a visitor. Plucking an apple fresh from the tree to eat on the spot is a sweet privilege of the season. Enjoying those last warm days before glorious snow covers the Berkshires (and tempts you back for another visit) with friends, or with someone special is like nothing else. And – do you remember those breathtaking Berkshires views? Imagine them in fall, aglow with the foliage of the season.
If you’re planning a visit to Lenox for Fall, you will want to make sure you add a local orchard or farm to your list of destinations. Here’s a great list from Berkshires.org. Berkshire Mountain Distillers has the fine spirits you need to “spice up” a local, fresh cider and an evening’s conversation. And Hampton Terrace has the cozy ambiance to wrap up your Fall travel package perfectly.
Fall is also a perfect season to hit the Berkshires roads either by foot or by automobile, before the chillier moods of winter start to make ski lodges seem like the place to be. Check out this list of Scenic Day Trips that will take you touring along great roadways and exploring the Taconic-Mohawk trail, in the steps of the Berkshires’ indigenous cultures.
So much to do, so much to see – and we’ll have a room ready for you!
An activity that’s great for any of the Berkshires’ four seasons: Gallery-hopping.
The Berkshires are home to an abundance of artists of a variety of media. The galleries give their work a home, and are a rich treasure trove for collectors as well as more casual buyers.These include the WIT Gallery, the Church Street Art Gallery, Devries Fine Art Inc., the Lenox Gallery of Fine Art, and the Sienna Gallery all right here in Lenox.
Here is an excellent list of additional galleries to expand your gallery tour. They carry works by smaller, local artists, by internationally recognized creators like Dale Chihuly and everything in between. Here is a supplemental list/additional source…and here are some suggestions and reviews by Travel and Leisure Magazine.
The Berkshire Visual Arts website also offers a substantial list of artists who call the Berkshires home, offering information about the artists and their work. Explore the works of Peter Dudek, multi-media architectural sculptor, the allegorical 2-dimensional pieces by Walton Ford, and whimsical upcycler Danny O’s menagerie of creations.
Visit these sites to get a feel for which galleries and artists may be most of interest to you, make a list, and begin your journey.
I used to go to my grandparents' house all the time and play the piano – the 1929 Steinway – that was my grandmother's piano. She knew how much I loved the piano and understood its place in history, so she bequeathed it to me when she died.
My grandmother, Rosalyn Elkan, was an opera major at Indiana State and moved to Macon, Georgia upon her marriage to my grandfather. For more than three quarters of a century, she was the unquestioned Grand Dame of classical music in Macon.
She received the piano as a wedding present from her father-in-law, Eli Elkan in 1929.
When she arrived in Macon, it was a relative backwater. In 1937, she founded the Macon Concert Association, and she started presenting concerts at Wesleyan Conservatory (incidentally, the oldest women's college in the country). In addition to her work with the Concert Association, she also was in charge of the auditions for the Metropolitan Opera in Atlanta every year. Eventually, she ended up on the national board of the Metropolitan Opera in NY.
Through the years, she became very friendly with all the classical music and opera stars of her era. Back in those days, these artists would travel by train or car. They would play in Atlanta and then she would convince them they should play Macon as they headed to Florida and elsewhere.
She attracted to the stage in her town, names that were ordinarily way too big for Macon, but her connections got them there. Most of them would stay at her house. If they stayed in a local hotel, at the very least, she would have a reception for the artist in her home. Over the years, the list of visitors to her home included every major Metropolitan Opera and classical
star including Robert Merrill, Claudio Arrau, Marilyn Horne, Roberta Peters, Jerome Hines, Artur Rubenstein, Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Richard Tucker, Emanuel Ax, as well as conductors like Robert Shaw and Arthur Fiedler.
I met many of these artists and in fact I came upon Arthur Fiedler in her kitchen one day – eating sardines out of a can. I also watched a Yankees game with Emanuel Ax in her bedroom. Jerome Hines wrote an opera on this piano. He spent a couple of weeks sequestered in Macon, writing the piece.
Many of these artists signed the pin block of the piano.
Yet others signed performance programs for me:
• Lenus Carlson, baritone, with Linda Jones at the piano, 1976
• Van Cliburn, 1976
• Robert Shaw, conductor, with Lillian Kallir, pianist, 1968
• Arthur Gold & Robert Fizdale, pianists, 1969
• John Williams, August 2011
Last summer, Jerry Williams and his wife Shirley stayed with us at the inn for a week. His brother, the legendary John Williams, dropped in a couple of times to visit. On one of those occasions, he played the piano. Jerry recounted to John the many stories of the piano.
Jerry and I were in agreement that, without documentation, the legacy of this piano would be lost in a generation or two. For example, short of a signature on the pin block, there was no way of knowing that John Williams had played the piano. A week later, a letter arrived from John Williams, who also acknowledged the importance of documenting the legacy of the piano.
The Steinway is in perfect condition, and even more than a notable piano, it’s an important family heirloom. My grandmother left it to me, knowing that I would fully appreciate its importance and keep it maintained appropriately – and it will be passed down through generations with all of those names on the pin-block, names on the programs, and the documentation of its unique clientele.
According to a tidbit we caught in the Boston Globe, Lord Julian Fellowes, creator of the PBS series "Downton Abbey", English actor and writer of the screenplay for "Gosford
Park," will be honored at the Nov. 3 Edith Wharton gala at the Harvard Club of Boston. 2012 is the year of Edith Wharton’s 150th birthday. It’s probably not too much of a stretch to guess that
Fellowes is a Wharton admirer. He will be presented with the Edith Wharton 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award. Past recipients include Martin Scorsese, Eudora Welty, and Alice Munro.
And here’s another Wharton-commemorative event as her 150th birthday year moves toward a close: the Berkshire WordFest 2012. WordFest is “a biennial celebration of words and ideas in one of the most beautiful settings in the Berkshires. Organized by The Mount, WordFest brings together acclaimed writers and passionate readers for talks, readings, conversations, and discovery”. This coming weekend, September 14 though 16, Wharton’s literary legacy will be honored with this meeting of the wordy minds. Included among the participants:
This year's participants, among others, will include:
• Harold Augenbraum
• John Berendt
• Kate Bolick
• Alexander Chee
• Adam Gopnik
• Angeline Goreau
• Francine du Plessix Gray
• Heidi Julavits
• Alison Larkin
• Mary Morris
• Suketu Mehta
• Claire Messud
• Nancy Novogrod
• Matthew Pearl
• Roxana Robinson
• Mary Jo Salter
• Jonathan Santlofer
• Elissa Schappell
• Dani Shapiro
• Noreen Tomassi
Enjoy this collection of classic quotes from the birthday gal...
A little publication called the New York Times named the Berkshires’ own Berkshire Mountain Distillers’ Greylock Gin #1. They’re not the only critics who have rained praise upon the spirit - Wine Enthusiast gives Greylock Gin 91 points. Last October, the Washington Post also ran a story calling BMD's gins their "new
favorite... in American gins". Maxim also dubbed the BMD rum their favorite (guess they’re not martini drinkers), and GQ also cited their rum in a January story on being a "liquor locavore".
Berkshire Mountain Distillers are now reaching creatively beyond their own corporate borders to collaborate with Sam Adams on a project destined to intrigue the tastebuds: They are distilling Samuel Adams Boston Lager into a brand new whiskey.
Casual whiskey drinkers may not realize that whiskey is a spirit that is distilled from beer. Normally, that beer is nothing special until it is aged whiskeyward. In this particular case, they are starting with a far more palatable beer, and after it ages for a minimum of two years, it will be interesting to see what is brought forth from the parent beer. We are fully anticipating a world-class result.
Berkshire Mountain Distillers are the also the creators of Ethereal Gin, a family of botanical spirits sure to complete your Berkshires experience with classic cocktail-hour style.
There are three members of the Ethereal Gin family, each a gin-lovers dream: Batch 5, Batch 6 and Batch 7. Batch 5 showcases a blend of flowers and spice, with notes of violet, honeysuckle, citrus and vanilla layered over cinnamon, clove and grains of paradise. Batch 6 pairs citrus and berries for a botanical blend of rosehips, elderberry, blueberry and lime peel. Batch 7 is a bold, brave standalone that also perks up a classic cocktail. Lemon peel, elderberry and rosehips are the opening act for a peppery finish.
Berkshire Mountain Distillers create more than just Ethereal Gin, however, they also craft Greylock Gin, Ice Glen Vodka, Ragged Mountain Rum, Berkshire Bourbon and New England Corn Whiskey.
You can visit the Berkshire Mountain Distillers website to learn more, or catch up with them on Facebook or Twitter (@BerkshireMtDist).