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).
Those of you who have met us know from the moment we say hello that Susan and I are originally from the South – Georgia to be exact. We came to the Berkshires in the early 90s when I became the director of development for the National Music Foundation, of which Dick Clark was the Chairman of the Board.
In the mid-90s, I had the pleasure of bringing Wynton Marsalis and his Orchestra to the Berkshires and working with them directly.
The concert hall was in a larger building, which had an indoor basketball court. I was driving him down from the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield that afternoon for sound check and mentioned the set up. He said, "you and me, Stan, one-on-one."
We played one-on-one in the afternoon and then his band members joined in. At the intermission of the show, he and his band were playing in their tuxes. After the show, they resumed their game and some people from the audience, who had heard about intermission, went in to watch.
Wynton was in town for a concert at Tanglewood last night and stayed at Hampton Terrace. When I checked him in, he and his band-mates and equipment guy remembered our match immediately. Wynton saw the basketball hoop in the back yard and challenged me to a rematch. Not wanting to embarrass him in front of his band, I politely declined but I did catch him on video making a few great shots.
(To see the video, check out our Facebook page
Next time, Wynton. Next time.
Tanglewood, though fabulous, is not the only music festival in town. Mark your calendars for September 21-23 for the Fresh Grass Bluegrass Festival.
Fresh Grass is in its second year and because if its unique location at Mass MoCa it is able to be much more than just a music festival. There’s the music on multiple stages, but then there’s the exhibits (museum admission is included in your ticket), random pop-up
performances in non-stage areas, workshops for adults and kids, film screenings, moonshine slushies (you read that correctly), late night barn dances, and bands both traditional and hipster-inclined.
Explore links to all of the bands (plenty of videos) on the Mass MoCa website. The weekend’s bands include:
♣ Trampled by Turtles
♣ Carolina Chocolate Drops
♣ Lonesome River Band
♣ Leyla McCalla
♣ Bill Evans
♣ Mamie Minch
And many, many more. Fresh Grass even has its own website, which includes more information about workshops and other events.
For lodging, of course, we suggest Hampton Terrace. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a nap after you try one of those moonshine slushies…
Yo-Yo Ma is not only a world-class musician and probably the most recognizable classical musician of his generation, but he also calls the Berkshires home. It’s not surprise then, that we caught this piece from him in the New York Times.
Interestingly and inspiringly, he claims that his love of Tanglewood and the Berkshires was ignited by a summer he spent here teaching and coaching young musicians. He also extols the virtues of the overall Tanglewood experience, the synergy of music and nature in this beautiful setting.
He also name drops some of his favorite Berkshires locations, including our neighbor, Venfort Hall, and reminds readers that the Berkshires aren’t all about summer, there are things to do here in the winter as well (has he been reading our blog?!).
We also found this handy piece in Vanity Fair, also featuring Yo-Yo and his comments on the Berkshires where “there are more trees than people”. We agree with him, this is a great place to relax!
The Tanglewood 75th anniversary concert on Saturday, 7/14, featuring Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams and other notables (many with homes in the Berkshires), was filmed for CBS' Great Performances, will be aired August 10 – don’t miss it. That show will include a 12-minute video on the history of Tanglewood. It will give you a change to see what the experience of Tanglewood is like for those of you who have never been (without actually having to come and see it…though clearly, we think you should come see it).
These neighborhood notables could choose to live anywhere in the world, but they choose to live here in our Berkshires back yard because of the natural beauty and the cultural synergy. This is a spot on Earth that you need to see in your lifetime. Come stay with us here at Hampton Terrace to experience the magic.
A very cool deal at the Clark Museum for Tanglewood fans – they offer a Tanglewood ticket package.
When you purchase this special package, you get two admissions to the Clark Museum, and two Tanglewood lawn tickets. There are some restrictions as to which Tanglewood shows are eligible for this offer, but they are specified on the website so you can plan ahead.
The Clark is offering fascinating exhibits this summer about Northern China. Unearthed, Recent Archaeological Discoveries from Northern China, runs from now until October 21, Through Shen-kan: Sterling Clark in China runs from now until September 16, and Then and Now: Photographs of Northern China runs from now until September 16.
Unearthed includes many artifacts never allowed outside of China previously, on loan from a variety of Chinese agencies who are generously sharing these precious artifacts with the Clark.
Sterling Clark was, among other things, a founder of the museum (in order to house his extensive art collection) and the Through Shen-kan exhibit chronicles his scientific expedition to Northern China in 1908 and 1909.
Then And Now compares and contrasts the photographs from Sterling Clark’s 1908 trip with modern photographs from 100 years later, captured by Chinese photographer Li Ju.
In addition to these special exhibits, of course, there are also the museum’s permanent collections…what a great way to enjoy two of the Berkshires’ cultural gems.
In researching this year’s Williamstown Theater Festival, we ran across this tasty morsel – the festival blog. From the trials and tribulations of Tyne Daly’s costume furs to “where the heck did they get that giant tree in Blythe Danner’s yard in The Blue Deep”, they bring you the chainsaws, the backstage peeks, prop-making, and opening night fun. Get to know the interns, the actors, the costumers and more – the play beyond the play, the offstage that brings the onstage experience to life.
“A Vacation From the New York Stage” is another WTF-related link that you should check out, a fabulous piece from the Wall Street Journal, accompanies New York stage actor Brooks Ashmanskas to the Williamstown Theatre Festival to see The Importance of Being Earnest. A fun peek into the politics of New York theater and the freedom of working far enough from Broadway to play juicier roles at WTF.
If you’re a Facebook user, they also have a regularly updated Facebook page. Perfect for backstage fun on the go.
Coming up on the WTF* stage - The full cast has just been announced for their upcoming production of Ivan Turgenev’s A Month In The Country. The show runs from August 1 to August 19.
Lots to do at WTF this season and lots of fun to be had before you even get there. You’ll feel like a part of the company before you arrive – have at it!
*Let's just get it out there: that's a funny acronym.
Susan and I went to see James Taylor at Tanglewood last night. We’ve seen JT at least 15 times and this was the best performance we’ve ever seen for a lot of reasons.
First, he had an all-star band backing him up (picrure 1 below). There were huge names all over the stage.
Second, he seemed more animated than usual. He always puts on a great show, but this felt special. You could tell. Is it that this is Tanglewood’s 75th anniversary season? I don’t know but there was something exciting in the air last night.
And, the fact that Taylor Swift just dropped in out of nowhere as a guest, indicated to us that this was being filmed. It was pretty obvious that people were going to see this again.
James Taylor has a special connection to Tanglewood. Not only does he live right here in Lenox, but his wife Kim was the marketing director at Tanglewood for years.
Speaking of Kim, she joined him on stage last night for a song, as did his twin sons, Rufus and Henry (picture 4 below).
Between the regular show and the encores, he invited everyone to come on down. Susan and I worked our way down and ended up about six feet from the stage (picture 3 below). Check out the Berkshire Eagle review of the show for more info and some additional pictures.
JT is also performing tonight and tomorrow night. It's beautiful weather for a show on the lawn (picture 2 below). They haven’t announced the special guest but we’re sure it’s going to be special.
Are you in the mood for some biking, hiking, canoeing, some adventures, a taste of theBerkshire outdoors? Then you should get to know Jim Czarnecki of Taking Shape. Jim is an outdoor fitness enthusiast and guided tours expert and he’s just the guy to show you the Berkshires’ natural beauty.
Jim is fresh from leading a tour of the Ashuwilliticook Rail Trail with members of the UK press, who were delighted with their two hour bike trip.
This group tour had been organized by the office of Discover New England (DNE) and it was what is called a familiarization (FAM) tour. A FAM tour is typically press people, travel agents, or tour operators who come over to familiarize themselves to the area in hopes of promoting it to certain audiences or industries. The theme of this group press familiarization tour was culinary and outdoor adventure. The six press people were looking to familiarize themselves with NE, so they could go back to the UK and write about it in their daily newspaper, travel publication, or travel website that they work for.
One of the 6 press people cancelled at the last minute because of food poisoning (ah, the hazards of traveling), but the other 5 came, along with their DNE escort, Joanna Thomas. Josephine Austin toured with them - writer for Selling Long Haul, the only monthly publication dedicated to the coverage of long haul travel from the UK. It’s distributed to every retail Travel Agent and Tour Operator in the UK, along with other individuals in the travel industry. Jacqueline Thake also joined the tour, she’s a writer for the Sunday Mirror – a weekly that’s also the national Sunday paper. Richard Hartley-Parkinson - writer for TravelMail - a news website at dailymail.co.uk was on board as well, as was Simon Hill - writer for the Express & Star - published Monday-Saturday, a paid for newspaper mainly distributed in the West Midlands area in England.
You too, could benefit from Jim’s fitness expertise and knowledge of the natural Berkshires. He can be reached through his website or by phone at (413) 281-7671…and you can find him featured in the Berkshire Eagle’s “Big Deals”.
Jim also leads winter sports excursions so if cross country skiing and snowshoeing are more your idea of fun, book ahead with him to enjoy our region in the winter!