The Guidonian Hand trombone quartet was with us for a week-long retreat in early February. Their project was to record music they had commissioned and/or premiered over the past several years. Three intense long days saw them “lay down” all the material in the beautiful acoustical space of the old Saranac Methodist church. The editing and mixing is being done in NYC and we hope to have a thrilling CD release party for the guys in the fall at the Fire Hall!
The Hand gave a concert at the church to wind up their residency – a terrific program that juxtaposed art music of the past (Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Debussy) with contemporary works of living composers (Galen Brown, Jeremy Howard Beck, Conrad Winslow). In lieu of printed notes, the quartet members spoke engagingly about the various works – especially helpful with the new music, but there was some interesting nugget about even the old classics. Elegant speaking, exciting music, excellent virtuosic playing! They brought the house down, albeit a slim house due to snowy roads.
The superb violist Patricia McCarty found an excellent partner in pianist Cary Lewis for a duo recital at the historic Methodist Church in Saranac on November 16. Such accomplished and inspired playing – both individual and ensemble – is not an everyday occurrence in our neck o’ the woods. More than a particular in-the-moment chemistry between McCarty and Lewis, they clearly had spent a good deal of time in thoughtful rehearsal to arrive at a performance in which their interpretations were so transparent and well paced.
A meaty program opened with Sonata No. 3 in G Minor of J. S. Bach. Next came the charming Romance in F, Op. 50 of Beethoven followed by Sonata in E-flat, Op. 120, No. 2 of Brahms. After intermission the second half was given entirely to an exciting and beautiful contemporary work by American composer David Avshalomov: Torn Curtain, Suite for Viola and Pianoforte (1990-91). Torn Curtain was inspired by the disintegration of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and features themes and rhythms redolent of Russian, Roumanian, Czech, and Hungarian folk music. The audience begged for an encore and Ms. McCarty complied with a meltingly gorgeous rendering of Ravel’s Pièce en forme de Habanera. In every respect this Sunday afternoon concert was a deeply satisfying musical experience.
Did you know that our neighborhood is called Little Siberia by the locals? Yep, we’ve got “Russia Hill” by High Falls on Route 3 and the “Siberian Rod & Gun Club on Dannemora Mountain! Russian Duo offered one of their signature performances to about 100 rapt listeners. Native Siberian Balalaika artist Oleg Kruglyakov simply has this music in his blood, his being. His sense of timing and rubato, his overall musical gesture, is the real deal. His singing of Russian songs completely drew us into his world – at one point he had the audience clapping along unabashedly, deliriously. Formidable pianist Terry Boyarsky is a sensitive and worthy music partner, offering complete support and musical context, yet always allowing the balalaika to shine. What with the changeable weather, we had been concerned about the piano staying in tune, but Terry said not to worry – the balalaika is never in tune! Part of it’s charm.
It was a fantastic action-packed week with the Allant Trio! Pianist Beth Nam, violinist Anna Park, and cellist Alina Lim experienced Adirondack living at its finest and fullest. One glorious afternoon Andy Sajor took us sailing on Lake Champlain. The breeze was gentle and we dove off the boat for a refreshing swim in Cumberland Bay – they were amazed at how pristine the water was. A few days later we attended Thornton’s annual pig roast, one of Saranac’s most anticipated social events of the summer. The spread was plentiful and they sampled succulent smoke-roasted pork and salmon and an array of sides and salads, and washed it all down with a brew!
Each day the trio rehearsed morning and evening in preparation for their recording session with Joel Hurd of North Country Public Radio, as well as for the community concert. They succeeded in “laying down” Haydn’s “Gypsy” Trio and Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, as well as mapping out the complex editing– all extremely demanding work. The culminating concert at the church, free and open to the public, included both the Haydn and Mendelssohn trios, as well as the rising young Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy’s Give Me Phoenix Wings to Fly. We were pleased with the turnout: 125 attended and we ran out of programs. The audience recognized the special talent, energy, and cohesion of the Allant Trio and rewarded them with an overwhelming standing ovation. We can’t wait for their new CD to be released and they can’t wait to come back again to the North Country!
The Rocky Hill Ramblers gave a pair of really fun shows July 11 and 13 at the Saranac Fire Hall. Folks do seem to enjoy the laid-back, sorta-scruffy atmosphere of this man-cave. The three-piece band was oh-so-much more than the sum of its parts, with Andrew O’Connor on guitar and vocals, Jennifer Hayden (Kellum’s daughter!) on fiddle and vocals (some delicious vocal harmonies going on there), and Steve Hayden (Kellum’s son-in-law!) on bass and guitars. Steve is a tremendous player, whose modest and nonchalant style subtly energize the Ramblers’ style. Their program was a sweet little stroll down Memory Lane with 60s and 70s folk and rock, country and blues, plus some ancient traditional English and Irish songs. A couple of Andrew’s originals were warmly received as well. Many friends commented on Jennifer’s banter in between songs – her informative and witty (frequently irreverent) remarks are definitely part of the act!
After two recent high-profile triumphs in New York City, the Lavrova-Primakov Piano Duo conquered Saranac! They came on a retreat with South African composer Braam van Eden to prepare several of his new works for performance and later recording. Being a trained classical pianist himself, van Eeden’s writing is idiomatic, fully exploiting the instrument’s sound palette and power. His compositions are grand, colorful, and expansive in a manner reminiscent of Franz Liszt. One of the works, Allegory, was dedicated to Hill and Hollow Music and received its world premiere – terribly exciting for us! A theme and variations, it was based on a melody by Tchaikovsky. The program followed a Russian theme mainly, the Duo also performing Arensky and Rachmaninoff.
Making the event even more special, the artists wore the most elaborate and glamorous costumes that have ever been seen north of Albany – the creations of NYC designer Madeline Gruen, a recent graduate of Pratt Institute, whose senior collection received the Liz Claiborne Award – and they changed costumes after intermission! A couple days before the concert, the Duo and Braam had given a live hour-long performance and interview on Walter Parker’s show on Vermont Public Radio, which surely helped bring in a full house. The enthusiastic audience generously rewarded the musicians with several standing ovations.
Bonfiglio Trio performance at the Saranac Fire Hall; photo by Gabe Dickens, courtesy Press-Republican
Harmonica virtuoso extraordinaire Robert Bonfiglio is a TOWERING artist and a grand showman in the classic tradition. Supported by Steve Benson on guitar and Joe Deninzon on violin, mandolin, and vocals, The Bonfiglio Trio gave two memorable performances May 24-25, each tailored to the particular venue and audience: Saturday night at the Saranac Fire Hall, packed to capacity with an animated hip crowd, rocked the rafters; Sunday afternoon at the Methodist Church, while not exactly worshipful, was just a wee trifle more tame. But there were some poignant, reflective interludes in both well-paced shows. A rollicking good time was had by all, not soon to be forgotten.
- George and Elizabeth Cordes
We were delighted to present George and Elizabeth Cordes on Sunday April 13 at the Saranac “Church in the Hollow” in a collaborative concert with High-Peaks Opera, their organization in the Tri-Lakes region. They were joined on-stage by cellist Jonathan Tortolano and pianist William Tortolano in a fascinating program, in which even the instrumental numbers were derived from opera or literary sources.
Highlights were the rarely heard baritone arias “True is All Iagoo Tells Us” from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s cantata-trilogy The Song of Hiawatha, based on Longfellow’s epic poem, and the “Stranger’s Song” from Lukas Foss’s one-act opera The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, after the short story by Mark Twain. Another standout was Beethoven’s Seven Variations in E-Flat, for cello and piano, on a theme from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Other high points included “Tristesse de Dulcinée” for cello and piano from Massenet’s Don Quichotte, King Philip’s aria “Ella giammai m’am” from Verdi’s Don Carlo, and Billy’s “Soliloquy” from Richard Rodgers’ Carousel.
Spring cannot be far off. We just brought home a dozen baby chicks from our general store and set them up in the garage in a cozy cardboard box fitted out with layers of newspaper, a mini-feeding trough and water fountain. They scurry about, peeping loudly and pecking the walls of the box. Then suddenly exhausted, they fall asleep in a huddle under the warm-spot of a light bulb. We will graduate them to larger boxes as they grow, placing a few dowels to satisfy their instinct to roost. As soon as it warms up enough, we will transfer them to a large indoor/outdoor pen at the barn. By August these cute Rhode Island Red pullets will begin to lay their lovely brown eggs. When we are convinced that they have learned to use the laying boxes, we will to reward them with true “free-range” privileges!
We are reminded of one of Soovin Kim’s residencies. The timing worked out so that he and his ensemble-mates were able to witness the hatching of a clutch of eggs we had incubated in our kitchen pantry. It was a revelation for those urban musicians: first to hear the chicks peeping while still encased within the eggshell; then to watch them peck themselves out to freedom – sometimes falling asleep in exhaustion before the job was done. To behold such a miracle is a perk of a rural retreat with Hill and Hollow Music!
We are launched into a new cycle of artist residencies and concerts, thanks to a generous response to our recent appeal. Now with a positive cash-flow again, exciting plans are in the works! But also with an eye toward long-term financial stability, we committed an amount equal to half of those contributions to the “Hill and Hollow Music Fund,”our endowment at the Adirondack Foundation. We established our fund in 2006 and add to it whenever possible. It is quietly growing and we are able to draw grants from the interest, if needed.
You are invited to browse the Adirondack Foundation’s interesting website, where we have our own page with a description and history of our activities. It a great opportunity for us to become more widely known in the region. Click on the following link and learn more: https://www.generousact.org/funds/hill-and-hollow-music-fund
On a recent Saturday evening in late November, snow swirling wildy outdoors, Russian Duo lived up to their reputation as an ensemble of “explosive talent (Hartford Advocate). Oleg Kruglyakov, a balalaika virtuoso from Siberia, and Terry Boyarsky, an American concert pianist of Russian-Jewish heritage, performed to a rapt audience at the Saranac Methodist Church. Their artistic collaboration, born from a shared love of traditional folk culture and classical elegance, has led them to create captivating programs that feature Russian folk music, lyrical romances, rhythmic dances, classical music favorites, gypsy melodies, and Russian popular songs. The sheer variety of music is astonishing as they express the full range of human emotions – alternately soulful and humorous, restrained and vigorous, mischievous and passionate – and guide their listeners on a fascinating journey across the span of Russian culture through the ages.