Plein Air Performance at Weatherwatch Farm

The blended sonorities of Patti McCarty’s lush dark viola and Bill Zito’s crystalline ringing guitar are gorgeous!  They have been playing together for a couple of years and have achieved an intense musical rapport.  Perched together quite snug on an elevated platform under the tent, they were nicely visible to the crowd that spilled onto the lawn at Weatherwatch Farm. And the afternoon was glorious! Safe practices were followed, with all wearing masks and maintaining distance.

The duo’s program was a thoughtful and excellent selection of periods and moods, starting with Locatelli and Paganini sonatas.  Of particular interest was a newly discovered work attributed to Beethoven and a premiere of a work composed for the duo by John Hawkins. And what’s not to love about the Spanish flavors of Ravel, Ibert, and Albeniz!  Light refreshments were served under the big shade tree following the music.  Folks explored the gardens and ultimately peeled off, having enjoyed a rare social gathering during the “Summer of Covid.”

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Blazing New Grooves: Trad Music meets Jazz!

We were very happy to be invited to participate in “Curbside at Harborside,” the eclectic drive-in concert series curated by Benjamin Pomerance. An empty parking lot behind the train station becomes a happening place every Saturday night throughout the COVID-19 Summer of 2020.  Our event featuring the superb champion fiddler Gretchen Koehler, paired with jazz pianist Daniel Kelley, was the perfect choice for a lively outdoor concert. The duo blends the raw energy of traditional fiddle and dance music with the nuanced lyricism and irresistible rhythms of jazz piano to create a unique soundscape.

Gretchen Koehler and Daniel Kelly perform at the drive-in concert series in downtown Plattsburgh

Conceived to be a safe, socially distant way to enjoy live music, vehicles are parked in every other space.  From inside their cars audience may tune in to 95.3 FM radio to hear the concert broadcast. Alternately, they may sit outside their cars to hear the music coming directly from loudspeakers onstage. About 35-40 cars turned up, most with two or more occupants; we figure around 100± attended the event. Audience showed their appreciation by honking their car horns liberally and loudly after each number.  Gretchen and Daniel had never experienced anything quite like it, but said that they really felt the love! All in all, a different sort of experience, but wonderful!

Gretchen Koehler, Daniel Kelly, and sound engineer Russell Feher
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Everyone Has a Front Row Seat with Concert Stream

We have been heartbroken having to cancel one concert after another, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, not just for our personal deprivation of live music performance, but especially for the musicians whose work and livelihoods have all but disappeared. We have great news at last! 

We partnered with Mountain Lake PBS to film and subsequently stream online our June 7 concert. David Krakauer and Kathleen Tagg performed their signature program “Breath and Hammer Acoustic” in our #1 venue, the historic Methodist Church in Saranac. Streamed on both Facebook and Youtube, the concert has had more than 3,300 views – and we’re still counting!

The 70-minute program is a passionate, eclectic musical journey that pushes beyond the boundaries of the traditional clarinet and piano duo, with works such as Debussy’s “Première Rhapsodie,” John Zorn’s “Parzial,” Kinan Azmeh’s “November 22,” Johnny Green’s American Songbook classic “Body and Soul,” as well as traditional klezmer tunes and original compositions by Krakauer and Tagg.

For an exciting opportunity to see the pair’s unorthodox playing styles unplugged and totally acoustic at close quarters, access “Breath & Hammer Acoustic” by just a simple CLICK HERE

Kathleen Tagg & David Krakauer

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CD Launch Party Rocks

We drew an SRO crowd for the French-Canadian traditional music duo Nicolas Babineau and Alexis Chartrand. This was a celebration held at the Saranac Fire Hall to launch their new recording and it was a great big fun event! Titled “un beau p’tit son” (translation: “a beautiful little sound”), the album was developed and recorded during two residencies at Hill and Hollow Music during 2019. Their first recording “Gigues à deux faces” was nominated Best Traditional Album at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, and we expect that this new album will also be well received. The guys played wonderfully and Mélissandre Tremblay-Bourassa danced up a storm. It was a dynamic and utterly charming performance. Towards the end of the show Mélissandre came down off the stage to lead some dances – she actually got the crowd up and out of their seats to participate– the place rocked!

un beau p’tit son, the new release by Nicolas Babineau and Alexis Chartrand
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At the Peak of their Powers

There is something to be said about musical maturity and the way that a lifetime of experience deepens one’s perceptions and expressions. Arturo Delmoni, Patricia McCarty, Julia Lichten, and David Geber are four superb musicians of a “certain age” who have lived and loved abundantly, who have worked very hard for many years, basked in glories, suffered losses, and endured the mundane. They bring it all to their music, and that is what made their Hill and Hollow Music performance so rich and profoundly satisfying, the glow of which was burnished by their warm friendship and mutual respect.

warm Arturo Delmoni, violin; Patricia McCarty, viola; Julia Lichten & David Geber, cellos

This is not an ensemble of musicians who play together regularly, but rather four friends who came together expressly for a special occasion. They drew a large crowd who demonstrated lavish appreciation after each work. The first half of the program was Beethoven’s String Trio in G major, Op. 9, No. 1 and Jean Francaix’s String Trio in C major. Opening the second half was the North American premiere of Seven into Eight by the British composer John Hawkins. Finally we heard Anton Arensky’s monumental String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 3 – probably the most significant work written for the uncustomary ensemble of a single violin, viola and two celli.

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The Vernal Vera Quartet

The accomplished young Vera Quartet are truly in the springtime of their career. Visiting Saranac for the first time on September 29, they offered a terrific program, starting with Haydn’s Opus 76 in G Major and followed by the Ravel Quartet in F Major. On paper, the second half appeared a little sketchy: four individual movements from four quartets by Schubert, Schnittke, Auerbach, and Beethoven – what was up with that? Apparently it was required repertoire for a competition they had recently participated in, and they discovered that it hung together startlingly well. It was successful, too, for our audience in that it offered great variety – instead of only three composers, we heard six! 

Pedro Rodriguez, Ines Molares, Justin Goldsmith, Rebecca Anderson

The Veras spent a day in the Peru Central School District, conducting workshops with middle and high school string students. The students were fabulously receptive to the quartet, eager to listen and learn. The intensive school day concluded with a live performance and Q & A by the Vera Quartet, which the beginning string students from the intermediate school were invited to attend, along with the older students. It was very cool to be a string player that day and be released from other classes!

The Vera Quartet then hit the road back to Philadelphia, where they are currently quartet-in-residence at the Curtis Institute, as well as under the wing of Astral Artists, whose competition they won in 2018.  Undoubtedly we will hear more from this exciting young quartet, as they are sure soon to be in demand on concert series everywhere.

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25th Season Launched with Gala Celebration!

Over 200 attended the b-b-b-Big Bash on Saturday, August 10th at Weatherwatch Farm. There was a dramatic moment at the outset, when a squall roared through, sweeping tablecloths off the tables and overturning the flower vases, jeezum crow! All rallied to hang sidewalls around the tent, as quick as you could say “Jack Robinson.” Then sun came out, and the party began in earnest!

Inora Brass played for an extended happy hour while folks chatted with friends, strolled the grounds, bid on cool stuff in the silent auction, and bought raffle tickets for various gift cards. It did not take long for 100 bottles of wine to disappear in the wine pull. We dined well on smokey BBQ by Joe Lewis, with special treats provided by Louise Laplante, Josh Vaillancourt, Jerry Rambach, and Wayne LaPier. Steve Martin called the live auction during dessert. Finally, as dark descended, Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble came onstage to play, and we danced the night away……

Big heartfelt thanks go out to all who attended and participated in the fund-raising games, as well as to those who sent donations in lieu of attending. Deep appreciation, too, for the generosity of our sponsors. We had 100% participation by our board, plus numerous volunteers working the event. Together it all added up to a major success. Thank you all so very much!

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A Stunning Strand of Baroque Pearls!

“Perfectly imperfect.” Totally intriguing.” “Most luxuriant.” “The natural beauty of baroque pearls is derived from their superb luster and irregular, yet beautiful silhouettes. The unique, organic shapes of these exquisite pearls make them a constant marvel to behold, each jewel a conversation piece.”

The above description might also apply to the recent concert by Ensemble Caprice. At first glance the program might have seemed to be a list of familiar composers and a hodgepodge of short works strung together. But what a magnificent string of pearls! The program was actually conceived to tell a series of stories – rather intimate love stories – wherein each (there were eight) told about an aspect of or an event in the relationship of the composer and his lady-love or muse. And there was a common thread linking the stories – that of eternal love transcending time and space.

The eloquent spoken introductions of Matthias Maute and his poetic gestures with red roses set the stage for a most compelling musical drama, brought to life by Matthias Maute and Sophie Larivière on recorders, Susie Napper on baroque cello, and Ziya Tabassian on a variety of percussion instruments. Each artist a superb virtuoso soloist in his and her own right, playing together in a tight-knit ensemble and totally in the moment, proved that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. And now we know firsthand why Ensemble Caprice is considered one of the pre-eminent early music ensembles of our time. It was an stunning performance!

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Sizzle and Spice with Ray Vega Latin Jazz Sextet

The joint was jumpin’ with two excellent shows Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Ray Vega has assembled a first-rate ensemble with some of Vermont’s finest jazz musicians: Brian McCarthy on alto saxophone, Mike Hartigan on piano, Giovanni Rovetto on bass, Caleb Bronz on drums, Scott Dean on congas and percussion, and Vega himself on trumpet, flugelhorn, and percussion. The program was combination of standards and originals by Vega and members of the band.  Vega is a master of engaging banter, too. One standout moment, particularly poignant, was his remembrance of trombonist Rick Davies, a beloved friend, colleague, and member of the greater jazz community who passed two years ago, followed by a performance of one of Rick’s tunes.  Snowy roads kept a lot of folks from venturing out to Saranac, but the intrepid faithful who showed up were wildly enthusiastic and vocal. And yes, there was dancing in the aisles!

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Babineau-Chartrand Duo & Mélissandre: the Reel Deal

And a salute to the hearty North Country community for their pure grit! Snow and ice did not deter a good-sized enthusiastic crowd from coming out for two fabulous concerts by the French-Canadian traditional music duo of Alexis Chartrand and Nicolas Babineau. The musicians put a distinctly contemporary spin on the old tunes – an extravagant array of reels – they collected from Francophone communities in the far reaches of eastern Quebec and the maritime provinces of Canada. Both are virtuoso fiddlers, having started very young with rigorous classical training. Nicolas on guitar was alternately ethereally poetic and fiercely rhythmic, while Alexis tapped out complex driving rhythmic patterns with his feet from pianissimo to fortiss-iss-issimo! Just when you thought he must be exhausted and could do it no longer, Alexis ramped it up even more energetically with hidden reserves of power. Mélissandre Bourassa-Tremblay added a potent visual element with some dynamic step-dancing, heavily influenced by her ballet and modern dance training. Alexis and Nicolas also dared to play some very quiet and slow sustained songs – enticing and captivating the ear with calm and touching interludes – islands of peace in a high-energy kinetic sea.

The duo was with us for a week-long residency. During their first days they hunkered down to work on new arrangements of the repertoire they had recently collected. They are keen to record this new material, their first recording having been nominated “Best Traditional Album” at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. They also spent two days working in schools: with French language classes at the Saranac Middle and High Schools and with grade 4 and 5 music classes at the Saranac Elementary School. An intense busy week!

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