Among the rich offerings of the 2017 Berkshire International Film Festival, one of the most fascinating and important films will be Owsley Brown’s documentary, Serenade for Haiti. The film could be described as an extended visit to the École de Musique Sainte Trinité in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Mr. Brown, who had made other films about music and its role in human society and spirituality, first visited the school in 2006, and was, as he has said, “greatly affected by what [he] found there.”
Every spring for some years now the brilliant Polish actor-director-playwright-poet Omar Sangare has created extraordinary productions at the ‘62 Center for the Performing Arts with his acting students at Williams College, and they keep on getting better. All of them have been highly unusual. There was a double-cast A Streetcar Named Desire: by that I mean that it was performed by two separate casts almost, but not quite simultaneously. Far from an weird distraction, the device emphasized the universality of the play…and gave the many interested student actors a chance to perform.
Off-season musical life is not as thin in the Hudson Valley as it is in the Berkshires, but, whatever the general situation, the Concerts at Camphill Ghent, founded and directed by pianist Gili Melamed-Lev, stand out for their exceptional quality, one month after another. As I have mentioned elsewhere, these concerts, which usually sell out weeks before the concert date, take place in the intimate performing arts hall of Camphill Ghent, a residential community for elders in Chatham, New York. This particular article will offer a preview of the upcoming March concert, which is actually based on an abbreviated version of the program the Lev-Evans Duo played at a house concert in Stockbridge last month, and reviews of two previous concerts at Camphill Ghent.
If advance gossip is any indicator, this year’s Bard Festival, devoted to Giacomo Puccini and his World, was one of the most controversial. “Puccini! Controversial!” You say, “There’s not really enough in him to have a controversy about, is there? Those sappy tear-jerkers speak for themselves.” In fact there was a lot of grumbling. Some festival regulars stayed away, or dragged themselves to only one concert, the one that included pieces by Dallapiccola, Pizzetti, and Petrassi. Even with these absentees the Festival sold out, or came close to selling out. Most of the concerts and the panel discussions were packed.
In cooking, as in any art, you have to know the rules—the more profoundly the better—to break them. While en route, appropriately enough, to Albany, I heard a radio interview with the manager and the chef of a new restaurant near the University of Albany. As I threaded my way through the rolling hills and forests that separate the capital of New York State from the Berkshires, slowing in all the notorious speed traps, I found this interview unusually absorbing. The chef, Nicholas Armstrong, was impressively articulate about the science of cooking
It is perhaps best to begin this review with a word of practical advice. This concert was sold out. The hall at Camphill Ghent is rather small. Seating is general. So for future events, you would do well to buy your tickets early and to arrive early. But that should be no hardship. It will give you all the more opportunity to meet members of the Camphill Ghent community and others who live in the area, and that can only add to the pleasure of the concert. As far as seating goes, all the instruments in this program, with their wide but compatible range of color and dynamics came through with clarity, warmth, and strength, and I got the impression that that obtains in every part of this intimate space.
A relatively new chamber music series in our area, The Concerts at Camphill Ghent, extending through the rather sparse autumn through spring months, has just recently come to my attention, and it looks well worth a season subscription. Every concert is compelling, and they all fit together as a whole. Clearly some strong consideration has gone into the selection of both the music and the musicians. The series was founded and is managed by a musician, the outstanding pianist, Gili Melamed-Lev, who oversees the programming and participates extensively herself. This is by no means exceptional in itself, but the particular stamp she has put on it stands out.
The Oldcastle Theatre Company is one of the most appealing in the Berkshires, which, culturally, extends from northwestern Connecticut to Dorset and Weston, Vermont. Downtown Bennington has a unique feeling to it—small-town in the best sense—and is home to a respectable array of bars and restaurants for audiences to enjoy anticipation or a cool-down before or after the show. Keith Kibler has been chronicling and enjoying—very much—Oldcastle’s productions for some years on our site, and I was happy finally to catch a show myself.