Surrender to the Unfamiliar

Two colorful performances of traditional and contemporary Middle Eastern music by the Dara Anissi Ensemble took place at the Saranac Fire Hall November 19 and 20, with Dara Anissi on the oud, Martin Shamoonpour on the daf, recorder, and amazing bagpipes made of a large animal’s bladder (maybe a pig or possibly a camel) and Nikolai Ruskin on the doumbek, violin, and ney. One simply had to let go of all attachment to familiar Western musical rhetoric of diatonic scales and predictable meters and surrender oneself to a different, exotic sound-world of modality, “bent” tones, uneven meters, and complex layered rhythms. The three musicians are very tightly attuned to each other, listening and watching intently for musical cues, as there was a lot of improvisation and A LOT of DRAMA. The music was full of surprises and excitement. The audience was perfectly happy to surrender themselves to a not-so-everyday music experience – they really loved it! Saturday’s show was sparsely attended at around 30, but the vibe was really nice and mellow. Sunday afternoon we had to pull out every chair we could find to seat 100. The Fire Hall rocked!

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Heavenly Playing by Alexander String Quartet

The superb San Francisco-based ensemble performed a meaty and memorable program at the Methodist Church of Mozart’s String Quartet No. 22 in B-flat major, K589 (1790); Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 13 (1889); and Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 (1893). The world-famous ensemble delighted the audience with their easy manner and unpretentious virtuosity. They drew a good crowd of 100 eager listeners who were hungry for and deeply appreciative of a serious program performed with the highest level of artistry. They play on a matched set of instruments made by Francis Kuttner, known as the Ellen M. Egger Quartet.

photos by John Eldridge

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World on a String Inhabits a Universe of Brazilian Rhythms

Paul Meyers’ World on a String jazz trio dispelled the gloom and warmed up a chilly Labor Day at Weatherwatch Farm. Three friends, each a virtuoso renowned in his own right – Paul Meyers on nylon string guitar, Leo Traversa on electric bass, and Vanderlei Pereira on drums and percussion – created a mellow, cozy atmosphere inside the tent with expressive music grounded in intricate and compelling Brazilian rhythms. It was captivating to see and hear how tight and comfortable these players are together. Their program, divided between originals and standards, was very organic and flowing. About 100 friends turned out for a totally delightful and satisfying show.

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Will Patton Ensemble Enchants

Over 100 gathered snugly under the tent for an afternoon of lively and poignant music by the Will Patton Ensemble. Rain could not dampen anyone’s spirits with this seasoned band of six amigos: the crème de la crème of Vermont virtuosos playing their classic Gypsy jazz hits Café Manouche, Le Marais, and Chez Tchavolo; and Brazilian choro favorites Parana, Nao Me Toques, Caro Raul, and Choro for Rachel. And much more! Jazz standards like Sweet Lorraine, Québécois trad tunes Ste. Béatrice and Ste. Anne, and the nostalgic bittersweet Upper Valley Waltz. So many magical moments – this ensemble was a perfect choice for an outdoor summer concert!

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Sultry Summer Gala & Concert

A great turnout of 125 on a sweltering Sunday evening in late July for a long-awaited concert at the Saranac Methodist Church. The celebrated Israeli-American pianist Alon Goldstein and the venerable Fine Arts Quartet with the rising young bassist Lizzie Burns gave us Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 19 in F Major, K459 and Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K 503 (arr. Ignaz Lachner). In between – a palette cleanser, so to speak – the Fine Arts Quartet performed Philip Glass’s String Quartet No. 2 “Company.” A fabulous concert! This special program had been a sad casualty of covid in 2020 and we were elated to have been able to reschedule it. Beforehand, a festive gathering under a canopy erected in White’s hayfield featured delicious hors d’oeuvres by Josh Vaillancourt, owner-operator of our local farm-to-table restaurant Farmhouse Pantry. Both music and food were extraordinary!

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Paul Meyers World on a String – Jazz Trio

RESCHEDULED: LABOR DAY – September 5 at 3:00 pm at Weatherwatch Farm

We were absolutely crushed having to cancel June performances by Paul Meyers’ World on a String trio at the Saranac Fire Hall. The band’s drummer, Vanderlei Pereira, had contracted COVID. This master musician with his prodigious knowledge of Brazilian and Afro-Cuban rhythms, impeccable technique and distinctive touch so essential to the band was impossible to replace! Rescheduling was complicated because of the band’s busy performance schedule, but we were able to arrive at the date of Monday, September 5: LABOR DAY. You might recall that we have had Labor Day concerts at Weatherwatch Farm two years running during the covid pandemic – 2020 and 2021 – and our audience enjoys the atmosphere very much.

Paul Meyers World on a String Rescheduled LABOR DAY: Monday, September 5 at 3:00 pm

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Faith and Madness a Study in Contrasts

There were many glowing moments in Calmus’s concert at the Church of the Assumption in Redford. The ancient music of Palestrina, Schütz, C.P. Bach, J.S. Bach and Altnikol (J.S. Bach’s son-in-law) has enhanced and deepened humanity’s faith and spiritual longing for centuries and continues to resonate in the present. The five singers of Calmus are as one voice – so attuned to one another in their collective comprehension of text, subtle harmonic shifts, and projection of mood and message through silken blended tone and unified diction and dynamics.

The “unhinged” secular half of the program allowed the artists more freedom to show their individual vocal colors and temperaments in expressing extreme emotions in the madrigals of Monteverdi, Gesualdo, Janéquin, and Flecha. The historic stone church provided just the right amount of ring – lush resonance without an echo. Whispered pianissimi reached the farthest corner of the sanctuary up in the balcony. When Calmus offered as an encore Mykola Lysenko’s “Prayer for Ukraine” –“Bozhe velykyi yedinyi” – there was not a dry eye in the audience. One hundred attended the exceptional performance and the next day Calmus was off to Charlottesville to continue their USA 2022 Tour!

Anja Pöche, soprano; Maria Kalmbach, alto;
Friedrich Bracks, tenor; Ludwig Böhme, baritone; Manuel Helmeke, bass

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Baroque Infusion Inspired by Feminine Artistry

The four women of Infusion Baroque brought wonderment and joy to a rapt audience of 100+ with the performance and discussion of their signature program “Virtuosa.” Played on historically accurate instruments of the period – flute, violin, cello, and harpsichord – Virtuosa highlights women musicians of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Featured composers included Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677), Anna Bon (1738-1769), Wilhelmine von Bayreuth (1709-1758), Maddalena Lombardini Sirmen (1745-1818), Élizabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729).

The extraordinary program is the result of several years of research and development, and indeed, the scholarly efforts of Infusion Baroque have yielded enough riches to create several more similarly fascinating programs. The afternoon led off with an informal pre-concert chat with the artists sitting casually on the edge of the stage, discussing various reasons why extraordinary women musicians – performers and composers alike – have been omitted from concert programs, history books, and educational curricula. It was an engaging conversation that continues to be relevant even in the present.

Photo montage by John Eldridge. l-r Sallynee Amawat, Rona Nadler, Andrea Stewart, Alexa Raine-Wright
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Le Vent du Nord Super Success

One of our friends commented afterward, “Those guys were smoking!” It was one of the premiere performances launching Le Vent du Nord’s 20th anniversary tour “20 Printemps” (translated “20 Springs” with entirely new material, both traditional and original. Now they will tour the show extensively throughout North America and Europe.  The band was stoked – they gave us everything: instrumentals and vocals in every possible combination, and podorhythmie (feet) galore. All the fame and glory that has been heaped upon Le Vent du Nord is richly deserved.

Le Vent du Nord at the Assumption of Mary School in Redford, New York

But the best part? The band loved our audience and our venue. The hall was packed with enthusiasts for this creme de la creme of Quebecois bands.  In addition to our regulars, there were lots of newcomers, many coming from quite far afield. It took some doing to turn a crummy old gym into a cool concert club, and you might ask why, but we needed to be in a spacious place where folks felt safe. And it worked. Several people even praised the acoustics – amazing, considering it is a cement block gym! But our soundman Russell Feher worked his magic to make the sound very clear. Smashing show!

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Exquisite Elegance from Patti McCarty and Bill Zito

The viola-guitar (and lute) duo concert of Patricia McCarty and Bill Zito was just as wonderful as we anticipated and more. The live acoustics of the historic Plattsburgh Memorial Chapel suited the instruments beautifully – their delicate sounds wafted bell-like to the back of the intimate hall. A full house of 100 turned out for the program, which included works of Dowland, Telemann, Giuliani, Nin, de Falla, and Granados, as well as some contemporary pieces by Gunter Braun and Robert Sierra. The concert was a collaboration between Hill and Hollow Music and Plattsburgh Memorial Chapel for the benefit of the chapel, with all proceeds going toward the restoration of the chapel’s 1933 original stained-glass windows.

Photo montage by John Eldridge
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