Berkshire Landscapes Summer 2022

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Berkshire Landscapes


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THE MUSIC I SSUE John Williams at 90


Musicians thrive at the Apple Tree Inn A world-class recording studio opens in North Adams




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WILLIAMSTOWN ILLIAMSTOWN MASSACHUSETTS CLARKART CLARKART.EDU Auguste Rodin, Fallen Caryatid (Douleur) (detail), original model 1882; carved 1882–83. Marble. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gift of the Estate of Samuel Isham through Julia Isham (Mrs. Henry Osborn Taylor) 17.3134

This exhibition is made possible by Denise Littlefield Sobel and Diane and Andreas Halvorsen.

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 5





JOHN WILLIAMS AT TANGLEWOOD The BSO’s summer home is the place that gives the revered composer solitude, contemplation and inspiration.

28 THE FREMONTS PERFORM IN TAJIKISTAN Great Barrington couple takes their cabaret act to Tajikistan as part of a U.S. Embassy tour.

32 A TOAST TO THE BERKSHIRES “Real Housewives” star Dorinda Medley creates her own bourbon inspired by her Berkshire home.

34 MISTY BLUES IS BIGGER THAN EVER With their latest album catching fire, Gina Colman and Misty Blues find themselves, “the oldest new kids on the block.”

38 STUDIO 9 AT THE PORCHES A world-class recording studio opens right in North Adams’.



Naumkeag hosts one of

The crown jewel of Pittsfield cemetery is

the largest George Rickey

one of the best examples of neo-Byzantine

retrospectives in the

architecture in Massachusetts and one of

Northeast in 40 years.

the Berkshires’ best-kept secrets.



Meet the man behind FreshGrass: Chris Wadsworth.

64 LAST WORDS A memorable washout in Lenox.

45 BERKSHIRE CASUAL Step out — fashionably — in the Berkshires. 48 A VIBE PERFECT FOR LIVE MUSIC This hidden Berkshires music venue is the spot troubadour rocker Johnny Irion keeps coming back to. 55 3 QUESTIONS WITH JOHNNY IRION The folk singer-songwriter talks about his creative process. 58 BERKSHIRE MUSIC TRIVIA Think you know music and the Berkshires? We have a few trivia questions for you. 6 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

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Berkshire Landscapes B E R K L A N D S .CO M

VO L . 1, I S S U E 2





his summer, there’s music in the air!

Tanglewood is back with a full 10-week slate of events, including James Taylor’s Fourth of July performance, a special tribute to Stephen Sondheim and a very special 90th birthday celebration for beloved conductor John Williams. In this issue, we pay tribute to the Berkshires music scene, where you can find a little bit of everything — opera, jazz, classical, folk, rock, country, bluegrass and more. You won’t have to try hard to find a music venue or festival to your liking this summer. If music isn’t what you’re looking for, you’re still in the right place. The Berkshires has so much to offer — art, theater, dance, history and plenty of outdoor activities. In fact, you might find that you have too many options to choose from. After the last two years, I’m not going to complain about having too many options, are you? Here’s to having “too many” things to do this summer!

Jennifer Huberdeau, editor

DIRECTOR OF ADVERTISING SALES Cheryl Gajewski COPY EDITORS Meggie Baker, Lindsey Hollenbaugh, Jessica Gamari, Kevin Moran, Jimmy Nesbitt, Larry Parnass CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Ben Garver, Gillian Jones CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mitchell Chapman, Tony Dobrowolski, Clarence Fanto, Jessica Gamari, Jennifer Huberdeau, Christopher Marcisz, Kevin Moran, Tristen Whalen Berkshire Landscapes is a publication of New England Newspapers Inc.

ON THE COVER: Tanglewood will celebrate the 90th birhday beloved composer John Williams, seen here in 2003, on Aug. 20. PHOTO PROVIDED BY STU ROSNER/BSO

8 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022



by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare

Directed by Jeffrey Mousseau

JUNE 3 – JULY 3 Tina Packer Playhouse




by William Shakespeare Directed by Kelly Galvin

JULY 2 – AUGUST 14 The New SpruceTheatre



s d oo W by Lee Blessing

Directed by James Warwick

JULY 15 – SEPTEMBER 4 The Roman GardenTheatre





SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 9






Annual FREE concert

HIGH ON THE RAMPARTS A Spotlight on Music of Black Composers




Must see, must do in the Berkshires


Walk among the sculptures

If you’re looking to take a stroll, take one where there’s art on view. In the Berkshires, there are plenty of options. Start at The Mount, where you’ll find 30 new works on display as part of SculptureNow. In Stockbridge, there’s “ViewEscapes,” an exhibit of George Rickey’s sculptures at Naumkeag, and “Symbiosis — ART/GARDEN, a gallery and outdoor sculpture show at Berkshire Botanical Garden. In July, you’ll be able to view contemporary sculptures during a visit to Chesterwood.


Enjoy a performance, indoors

Theater and dance return indoors this summer, as venues around the Berkshires reopen their stages. At Jacob’s Pillow, which turns 90 this summer, the newly renovated Ted Shawn Theatre welcomes dance back indoors. Berkshire Theatre Festival stages “Dracula” at the Colonial, while Barrington Stage reopens the St. Germain Stage; Shakespeare & Company returns indoors to the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre and Williamstown Theatre Festival is back indoors at the ‘62 Center.


See art you need to think about

Berkshire galleries are packed with exhibitions you’ll be thinking about long after you leave. Especially the Norman Rockwell Museum’s “Imprinted, Illustrating Race,” which examines how published images shape attitudes toward race and culture.”


Spend a night at the opera

Berkshire Opera Festival conductor Brian Garman and director Jonathon Loy put their spin on Mozart’s celebrated tragicomedy, “Don Giovanni,” Aug. 20, 23 and 26 at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center.


Celebrate the legacy of a musical luminary

With “Remembering Stephen Sondheim” Keith Lockhart, the Boston Pops, and a stellar Broadway cast pay tribute to this American master, with a selection of Lockhart’s favorite Sondheim creations, from the ground-breaking contributions of “Follies and Company,” to the organic perfection of shows like “A Little Night Music” and “Sweeney Todd.” Tanglewood. Aug. 19. ■


SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 11



Leonard Bernstein


Bradley Cooper

BRADLEY COOPER TO DIRECT, STAR IN LEONARD BERNSTEIN BIOPIC Hollywood, meet Tanglewood. Bradley Cooper is no stranger to the Berkshires: He portrayed John Merrick in “The Elephant Man” in 2012 at Williamstown. And now, Cooper has his sights set on Leonard Bernstein for a Netflix film. In “Maestro,” Cooper directs, co-writes and stars as Bernstein, the conductor and com-

poser who was synonymous with Tanglewood from 1940 until his death in 1990. Also no stranger to Tanglewood as a concert-goer, Steven Spielberg is the film’s producer. In May, scenes were filmed on location at Tanglewood. A casting call for extras drew actors donning period haircuts from the 1940s and the 1980s.

The film, according to IMDB’s summary, is about the “complex love of Leonard and Felicia, from the time they met in 1946 at a party and continuing through two engagements, a 25-year marriage, and three children.” As of this writing, no release date was set.

FROM PENN STATION TO THE BERKSHIRES: PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE STARTS JULY 8 All, aboard! Passenger rail service from New York City to the Berkshires will be put to the test this summer. Starting July 8, Amtrak’s Berkshire Flyer will leave Penn Station on Friday afternoons at 3:16 and arrive in Pittsfield (via Albany) at 7:12 p.m. The Flyer will depart Pittsfield Sundays at 3 and arrive in New York at 7:05. Whether the Berkshire Flyer will, in fact, fly is what’s on everyone’s mind. If the test works, Amtrak says legal issues (such as using stretches of privately owned track) remain. Meanwhile, many in the Berkshires are racing to configure the socalled “last-mile” question: How will travelers, once they step off the train in downtown Pittsfield, reach their final destinations? Tickets are on sale through Amtrak.

An Amtrak train arrives at the Intermodal Transportation Center in Pittsfield. EAGLE FILE PHOTO

12 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

N E WS OF NOTE CRISIS SOLVED: WILLIAMS COLLEGE SAYS NO MORE STUDENT DEBT Study up: Williams College isn’t waiting for anyone to solve the student-loan debt crisis. Starting this fall, Williams students won’t need to take out loans. Instead, Williams rolled out a program in which loans will be replaced by grants — “grants that do not need to be repaid,” Williams President Maud S. Mandel said. What’s more, Williams “will eliminate loans from all financial aid awards and will no longer require students to hold work-study jobs.” The college said it’s the nation’s first “all-grant” program. Some 1,100 students, or about 53 percent of the undergraduate student body, will benefit at a cost of $6.75 million annually, according to Mandel.


Berkshire Mountain Distillers created the Boydian Slip, a spin on a gin and tonic, in honor of Julianne Boyd, Barrington Stage Company’s artistic director.


Starting this fall, Williams students won’t need to take out loans.



If Lady MacBeth had her own cocktail, what would it be? Berkshire Mountain Distillers knows she’d be the “Red Lady,” a cocktail crafted with the distillery’s Ice Glen Vodka, blood orange juice, grenadine and fresh squeezed lemon juice topped with a violet or purple pansy. Red Lady is one of 15 craft cocktails created by local bartenders for Berkshire Mountain Distillers’ Cultural Cocktails, which created drinks to match each of the region’s 15 cultural institutions. The cocktails, with names such as Boydian Slip (Barrington Stage Company) and Bricks + Bourbon (Mass MoCA) are available at more than 20 restaurants and bars around the county. “It’s a great way to pay homage to the cultural institutions that make the Berkshires the Berkshires,” said Chris Weld, founder of Berkshire Mountain Distillers. “The way I look at it, Napa Valley wouldn’t be Napa Valley with only one winery. And the Berkshires wouldn’t be the Berkshires with only one cultural institution or one restaurant.” The program launched Memorial Day weekend, as part of the distillery’s 15th anniversary celebration. ■

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SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 13


NEW OWNERS KEEP UP PATRICK’S PUB Pittsfield’s Patrick’s Pub — a favorite among locals and visitors seeking a good bite, along with Buffalo wings and a pint — is under new ownership. John McNinch and his son, Tucker, added new floors and a new bartop to Patrick’s, which has operated at the same location, at 26 Bank Row, since 1985. Everything else is the same — just the way everyone likes it. BEN GARVER

Patrick’s Pub owners John McNinch and Tucker McNinch.




The Lantern Bar & Grill closed in the spring.

Avie Maloney, the owner of Once Upon a Table.

The exterior of the 110 Grill restaurant in Marlborough. The regional restaurant chain hopes to open in Lenox by December.




Meanwhile, up North Street in Pittsfield, one of the best places to get an authentic flamegrilled burger in the Berkshires has closed.

Once upon a time, Avie Maloney was a server at Once Upon a Table. Today, she owns the place.

Owner Bjorn Somlo, who revived The Lantern Bar & Grill three years ago, said the pandemic hampered business there. Health issues in the family also proved difficult.

Maloney purchased the 30-seat indoor and 16-seat outdoor dining spot, tucked into The Mews at 36 Main St. in Stockbridge, from Alan and Teresa O’Brient. They opened it in 1996.

The Center at Lenox on Pittsfield Road (Routes 7 & 20) is poised for a notable buildout. A 110 Grill restaurant aims to open by December, right next to a Kohl’s that’s targeting a late fall opening.

The Lantern was up for sale as of this writing.

Avie wants her patrons to arrive happy and leave that way, too.

Somlo also owns Nudel in Lenox, which continues to operate just fine.

14 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

“I want everyone to feel welcome here,” Maloney said.

101 Grill, an “upscale, casual family American restaurant, with an open kitchen,” has locations in Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut, among others. The restaurant will have an outdoor patio. The Lenox Kohl’s, at under 40,000 square feet, will be half the size of one of its typical stores. The cozier shopping experience aims to shake the traditional department store vibe. ■


I knew you as Thomas Lanier Williams at Iowa I knew you as Thomas Lanier Williams at Iowa That lovely farming place mid-prairie Where the Iowa River flowed south with your ideas like blue paddlefish To Mississippi where you were born, not far from Tennessee.

Compelling stories. Exceptional performances. Vital Conversations. June 23 - August 21

I knew you in New Orleans where your Streetcar Rumbled past full of desire and your fragile southern women Emoted with Stanley, your muscular Amer

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can stage hero,

(413) 354-7771

In love, passionate, and forever lustfully

undeterred. I knew you in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, home of your friends The Mohicans, where you cared for your ailing sister And invited the whole of New York City and the northeast To view your plays and hear your poetry. You were indigenous.

Celebrate Summer!

I knew you in San Francisco where you were already A famous oldster with the thick skin of composition. You were everyone’s dramatic hero, young men in tight jeans Imploring: “Tennessee, please tell us more. Tell us more.” On Truman Street in Key West, your broad mind sequenced life best, Viewing with Frank the sun hovering red over Cuba as though It was never going to drop down from the sky until it burned itself out. Tennessee, we all knew you then and now hereafter, our brightest ember. — Paul Milenski ■ This poem won the 2022 Tennessee Williams Poetry Award through the Key West Art & Historical Society. An award-winning writer, Paul Milenski lives in Dalton, Massachusetts.


Book online at Lenox, MA • 413-551-5111 SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 15


Berkshire authors, Berkshire books T

he Berkshires is an inspirational place for writers. Nathaniel Hawthorne penned his gothic classic, “The House of the Seven Gables,” during the 18 months he lived in Lenox. A chance encounter on Monument Mountain sparked a friendship between Hawthorne and Herman Melville, who lived at Arrowhead in Pittsfield. There, following Hawthorne’s encouragement, Melville finished his novel, “Moby-Dick.” Sometimes, authors who live nearby base their books in the Berkshires, while others live here and write about faraway places. Gathered here is an offering of books by authors who are past or present Berkshire residents or who have written a book based in or about the Berkshires.

“Imagine A City” By Mark Vanhoenacker Commercial airline pilot and Pittsfield native Mark Vanhoenacker has spent nearly two decades crossing the skies and touching down in dozens of the storied cities. In his latest book, which weaves travelogue with memoir, Vanhoenacker celebrates the cities he has come to know and love through the lens of the hometown his heart has never quite left. (Knopf, July 2022)

16 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

“Collage Your Life” By Melanie Mowinski Like meditation or journaling, making a collage can be an avenue for self-reflection and artistic exploration. In “Collage Your Life,” artist and MCLA art professor Melanie Mowinski teaches a variety of core techniques and provides dozens of prompts to jumpstart the creative process and encourage crafters to explore the versatility of collage. (Storey Publishing, June 2022)

“Tales of Al” By Lynne Cox Stockbridge resident and acclaimed author Lynne Cox’s newest release centers around Al, an adorable but untrainable chocolate Newfoundland, who grows up to become a daring rescue dog and super athlete — part of Italy’s elite, highly specialized corps of water rescue dogs who swoop out of helicopters and save lives. (Knopf, May 2022)

FROM T H E S TACKS “A Countryman’s Journal: Views of Life and Nature from a Maine Coastal Farm” By Roy Barrette For more than 20 years, Roy Barrette wrote his “Retir’d Gardener” column for The Berkshire Eagle and The Ellsworth American in Ellsworth, Maine, near his home in North Brooklin. First published in 1981, the recently reissued “A Countryman’s Journal” is a collection of 75 of Barrette’s columns and essays celebrating the joys of small-town Maine. (Islandport Press, May 2022) ■

— Compiled by Jennifer Huberdeau

“Book of Night” By Holly Black Amherst author Holly Black has made a name for herself in the realm of young adult and children’s book markets, especially as the author of the beloved “Spiderwick Chronicles.” The New York Times bestselling author takes the leap to adult fantasy with “Book of Night,” a tale filled with a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires and magicians. Charlie Hall has been trying to distance herself from past mistakes, but bartending at a dive bar keeps her too close to the corrupt underbelly of the Berkshires. (Tor/Macmillan, May 2022)

“If You Want To Know How I Got Brainwashed” By Betsy Dovydenas The artist and Lenox resident, in more than 200 monoprints with narrative text, tells the story of how she was brainwashed by a bogus church with a bogus pastor and how her family wrestled her out of its grasp. An insightful look at how groups can manipulate people at vulnerable moments, written with clear insight from a survivor. (City Point Press, September 2021) SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 17


The Berkshires and the world:

Exploring the crown jewel of Pittsfield Cemetery BY TRISTAN WHALEN


stone’s throw from the well-traveled lanes of Onota Street in Pittsfield lies one of the most interesting and best preserved examples of neo-Byzantine architecture in Massachusetts — and also one of the Berkshires’ best-kept secrets. The McKay Mausoleum is striking,

of intensity: a reminder of the struc-

but also strikingly out-of-the-way,

ture’s purpose and the contents that lay

perched like a fortified lighthouse on

inside it.

the westernmost edge of the sprawling

To classify this monument as merely

Pittsfield Cemetery. For those who cross

an example of neo-Byzantine archi-

its path, there is a special reward to be

tecture would be a mistake. Yes, its

discovered: it’s a jewelry box flush with

hexagonal foundation, rounded arches,

architectural intrigue and local history.

soaring dome and sumptuous decora-

If the walls of this mausoleum could

tive elements — such as the interior

speak, they would narrate a story illumi-

glass mosaic and pattern-punctuated

nating how the character, culture and

bronze gates (designed in the likeness

industry of the Berkshires has made a

of the doors to St. Mark’s Basilica

forever-lasting imprint on the world.

in Venice) — squarely reflect design

On a beautiful Sunday in May, I visit-

characteristics of the Byzantine era.

ed the Pittsfield Cemetery to gather the

However, closer examination reveals

The McKay Mausoleum features stained glass windows by Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast. The windows were installed just days before the tomb’s dedication in October 1893, having just arrived from the 1893 World’s Fair, where they had been on display.

fragments of history I had heard about

that the cupola’s detailed copper finials

and unalive from the outside, glow,

this obscure monument into a more

are more Gothic than Byzantine; so are

and the remembrances of the McKay

complete story.

the lancet windows that articulate each

family they depict are now intelligible.

facade, inlaid with intricate-yet-sub-

The windows filter light into the space,

dued stained-glass windows.

bathing it in warm, languid tones of

As I walked northward on Linden Slope from the cemetery’s gated entrance on Wahconah Street, the mauso-

Inside, McKay Mausoleum is lined

gold and crimson.

leum’s magnificent white marble and

with an additional 15 inches of rose-col-

hexagonal geometry stood out among

ored North African Numidian marble

posed of thousands of fragments of col-

a sea of muted gray gravestones and

(a favorite in classical Rome), giving the

ored glass depict the virtues of industry:

brown-bespeckled obelisks. Towering

interior a muted coziness that contrasts

charity, patience, fate, invention and

23 feet above its closest neighbors, its

sharply with the austere mood of the

power. The tomb’s domed roof narrows

bronze doors, wind-scoured walls and

white Lee-quarried exterior marble.

to an apex just out of view from my posi-

ominous, angular dome project an aura

The five stained-glass windows, opaque

tion on the outside peering in. 

Above the windows, mosaics com-

Left, Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast, a renowned stained glass artist and interior designer was hired by Gordon McKay, a Gilded Age industrialist and inventor, as the architect of his family mausoleum. Completed in 1893, the tomb, located in Pittsfield Cemetery, cost $30,000. It holds six members of the McKay family. ALL PHOTOS BY BEN GARVER

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 19


Tillinghast, who worked with stained glass artists Louis Comfort Tiffany and John La Farge, also designed several windows at St. Stephen’s Parish and two windows at First Church of Christ, Congregational, both in Pittsfield.

Even without entering the space, I can

low industrialist and inventor Lyman R.

feel the presence and energy it exudes;

Blake, who had recently invented a shoe-

McKay retained artist and designer

if the exterior of the tomb is monumen-

sole sewing machine. McKay, ever-inter-

Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast of New York

tal and commanding, its interior is an

ested in new technologies, bought the

to develop a design for what would even-

inviting sanctuary, more like a place of

patent for the machine and worked to

tually become the family tomb. Choos-

worship than of somber reflection.

improve its functionality and accuracy.

ing Tillinghast as the designer for this

Nearly three years later, in May 1862,

particular project was not an obvious

structure was built for Berkshire local

McKay’s patent for the updated sewing

choice. Although regionally established

and Gilded Age industrialist Gordon

machine was accepted.

as an accomplished glasswork artist,

Completed in 1893, this amazing

McKay (1821-1903). McKay, who spent

Soon, McKay was manufacturing tens

More than a decade before his death,

having worked for (and eventually, with)

much of his life in Pittsfield, is a char-

of thousands of boots a month, and on

some of the century’s most recognizable

acter whose story captures the zeitgeist

his way to building a fortune.

names in stained glass, Louis Tiffany

of the Industrial Revolution and its res-

With the Civil War came a great-

onance in Berkshire County. Trained as

er-than-ever need for boots among the

an engineer, he left the Berkshires at 22

Union Army. McKay saw a huge oppor-

It is not clear whether McKay ap-

to work as a corpsman for the Boston &

tunity for profit and pounced on it. Just

proached Tillinghast with a particular

Albany Railroad, and subsequently an

a few months later, with his operation in

architectural style in mind for the mau-

engineer on the Erie Canal. Years later,

full swing, McKay was manufacturing

soleum. Perhaps McKay had seen — or

he returned to Pittsfield and established

tens of thousands of boots for govern-

read about — Tillinghast’s glasswork

a repair shop for paper and cotton mill-

ment contracts. After the war, McKay

exhibit at the 1893 Chicago World Fair

ing machines.

kept his business in the black by leasing

for the glasswork in the exhibit would

his machines to shoe manufacturers

be installed in McKay’s tomb after the

managing the Lawrence Machine Shop.

across New England, earning royalties

exhibition closed.

This is where he crossed paths with fel-

for each pair made.

In 1859, McKay took a job in Lawrence,

20 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

and John LaFarge, she had never designed a building or a tomb.

Nevertheless, whether it was at

WH AT A S I T E McKay’s request or Tillinghast’s invention, the (mostly) Byzantine-style mausoleum was completed in October 1893, in honor of McKay’s father, Samuel M. McKay. In addition to Gordon and his father, the tomb contains the remains of McKay’s mother, Katherine, and his two older brothers, Samuel and Eustace. At once beautiful and brutal, serene and severe, the McKay Mausoleum is a perfect metaphor for the life it is meant to memorialize — sophisticated, but not opulent; decorated, but not overly adorned. It embodies the special duality of a gravesite, vibrating between the frequencies of past and present, of somber remembrance and elegant preservation. And, however out of place the tomb may at first seem among its more modest neighbors in the Pittsfield Cemetery, the monument tells a very local story of industry and ingenuity, reflecting the unique worldliness that was the object of many in the Gilded Age and reminding us of connections between Berkshire County history and world history. ■

The mausoleum’s mosaic scenes depict the six figures – invention, industry, patience, justice, charity and efficacy.

Tristan Whalen, a student at Williams College and a Western Massachusetts native, writes about architecture, design and the built world.


Scan to view current schedule. Buy tickets online at:

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 21












1. John Williams rehearses backstage before making his Boston Pops conducting debut in 1980. 2. Williams seated at the piano in 1979. 3. Williams passes the baton to Keith Lockhart during a Salute to Symphony event on February 6, 1995, at which Lockhart’s conductorship was announced. 4. Keith Lockhart, Williams and Seiji Ozawa play the piano during the Symphony Hall Centennial Ball in October 2000. 22 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

5. Longtime collaborators George Lucas and Williams. 6. Audra McDonald performs with Williams and the Boston Pops on Film Night at Tanglewood in 2013. 7. Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Williams at a recording session for “Saving Private Ryan” on February 21, 1998. 8. Williams with Cynthia Haymon and Rita Dove at the “7 for Luck” performance at Tanglewood, July 1998

9. Williams leads the Boston Pops on Film Night at Tanglewood in August 2018. 10. Williams and Seiji Ozawa, BSO music director laureate, pose with Darth Vader and Chewbacca in 1997. 11. Williams conducts Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra . PHOTOS PROVIDED BY: BSO & Peter Schaaf, Miro Vintoniv, Hilary Scott and Walter Scott



‘home away from home’ At 90, revered composer John Williams will make two stops at a place that gives him ‘solitude, contemplation and inspiration’ BY CLARENCE FANTO LENOX

glewood on Parade on Aug. 2, conducting his celebratory

It was early December in

piece, “Just Down West Street

2006, and the nation’s most

… On the Left,” commissioned

famous living composer was

by the Tanglewood Music

on a sojourn at a local inn to

Center in 2015 to mark its 75th

work on film scores.

anniversary as the orchestra’s

Ever since he began his

summer academy for ad-

13-year stint as Boston Pops

vanced young musicians.

conductor in 1980, John

Then, on Aug. 20, he’ll

Williams has been a frequent

appear at the gala celebration

visitor to Lenox, not only for

in his honor, featuring the

Tanglewood shows but for a

BSO led by Ken-David Masur,

retreat from the demands of

the orchestra’s former associ-

Hollywood. On this occasion, in the aftermath of a freak storm with hurricane-force winds,


John Williams speaks during the unveiling of a sculpture of Serge Koussevitzky, BSO director (1924-1942) and founder of the Tanglewood Music Center, during a ceremony and reception in Lenox in June 2019.

he was on the phone having inspected “devastating damage” to parts of the Tanglewood campus — primarily the woodlands at Serenak, the 170-acre estate overlooking Stockbridge Bowl housing the 1912 “cottage” where Tanglewood founding father Serge Koussevitzky spent summers during the 1940s in his final years as Boston Symphony music director. “It’s hard to imagine a force so powerful,” Williams said of the destruction, as he helped launch a relief effort to cover $250,000 in repairs. Williams is on tour this year, conducting the leading U.S.

ate conductor, with celebrity guests including James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma, BSO Principal Harpist Jessica Zhou and Branford Marsalis.

Although program details have not been announced, it would not be surprising if it included Williams’ “Highwood’s Ghost: An Encounter for Cello, Harp and Orchestra,” composed in 2018 for Ma and Zhou to celebrate the Leonard Bernstein centennial at Tanglewood. The piece evokes the legend of a ghost said to haunt the top floor of the 1845 Highwood Manor House on the Tanglewood grounds — a ghost that Bernstein said he had memorably encountered. The house had been used by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s family and it inspired the author’s “Tanglewood Tales.” It was

and European orchestras in concerts devoted to his trove of

acquired by the BSO in 1986 from its last private owners, the

film scores.

Harding family.

“For more than 40 years, the Berkshires has been my musical home away from home,” Williams said by email. “For me, it continues to be a place of solitude, contemplation, and inspiration, as it surely must be for all those who love this

‘I LOVE THIS PLACE DEEPLY’ At a June 2019 event dedicating the third sculpture by Penelope Jencks of Koussevitzky, preceded by busts of Aaron

very special corner of the world.”

Copland (2011) and Leonard Bernstein (2014) — all commis-


the BSO’s summer home: “From the very first day, it has taken

This summer, honoring Williams in his 90th birthday year, he is scheduled to make two appearances here — first at Tan-

sioned by Williams — he recalled his 1980 conducting debut at my heart. I love this place deeply.” With 103 feature film scores, five Academy Awards and 52 

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 23


After mustering the courage to defy “a hard-and-fast rule not to enter the Green Room (as the dressing room is called) prior to a performance. I had asked John, whom I knew well enough to bother, if he knew where James was born. He told me no, but that I should go and ask him.” “I got up my nerve and knocked on his door,” Kim recalled. “He was charming and shy and confirmed that, yes, he was born in Boston. I thanked him and beat a hasty retreat.” Time passed and two years later, Kim’s phone rang. “I didn’t recognize the number and let it go to voicemail,” she said. Come to find out, it was James. MICHAEL J. LUTCH

Williams poses with Kim and James Taylor, in 2009 at Serenak, the BSO’s estate overlooking Stockbridge Bowl.

“He asked if I remembered him (come on!) and wondered if we might have dinner. After a lengthy game of phone tag,

Oscar nominations to his credit, Wil-

line (Kim) Smedvig was director of pub-

liams also has written 70 concert works,

lic relations and marketing for the BSO,

including fanfares and is reported to be

later a senior adviser and now a trustee

vous in Brookline, they began dating

working on his first piano concerto.

of the orchestra.

and, in February 2001, they were mar-

we connected,” Kim said. After arranging a restaurant rendez-

There are two more film scores in

“John Williams is central to my rela-

post-production — “The Fabelmans,”

tionship with the BSO and Tanglewood,”

Emmanuel Episcopal Church. John

loosely based on director and longtime

James Taylor wrote in an email while

Williams “gave away” the bride, and

Williams collaborator Steven Spielberg’s

on tour in Canada this spring. “I was

music was provided by André Previn

childhood (due for release on Nov. 23),

quite nervous to perform with one of the

and Yo-Yo Ma.

and the untitled fifth installment in the

world’s best symphony orchestras my

“Indiana Jones” series (scheduled for

first time out, and John made me feel so

June 2023). He also composed the theme

welcome and at ease. He has such a total

Two years after Williams stepped

for “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the Disney+

command of that complex medium and

down as Boston Pops conductor in 1993

six-episode streaming series.

it was my immense good fortune to be

— he remains conductor laureate and

introduced to that world at the very top.

Tanglewood artist-in-residence — Keith

While maintaining his highly structured work regimen, Williams is

“That engagement also introduced me

ried in the Lindsey Chapel in Boston’s


Lockhart, then 35 and not yet a household name, was tapped as his successor.

stepping away from the typical half-

to my wife, Kim,” James continued. “Her

year required for scoring a soundtrack:

close and longtime relationship with

“I don’t particularly want to do films

John has afforded me the opportunity to

he represented a unique bridge between

anymore,” he told The New York Times

watch him work many times in the years

two worlds ... that of the Hollywood

earlier this year. “Six months of life at

since. This has been a great gift.

sound stage and that of the American

my age is a long time.”

“A top-flight symphony orchestra

“When John came to the Pops in 1980,

concert stage,” Lockhart said. “Al-

is a daunting assembly of world-class

though the film score is, arguably, the

musicians and taking a leadership role

most important new source of great

as its director must be profoundly intim-

music for orchestra to blossom in the

violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.

idating. John Williams doesn’t demand

20th century, and it is by-and-large an


the respect necessary to do that, he

American contribution, little had been

embodies it. Soft-spoken and deferential,

done to connect the two worlds.

But Williams has always set aside time to compose concert works for eminent soloists including cellist Yo-Yo Ma and

Williams has been a mentor and a matchmaker for James Taylor and his wife, Kim, having introduced them to

he leaves no doubt: He is worthy and eminently capable.”

“He brought the wonderful gift of his own considerable creative contribution,

Kim Taylor recalls meeting James

so that the great film music of John Wil-

each other at Symphony Hall in Boston

ahead of the 1993 Boston Pops concert,

liams, and others, was soon an integral

in May 1993 on the occasion of James’

where her job included a brief on-stage

part of the Boston Pops’ repertoire and

debut with the Pops. At the time, Caro-

talk about the guest artist.

42 years later, film music is the core of

24 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022



On hand to help Tanglewood celebrate John Williams’ 80th birthday in August 2012, were, left to right, Gabriela Montero, Gil Shaham, Jesse Norman, Williams, Steven Spielberg and Keith Lockhart. Also on stage, but not seen here, were Yo-Yo Ma and James Taylor.

most orchestras’ light classical reper-

and other times John commissioned

the grounds in the late afternoon, with

toire, in this country and beyond.

themed film montages, also accompa-

purpose. Tanglewood is unique in his

nied by live orchestra.”

mind. There’s an element of spirituality

“John’s presence has loomed large

there, and he put great care into the

over everything that transpires at Tan-

Star violinist Anne-Sophie Mut-

glewood. He loves it there and, I believe,

ter, who has performed and recorded

Copland, Bernstein and Koussevitzky

is never happier than when he is settled

film-score adaptations with Williams

sculptures he commissioned. It was

into Tanglewood, strolling the grounds

in recent years, stated: “His art has mes-

his idea, his vision, it was so authentic,

and having a peaceful opportunity to

merized generations of music lovers and

sincere and appropriate.”

compose,” said Lockhart. “It is his

musicians alike. In film, as in so-called

happy place! And Tanglewood is much

absolute music, he captures the essence

Volpe noted how he funded the resto-

richer for that. He has been a quiet,

of this world embracing language.

ration of the Tappan Manor House, the

caring presence there for over 40 years,

“Standing next to this legend on stage

Emphasizing Williams’s philanthropy,

original 1865 structure then known as

and his spirit has over that time become

and making music together — I’m fondly

Tanglewood, when the building was in

inseparable from the place. Tanglewood

remembering our two concerts together

urgent need of structural repair about

has meant a lot to John, and John has

at the Tanglewood festival — is a dream

13 years ago.

meant a lot to Tanglewood.”

come true. May the force be with this

As Boston Pops Director of Artistic

genius forever!”

“This is the source of Tanglewood … musically and every other way,” Volpe recalls was Williams’ concern. “Within

Planning Dennis Alves noted, “John

Former BSO President and Chief

brought the concept of multimedia to

Executive Mark Volpe, who retired in

a day, we had the money to bring the

the Pops, and we were the first to do so.

June 2021 after 23 years managing the

Manor House back to the original look,

We began to screen scenes from famous

orchestra, recalls that “every time I

as much as we could, and landscape it

movies accompanied by live orchestra.

looked out of my office window while he

with John’s great generosity. He was a

Sometimes there were actual scenes,

was in residence, he would be walking

multimillion-dollar donor to various 

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 25

J O H N WI L L I A M S AT TA N G L E WO O D “Not only did we play new suites from his now classic film scores, but John brought us a wealth of stunning arrangements of swing and film music,” Sebring said, “as well as frequent guest artists of the very highest caliber. His tenure as the Pops’ maestro allowed a great depth of understanding and love to develop between John and the orchestra. He brings a sensitivity and musical genius that invites and requires the players to give their very best. “He challenges us to ever higher levels, which is invigorating for the orchestra, and John is truly appreciative of our efforts to bring life to his incredible scores. So, in a word, he resonates with this orchestra in a way that is truly rewarding for us, for the audience and, I believe, for him.” BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons describes Williams as “an extraordinary artist.” BSO

Keith Lockhart, Seiji Ozawa, Steven Spielberg and John Williams.

“Perhaps most impressive is John’s beautiful humanity and compassion that shine through so much of his music

Tanglewood initiatives, including the Linde Center for Music and

and leave us all with an unforgettable imprint of themes that

Learning, and every time we needed something, he was there.”

inspire and connect us to a worldwide community,” Nelsons

And, like Lockhart, Volpe credits Williams for “the grow-

wrote in an email.

ing acceptance of film music as a true art form. He’s the soundtrack for our generation and generations to come.” Richard “Gus” Sebring, the principal horn of the Boston

Alves, the Pops’ artistic planner, shared a personal reminiscence: “Just a few years ago, John asked me when I thought I might retire. I said that I’d been thinking of retiring at around

Pops and associate principal horn of the BSO, joined the or-

age 70. He then very quickly said, ‘Please, don’t retire. Look at

chestra in 1981.

me. I’m still writing and I’ll never stop.’” ■


music festival JUNE 24 – JULY 23, 2022 Fridays & Saturdays Hudson, NY Great Barrington, MA

CONNECTIONS: Scarlatti through Bach to Stravinsky 888-492-1283 26 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022



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Boston Pops Laureate Conductor John Williams acknowledges the crowd during a Boston Pops performance at Symphony Hall in Boston, May 12, 2016.


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North Adams, Mass. SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 27


The Fremonts perform for their sister city Great Barrington couple takes their cabaret act to Tajikistan as part of U.S. Embassy tour BY JESSICA GAMARI The invitation came in the form of an email last fall. “Darren from Dushanbe would like to formally invite The Fremonts to visit Tajikistan.” Their reaction? “We laughed!” Stephaine Dodd, vocalist and accordionist of The Fremonts, said. “We thought it was a scam.” But then, she and her husband Justin Badger, guitarist, vocalist and the other half of The Fremonts, Googled Darren from Dushanbe. Turns out, the invitation was legitimate and Darren, a real person, works as a foreign state officer for the U.S. State Department in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

According to their website, The Fremonts, a cabaret-Americana duo, create “unique theatrical experiences for their audiences by blending Americana music and storytelling with a cabaret aesthetic … [They] present their original music with performance skills honed from years of working as professional actors” in New York City. Dodd says she first picked up the accordion “on a whim” while on a trip in New Orleans many years ago. The duo describes their sound as a jazz-inspired cabaret, with lyrics inspired by their personal lives, old family stories and even ghost stories.

Stephanie Dodd and Justin Badger, aka The Fremonts, pose for a picture during a video shoot near Nurek Reservoir in Tajikistan. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FREMONTS

28 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022


The Fremonts stand before the Parchan Marble Column in Dusti Square, Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

The band was chosen to represent

did have some experience with Tajik

Landscapes soon after returning from

Boulder, Colo., for a celebration of

culture. They frequently visited the

their tour. After a slight postponement

30-plus years of diplomatic relations

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, a build-

from January due to a spike in COVID,

between the U.S. and Tajikistan. Boulder

ing which was a gift to the city from

they departed for Tajikistan on March 22

and Dushanbe have been sister-cities

Dushanbe. Badger says the restaurant

for a two-week tour.

since 1987. The band was invited to

was a way to experience Tajik culture

perform music and film a music video

through festivals and traditional food.

in several locations across Tajikistan,

“It’s a very cool connection to the

During the tour, they performed at American Spaces in Kulob, Vahdat, Bokhtar and Dushanbe, as well as a pub-

which shares borders with China on

cities,” he said. “It’s a really gorgeous,

lic music venue called HELEN Restau-

the east, Afghanistan on the south, and

serene, premiere restaurant.”

rant in Dushanbe with The Melody

Uzbekistan on the west and northwest.

Described by The Calvert Journal,

Although Dodd and Badger reside in

the building has “large blue windows

“It was amazing. The schedule was

Great Barrington, they previously lived

surrounded by eight colorful ceramic

very busy,” Dodd said, noting that they

in Boulder for 6 years, which is where

panels, two on each side, depicting a

had performances once a day. They met

they say they had the chance to really

Tree of Life in a semicircular niche in a

with the press for interviews and also

develop and grow their band in earnest.

mosque wall indicating the direction of

had a chance to speak with students

The two still work remotely for their day

Mecca. In the summer months, visitors

during Q&As and take selfies.

jobs in Boulder, and take the opportuni-

sit in the garden, surrounded by roses.”

ty to perform wherever they can. Badger

Looking back on their tour, Badger

Rangers, a Tajik band.

“The teenagers were so excited to talk about American culture and who we

works for an advertising company and

says they feel “gobsmacked we got to

are,” Dodd said. Many of the questions

Dodd works in executive coaching.

take the trip.”

were very engaging and thoughtful,

Before this trip, Dodd and Badger

The Fremonts spoke to Berkshire

asking questions such as their 

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 29


philosophy around creativity and what inspires them. “We were really excited about the

Style | Comfort | Safety

depth of conversation with the students,” she said. “We were able to perform for mostly Afghan and Baghdad communities, and feel their love for our music, and talk about their lives. … They’re really wonderful and warm kids.” Badger enjoyed seeing the student’s response to their music. The Fremonts took the time to learn a song in Tajik, which is the variety of Persian spoken in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. “They were so excited we took the time to learn and perform a song,” he said.

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After a long day of traveling, the pair, although jetlagged, had plans to attend a party where they were to mingle with Tajik celebrities, influencers and members of the press, followed by a performance. “We were pretty deeply jetlagged, but I Voted Best in the Berkshires for Limousine Service

put on my red lipstick, got hydrated and got some caffeine,” Dodd said. During the performance, they played the song, “Chaki Chaki Boroni Bakhor” which is popular in Tajikistan. “It starts out with just Justin alone with his guitar, and I think, ‘Huh, that


sounds different than usual.’ I couldn’t figure out what was going on. He was playing in a different key, no idea what key that was. It was a disaster; it was this out-of-body experience. I paused for a


moment, and from the audience comes SONGS FROM FRANK LOESSER’S THE MOST HAPPY FELLA music & lyrics by FRANK LOESSER conceived & directed by DANIEL FISH choreography by JAWOLE WILLA JO ZOLLAR in association with FISHER CENTER AT BARD

this giant, beautiful voice. A woman stands up and sings the rest of the song with us. The audience loved it. We had no idea who she was [at the time].” It turns out, that woman was Takhmina Ramazanova, the lead singer of



Avesto, one of the most famous bands in central Asia. After the performance, Ramazanova, who doesn’t speak much English, invited The Fremonts to an informal jam session and party at the studio of Avesto.





Jimmy Naughton & Friends


“She says to me, ‘We are sisters, you come to my house.’ We ended up at their music studio for an unbelievable party,” Dodd said. “There was a huge spread of food and a professional band that played an entire set just for us. It was just a riot

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… so much fun. There were not a lot of people who could speak English, so there was a little awkwardness, but we all just

THE FREMONTS fell in love.” As well as performing music, The Fremonts also filmed a music video for one of their original songs, “Kids Who Always Swam,” which is a song Badger says is literally about parents in the ‘80s teaching their kids to swim by throwing them in the deep end of a pool. “It’s much more about diving into any experience that comes your way and figuring it out,” he said. The Fremonts spent two days filming with a Tajik team at a 400-year-old fortress in Hissor and then near a lake in Nurek, which is known for its turquoise water. “That color of turquoise, I’ve never seen a color like that before,” Badger said. On the first day, they went to a vintage clothing store to pick out traditional Tajik clothing. “We went there and we shot for 3 hours,” Badger said. “It was remarkable, walking down main street in our traditional dress with a film crew in front of us and a drone taking footage. We’re walking down the road singing to ourselves.” Overall, Dodd and Badger said they are beyond grateful to Darren and their host families who took care of them by translating and reconfiguring travel plan logistics and for sharing their knowledge of their country and history throughout their journey. “It really filled our hearts to the brim to go on this trip and meet people and communicate,” Dodd said. “We feel really


The Fremonts jam with Avesto, one of the leading ethno-jazz bands in Tajikistan, during their tour of the country. Soloist Tahmina Ramazanova, center, is known for her unique voice and improvisations.

Berkshire Busk in Great Barrington in July. They are also working with their producer Chuck Porter to prepare for their upcoming show in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where they will perform, “The Failure Cabaret,” a show that is part comedy and part confessional about their “failures” in their lives thus far. They’re scheduled to perform 25 shows in 26 days. “It’s unlike anything we’ve done as a band before,” Badger

lucky for that.” This summer, The Fremonts have plans to perform at the

said. ■


July 7-10, 2022

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A toast to

the Berkshires ‘Real Housewives’ star creates her own bourbon inspired by her Berkshire home BY JENNIFER HUBERDEAU GREAT BARRINGTON

luxurious 11,000-square-foot estate in

The seven-episode series features Med-

Great Barrington, which became a go-

ley and six former Housewives: Jill Zaran

to vacation destination for “The Real

(NYC), Taylor Armstrong and Brandi

native and “The Real Housewives of

Housewives” cast members during her

Glanville (Beverly Hills), Eva Marcille

New York City” cast member was put on

time on the show.

and Phaedra Parks (Atlanta), and Tamra

Dorinda Medley has been very busy. In August 2020, the Great Barrington

Judge and Vicki Gunvalson (Orange

“pause” by Bravo. Instead of seeing her

Bluestone Manor is also the location

hiatus from the show as a negative, she’s

for the second season of Peacock’s latest

County). The first three episodes start

been using the time wisely. She’s written a

spinoff series, “The Real Housewives Ulti-

streaming on Peacock on June 23.

memoir titled “Make It Nice.” She created

mate Girls Trip Ex-Wives Club.”

Dorobics, a high-energy, ’80s-inspired aer-

“Bluestone Manor is a very special

We recently caught up with Medley, who took a few moments from her tour

obics workout. And she started her own

place. If you enter those doors, some-

promoting Bluestone Manor Bourbon, to

line of bourbon called Bluestone Manor.

thing happens,” Medley says in a trailer

answer a few of our questions about her

for the show.

newest venture.

The bourbon is named after her

32 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022



What inspired you to start your own bourbon line?

I was inspired by Bluestone Manor itself. It has a really rich history and

was actually a speakeasy during prohibition. When you step inside, you can imagine people sitting in the drawing-room enjoying a glass of bourbon, so I wanted to capture that history and feeling. I was also drawn to the idea of doing a bourbon by the growing movement of women drinking whiskey. There is something so powerful about it that I love. In terms of the bottle design, I was inspired by the style and decor of Bluestone Manor. Baccarat crystal is a favorite of mine and I thought it would be beautiful to create a bottle that looked like a crystal decanter and would fit in seamlessly on my bar.


Fans of “The Real Housewives of New York City” are sure to rec-

ognize your home, Bluestone Manor, from which your bourbon takes its name. What drew you to this manor? What makes it special for you?


Bluestone Manor definitely has its own persona. To me, it is so much more

than a house. It is a living, breathing thing. As many people know, I grew up in Great Barrington. As I child, I knew of Bluestone Manor because my great-grandfather and grandfather, who were masons who came to this country from Italy, did a lot of the masonry work on it. On the weekends, my parents would sometimes drive us by it, and we would admire the beautiful home sitting up on the hill. I would say to my parents, “One day, I am going to buy Bluestone Manor so we can all enjoy it.” It had a deeply personal connection for me. Many years later, Richard [her late husband] bought the home for me as a wedding gift.


How did you decide to work with the Spirits Lab?

I work with Jason Pinyan, of Pinyan Branding, and when I set out to cre-

ate a bourbon brand, it was important to me to work with a majority female-owned company. He had made the introduction and I loved them. They had a lot of expe-


Medley describes Bluestone Manor Bourbon as having “notes of creme bruleé and vanilla as well as aromas of caramel, butterscotch and oak.” rience in craft spirits and were also local, in the Hudson Valley.


My favorite Bluestone Manor Bourbon cocktail was created by Sterling


Knight, owner of Mama Roux Restaurant


ner cocktail to ease you into a night of

How did you settle on the flavors and ingredients that went into the bourbon? We did extensive tastings to narrow down the exact flavor profile I loved and thought my fans would love; we ended up choosing a wheated bourbon style that is very smooth and drinkable. It has notes of creme bruleé and vanilla as well as aromas of caramel, butterscotch and oak. It is warm and lingering with a finish that is sweet and buttery, and just a little bit of spice.


Each bottle of Bluestone Manor Bourbon comes with an antique key. We’ve heard there are three different keys that come on the bottles. Can you tell us more about that?


in the Hudson Valley, and is named “After Midnight.” It is the perfect after-dinstorytelling and secrets. The kitchen at Bluestone Manor is one of my favorite places to spend time and I have also been creating a lot of recipes using my bourbon, from using it on a glazed salmon to some wonderful desserts.

AFTER MIDNIGHT (Courtesy of Dorinda Medley and Mama Roux restaurant) INGREDIENTS 1 ounce Bluestone Manor Bourbon 1 ounce coffee liqueur ½ ounce Amaro Montenegro

Every detail of the bottle was carefully selected and has meaning — from the peacock on the label to the antique-style keys that are attached to each bottle. This brand is meant to invite you in to experience a taste of Bluestone Manor, and we felt the keys were a piece of that. There are different styles, so they are collectible as well.

A touch of Pernod Absinthe


the rim of the glass. Pour the cocktail into

What’s your favorite thing to make with Bluestone Manor Bourbon?

2 dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters 2 dashes of Angostura Aromatic Bitters DIRECTIONS Add together the Bluestone Manor Bourbon, coffee liqueur and Amaro Montenegro. Stir. Add Pernod Absinthe and both bitters. Stir all the ingredients together. Next, take chilled glasses and add orange zest around the glass and enjoy. ■

Above, left, Dorinda Medley’s Great Barrington mansion is the inspiration for her new Bluestone Manor Bourbon.

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 33


Misty Blues band members Seth Fleischmann, Rob Tatten, Aaron Dean, Gina Coleman, Ben Kohn and Bill Patriquin.

With their latest album catching fire, Gina Coleman and Misty Blues find themselves ’ K C O L B E H T N O S ID K W E N T ‘THE OLDES BY MITCHELL CHAPMAN With 11 albums released — the last

“They’ve been super supportive,”

asked to be on major festivals,” she said.

of which was produced by U.K. record

she said of Lunaria. “We have garnered

Misty Blues have secured festival spots

label Lunaria Records, regular airplay

more reviews and chart placements with

this year at FreshGrass in North Adams at

on the Sirius XM channel B.B. King’s

this last album than any of our previous

the end of September, the Brimfield Blues

Bluesville, and a U.K. tour slated for next

works. It’s going well.”

Festival in Brimfield at the end of August

year, Misty Blues has been bigger than they’ve ever been. “It’s doing exceptionally well,” Misty

According to Coleman, Lunaria has been critical in getting “One Louder” in front of music critics and DJs, which has

and the StrangeCreek Music Festival in Greenfield at the end of May. For theaters, they’ve been performing

Blues lead singer and lyricist and founder

translated into the band being able to

a show called “Queens of the Blues,” in

Gina Coleman said of their most recent

secure more high-profile gigs.

which they pay tribute to and perform

album, “One Louder.” It has more than

“The key thing is that we’re being heard

songs of female blues legends Bessi Smith,

600,000 plays on Spotify, more than what

widely and it’s now translating into get-

Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown and

the band’s entire collection received be-

ting us asked to the dance — we’re getting

Koko Taylor, and Coleman tells stories

fore working with Lunaria.

asked to headline theaters; we’re being

about their lives in between songs. In

34 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

MIST Y BLUES March, they performed the show at the Vergennes Opera House in Vermont and performed it May 28 at the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington. They’ve also been the house band at Firefly Gastropub in Lenox for the last three years. You can catch them there every Friday night at 7. “These are really big things, but [with] this last album, the biggest thing for us is that we’re getting a lot of airplay on Sirius XM Bluesville,” she said. “That’s huge, because any truly devoted blues fan listens to that on a very regular basis. My car radio system never leaves that channel.” By her own recollection, Coleman says that Misty Blues has been getting “spun on that channel” two to three times a day, going back as far as last July, when they released their first single of their most recent album, “Take a Long Ride,” which they recorded with legendary blues musician Joe Louis Walker. His involvement “kind of helped,” Coleman deadpanned. “One Louder” is Misty Blues’ third pandemic album, and since 2018, the band has released a new album every year. Their next one isn’t far from completion. “The 12th album is practically written already,” Coleman said. “I’m constantly writing.” While COVID-19 shut down live performances, it made Misty Blues more productive creating music. “Over the pandemic, when we were sequestered, that’s where


The cover art Michael Mongue created for “One Louder,” which is Misty Blues’ 11th album.

our home. So that made it really easy to get down ideas and to

we really started to get prolific, because we had the time,” she

share them with band members. Even though we weren’t playing

said. “We ended up reconverting our rehearsal space into studio

as much because [of the pandemic], we were really producing a

space. So now we could do some pretty high-level recordings in

ton of music.” 


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MIST Y BLUES The lack of live audiences helped the band focus more on producing music they personally enjoyed, and it gave them room to cross-pollinate their blues music with other genres. “Sometimes you’re kind of lulled into presenting music in a way that the audience wants,” she said. “But when we were sequestered, we were our own audience. With blues at the core, we started to play on the fringe of that, and really started to highlight other genres that we really enjoy — that many of the musicians in the band are highly proficient in.” According to Coleman, in their last three albums, there’s much more highlights of jazz and funk, noting that some listeners might classify their single “Freight Car” as blues rock, but their music still remains centered on blues. The core members of Misty Blues are currently Coleman who, in addition to being the lead vocalist and lyricist, plays the cigar box guitar and does percussion; Bill Patriquin, a bassist who also plays trumpet; Ben Kohn, on keyboards; Rob Tatten, the drummer who also plays trumpet and trombone; saxophonist Aaron Dean; Seth Fleischmann, guitar; and Michael Mongue, who is Coleman’s husband and the cover artist for all their albums. They also have an extensive “farm team” of musicians they call to fill in whenever a core band member can’t make a show. They include Jeff Dudziak, Wes Buckley, Dave Vittone, Dan Esko, Matt Berger, Derrick Rodgers, Ed Moran, Zen Reinhardt and Jon Berman. Coleman and Mongue’s son, Diego Mongue, also plays PHOTO PROVIDED BY MARK RUTLEDGE

Gina Coleman sings at The Music Room in Yarmouth in 2021.

36 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

with the band. Coleman says the farm team has been central to keeping the

band relevant for its 23 years of existence, as it means they don’t have to turn down gigs if a few members can’t make it. It also keeps the band fresh. “It’s kind of cool that audiences can come out and may not see the same core faces,” she said. “Every time we have a farm team member, there’s a little something different. You’re never going to necessarily hear the same thing every time you see us.” When Misty Blues started out in 1999, they were a blues cover band, playing songs from the CD “Men Are Like Street Cars,” which is a compilation album featuring hits from female blues singers from 1928 to 1969. It was gifted to Coleman by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, whom she performed with in Williamstown Theatre Festival’s 1999 production of “A Raisin in the Sun” and who convinced her to become a blues artist. However, in the last decade, Misty Blues has been focusing mostly on creating their own original music. “We’re squarely in contemporary blues — we’re not a traditional blues band,” she said. With that shift to original music has come an international audience, with Misty Blues providing Spanish versions of some of their songs for their strong contingent of South American listeners. After the U.S., “One Louder” has gotten the most plays in Germany, Italy, France and the U.K. In 2023, the band has a U.K. tour slated for June 23 to July 4 of that year — it was supposed to happen this year, but it was delayed due to COVID-19. As their latest album continues to spread, more people — from fans of the blues to established artists in the industry — are hearing the band for the first time and discovering their lengthy discography and asking themselves: Where have they been? “We’ve been here for 23 years,” she said. “It’s funny being the oldest new kid on the block.” ■

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Misty Blues at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield after the album release concert of “One Louder”, their most recent album in February.

(413) 458-8060 | SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 37


BACKYARD BY CHRISTOPHER MARCISZ NORTH ADAMS From a tablet in his hand, sound engineer David Dennison can demonstrate how to completely reconfigure the space in Studio 9, the armadillo-like structure that popped up in 2020 behind The Porches Inn at Mass MoCA. While the building itself sits as a marvel of elegant design and sustainable efficiency, with its curving wooden arches and net-zero power systems, it is as a space for recording and performing music it achieves the remarkable feat of uncanny flexibility. By activating the building’s elaborate sound system of microphones and speakers, Dennison can change almost everything about the sonic quality of the interior. With a clap and a shout, he shows how he can make it sound like you are at the bottom of a cavern, or in a Gothic cathedral, or in a closet with pillows on the walls. “The whole idea is about playing the room,” he said. “Or letting the room play you.” That’s the effect of the Meyer Sound Constellation Acoustic System, a network of 46 speakers and 16 microphones spread through the curved space’s ceiling and walls which gives it a unique sense of feedback and response that can be changed with the flick of a finger. This kind of “electroacoustic architecture,” as Dennison describes it, is still uncommon, and usually can’t be found in a space on the grounds of a high-end boutique hotel and across the street from one of the world’s great contemporary arts spaces. There are other things you can do with it as well. Dennison calls upon the tablet a choral piece for eight voices and plays it back. By choosing a specific channel, he can focus on a single voice, mix it higher or lower, move it around the room. For musicians, this system opens up all kinds of possibilities. It shapes how you set up for recording — that you can put microphones on each instrument as in a regular recording studio, or you can capture the sound in the room itself, for a more immediate and intimate recording experience. It gives musicians the ability to set aside headphones and face one another and just play, as if they were in their basement or garage. Or a singer might want a room with more reverb, while a jazz quartet might want a tighter and more precise sound.  PHOTO PROVIDED BY DOUG MASON



Located on The Porches Inn campus, Studio 9 is a state-of-the-art recording studio and performance venue. Built with music and sustainability in mind, the studio is 100 percent carbon neutral and equipped with a Meyer Sound Constellation Acoustic System.

40 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022



The Meyer Sound Constellation Acoustic System, a network of 46 speakers and 16 microphones spread through the curved space’s ceiling and walls, gives Studio 9 a unique sense of feedback and response that can be changed with the flick of a finger, according to Dave “Decibel Dave” Dennison.

In the end, Chase said she was excited “It creates a nice vibe, and everyone loves playing here because of that flexibility,” Dennison said.

conference space with room for about 80

by the results, calling the place one of the

people, it can host weddings and other

best recording studios she’s worked in.

functions (it has a catering kitchen in

“What they’ve created here is, in a

back accessible from Veazie Street).

word, magical,” she said. “As an artist,

During the pandemic, it sometimes

experimental musician who plays flute

I feel privileged to make music here,

served as a breakfast room for the hotel.

and percussion and was at the studio in

and to collaborate with the people who

May for an intense four-day recording

make this happen.”

Among them is Claire Chase, an

session for a series of albums that will be coming out in November.

Studio 9 was completed in 2020, and

Chris Wadsworth is Jack’s son and the founder and director of the FreshGrass Foundation, which manages and

over the course of the pandemic has

operates the studio. He said his father

quietly begun to take its place in the

wanted the building to have an arrest-

in the center of the studio space, where

Porches business model. The building,

ing design, which would include wood

she could play flute and use mechanical

with a 1,110-square-foot assembly area

and sustainable sourcing. They found

sensors to play various tom and bongo

with giant windows that open up onto

a company in New Hampshire, Benson-

drums nearby. There were also an as-

the green space behind the Porches’

wood, that designed and fabricated the

sortment of other rhythm instruments

familiar row of converted rowhouses on

wooden arches, which are black pine,

around — rattles, bells, tambourines.

River Street, just across the street from

the interior panels of western red cedar,

Her work is about creating complex and

Mass MoCA.

and a copper-clad roof.

For her session, she set up on a riser

intricate soundscapes, and it took a lot

The idea came from Porches owner

Among its other features is a com-

of careful work to set up the precise

Jack Wadsworth as a way to fill in the

pletely net-zero building. Its heating

acoustics she wanted. But it was up for

campus. And while it is a top-of-the-

and cooling systems are a geothermal

the challenge, with settings that were

line recording space, it is also used for

heat exchange system powered by four

adjustable and could be remembered for

any number of other purposes — it can

400-foot wells, and it is powered by an

additional takes.

become an intimate performance and

array of solar panels on another hotel 

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 41



Roomful of Teeth members record at Studio 9 under the direction of Carter Burwell, legendary film-score composer (“No Country for Old Men,” “Fargo”). According to Roomful of Teeth’s website, the group was recording the soundtrack for the film adaptation of “Catherine, Called Birdy” which will be released by Amazon Studios in the fall.

building across the sidewalk. All these features are designed to work together to appeal to elite-level artists and musicians, especially those who probably already have easy access to high-quality recording equipment and are looking for something a little more. “There are plenty of beautiful recording spaces around the world,” Wadsworth said, and that it is having something unique like the Meyer Sound system and the appeal of the region is what makes the difference. “The objective was we wanted to create a really unique space where artists feel very comfortable, to innovate, to experiment, to do whatever they want to accomplish,” Wadsworth said. “Those spaces are always in demand.” That means relying on the tried and true selling pitch for the Berkshires all along — a tranquil yet creatively alive spot a step removed from New York and the Northeast corridor, but close enough to be just a few hours drive away. The combi-

42 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

nation of a high-quality — and notably adaptable — space with a hotel right on site, where musicians can come with their families, talk a walk around Mass MoCA and North Adams, or a hike up Mount Greylock, and spend a few days getting their work done. Like when the band Dispatch spent a few days there ahead of last year’s FreshGrass Festival for rehearsal. And a big part of the context is having a pro who knows the system like Dennison at the controls in the mixing room, which is below the main space and connected with video cameras. A native of western Pennsylvania, Dennison moved to the Bay Area after studying music in college in the late 1980s, playing in bands and more and more frequently helping them record. Through friends, he got to know the legendary mandolin player David Grisman, who called him one night at around 9:30 asking if he could come by because he had a friend over and they wanted to record a few things. He

dropped everything to go and realized that friend was Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead who Grisman had bumped into earlier that night at a record store. “It was just those guys, hanging around and talking and me setting up microphones as quickly as possible,” he said. Those sessions became an acclaimed album that was nominated for a Grammy, and Dennison began his decades-long career as an in-demand sound engineer, including for Garcia’s bandmate from the Dead, Mickey Hart. He grew into the job, which he said requires “communication skills and a good ear that lets you hear what people need.” Garcia would work with Dennison — who he gave the nickname “Decibel Dave” — until his death in 1995. From there he began working with Meyer Sound, a specialty audio equipment company based in Berkeley, Calif., becoming one of their traveling consul-



Claire Chase, an experimental musician and 2012 MacArthur Fellow (middle, standing), during a recording session at Studio 9 in May.

tants making sure their complicated

ing up steam and getting busier, even

happen there with virtual reality or aug-

and intricate systems were set up and

if Wadsworth admits that they are a bit

mented reality, and the sonic possibili-

maintained correctly. It sent him around

behind schedule.

ties of EDM performance at the space.

the world and led to work with big-time

“We’re two years behind where we’d

Wadsworth said he believes the specif-

musical acts like Metallica and Celine

want to be,” he said. “Our hope is we’d

ic qualities of the space would be great

Dion, and unexpected clients like the

have two years of working out the kinks

for sound artists and for composers,

Dalai Lama.

as a venue, as a recording spot, how

especially those working on film scores.

we integrate into the community … no

Recently the production team for a

when he was called in to help with a

rush, but we’re learning now. It feels

project that will be on a major streaming

project at the then just opened Studio

like the beginning.”

platform recorded there.

Dennison was living in Australia

9. It was for work by the acclaimed

And what that will evolve into is still

`“We’re still trying to figure out our

Kronos Quartet, who were working on

taking shape. Dennison imagined the

sweet spot for how we present the place

an album of Pete Seeger songs that had

possibility of hosting intimate remote

and how we want to book it,” Wadsworth

been commissioned by the FreshGrass

concerts — of having a performer in

said. “This will be a year of experi-

Foundation. He thought it would be a

their own studio somewhere else, and

mentation, then I’m sure we’ll get our

nice fit, and in summer 2020 he relocated

using the Constellation system and the


to the Berkshires.

video screen to recreate it almost exactly

Since then, the project has been pick-

at Studio 9. He also imagines what could

“I think the space is limited only by our imagination.” ■

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 43


Naumkeag hosts one of the largest George Rickey retrospectives in the Northeast in 40 years BY JENNIFER HUBERDEAU STOCKBRIDGE George Rickey was hailed in his 2002 obituary by The New York Times as “one of two major 20th-century artists to make movement a central interest in sculpture.” The other major artist was Alexander Calder, whose works Rickey encountered in the 1930s. Calder, who died in 1976, grew up in Richmond, where his father owned a home. Rickey arrived in the Berkshires later in life, in 1957, purchasing a house in East Chatham, N.Y. There, he established his studio, not more than 10 miles from the Richmond border. There, in the second career Rickey came to later in life,


Douglas Molin and Melanie Mowinski view George Rickey’s Double L Excentric Gyratory III at Naumkeag.

he and a team of assistants

1950s, as Rickey was gaining

would craft gigantic kinetic

prominence, to the 1990s, at

sculptures that can be found

the end of his long and prolif-

outdoor sculptures on display

across the United States and

ic career. The show follows a

— all of which have move-

in 13 countries, including Ger-

national exhibition of Rick-

ment as part of their design,

many, Japan, the Netherlands

ey’s large-scale sculptures on

Wilson said the experience

and South Korea. His work

display along Park Avenue

is not overwhelming due to

is included in the permanent

and The High Line in New

Naumkeag’s garden design.

collections of 150 museums.

York City.

“ViewEscapes,” one of

“It all started out kind of

work in the house.” And while there are 12

“Fletcher Steele created these outdoor garden rooms.

the view or of the building nearby. The smaller works, miniatures Rickey created as reference for his works, many of which have three to five variations, are displayed similarly within Naumkeag, the historic Gilded Age cottage

the largest retrospectives

modestly, about a year ago.

The pieces are somewhat

of the Choate family. The

of George Rickey’s work in

We were thinking, maybe

separated. You can see them,

44-room house served as the

the Northeast in 40 years

six or seven pieces,” Wilson

see them interact with the

summer home of diplomat

comprising 12 large-scale

said, speaking of how the

landscape, see them interact

Joseph Choate and his wife,

sculptures, along with six

show grew to 23 pieces that

with the house,” Wilson said.

Caroline Dutcher Sterling

smaller sculptures and three

span the length of the artist’s

The consistent breeze

paintings, is on display at

career, from the 1950s to 2002.

along the hilltop on which

Naumkeag through Nov. 1.

“We’re working with the

Naumkeag sits puts the

The solo exhibition was cu-

George Rickey Foundation

sculptures in almost constant

rated by Mark Wilson, associ-

and the George Rickey Estate,

motion, he said. Each of the

ate curator for The Trustees

which have been so helpful.

large-scale sculptures has

of Reservations.

And because they’re so close

been placed in a way that

and they have these pieces

complements the landscape

“ViewEscapes” explores

Choate, and later, their daughter, Mable Choate, who improved upon the 48-acre estate’s gardens and later left the property in the care of The Trustees. For more information

Rickey’s life, design process

available, we were able to

and architecture nearby,

about “ViewEscapes,” visit

and artistic intent, highlight-

expand the show to include

the shapes of the sculptures

ing works spanning from the

more pieces, including art-

mimicking the shapes of

georgerickey. ■

44 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022



Steven and Evan Valenti keep up with the summer trends for casual wear in the Berkshires at Steven Valenti’s Clothing for Men.

Step out — fashionably —


When the invitation calls for “Berk-

after-hours gatherings with staff. The

answer goes something like this: “I need

shire casual,” do you know what to wear

problem: His suitcase didn’t make it.

to go to ‘this thing.’ I don’t wear dress

to the party? For too long, it’s been a

The evening before, the Valentis got

clothes. I’m leaving it up to you.” The Valentis mission then becomes:

mystery to me. I recently made it my

the call. By morning, they had outfit-

mission to find out.

ted the fellow head to toe in a Berk-

“We want them to go to the celebration,

shires-friendly wardrobe.

whatever it might be, and have some-

So, I called on Steve and Evan Valenti, the father-son duo who run Steven

After an exhausting night like that, who

body say, ‘Hey, you look great.’”

Valenti’s Clothing on North Street in

would have the gas left to talk fashion?

The mission is successful when the

Pittsfield, now in its 39th year. If there’s

But for the Valentis, fashion is the fuel.

customer says afterward: “I got to tell

someone who’d know about men’s fash-

In a fascinating — and fast — hour,

you, I could have been signing auto-

Steve and Evan held court on Berkshire

graphs all night. Everybody loved the

The morning I arrived for my inter-

casual and advice beyond. Though the

way I looked.” Here are some of their

view, the Valentis had just rescued an

store carries women’s wear too, we fo-

tips behind “Berkshire casual”:

out-of-town business executive who

cused our discussion on men’s styles.

ion in the Berkshires, it’s them.

made the trip to the Berkshires for several days of business meetings and

What’s your mission? Many times, according to Steve, the customer’s

The destination matters. “It’s important to consider where you’re going,” Evan says. 

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 45

Quality service.

Perfect air. Air is life. Make it perfect.


Print shirts are perfect for casual occasions.

Wear what coordinates with your surroundings. The beauty of the Berkshires is its many different places, Evan says. “And each one brings their own set of rules and circumstances.” What if the destination is Tanglewood? You might wear a sport coat and you might throw on a tie for that occasion,

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Steven says. What if it’s Naumkeag’s garden party? You’re probably going to want to wear some pastels, Evan says. You might want to throw on a bow tie “to be a little different, a little quirky,” he says. Confidence factor. The advice from Evan: “Whatever you wear to whatever

Stories to inspire creative life

event that you’re wearing it to, you have to wear it with confidence.” Including a sport coat with purple

By the Way Berkshires A Digital Magazine

sequins? Yes, including that. Evan happens to own a purple sequined sport coat, and he wears it for the right occasion — for when fun is part of the equation. With confidence, Evan says, you can

Explore the holidays from an insider’s view — with Kate Abbott, former editor of Berkshires Week. Find out what’s going on this weekend in our free newsletter and regional calendar.

wear anything. Be prepared for when folks buzz about it. Good posture helps all the time; slouching in a purple sequined coat isn’t a good look. “Don’t be afraid of color. It is just a color,” says Evan. Cocktail attire. What if the invitation says this? “To me, it depends on the time of year,” Evan says. In the fall and winter, that means a black or a dark suit, no tie, open collar. In the spring and summer, come out of your hibernation with color — a light blue sport coat, tan casual trousers. A tie could be the focal point of your outfit. In lieu of a tie, let your shirt do the talking, let it make a statement, the Valentis say.

46 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

Berkshire casual. OK, so what does


These light canvas wingtips by Stacy Adams are fine for any occasion.

“Berkshire casual” mean? Sport coat? (Yes.) Shorts? (No.) Nice buttoned shirt? (Yes.) A five-pocket jean or trouser? (Yep.) When the invitation says “Berkshire casual,” Evan gave an answer that made so much sense, at least to me: “No one is going to yell at you for not being dressed up enough.” Trousers: Pleats or no pleats? Pleats are “in” in Europe right now. But in the United States, pleats have been out of style for a while, according to Steve. Why is that? Steve explains the American style at the moment: “Silhouettes are cleaner. Jackets are trimmer. Shirts are trimmer. Trousers are trimmer. So in order to have trim trousers, you take the pleats out. So we’ve tried to encourage men to leave their pleated pants still in the closet, but maybe invest in a pair of flat French trousers — for now.” Trousers: Tailored or skinny? “There is a difference between tailored and too tight,” Evan says. Like the tie, be proportional: Some can pull off the super-tight, ankle-baring pants. Those of us with a few extra pounds? Probably not. No matter what, a decent pair of trousers should be tailored. Jeans: Dressed up from the waist up in a fun shirt and a sport coat? A nice pair of five-pocket, non-denim jeans add a slightly casual look, the Valentis say. Want to be a bit more casual? Wear

denim jeans with your sport coat. Ties: Narrow, medium or wide? Generally speaking, your proportions dictate what width of tie you should wear, according to the Valentis. “If someone who’s very broad wears a dinky tie, it’s weird,” Evan says. Sport coats: Solid or pattern? “The sport coat is an integral part of Berkshire casual,” Steve says. “With a sport coat, you can dress it up or dress it down.” Windowpane patterns — rectangles, along with plaids and checks, are in fashion now. Don’t have those, but have a solid navy one?

Jumpsuit, the new Dress Perfect for all Occasions

Rest assured. “The navy blazer is still king,” Steven says. Pro tip: Have fun on the inside of your sport coat or jacket with a loud, colorful liner. Socks: Tell a story. The tie doesn’t have to do all the work. Make your socks the “statement piece” of your outfit, Evan says. Colorful, robust and fun designs on socks are “a way for people to have a little bit of personality,” Evan says. Shoes: What color? Brown or cognac shoes in leather are stylish bets. A little farther out, Steven suggests navy blue suede, laced shoes. Evan adds that shoe designers are leveling up sneakers into a footwear that blends with a casual look. ■

Where Art Meets Fashion 35 Church St., Lenox, MA 413-637-3442 SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 47

A VIBE perfect for live music Troubadour rocker Johnny Irion has traveled the world, but this hidden Berkshires music venue keeps him coming back BY JENNIFER HUBERDEAU

LENOX Enter the lobby of the Apple Tree Inn on any Wednesday through Saturday night and you’ll be sure to hear the sounds of a band or two coming from the confines of the Ostrich Room, its boutique cocktail lounge. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch troubadour

you’ll be listening to one of the bands he’s handpicked to play at the inn, where he’s been curating the music heard there for just over a year. Most recently, musical acts have included Mike Stinson, StompBoxTrio, Eleanor Levine and Mary Ann Palermo and First Take Band. So just how did Irion, a folk-rock mu-

the Apple Tree Inn? The answer is a mixed bag. For starters, Irion resides in the town of Washington. A resident since 2006, he’s spent most of his time on the road, or in the studio recording or producing music. “I’d been coming to the Berkshires since the early 2000s, but just was never really here a lot, just long enough to

rocker Johnny Irion at the mic, alone or

sician who once toured with The Black

kind of regroup and then get back on the

backed by the Applesauce Band. If not,

Crowes end up curating musical acts for

road,” he said.

Above, Johnny Irion performs in The Ostrich Room at the Apple Tree Inn. ALL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY THE APPLE TREE INN

48 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

“We want to introduce the culture and the property to a new generation of travelers,” said Max Khaghan, Aries Living’s founder and CEO.

Music at The Apple Tree Inn When: 8 to 10 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. The Ostrich Room is open from 6 to 11 p.m. with a full menu. Where: Ostrich Room and Bellflower Restaurant, Apple Tree Inn, 10 Richmond Lane, Lenox More information: 413-637-1477,

But COVID changed all that. “It was a very bizarre twist of fate for me because I didn’t have a new record coming out. I had been touring for two years for my last album, ‘Driving Around.’ I had just finished playing in Europe and just got back and a new year hit and I was like, ‘I got to work on my studio. I got to work on these projects. I’ve been touring for close to 25 years,’” Irion said. But Irion wouldn’t visit the former

The Ostrich Room, now a boutique cocktail lounge that hosts live music Wednesday through Saturday, was originally built as a billiards room.

Avaloch Inn (as it was known when Alice Brock owned it), just a stone’s throw 

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 49

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away from Tanglewood, until 2021, during a self-imposed pause from touring. “I had heard about the Apple Tree Inn through my father-in-law, Arlo Guthrie, through the years because Alice Brock,

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from Alice’s Restaurant, ran this place for a few years, in the ’70s. And, also some older friends, who live in Lenox, were always saying this restaurant was great,” he said.

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“I read an article [in March 2021] in The Berkshire Eagle that it had been purchased by some new owners. There was a photo of Max and James [Khaghan] and Daniel [Tennant].” After a year and a half of not touring, an “itch” to get back out and play coincided with his reading the article about the Apple Tree Inn’s purchase. He decided to check out the inn he’d heard so much about. “So one day, I came up and just walked in here. No one was here except for Daniel.

the Enjoy learning for the with us! love of learning with us!

And he thought I was nuts … I walk in and he’s like, ‘May I help you?’ And I was just like, ‘Oh, just popping by to see what’s going

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on.’ And from that point, we just started building a relationship,” Irion said. Then things started to look like they were 413.236.2190

about to open up a little bit last summer. “I was like, ‘Oh, it’d be great to have a cool, cool place to play,’” he said. “I mean, there are a few places to play in the Berkshires, but you know, I don’t think any one of them has the vibe that compares to this

Thursday, August 4th • 8pm

place for the size room.”


MUSIC TAKES OFF In July, when the inn became operational, things got underway, at first with

Pascuala Ilabaca

just Irion playing on Wednesdays and

June 22 • 7pm


Carolyn Wonderland

July 1 • 7pm

“Those started really getting packed and fun,” he said. “And then James and Max and Daniel said they wanted to start

Jimmy Vivino

July 15 • 7pm

having music on other nights too. So we

Go to for more shows.

started doing Thursdays and Fridays. And then on Fridays, we started doing a cabaret show in the Bellflower Restaurant.”

Carolyn Wonderland

July 1 • 7pm

S ®


©2022 The Stationery Factory

Soon after, a Sunday Brews and Blues Brunch was offered. (Something Irion hopes to bring back this summer.) “I feel like with the Berkshires, there are so many screenwriters and people from New York that are coming up and to and from New York, that this is a great spot to work on your show and not have a lot of pressure on you,” Irion said. In addition to musical performances throughout the week, the Apple Tree Inn 50 Berkshire Landscapes Magazine I SPRING 2022

provides month-long residencies for mu-


Gathered in The Ostrich Room, an audience listens to Johnny Irion play. Irion curates the Apple Tree Inn’s music offerings. sicians and acts who perform there. Among those who have recently workshopped shows at the inn are The Fremonts, a musical cabaret husband-and-wife duo from Great Barrington, and Melanie Greenberg, also from Great Barrington, who worked on her one-woman musical “The Elephant in the Room.”

EARLY BEGINNINGS Located at 10 Richmond Lane, the 34-room Apple Tree Inn’s main house was built in 1885. It contains 13 guest rooms, a tavern/taproom, and a 100-plus-seat restaurant. A second structure, the lodge building, includes 21 additional rooms. The parlor, entrance hall and four rooms of the main house were constructed by Cecile Bristed, of New York, a frequent visitor to Lenox. The main house was completed by Henry Pease, who bought the property in 1899 and added four bedrooms and a billiards room that is now the Ostrich Room. The former bed-and-breakfast was originally called The Orchard — and also has been known as Portofino, Alice’s at 

One of the Apple Tree Inn’s guest rooms.

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 51

The Bellflower Restaurant hosts musical cabarets and in the summer Sunday Brews and Blues Brunch. Avaloch and the Avaloch Inn.

NEW OWNERS Aries Living, of which the Khaghans are principals, purchased the inn for $2.4 million, according to documents filed at the Berkshire Middle District Registry of Deeds in Pittsfield. “We intend to be a hub for culture here at Apple Tree Inn,” said Max Khaghan, Aries Living’s founder and CEO, in a previous interview. “We want to introduce the culture and the property to a new generation of travelers.” That sentiment has kept artists like Irion coming back. “There’s just a certain vibe to this hotel,

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with the ownership being so receptive to having music. It’s a big part of what makes this work, having a great staff and a venue that you know supports music,” Irion said.

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“There’s a lot of venues, where you get a sense that they don’t want you there, that you’re just another number so to speak. I’ve played big festivals, Carnegie Hall and some really big shows. Those are great. But as far as clubs go, it is really hard to find a staff like the one they have here.” ■

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3 Questions with

Johnny Irion The folk singer-songwriter answers our questions about his creative process BY JENNIFER HUBERDEAU


t was late 2019 when folk-artist Johnny Irion returned home to the Berkshires, putting the past two years of touring in Europe for his album “Driving Friend” behind him. He was intent on building up his Washington studio and shifting to work that allowed him to stay in one place a little longer, writing music for commercials and films. The timing couldn’t have been more

music for a few commercials. One was

perfect. A few months after making

the commercial featuring

the decision to “take the jump” off the

Rob Lowe. I’ve also shot some videos and

touring circuit, pandemic precautions

worked on an indie film.”

put most of the world in lockdown. Irion kept busy in his studio, making music. “I’ve definitely been busy,” Irion said during a recent interview. “I’ve done

And then in 2021, as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, the itch to play music in public hit him. He found himself at the Apple Tree Inn, guitar in hand. 

“What I love about having the studio is that if I’m really into the song, I can just release a song,” Irion says of having his own studio in Washington, where he lives with his wife Sarah Lee Guthrie.


SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 55


He was soon playing in The Ostrich Room, acoustically at first and then, as the crowds became larger, a small band was formed. Seeing the potential in the inn’s historic past, a place where dining and music always went hand-in-hand, Irion began curating other musical guests — some who stay for a month-long residency — for the inn. “In the ’60s, you had the troubadour and you had these iconic venues where people would play for two weeks. Neil Young would play at a venue for two weeks. The Eagles would play for a

latest music projects. His answers have

I’m pretty good at arranging chords,

been lightly edited for length.

but when it comes to lyrics, I have to sit down. Lyrics take time, because I’m


What inspires you when you’re writing songs?

particular about lyrics because I’m going

Life. Day-to-day things. I write all different kinds of songs: rock songs,

something that somebody says when

folk songs, pop songs, kids’ songs. It’s really everyday life or a book or a piece of art, a film, a crazy neighbor, self reflection, relationships. How do you compose your songs? Do you always compose

the music first?

a hotel guest, if you know that someone


(a particular artist) is coming, you can get a room and enjoy a night. If they are coming for two nights, that’s even better — that’s the concept of the music residency.” Irion also has been busy producing music in his studio, releasing singles (the most recent being “Norman Rockwell Blues”) and working on several musical projects, including the forthcoming album, “Working My Way Down,” with longtime friend and collaborator Mike Stinson, a singer-songwriter who has written songs that have appeared on albums released by Dwight Yoakum, Billy Bob Thorton and Folk Uke (featuring Willie Nelson). The songs on “Working My Way Down” are from a lifetime ago, 25 years

And sometimes, the inspiration is just you’re having a beer and having a laugh. Sometimes a song just comes out of the silliest moment. Those are great. I call them backporch songs. Sometimes I just strap on my electric


week or whatever it was,” he said. “As

to be up there singing them.

guitar and walk up to the microphone. Keith Richards calls those “vowel movements.” When I read his book, I was like, I’m so glad he does that too. That’s 30

It definitely comes in different ways. There are three or four differ-

ent scenarios where it will happen, because I’m a song searcher. And I know that that’s the baseline of what makes my world tick. So if I haven’t brought a new song out in a while, I’ll start to get a little twitchy. I’m really big on melodies, sometimes they just pop into my head. I’m really inspired by some classical composers. I’m a huge fan of [Antonín] Dvorák. Some of those melodies for me get me going, they really charge the battery. The more I

percent of writing, just stepping up and seeing what comes out. That’s how it starts, one of those ways. It all ends up being craft at the end of the day, before it goes on the record, I’ve definitely changed the keys and I’ve moved stuff around.


What have you been working on lately? Are you working on a

new album?


I’m working on several projects. But the main focus is getting “Nor-

man Rockwell Blues” started. What I

read, or take a walk or take time to listen

love about having the studio is that if

to what’s around me, the birds or a river,

I’m really into the song, I can just re-

those melodies really start the process

lease a song. A full album is definitely a

and lead me to the guitar or piano to try

different entree. It’s a big climb.

to figure out what that melody is. And

Yes, I’ve got my sights on making an

to be exact, a time when Irion and

normally, as part of that process, what-

album. But I’ve also just been, I call it

Stinson were in a band together, writing

ever is happening in my life will tumble

nesting — recording the songs and then

songs in an old rehearsal studio called

out as poetry or words, as a snapshot of

one may eventually end up on the record

“The Alley House.” They teamed up

it, and then I have to build. Sometimes I

or not. The next single I’m releasing is

with Stinson’s close friend, Andy Jones,

get a whole line, sometimes I get a whole

the single “Antonio” (inspired by The

a singer and songwriter, who composed

chorus, but most of the time I have to let

Ostrich Room’s resident mixologist

several songs for them to sing. Soon

it simmer and then start dressing it with

Antonio Bonilla), and then there’ll be

after, Jones became ill and slipped into

imagery, what the song is about.

a couple of other singles to follow that

a coma, eventually passing away. The

Some melodies have a certain tone.

through the summer.

songs went unrecorded, until recently,

With “Norman Rockwell Blues,” those

when the pair reunited in Irion’s studio

words, that vibe and the chords, they

some European touring and a tour that

last May. The album is set to be released

match up. That took a minute. Sometimes

stops at my favorite places to play in

this fall.

it happens fast. When the structure

America. I’ve played everywhere, so I’m

happens fast, I call it a germ. A germ

trying to just nail it down to a few mar-

happens fast and then the work comes.

kets that I like to perform in. ■

Irion recently answered a few questions about his creative process and his

There will be a full-length album with

When he’s not performing at the Apple Tree Inn or curating its musical residency program, singer-songwriter Johnny Irion is busy working in his studio in Washington.


56 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022


Think you know music and the Berkshires? The Berkshire Eagle

BY KEVIN MORAN https ://theberks papers .com/image/531670256

The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts)

“ROLLING THUNDER REVUE” SCREENSHOT VIA NETFLIX A review of the Dylan and Baez concert that appeared in The Joan Baez and Bob Dylan at The Dream Away Lodge in Becket in a scene from Martin Scorsese’s Thunder Copyright © “Rolling 2022 News papers .com. All Rights Res erved. Berkshire Eagle in August 1963. Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.”


hat composer spent time in a Berkshire County lockup after crashing into a cow? Name the Berkshires drummer who’s performed with Lady Gaga and members of The Beatles. Was JT’s “Sweet Baby James” a hit single?

58 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

In Martin Scorsese’s 2019 documentary “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story,” Dylan is filmed driving down Main Street of what Berkshire County town? If you answered “Stockbridge,” you’re right! Bob Dylan was cruising through our Berkshires in 1975. Also in the film, Dylan and Joan Baez discuss music and love at The Dream Away Lodge in Becket — right in front of its colorful glass bar. It was not the first or the last visit Dylan or Baez made to the

Berkshires. But one of their earliest performances in the Berkshires came in August 1963 when they shared a bill at the Boys Club in Pittsfield. They were both 22 years old and just beginning their storied careers. An estimated 3,000 people attended the show. “Last night we had the pleasure of hearing two young American artists at the top of their field and their strength. Their gift was our gift” went the review in the next day’s Berkshire Eagle.

· T




U.S. composer Aaron Copland in 1969. e Berkshire Eagle The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) · 10 Aug 1966, Wed · Page 4 Downloaded on May 19, 2022

A TANGLEWOOD LEGEND Did you know the Tanglewood Music Center teacher and composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was once jailed by Pittsfield police following a car accident that killed a cow? “Copland spent most of his summers in a barn in Richmond, where he created much of his music. The barn still stands off Swamp Road,” classical music writer Andrew Pincus wrote in a 1990 reflection on Copland. The story continues: “While driving near his home in 1949, he was involved in an accident that has become a part of Tanglewood legend. Unable to see clearly on the foggy night, he struck and killed a cow. The Pittsfield Police threw him into jail until friends could get him out.” Luckily, we remember Copland for the legendary music he wrote. His pieces captured the mood of mid-20th century America, through works like “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Our Town.” But what happened that foggy night in 1949 does make for an interesting story. 

A Tanglewood concert advertisement from the Aug. 10, 1966, Berkshire Eagle.

pyright © 2022 All Rights Reserved.

Clipped By: kmoran785 Thu, May 19, 2022

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 59


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James Taylor has had five singles reach No. 1 on the U.S. charts.


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One could very well have their Berkshires card revoked if they don’t know, by heart, the lines from James Taylor’s 1970 single “Sweet Baby James”: Now the First of December was covered with snow And so was the Turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston Lord, the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frostin’ With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go And while these lines are No. 1 in the hearts of many JT fans, can you venture a guess as to how the song charted when it was released in 1970? Spoiler alert: It did not reach No. 1. While the single “Sweet Baby James” went on to become one of Taylor’s most iconic songs, it didn’t chart — at all — when it was released 52 years ago. Hard to believe, isn’t it? “Fire and Rain” was the big winner on that album, hitting No. 3 on the charts. The album, titled “Sweet Baby James,” reached No. 3. In case you’re wondering, JT has had five singles reach No. 1 on the U.S. charts. They are “You’ve Got a Friend” (1971), “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” and “Shower the People” (1975), “Handy Man” (1977) and “(What A) Wonderful World” with Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon (1978).

MUSIC TRIVIA THE BEAT OF THE BERKSHIRES You’ve likely heard his drum-playing. You’ve likely seen him behind the drum kit either in person or performing on television. John Cougar knows him very well. So does Sting, Elton John, Adele, Bruce Springsteen, Avril Lavigne, Rod Stewart, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr — the list goes on. Those are just a few of the stars who have picked him to drum on their recordings or on their tours. But who is this rock drummer and what’s the connection to the Berkshires? His name is Kenny Aronoff and his date with rock and roll destiny was Feb. 9, 1964. That night, Kenny was a 10-year-old growing up in Stockbridge when he saw The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” After watching the Fab Four on television, Kenny knew he wanted to be a rock and roll drummer. And that, he did. Aronoff went on to become one of rock’s most amazing and successful live and studio drummers, with sales of more than 300 million records to his credit. ■


Drummer Kenny Aronoff performs in 2014 in Los Angeles.

SOURCES: The Berkshire Eagle, Netflix,, Billboard

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Meet Chris Wadsworth, the man behind FreshGrass BY TONY DOBROWOLSKI PITTSFIELD The Brooklyn borough of New York City isn’t known as a hotbed of bluegrass music. But that’s where Chris Wadsworth was living when he heard the music that changed his life. Wadsworth fell in love with bluegrass and that eventually led him to form FreshGrass, the festival that debuted at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams in 2011. FreshGrass returns in September. The festival proved so popular, Wadsworth produced a second FreshGrass in Bentonville, Ark., last October. Known mostly for being Walmart’s corporate headquarters, Bentonville is evolving into a hip arts space with a venue that resembles Mass MoCA. A second FreshGrass festival in Bentonville took place at the end of May, and more festivals at different venues across the country may be on the way. Chris Wadsworth also has been working on Studio 9, the recording and performance space at The Porches, the inn in North Adams founded by Chris’s father John “Jack” Wadsworth and his wife, Susy. Big things are planned for Studio 9 as well. We discussed these topics with the San Francisco resident during a recent telephone conversation. The discussion that follows has been lightly edited for clarity and length.



Chris Wadsworth, the founder of FreshGrass, outside his home in San Francisco.

62 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022

What originally inspired you to start FreshGrass?

I loved this music from my earliest days. People who love bluegrass often point to a moment when, like, a lightbulb went off. For me, it was when I was 7 growing up in Brooklyn and my folks took me to a bluegrass festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I was

E XECUTIVE Q& A like, what is this stuff ? I re-

the creation of The Momen-

get a feel for it. That’s a good

cording artist as well. If you

ally dug it. My folks are from

tary, which is the museum in

way to test the waters.

want it to sound like you’re

Kentucky, so I grew up with

Bentonville where we have the festival. [The Momentary,

been with me from my earli-

part of the Walton family’s


recording in Grace Cathedral

this music in my house. It’s est days and inspired me to

Crystal Bridges Museum, is a

be very music-focused in my

former cheese factory turned

life. I was a music major in

arts space.]

Will this year’s lineup in North Adams be dif-

ferent than the one in Arkansas?


There might be one or two overlaps. But for the

school [at Williams College]

One of the things that

and went to graduate school

FreshGrass has done for

most part, it’s entirely dif-

for composition.

Mass MoCA over the years

ferent. It’s hard for me to


is bring a lot of people to the

say if one year is better than

festival who wouldn’t other-

the next. But this year feels

this one endured?

wise come to Mass MoCA. So

denser than any year we’ve


it’s been a great marketing

had in the past.

tool for the museum. I think


Music festivals seem to come and go. Why has

I think it’s a unique festival, that’s one of the

things. It’s unique in the sense that the campus is unique. I was talking to [wellknown bluegrass musician] David Grisman. He said, “You’ve got to understand that as music professionals, we play 100, sometimes 200, events a year and the places begin to blend together, but there’s a handful of places that stick out in your mind because they’re so unique and special when you’re there, and that’s what Mass MoCA and FreshGrass feel like because it is such a unique setting.” I think we’ve hit on something: industrial building, outrageous art and really innovative roots music. You mix that all together and it just feels really good. I think it’s the combination of different elements that has helped it endure. And frankly,

with the new museum, like The Momentary, they were wondering how they were going to attract people, not just inside Bentonville, but outside to be familiar with The Momentary. The festival was a good way to do that. The younger generation of the Walton family, who are taking over the Walton Family Foundation, is trying to turn Bentonville — and I think [they’re] doing it — into a real, cool, hip, attractive place.


Are you thinking about expand-

Why did you create Studio 9 at The



That was also something that was a victim

of COVID. It was finished [during the pandemic], so it really hasn’t been activated yet except on the recording side. It’s a very unique shape, and it’s a beautiful venue that can hold about 100 people max. So it’s very intimate. We have all kinds of ambi-

[an Episcopal church in San Francisco], you can do that. It creates a tone of flexibility for everyone involved, and that’s what’s super exciting about it. We’ve yet to really release it publicly in terms of putting on shows. We’re hoping to do that starting this summer.


Based on what you told me, it sounds like

you’re interested in making North Adams a hub for bluegrass music.


A big hub of creativity and innovation, I would

say. It goes way beyond bluegrass. We’re in conversations with a lot of classical music performers, jazz performers, even avant-garde composers, roots music, folk music, blues and everything in between. My definition of music is very broad. So when I say

tions about how we’re go-

roots music it can almost en-

ing to program that and tie

compass anything as long as

it into weekend stays at The

it’s real music for real people

Porches and things like that.

and real stories sort of from

It also has a state-of-the-

the grassroots level. That can

ing FreshGrass anywhere

art recording system. We

even mean hip-hop and rap,


now have this amazing engi-

quite frankly.


neer, Dave Dennison, who’s


We’re in conversations about that. I think again

now based there. He did all

the combination of the set-

the recordings for Jerry

ting and the music curating

Garcia late in his career.

that we like to do does have

He’s a well-known, really

other places where we can

respected artist.

pull it off. There is clearly

And there’s something

I know you live in San Francisco, but do you

live in the city or elsewhere in the Bay Area?


If you know the city, I live out in the Outer Sun-

a limit to how many we can

in there called the Meyer

set. So, right at the Pacific

do, but I feel like we could

Constellation system. It’s this

Ocean. I live in a fog bank

definitely do a third [venue].

incredible [sound] system

and there’s a little surfer

We’ve had a few conversa-

where you can choose the

community. I’m a surfer. It

tions. Nothing has felt right

room, basically. You can make

feels very different from the

yet, but we continue to look.

it sound like a cathedral.

rest of San Francisco. It’s

You can make it sound like a

like a quiet, little enclave

ones, where we’re doing a sort

padded room and everything

right on the ocean. It’s typi-

of “FreshGrass Presents,”

in between. As a performer,

cally fogged in and very dark

to Mass MoCA. In fact, Mass

where we’ll do three artists

you can tune it in a way that

and sparse and cold and kind

MoCA was very involved in

in a row just for an evening to

you would like, and as a re-

of raw, and I love that. ■

that’s why we decided to start one in Arkansas because it’s a very similar formula.


Why did you choose Bentonville as the sec-

ond site? The opportunity in Arkansas was very similar

We are doing some smaller

SUMMER 2022 I Berkshire Landscapes 63



‘Sine qua non’

EAGLE FILE PHOTO Tanglewood crowds navigate mud as they exit the flooded festival grounds on Aug. 12, 1937. Local lore says that Gertrude Robinson Smith called for a permanent building during intermission and raised the necessary funds that night. What actually happened is a little less glamorous, as the Berkshire Symphonic Festival board of directors didn’t take any action until the next afternoon following a meeting with the BSO.

“We are building at Tanglewood a festival that is national in scope and we hope it will become international in influence and attractiveness. The festival has its base in the Berkshires, but it is already clear that persons from every part of the United States and Canada are making these concerts the hub of their summer plans. It is also clear that we have brought the great masterpieces of music, performed by one of America’s outstanding orchestras and conductors, to a new audience in this part of the country.” — Gertrude Robinson Smith, president of the Berkshire Symphonic Festival These were Smith’s prophetic words on Aug. 13, 1937, in an appeal to raise $100,000 to build a “dignified shed” on the grounds of Tanglewood a day after torrential downpours interrupted the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra’s performance five times. The festival tent failed to protect the orchestra and spectators, prompting BSO conductor Serge Koussevitsky to tell festival organizers a permanent shelter was “sine qua non” — an essential condition — or the BSO would not return to Tanglewood in 1938. ■

66 Berkshire Landscapes I SUMMER 2022


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