Festivals of the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York

This region, which is the home of Woodstock Chimes, is known for its beautiful environment, its history and its culture. There are almost too many things to choose from, such as the many wonderful festivals of all sorts.

Phoenicia Festival of the Voice
Phoenicia Festival of the Voice

I recently played in the orchestra for the Festival of the Voice in Phoenicia, NY. This is a five-day event in its sixth year with extraordinary singers and musicians performing many styles of music. This season featured music by American composers from the revolutionary period to the present. The Cambridge Chamber Singers treated us to early American music from the 18th century, while the opera night gave us a performance of Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men, based on the Steinbeck novel. This is a challenging work that major opera houses around the world would find difficult to present. We also performed Stephen Sondheim’s hit musical A Little Night Music. The creators of this festival are stars from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and the festival is world class. One of the highlights for me was seeing Jack DeJohnette and Sheila Jordan (soon to celebrate her 87th birthday) performing a set with Jack on piano. They were amazing! Next season, the Festival of the Voice will feature music and theater incorporating Shakespearean influences.

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason

Shortly after this festival ended, the three-day Summer Hoot in Olivebridge began. This festival takes place on the grounds of the Ashokan Center (ashokancenter.org), a place dedicated to environmental and music education, featuring performances by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. The Hoot is the brainchild of their child, Ruthy Ungar and her husband Mike Merenda, who host this semi-annual event (there’s a Winter Hoot, too). Diane and I camped for the weekend at the center so we could catch all of these fantastic performances. This was funny considering the center is only a five-minute drive from our home. Jay Ungar is known for writing and performing the tune Ashokan Farewell, which filmmaker Ken Burns used for his Civil War documentary. PBS is rebroadcasting a restored, HD version of The Civil War, featuring Jay’s tune, starting September 7th. This coincides with the 25th anniversary of the original broadcast. Jay and Molly were among the performers at the Hoot. They bring great things to the community and the Hoot is one of them. I was pleasantly surprised to hear many of these performers at the Hoot incorporating throat singing techniques in which several sounds are made by one person at one time.

The Handsome Strangers
The Handsome Strangers

Of the many spectacular performances, I especially enjoyed the quartet led by Amy Helm (daughter of Levon Helm of The Band) called The Handsome Strangers, with wonderful music and terrific playing / singing by all.

 

 

Loudon Wainwright III
Loudon Wainwright III

The last performer was Loudon Wainwright III, who, besides being a folk legend, fathered several well-known performers including Rufus Wainwright. Loudon’s music was refreshingly rude and socially pertinent. The finale of the festival included many of the performers from the weekend singing along with Loudon in a group rendition of his famous 1972 hit song Dead Skunk.

 

 

Foday Musa Suso and Jack DeJohnette
Foday Musa Suso and Jack DeJohnette

The next festival I will be attending and performing in is my own production called the Drum Boogie Festival, which will include a performance by NEXUS, the percussion group of which I am a member. Jack DeJohnette, Joe Locke, Valerie Naranjo, Dibyarka Chatterjee, I Gusti Agung Ayu Warsiki (renowned Balinese dancer with gamelan orchestra) will also be featured, to name a few.

 

I Gusti Agung Ayu Warsiki
I Gusti Agung Ayu Warsiki

This is an all-day event scheduled for September 12th from 11 AM to 8 PM here in Woodstock, featuring world-class drummers, singers and dancers, and admission is free. Check out the website for a complete list of performances, directions and times (drumboogiefestival.com).

 

 

In October, the Woodstock Film Festival (woodstockfilmfestival.com) is happening, which this year will be screening our film Chimes for Autism: Tyler’s Story. This film is about an eight-year-old autistic boy named Tyler Doi who is a true expert at identifying Woodstock Chimes by sound. As a result of meeting Tyler, we developed the Chimes for Autism, and donate the profits to autism programs. Go to http://www.chimes.com/t-autism.aspx to learn more about this.

There are too many festivals to mention all of them here but I urge you to check out our local tourism site each month to stay in touch. ulstercountyalive.com

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