Lively arts scene made 2011 a non-stop festival

GHENT–Little did this intrepid editor know what a whirlwind of activity I was about to be sucked into when I agreed to edit arts and entertainment releases for this newspaper earlier this year. “Whirlwind,” with its possibly unpleasant associations, communicates deadline anxiety, while the actual activity is much more pleasant, an ongoing festival–of theater, music, movies, talks, dance and more, not to mention children’s activities and then libraries, which were quickly added to the arts beat, since our libraries have become community centers offering theater, music, movies, talks and children’s activities and more.

This festival reached not so much a peak as a crescendo at some point in the summer, a healthy crescendo that continued through the fall, one the editor thought surely would calm down in late October.

Or November. Or December.

Wrong on all guesses. This week, with the paper’s Events Calendar still chock full, the tidal wave of press releases has slowed somewhat, allowing for a few minutes of reflection. Following is an eclectic, personal list of just a few of the highlights in arts offerings in Columbia County over the last several months.

These are live events only; if we went into film, we’d be here till next summer.  Speaking of which, keep an eye out for these presenters in the pages of The Columbia Paper in the New Year.

Tannery Pond kicked off the season on May 28 with the first of its seven classical music concerts in the intimate, former tannery space.

PS21 in Chatham explored the concept of family in dozens of summer events that included a Walking the dog Theater production of Sarah Ruhle’s take on the classic “Eurydice,” three summer sings and Friday swing dances often accompanied by the Berkshire Bop Society,

The Church of St. John in the Wilderness, Copake Falls, turned up as a setting for jazz vesper services, plays and concerts.

The Chatham Synagogue presented poetry readings.

The Ghent Band unveiled its 112th season, playing a mix of classic marches, show-tune medleys, light overtures and the occasional polka in towns around the county.

Downriver, Bard College opened its annual SummerScape festival with dance and continued with theater and opera, culminating with a Bard Music Festival that focused on Jean Sibelius and featured a sing-a-long to his “Finlandia.”

Omi International Arts Center, Ghent, presented seven new outdoor sculptures Fields Sculpture Park.

The Hudson Opera House offered programs and workshops every week for adults and children, and hosted the fifth annual Hudson Jazz Workshop and the African Masters Conference.

In the Massachusetts Berkshires, Jacob’s Pillow presented weekly performances by dance companies from all over the world, and, in July, a Community Dance Day with free dance workshops and other events.

To mention one library is not to overlook another. The Roeliff Jansen Community Library offered Indian music, a tour of local artists’ studios and a poetry workshop, among many activities. The New Lebanon Library sponsors programs almost weekly and, not forgetting its original mission, hosts a book group.

“Hudson. Water. Music ” presented a five-week series of eclectic outdoor concerts, accompanied by Bengali food and hula-hoops, at the Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.

The tried and true–Falcon Ridge– came back, to Hillsdale, with a weekend of music and fun for all ages, and the new–NADA, the New York City-based New Art Dealers Association–tried us out, with a weekend show of cutting-edge art at Basilica Hudson.

Eco-artists showed their work at Solaqua Power & Art in Chatham. ARTspace in Germantown and the gallery at the Old Chatham Country Store presented a variety of paintings and photographs, by artists local and distant.

The 12th annual FilmColumbia in festival in Chatham screened more than 30 films. The 17th Arts Walk offered much art to see and many writers to hear, with readings and art on display in Hudson, Chatham, and, this year, Ghent.

In addition to dozens of talks and workshops, the Olana State Historic Site presented a six-month exhibition of the Civil War paintings of Frederic Church.

The 15th annual Winter Walk glowed with thousands of festive walkers in Hudson.

The Hudson Valley Choral Society sang two winter concerts, in Hudson and Chatham, which opened with Vivaldi’s “Magnificat.” Singers were sought for the annual “Messiah” sing-along produced by the Columbia Festival Orchestra, and dancers were auditioned for the annual “Nutcracker” at the Hudson Valley Academy of Performing Arts in West Taghkanic.

The Valatie Community Theatre made a musical out of “A Christmas Carol” and sang it for seven shows.

Camphill Hudson presented “The Oberufer Shepherd’s Play” at the First Presbyterian Church in Hudson–perhaps the sweetest, most heartfelt production the hundreds-years-old play has ever received.

On that note I’ll end, wishing all a happy New Year, with remarkable arts and entertainment right here at home.

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