“Dragons Rising and Tigers Leaping” at Saugerties Pro Musica

Saugerties Pro Musica works tirelessly to bring a variety of top-level performers in all fields of music each month to their venue, the United Methodist Church in Saugerties. In October, pianist Olga Gurevich dazzled with an energetic and technically demanding program of Russian music. In November we enjoyed “Dragons Rising and Tigers Leaping,” a program of traditional and modern Chinese music presented by students from the Bard College Conservatory of Music. Here are some pictures I took, along with explanations. But first let me add that these talented young ladies will be around giving performances in other venues in the region. Be sure to watch out for them! They are a real treat.

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L to R: Beitong Liu and Chang Liu (playing the erhu), Meilin Wei (percussion), Sibei (Betty) Wang and Yxin Wang (playing the guzheng).

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Yixin Wang, accompanied by pianist Ivy Wu, plays a contemporary piece for guzheng. This was the most fascinating instrument of all, capable of an amazingly wide variety of sounds. This was a technically challenging piece; the musician wears special picks to keep fingertips from being shredded!

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In contrast to the drama of the guzheng, the erhu, played here by Chang Liu, is a lyric instrument that very closely resembles the human voice. The piece was by an early 20th-century composer.


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Pianist Helen Wu played selections from the composer most likely to be familiar to Westerners: Tan Dun, whose opera “The Last Emperor” was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 2008 with Placido Domingo in the title role.




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Guzheng musician Betty Wang played  traditional music arranged by a contemporary composer.

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The program closed with a traditional Chinese song.







Spirit Houses? See Them in Saugerties!

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You have to give credit to Emerge Gallery owner Robert Langdon for ingenuity in devising exhibits — not only the shows that hang for a month or so but also the “pop-up” ones that last for a day or two or three. On Sunday I popped in for what was supposed to be a one-day exhibit of Spirit Houses, but he has decided to keep it up through the Thanksgiving weekend.

Lorrie and Michael Wardell’s pottery work is familiar to customers at various restaurants around Saugerties, including the Dutch Ale House, Miss Lucy’s, even Lox of Bagels and Bluestone Coffee Roasters. The Emerge Gallery is featuring a selection of their unique spirit houses. What is a spirit house? I’ll let Lorrie and Michael speak for themselves:

“There is a tradition in many cultures, from medieval England and Europe to modern Indonesia and Thailand, to provide a place for spirits to dwell near our homes or in special and sacred places.  The ancient Greeks built their incredible temples as an enticement for the gods to come and stay so they would be attentive to the prayers offered at the temple.  Pre-Christian Europeans provided niches carved in stone or wood for the gods in a sacred grove or those protecting the crossroads to dwell in.  No home or building in modern Thailand is without a spirit house, the placement of which is decided even before construction of the building begins.  All of these traditions seek to acknowledge the place that spirits and spirituality have in enriching our lives.  By providing a home for the spirits, we provide a tangible acknowledgment of the more ethereal aspects of our lives.”

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I was intrigued to learn of this artistic application of the idea of sacred space, and to see the differences between the medieval European spirit houses and those from Indonesia and Thailand, and I purchased one of the “medieval” ones for myself. They are amazingly affordable, and if you’re looking for a very different kind of gift to give this Christmas season (or even for yourself), I highly recommend that you stop in and have a look.



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Some works from the “Petit” show.

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To the right is my piece in this show, a scene in the Berkshires.

Meanwhile, the theme for the current monthly show is “Petit” and features works of smaller sized art. Again, a nice gift idea–or for your own wall. Visit the Gallery’s website for further details. You can even purchase online!