Tannersville Antique and Artisan Center: Don’t Miss It!

Manager Rick Thomas welcomes you to the Tannersville Antique and Artisan Center.

Manager Rick Thomas welcomes you to the Tannersville Antique and Artisan Center.

On a recent visit I ran into photographer Fran Driscoll and his friends.

On a recent visit I ran into photographer Fran Driscoll and his friends.

In the short time it has been in existence–it celebrates its first anniversary on July 6– the Tannersville Antique and Artisan Center has evolved into a major presence in the vibrant Northern Catskills art world. An outreach of the Hunter Foundation, the TAAC is appropriately located on Route 23A,  just a few miles from the famed Kaaterskill Falls, a beloved subject of landscape painters at least since Thomas Cole first painted it in the 1820s.

The TAAC’s vendors represent an impressive mix of local artists and antique collectors. From prints, paintings, and photographs to rugs, chairs, and other items awaiting new owners to love them–and let’s not forget the books on the history of the area–, the TAAC truly does offer something for everyone. All is under the skillful management of Rick Thomas, who has made this space in a renovated 19th-century building a pleasure to walk through. Walk in the door and you’ll get a friendly greeting from Rick, who welcomes you to have a leisurely look around in the two-floor space.

Rick’s hospitality extends as well to organizing talks by the TAAC vendors. Recent speakers have included famed Northern Catskills photographer Fran Driscoll and historian/author John Ham. It’s a great way to get to deepen your acquaintance with the artists/collectors/authors and their works.

I’ll be giving a talk at the TAAC on Saturday afternoon June 28 at 3 pm–sharing Book coversome tips on how I approach my photography, especially my work in the Hudson Valley and Catskills, and perhaps whipping up your enthusiasm to get out and take your own photographs of this beautiful region. Also, we’ll have our book Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour available for sale, and I’ll be glad to sign the book for you as well! I look forward to meeting you there.

The Tannersville Antique and Artisan Center is open year-round Thursday through Monday from 10 am to 6 pm. Like them on Facebook to get the latest news.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss the chance to enjoy a meal in one of Tannersville’s fabulous restaurants. My personal favorite? The Last Chance, which also sells cheese and other irresistible food items (such as chocolate!!!) for you to take home.


Great Concerts in Cold Spring

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If you enjoy high-quality concerts of good music, Cold Spring is a great place to keep in mind. The Chapel Restoration, for example, presents a series of performances each year, and yesterday I attended the second concert in their Music Series 2014. It was given by the choir of St. Philip’s Church from nearby Garrison, and the program was sheer heaven for those who, like myself, enjoy the great tradition of sacred choral music. Directed by

Concertgoers and choir members mingle after the concert.

Concertgoers and choir members mingle after the concert.

their leader Durward Entrekin, the choir offered an amazing range of pieces from sixteenth-century motets by Palestrina and others to contemporary works by Morten Lauridsen and Pete Seeger.  (Pete Seeger? Yes – a moving setting of his “To My Old Brown Earth,” definitely a not-a-dry-eye-left-in-my head sort of piece. And what could be more appropriate than performing Pete Seeger at a venue near his Hudson Valley home?) In between, we had Fauré’s always stunning Cantique de Jean Racine and the Kyrie from Haydn’s Nelson Mass with the excellent soprano soloist Julie Heckert.

These concerts take place in the historic chapel overlooking the Hudson that began life as the Chapel of Our Lady to Ed IMG - -2361 sserve the workers in the West Point Iron Foundry just south of Cold Spring. Many of these workers were Irish, and this chapel was built in the 1830s to serve their religious needs, probably the first Catholic Church in New York north of the city.

Ironically it was that same West Point Iron Foundry, when it went on to become a major producer of Civil War armaments (the famous Parrott gun was made here), that began causing damage to the chapel due to the frequent test firing. A series of further problems was set in motion that led to the chapel being abandoned in 1906. It was then ravaged by fire in 1927. This once impressive building was a ruin until 1971, when a small group of people, including actress Helen Hayes, banded together, bought it from the Archdiocese of New York, and undertook to restore it.

Today the chapel is used for cultural events and can be booked for weddings as well. If you’re in the Cold Spring area, it’s definitely worth taking a look and, on weekends, couldn’t be easier to get to – it’s just opposite Cold Spring’s Amtrak Station, where parking is free on weekends. Right next to the chapel is the Foundry Dock Park with commanding views of Constitution Marsh and, on the opposite side of the river, the U.S. Military Academy.

For more information on the chapel, visit the Chapel Restoration’s website.

For more photos and history of Cold Spring and many other sites in the beautiful Hudson Valley and Catskills, check out our book, Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour. Contact me to learn how to get a signed copy.



Bardavon Theater Presents Met Opera Treats

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One year ago I blogged about the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Parsifal, shown live in HD at the UPAC in Kingston (you can read that post here). Last week I attended the Encore HD performance of the Met’s new production of Massanet’s opera Werther, this time at the UPAC’s “sister theater” across the Hudson River, the historic Bardavon Theater in Poughkeepsie. “Encore” performances are the same as the “live” ones except that they’re not live but may be a day or a week  later; as with the live ones, in the Encore performances you get the same intermission features, including the interviews with the cast that actually took place during the intermissions.

Ed IMG_2202 sThis was my first time ever seeing Werther, which is loosely based on a novel by Goethe, and except for the tenor arias that I have on recordings by the great Nicolai Gedda I was unfamiliar with any of the music. I can’t say I particularly liked the opera — but I did enjoy the performance immensely. Vocally and visually the cast couldn’t have been more perfect. Both onstage and off, tenor Jonas Kaufmann looks the epitome of the handsome, dashing romantic hero, and the title role was as if made for him. Surprising, really, how demanding the role is, and it’s hard to imagine a tenor today who could navigate its challenges more successfully than Kaufmann.

French mezzo soprano Sophie Koch in the role of Charlotte gave a virtuoso performance as the young woman torn between being united with her true love, on the one hand, and, on the other, dutifully fulfilling her mother’s deathbed wish that she marry Albert, to whom she is now engaged. Lisette Oropesa was delightfully sweet as Charlotte’s younger sister Sophie, and David Bižić a steady, solid, if somewhat boring Albert (I’m referring to the character, not to Bižić’s performance) who nonetheless exhibited hints of a hard side when he thought himself crossed.

Veteran singer Jonathan Summers played the Bailiff, Charlotte’s widowed father. Here’s where the beauty of the close-up camera work of the HD rendition really shines: At one point a telling expression of misgiving flashed across his face when Charlotte’s upcoming marriage to Albert was mentioned. which I doubt could have been visible to the audience in the enormous opera house itself.

In the intermission interview Kaufmann spoke of the challenge of interpreting Werther in such a way that the audience doesn’t lose sympathy with him. He certainly did his best, but I think the production was working against him here, and by Act III you wanted to tell him, “Just take some Zoloft and get over it.”

This was my first time seeing a performance in the Bardavon Theater. The Bardavon has an amazing history. It started life as the Collingwood Opera House in 1869, and

If you want to grab a quick and tasty bite to eat before a matinee at the Bardavon, this historic diner is just down the street.

If you want to grab a quick and tasty bite to eat before a matinee at the Bardavon, this historic diner is just down the street.

during its heyday, which lasted into the 20th century, renowned artists such as John Philip Sousa, Edwin Booth, and Ignace Paderewski performed here. Converted in 1923 into a venue for vaudeville and silent movies, the theater eventually fell upon hard times and closed in 1975. It was actually slated for demolition, but a not-for-profit group was formed  that worked for revitalization, the theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the very next season the theater began its new life as the Bardavon.

Whatever kind of entertainment you enjoy, the Bardavon and the Kingston UPAC are guaranteed to have something for you. Why not check out their website and see for yourself?

View my fine art photographs of Historic New York, including one of Poughkeepsie’s Main Street, here.

Happy Birthday, General Washington

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The New Windsor Cantonment has been one of my favorite places to photograph, but last Monday, Presidents’ Day, was actually the first time I had been there in a while. Of course, there was lots of snow, and this challenged me to look at the place with a new eye.

ed cream tone-0357 sIf you’re not familiar with the New Windsor Cantonment, it’s well worth a visit if you’re traveling through Orange County. It’s also known as “the last encampment,” because it was indeed the last encampment of General George Washington’s Continental Army before the end of the Revolutionary War. Today you can walk the grounds and see the (mostly reconstructed) buildings, and on special days, such as on Presidents’ and Memorial Day Weekends, reenactors offer demonstrations of military and camp life. Also on the site is the Purple Heart Hall of Honor. For further information on this historic site (including opening times), visit the website for NY State Parks.

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Don’t Miss Mike Bennett’s Radio Memories

Mike Bennett bookDon’t Pay the Ransom, I’ve Escaped. Beginning right with the title you know this isn’t going to be a “serious” book — which is to say that the author, WHUD radio personality Mike Bennett, has the gift of not taking himself too seriously. This is a valuable asset when you live your life as a highly exposed local celebrity, and Mike has a hilarious take on what it’s like to be recognized when you’re trying to enjoy a meal in a local restaurant.

For those of you who don’t know, Mike Bennett is the co-host, with Kacey Morabito, of Mike and Kacey in the Morning on the Hudson Valley radio station WHUD. This award-winning duo is about to celebrate 14 years together playing “one great song after another,” presenting the news, traffic, and weather, and running contests with prizes ranging from New York State lottery tickets to vacations in the Bahamas.

As the book’s subtitle explains, Mike’s book recounts his Memories of a Life on the Radio. But that’s not all. It includes his brief but brilliant stint as a freshman at Orange County Community College — from which it ought to have emerged right then and there that Mike had the gift of gab–, his lightning career (that’s how fast it went) as a real estate salesperson, and, told with his delightfully self-deprecating humor, his brush with formal training as a broadcasting professional.

Someone like Mike Bennett doesn’t emerge suddenly and unexpectedly like Venus springing fully formed from the head of Zeus, and so we also learn about the important things that went on at his alma mater, Monroe-Woodbury High School. Here the lens widens to give us a broader context of life in the Hudson Valley as Mike recounts how the students would sprint across Route 32 to a cow pasture in which there stood a large tree — large enough for the students to hide behind and smoke without being caught by the school authorities. Where that cow pasture and that tree once is now Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, one of the world’s largest shopping centers, the presence of which makes for (in Mike’s words) some “truly awful traffic jams.” I dare say I speak not only for myself when I say I fervently wish it had remained a cow pasture.

We also get several insights into what goes on behind the scenes during the WHUD morning show, including the grueling task (!) of interviewing famous celebrities.

My personal favorite is about the brief exchanges with the contest winners. Here I learned that they actually tape and edit the segment while the music is playing — we’re not hearing it live. Good to know. I always wondered how they avoided some infiltrator yelling out “WXYZ!” to Mike’s closing question, “What station makes you a winner?”

You can’t claim to be the Voice of the Hudson Valley without putting in your fair share of community service. Mike and Kacey each make valuable contributions here,

Here I am with Mike and Jim at Fran's Hallmark in Monroe.

Here I am with Mike and Jim at Fran’s Hallmark in Monroe.

both on and off the air. Outstanding is their annual stint broadcasting from the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital as a fundraiser for this incredibly competent and compassionate facility. Mike also partners with meteorologist Jim Witt, whose  long-range weather calendars are sold to raise money for the Hope for Youth Foundation. In the closing weeks of the year Jim appears at various venues to personally sign and sell the calendars, and I recently caught up with Jim and Mike together, signing their calendar and book respectively, at Fran’s Hallmark in Monroe. By the way, it’s not too late to buy this lovely calendar — you get not only Jim’s long-range weather forecasts but also a year’s worth of great Hudson Valley photos.

Closing question: Kacey, when are you going to write your radio memoirs?

Scenic Hudson 50 Years

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The fiftieth anniversary of Scenic Hudson was celebrated yesterday with a magnificent exhibition in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall. Twelve outstanding photographers from the Hudson Valley contributed their work that (to quote from the special brochure) “resonates with the organization’s mission and major achievements while also addressing the complex conservation challenges on the horizon.” The variety of content and artistic approaches displayed by these photographers was amazing–a tribute to the IMG_1721 sbeauty and sublimity of the Hudson Valley landscape and to the challenges that face Scenic Hudson in ensuring that this beauty and the ecological health of our region are preserved for all the future.    I would imagine that not since Robert Glenn Ketchum published his book The Hudson River & the Highlands has any photographer consistently documented, in an artistically compelling way, those conservation challenges the way Susan Wides and other artists in this exhibition have done. Susan’s work is inspired by the Hudson River landscape painters of the 19th century, and let’s not forget that the founder of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole, is considered one of the first spokespersons for the American conservationist movement.

And then there are the photographers who speak eloquently by capturing this beauty so as to remind us of what a treasure we have and, by implication, what we stand to lose if we don’t act with foresight.  As always, Beacon-based Robert Rodriguez Jr. is a very great favorite of mine, and I sometimes visit the RiverWinds Gallery there to treat my eyes (and my soul, dare I say) to his work on display.

Scenic Hudson is responsible for some sixty parks that they have created or enhanced, and I’m grateful to Metro-North Railroad, and toIMG_1725 s the fine-art photographic paper company Canson Infinity, who donated the paper on which the photos were printed, for bringing to the attention of the thousands of commuters who pass through Grand Central Station’s portals each day the fact that it’s Scenic Hudson they have to thank for so many of the places that they likely visit and enjoy on weekends. Just to name a few that I’ve actually visited: Burger Hill, Esopus Meadows Preserve, Foundry Dock Park, and Walkway over the Hudson. And in visiting their website I was delighted to learn that on Thursday October 24 they celebrated the opening of the new park at the West Point Foundry Preserve at Cold Spring. Rest assured, I’ll be blogging about this historically significant site before long.

WKNY, a Good Local Radio Station

Here I am with radio host Warren Lawrence after our interview.

Here I am with radio host Warren Lawrence after our interview.

Last week I drove up to Kingston to do a radio interview promoting our new book, Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour. While it would have been possible to do this by phone from home, I prefer face-to-face contact and getting actually to meet people. In this case, it was well worth the trip. Warren Lawrence, who is the Program Director for WKNY (1490 AM) and who invited me, is also the Morning Show host, and it was energizing to see him in action. It would be hard to find someone more dedicated to this work, and once we got talking, we were on a roll. I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did!

Since WKNY is a local AM station whose signal doesn’t reach as far as

When Warren told me the radio station was next to the Big Bubble Laundromat, it proved very easy to find!

When Warren told me the radio station was next to the Big Bubble Laundromat, it proved very easy to find!

where I live, I listened to Warren’s morning program a couple of times streaming online to familiarize myself with the content and dynamics. It is definitely at least a notch or two in quality above some other local stations, including some FM stations whose signals reach much farther. Notably, neither the music nor the talk revolve around the latest celebrities. Another recent guest, for example, was a lady from the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall, Orange County. It’s gratifying to see this lovely museum being publicized as an alternative to water parks as a place to take children on a summer day. And as for the music–well, when Warren played Roberta Flack from 1972 singing “The first time ever I saw your face,” I knew I was far away from being beaten over the head with the Top 40.

If you’re driving north on the Thruway in the Hudson Valley and are looking for quality radio to keep you company, you should be able to pick up WKNY’s signal beginning around Exit 17 (Newburgh). When I left Kingston after this delightful experience, the signal stayed with me all the way to Rhinebeck, my next stop (more about that another time), across the Kingston-Rhinebeck Bridge to the east.

Hudson Valley Celebrates with St. Patrick’s Day Parades

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Towns all over the Hudson Valley from Westchester to points north have been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with their own local parades. Many of those parades take place before the big one in New York City — this gives revelers a chance to enjoy the city festivities as well as their local parade, and many of the participants, especially the bands, to do the same.

On Sunday March 10 I took in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the town of Eastchester in Westchester County. I was amazed at the number and variety of participating groups — bagpipe and other bands, high schools, schools of Irish dance, churches, all manner of vintage cars, public services such as the police, Fire Departments, EMS, all marching down the main street and cheered on by the enthusiastic onlookers in a parade that lasted one and a half hours. Little kids, big kids, even the dogs were wearing green! A great day for the Irish and the Irish wannabees of Eastchester and the surrounding towns of lower Westchester.

Here are some photos.

Vintage cars took part

Vintage cars took part

and wagons drawn by Heavy Horses took part.

and wagons drawn by Heavy Horses took part.

Boy Scouts ...

Boy Scouts …

... and Brownies.

… and Brownies.

High schools marched, such as Cardinal Hayes here, proudly bearing their banners.

High schools marched, such as Cardinal Hayes here, proudly bearing their banners.

The vendors were kept busy. Everyone wanted something green!

The vendors were kept busy. Everyone wanted something green!

Met Opera’s Parsifal a Treat at Kingston UPAC

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Last Saturday  I had the amazing experience of enjoying the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Parsifal live in HD at the UPAC in Kingston.  The production was not a traditional one but was set in the present–or, perhaps, a future–time. It certainly had a postapocalyptic feel to it. And it worked. The point: This is a timeless story, not something that could only have taken place in a mythical Middle Ages.

The cast was the best that could have been assembled for a Wagner opera in this day and age: it included Jonas Kaufmann (Parsifal),  Katarina Dalayman (the sorceress Kundry), Peter Mattei (the wounded Grail Knight Amfortas), and Evgeny Nikitin (the evil magician Klingsor), led by the masterful conducting of Daniele Gatti, but for me the most memorable performance came from the great Wagnerian bass Rene Pape as an unusually youthful, deeply sensitive Gurnemanz.

Although I’ve been a professional opera critic in a precvious life, my purpose in this blog post is not to comment in detail on the performance but, rather, to highlight the venue–the UPAC in Kingston. For me, at least, this historic theater was an undiscovered treasure, since until I went looking for a place to see Parsifal I had never heard of it. Thus as a Wagner lover and a historian, it was a double treat to attend the performance here. Originally known as the Broadway Theater (it’s on Broadway in Kingston, a few minutes from I-587), this combination movie palace and vaudeville house first opened its doors in 1927. Twenty years later it was purchased by the Walter Reade Organization and became a first-run movie theater. In 1953 the theater got not only a major facelift but also a new name, the Community Theater.

Ed IMG_1252 sIn the 1970s Kingston began suffering from an all-too-common malady as businesses and entertainment venues forsook town centers for suburban mall areas, and by 1977 the theater was slated for demolition–until a group of concerned citizens got together, purchased it, and reopened it as the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC). In 1979 the theater went on the National Register of Historic Places, one of the last great show palaces in New York State. The UPAC is now merged into the corporate structure of the Bardavon, another historic theater across the river in Poughkeepsie, both of them premier performing arts venues in the Hudson Valley.

The variety of offerings at the UPAC is quite amazing, as you can see from the photo here.  If you visit their website, you can learn about their performance schedule and also become a Friend, which entitles you to various “perks” depending on the level at which you join. The membership covers being a Friend both of the UPAC and the Bardavon, so you get two for the price of one.

It just goes to show that people living in the Hudson Valley don’t have to schlepp into New York City for top-notch performances. While operagoers watching HD live aren’t seeing the performances in person, the huge screen ensures that they have a better view than they would at the Met, plus–and this is a major bonus as far as I’m concerned–they get to see the live intermission interviews with the artists, something the Met audience misses out on.

Check out the UPAC and the Bardavon today. I guarantee you, there’s something at each of them for every taste–and you’ll be supporting a historic artistic presence in the Hudson Valley.

Hudson Valley Holidays and Favorites of 2012

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On a walk through Woodstock the day after Christmas I happened to have my Canon Powershot G15 with me and so I photographed some of the decorations in the shop windows and on the lawns. No great masterpieces (being in Woodstock on a weekday midday doesn’t lend itself to that, though it is lots of fun!), but here are two shots from my favorite window in all of Woodstock. For one thing, its position where the historic church can be seen reflected in the window makes it very interesting indeed; for another, the colorful items in the window, especially at Christmas time, tend to remind me in the scene near the beginning of the Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol where Tiny Tim is ogling the toys in the window of the toy shop. (Although — am I the only one who finds something slightly sinister in that scene?)

My favorite photos of 2012 are now posted in a special gallery on my website: an even dozen, of which some, of course, are from the Hudson Valley.  All photos in this gallery are my Prints of the Month for January. That means not one but twelve pictures available at the special Print of the Month prices. It’s a good time to purchase,  because all my prices will increase slightly in February.

Here’s a preview for you — two of the photos, one of Cooper Lake and one of an old barn in Spruceton Valley. Click on either of them or on this link to visit the gallery and see all twelve.

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