(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Documentary films about groundbreaking performance artist Marina Abramovic, visual artist Gregory Crewdson, and political matriarch Ethel Kennedy top the lineup of the 7th annual Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF), which will take place Thursday, May 31 – Sunday, June 3, 2012, in Great Barrington and Pittsfield, Mass., and will be showcasing over 70 films in independent filmmaking. Abramovic, who recently made nearby Hudson, N.Y., her artistic home; Crewdson, who lives and works in the Berkshires; and members of the Kennedy clan will be in attendance at the festival, along with dozens of filmmakers, writers, actors, and producers.
The festival will kick off on Thursday, May 31, with an opening night party at the historic Mason Library and screening of the intimate documentary Ethel, presented by members of the Kennedy family, who will take part in a Q&A following the screening. The BIFF screening of the Abramovic film follows immediately upon its New York City premiere at the Museum of Modern Art. And Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, will be the closing night feature of the festival, presented by the film’s director and Crewdson himself.
(LENOX, Mass.) – The Roaring Twenties, a time exemplified by Art Deco, Prohibition, the loosening of social restraints, Jazz, the Charleston and flappers, will be revisited in a musical cabaret entitled The Roaring Twenties: Berlin, Paris, New York at Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall on Saturday, June 2, 2012, at 6p.m. as part of the Close Encounters With Music series. The concert will feature works by a panorama of composers and styles that defined and shaped the era, including Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Alexander Zemlinsky, Hanns Eisler, Cole Porter, Poulenc, Schoenberg, and Erwin Schulhoff. Performers include Jennifer Rivera, mezzo-soprano; Will Ferguson, tenor; James Tocco, piano; and Yehuda Hanani, cello and artistic director
Soon to be banned in the thirties by the Third Reich, their brilliant, razor-sharp, wicked and enduring songs (“Bilbao”; “Speak Low”; “Makin’ Whoopee”; “Supply and Demand”; “’S Wonderful”) are part of the program featuring Entartete (degenerate, or Jewish, and then by definition undesirable) music, composers who careers and lives were interrupted and irrevocably altered by the rise of Hitler. Wandering into the charged European pre-WWII landscape was also American composer Samuel Barber, whose works were inspired by his sojourn in Paris, as were those of Gershwin. The sonata for piano and cello is a sea of tranquility and emblematic of an isolationist America in an otherwise tempestuous political landscape. Hanns Eisler’s music got him twice ejected — initially from Germany for its subversiveness, and then from the US, for its political intent. Erwin Schulhoff, a European apostle of the new Jazz, died in a concentration camp. His Jazz Etudes for Piano, with movements titled Charleston, Blues, Chanson, Tango, and Toccata Sur le Shimmy “Kitten on the Keys” convey how fervently he internalized the edgy music of the day.
(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – Liz Whitney Quisgard: Kaleidoscope, a vivid selection of paintings, sculptures, and fiber wall hangings installed in the Ellen Crane Memorial Room, is on exhibit at Berkshire Museum now through October 21, 2012. Reminiscent of Byzantine mosaics, artist Liz Whitney Quisgard’s artworks utilize an exuberant palette to produce her intricate geometric patterns comprised of marks, or dots, placed in a mesmerizing array of triangles, spirals, lines, and circles. Sumptuous colors and rich patterns create a scintillating rhythm and texture across her paintings and fiber works. Other influences include Navajo textiles, Baroque architectural details, and Oriental rugs. On Saturday, June 2, at 4 p.m., Quisgard will present a provocative discussion of her work and her exhibition, followed by an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m.; the talk is free with museum admission; the reception is free and open to the public.
Quisgard’s wall hangings are composed of energetic patterns of yarn stitched into a stiff buckram backing, worked in her signature, ebullient color choices. Quisgard’s paintings are acrylic or oil on canvas, some incorporating found objects. Many of the wall squares resemble abstract mosaics, symmetrical in design, while other pieces are free-form and eccentric.
(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – Following his Tuesday night concert, saxophonist Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers will join co-director Paul Green on Wednesday, May 30, 2012, at 7:30 p.m. with a lecture/performance by Green and Neville at the Taft Recital Hall at the Berkshire Music School in Pittsfield. The event, “The Relationship Between Jewish and African American Music,” traces the complex interaction between the two cultures and how each has influenced the other. The program will include recordings and live performance. This event is free.
The lecture/performance is part of a three-week festival of Jewish music in the Berkshires celebrating cross-cultural connections. Other concerts in the series will explore the relationship between Jewish music and classical, choral and jazz music. On Wednesday, June 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire in Great Barrington, the festival will present a concert of chamber music showcasing important chamber music by Jewish composers. The concert will include the Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano by Paul Schoenfield; the lush, Romantic Trio by 19th-century Russian-Jewish composer Alexander Zemlinsky; the Suite Hebraique for Violin and Piano by Ernst Bloch; and a special work, Assimilations, by Robert Sirota, which explores the composer’s Jewish roots in the face of his conversion to Christianity.
Cantor Robert Scherr will be featured in the New England premier of “Yishakeni” by Meira Warshaw, for tenor flute and piano, based on The Song of Songs. Performers are Paul Green, clarinetist; Robert Scherr, cantor and Jewish Chaplain for Williams College; Doris Stevenson, pianist and Williams College faculty member; Joel Pitchon, violinist and Smith College faculty member; Ronald Feldman, cellist and Williams College faculty member. Tickets are $12.
(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Noir-rocker Eilen Jewell and surf-rock guitar band Los Straitjackets kick off the weekend with a doubleheader at Club Helsinki on Friday, June 1, 2012, at 9pm. Jewell, the self-styled “Queen of the Minor Key,” is performing after releasing a honky-tonk-flavored album of the same name; Los Straitjackets are about to release a single version of the Rolling Stones’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” recorded with Sarah Borges, herself a favorite of the Helsinki crowd., Eilen Jewell proves herself a smart cookie with a heart of burnished gold and enough stories to keep even the rowdiest crowd hanging on her every word.
Queen of the Minor Key is the first Eilen Jewell album to feature a significant number of guest players, even as she continues to work in close consort with her longtime trio of drummer Jason Beek, guitarist Jerry Miller, and upright bassist Johnny Sciascia. A native of Boise, Idaho, Jewell has recorded a full-length album of Loretta Lynn songs, as well as several recordings of her own songs and an album of country gospel called The Sacred Shakers.
For over a dozen years and as many recordings, Los Straitjackets have been reviving the classic guitar-rock sound of Dick Dale, the Ventures, Link Wray, Duane Eddy, and the Shadows. The group entertains in their trademark Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling masks and gold Aztec medallions. Los Straitjackets have recorded a Christmas album and versions of songs by Nirvana and TV and movie theme songs.
(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – The Berkshire Film and Media Commission (BFMC) is hosting a two-day Filmmakers Summit beginning Thursday, May 31, 2012, as part of the 7th annual Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF). Amidst a festival celebrating works by filmmakers from around the world – and around the corner right here at home — the event will feature a diverse program of panel discussions, lectures, special events and breakout sessions led by well-known industry professionals.
Diane Pearlman, BFMC Executive Director, will address the attendees at the Filmmakers Summit luncheon on Thursday, May 31, at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox. Pearlman will speak about the resources available in Berkshire County for potential future film productions. “The Berkshires is a place of inspiration for many artists, so it is only natural that film is the next art form to be promoted here” Pearlman says.
The BIFF itself is presenting a handful of works by, about, or connected to Berkshire artists, including Wunderkinder, written by Stephen Glantz; Mondays at Racine, by Academy-Award winning documentary director and cinematographer Cynthia Wade; Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, based on the acclaimed photographer and southern Berkshire County resident Gregory Crewdson and helmed in large part by a crew of Berkshire filmmakers; and The House of Mirth, based on the Edith Wharton novel of the same name (Wharton, of course, lived in Lenox at her home, The Mount).