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Art, Drama, Music and Books
Art, drama, music & books

Concordia Conservatory to Host Award-Winning Author Andrea Davis Pinkney Monday, June 13 PDF Print Email

By Kathleen Suss, Executive Director, Concordia Conservatory 

Jun. 8, 2016:  Concordia Conservatory will host a Musical Adventures at the Library concert on Monday, June 13, at 4:00 pm at the Sommer Center for Worship and the Performing Arts on the campus of Concordia College featuring New York Times best-selling author Andrea Davis Pinkney with guitarist Rami Vamos 

The performance will include book readings by Pinkney of her recent releases with musical accompaniment by Vamos. The event is sponsored by The Community Fund of Bronxville, Eastchester, and Tuckahoe in collaboration with the public libraries of Bronxville, Eastchester, and Tuckahoe. 

This program has brought local community awareness of the arts and literature to the southern Westchester County community at large. Erin Schirota, the children's librarian of the Bronxville Library, Theresa Chang, the children's librarian of the Eastchester Library, and Ellen Tannenbaum, the children's librarian of the Tuckahoe Library, are partners in this program. 

Andrea Davis Pinkney's literary repertoire encompasses a wide variety of styles, including picture books, novels, and works of historical fiction and nonfiction. Some of her notable titles are Bird in a Box and With the Might of Angels. Andrea has also written the illustrated books Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, a Parents' Choice Award winner; Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride, a 2010 Jane Addams Honor Book and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, which also won the Carter G. Woodson Award for historical works for young people; Duke Ellington, a Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor Book; and Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation, a featured selection on Oprah and Friends radio. 

In addition to being a talented author, she has also been a publishing executive, having worked at several publishing services. She was named one of the "25 Most Influential Black Women in Business" by the Network Journal and was selected as one of the "25 Most Influential People in Our Children's Lives" by Children's Health Magazine.   

Rami Vamos is a performer, educator, writer, and composer with a varied creative output, including chamber music and children's musicals. He writes and hosts for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's Chamber Music Beginnings series and teaches K-5 music in the Pelham School District. Vamos holds degrees from Yale, Oberlin, and Queens College and is currently string department head at Concordia Conservatory. 

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, please call 914-395-4507.

Pictured here:  Author Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Photo courtesy Kathleen Suss, Executive Director, Concordia Conservatory

James Lettiere: Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World at The Metropolitan Museum of Art PDF Print Email

By James Lettiere, Art Specialist 

Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World
Through July 17, 2016 

May 25, 2016:  If you have enjoyed visiting the Pergamon Museum in Berlin or seeing the Elgin Marbles at The British Museum, I think you will react similarly to the Pergamon exhibit at the Met, Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World. The Met’s presentation has both depth and breadth, thanks to the cooperation of the Pergamon Museum, various museums in Italy, Greece, Tunisia, and Morocco, among other countries, and the Met.

The wide range of media with which these ancient artisans and artists expressed themselves is intellectually stimulating as well as entertaining. Marble, terra-cotta, precious metals--all were employed to great effect.

According to the Met’s website, there over 265 objects in the exhibition, with most originating from the permanent collections of the Met and the Pergamon.

The ancient city of Pergamon (now known as Bergama, in present-day Turkey) was the capital of the Attalid Dynasty, which ruled over large parts of Asia Minor. These works were highly influential on Roman art.

The time line of the period encompassed by the exhibit extends the three centuries from Alexander's death in 323 BC to the establishment of the Roman Empire in the first century BC.

The show is somewhat of a challenge in the sense that it is big with many objects to study and informational plaques to read. The effort is worth it.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028

Phone: 212-535-7710


Sunday to Thursday: 10:00 am to 5:30 pm
Friday and Saturday: 10:00 am to 9:00 pm

Pictured here:  James Lettiere.

Photo by A. Warner 

Announcing New Column: 'Your Most Wild or Most Heartwarming Moment'; Schatze Thorp, Editor PDF Print Email

By Marcia Lee, Managing Editor, MyhometownBronxville 

May 18, 2016:  Is there a wild moment in your life or a very heartwarming one that you might want to share with the rest of us? 

Bronxville resident Schatze Thorp will be editing a new column in MyhometownBronxville that invites you to submit a story about one of these two topics:  most wild or most heartwarming moment. 

The story may be a full article of not over 800 words or just a few sentences. It must be true, of course, and it must be something that you, not someone else, actually experienced, not just heard about.  

Here’s my quick stab at it:  When I was snorkeling off a beach in Bali, looking for rare shells, the tide suddenly started going out on me—not a gradual shift but a rush like nothing I had ever experienced. Suddenly the water below me became quite shallow and, as I looked through my snorkel mask, a large bed of sea urchins appeared directly below me. There was no way to get to the beach without stepping on the spiky critters. Are sea urchins poisonous, I asked myself, as my body drew closer to their level at the bottom of the ocean. Panic set in. Never mind the pricks to my feet if I had to walk on them. If those spines contained venom, I was done for. Just when my face was almost flush against them forcing me to stand upright, the bed of sea urchins disappeared. In its place was wonderful, fine, beautifully tan sand. It took me more than an hour after I waded to shore to lose the feeling of terror that pervaded my nervous system. 

There you have it. A short story of a wild moment in my life. I’m sure you can do better. Give it a try. 

Email your articles to Schatze Thorp at  CLOAKING  and to me at  CLOAKING . She’ll get back to you in reasonably good time, and, of course, we reserve the right to edit the submission, and we cannot guarantee that each story will be published. When your story is published, your name will appear as author of the story. Do discipline yourself to 800 words and please do not include profanity. 

Pictured here Schatze Thorp, the editor of the new "Most Wild or Most Heartwarming” column. 

Photo by A. Warner

Book Review: 'Beautiful Country' by J.R. Thornton Is Literary Diplomacy at Work PDF Print Email


By Daniel Wilner

Editor's note
:  Given the rich tradition of writers in Bronxville (Brendan Gill, Walter Isaacson, and John Huey, among others), MyhometownBronxville will from time to time highlight a book we think our readers will enjoy.

Apr. 27, 2016:  J.R. Thornton's debut novel, Beautiful Country, is distinctive even in its entry into the global marketplace. Despite having been written originally in English, it appeared first in a Chinese edition in China, where it shot to the top of the best-seller list and became a cultural phenomenon. Only last week was an English-language edition published in the West, where one can only hope it will receive the same attention.

That story not only captures the novel's cultural relevance within the most important international relationship of our times; it also rhymes beautifully with the preoccupations of the novel itself, in which an American named Chase recounts a consequential year playing competitive tennis in Beijing when he was fourteen years old. Sent to China by his father, a powerful businessman with important financial interests in the country, Chase trains with a group of Chinese boys whose life chances depend entirely on their athletic success. Nearly all of the boys come from very poor families, and their parents chose to take them out of school when they were seven or eight and bet their futures on tennis. While Chase is not quite fighting for his life, he is struggling for his father's recognition and approval, which to him amount to nearly the same thing. Burdened by the death of his mother early in his life and the more recent loss of his beloved older brother, Tom, Chase is a desperately lonely child in a painfully foreign place. Things brighten only when he befriends Bowen, a fellow player with rare talent and a big heart.

At once fueling and complicating their relationship is the conflict between ambition and compassion. At first, compassion poignantly trumps ambition. Bowen befriends Chase by allowing him to win enough so he can make it on the team, and Chase later tries to pay him back: when Bowen loses favor with their despotic coach, Chase enlists his father to help keep Bowen on the team. Yet good deeds soon go punished, and as Chase's desire to help his friend comes to threaten his relationship with his father, he makes a fateful decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

The friendship between Chase and Bowen, and its pivotal betrayal that will burden the protagonist with bottomless guilt, echoes the relationship between Gene and Finny in John Knowles's A Separate Peace. Yet the central difference is also what makes Beautiful Country at once so provocative and so relevant: Chase and Bowen, for all they share, come from radically different cultures and circumstances. Is that what costs them their friendship—raising the troubling suggestion that perhaps the two cultures are doomed to remain as two solitudes? Or is it that Chase, as he comes to believe, lacks the courage to go beyond himself and his narrow interests when it really counts?

Thornton seems to suggest that as China rises on the world stage and challenges the status quo in international and cultural affairs, such other-mindedness—the courage to go beyond ourselves—is needed more urgently than ever. As the protagonist concludes toward the end of his journey, "I had seen enough of Beijing to know that I understood absolutely nothing of the real China. It was too complex. To understand it would take a lifetime."

Just as the meaning of Chinese linguistic characters can vary depending on tonality, so an understanding of Chinese culture requires a deeply textured grasp of background and context. At the heart of the protagonist's coming of age is a growing appreciation that, in China as perhaps in life, things are not what they first appear: one must be careful enough to understand people's true motives and compassionate enough to see their hidden pain. It takes effort and discernment to see through to the truth about the other, concealed like the Beijing skyline in the ever-present smog. The author has spoken provocatively of his belief that literature can serve a kind of diplomatic function, helping to foster understanding between cultures, and Beautiful Country is a laudable contribution to such a project. The novel reminds us of the critic Denis Donoghue's assertion that the merit of a work of fiction is that of "gaining access to deeply imagined lives other than [our] own."

These themes gain poignant purchase in Chase's friendship with Bowen and his encounter with Chinese culture. Bowen gives him a Chinese name—Wu—which Chase learns refers to a figure in ancient China tasked by the emperor to tame the raging waters of the Great Flood. Wu succeeded "where his father had failed. Instead of building more dikes, Yu began to dredge new river channels, to serve both as outlets for the torrential waters, and as irrigation conduits to distant farmlands." Chase observes: "I wondered why he picked that name for me. It seemed a better fit for him." The remark echoes one of the most affecting lines in the story: when Chase finally opens up about his brother's death, Bowen puts a hand on his shoulder and reassures him, "You still have a brother."

These family resemblances between the characters parallel those between China and America. Bowen explains that the Chinese name for the United States is Mei Guo—beautiful country. The moment is a striking reversal: from the first page, the reader has naturally assumed the title of Thornton's novel refers to the country the protagonist is visiting. The same language can refer to different things depending on the context. This sameness-within-difference is surely one of the most important things Thornton wants us to take away from his book—not just a work of abstract fiction, but a project of literary diplomacy, teaching both Chinese and American readers how to better understand each other's differences as well as how to see each other as fundamentally the same.

After all, Chase discovers, both countries continue to grapple with painful historical traumas suffered on the road to economic advancement. The Chinese legacy of the Cultural Revolution serves as a kind of shadow history to America's experience with slavery: while clearly very different, both projects treated certain lives as dispensable in the name of "progress." And in the present day, a similar kind of trade-off persists at the local and individual level. Chase observes that Chinese government officials can advance themselves the more the players from their districts win tournaments: "they cared about medals, not about athletes." Hence, he and his teammates practice in dilapidated facilities, endure grueling practices that are physically unsafe, and face barbaric psychological treatment. It is as if each of the boys is engaged in his own Great Leap Forward, in which the long-term health of his body and mind is treated as expendable in the name of getting ahead. Yet Chase was no stranger to this win-at-all-cost mentality back in America, where his coach believed that "if you finished practice without throwing up, then you hadn't worked hard enough." The tendency to make lousy bargains with oneself is not just American or Chinese—it's human.

All the more need, then, for compassion to trump ambition. Like the Chinese figure for whom he is named, Chase succeeds where his father had failed. "I wasn't like him," he observes. "I couldn't ignore the pain of others." Rather than damming up the raging waters of emotion—avoiding them or numbing them—Chase finally learns to dredge them, channeling them into the irrigation of deeper emotional and cultural intimacy. It is only when he speaks his true feelings—only when he treats himself as valuable in and of himself, worthy of recognition and care—that he connects more deeply with Bowen and his father. And ultimately it is with us, the reader, that he connects the most deeply, sharing with us the guilt and shame he cannot bear to confess to anyone else. Yet—remarkably—this "us" is both Chinese and American: Chinese readers devoured it before it was even available in English. Literary diplomacy, indeed.

If Beautiful Country is about the loss of innocence that comes when a child evolves into a more fulsome—and therefore painful—engagement with the world outside himself, it is equally about the potential riches of such an engagement. We lose some of ourselves, but we gain the other. Not quite the same as ourselves, but: a brother. That is this aching novel's promise; its warning is that without ongoing sacrifice, such fruitful attainments will slip away.

The choice, every day, is ours. 

Editor's note:  Dan Wilner, the author of this review, is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. You can find Beautiful Country on  

Pictured here (rotating): Beautiful Country book cover and author John Randolph Thornton.

Song Pipers Musical Therapy Group Invites All to Open House and Coffee Wednesday, May 4 PDF Print Email

By Staff

Apr. 27, 2016:  The Song Pipers, a musical therapy group that performs throughout Westchester at nursing homes and community centers, invites singers to an open house and coffee on Wednesday, May 4, from 10:00 am to 11:30 am. No professional training is necessary.

The event will be held in the fellowship room at The Reformed Church of Bronxville (Midland Avenue entrance).

The singing group, which has brought songs and smiles to thousands of folks since 1949, is an all-female ensemble of all ages that sings all kinds of music in four-part harmony.

Rehearsals are on Wednesday mornings in Bronxville during the school year.   

The friendship and warmth in the group are as special as the music, itself.

To RSVP, call Didi Hayduk at 914-665-7961 or email CLOAKING .

Pictured here:  The Song Pipers.

Photo by Ken Richardson

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