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

Hemingway-Themed Benefit for Bronxville Library a Sold-Out Affair PDF Print Email

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By Irena Choi Stern, Co-Vice President, Friends of the Bronxville Public Library

Mar. 13, 2019:  Raise a Glass to Hemingway, the benefit for the Bronxville Public Library held on March 8, was a sellout, as more than 300 supporters enjoyed a moveable feast of delicious fare catered by Underhills Crossing, along with wines, mixed drinks, and a tequila bar, all to raise funds for library services and needs beyond the reach of the regular budget.

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Organized by the board of the Friends of the Bronxville Public Library (FOBPL), the evening was a community-wide effort, with local merchants donating fabulous raffle and silent auction items. In a nod to Hemingway, a wide assortment of author-themed beverages (“Old Man & the Seagrams” and “Six-Toed Martini”) was served, and the building was transformed into a Hemingway-esque Key West hideaway.

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“Community members of many generations came out to ‘raise a glass to Hemingway,’ and the Friends are thankful to the Bronxville community for showing such tremendous support for our beloved library,” said Lia Gravier, FOBPL president.

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Over the years, the FOBPL has quietly filled in where library budgets have not been able to meet the need, funding all the adult and children’s programming, including the Summer Reading Program, supplementing the book budget, funding author events featuring nationally recognized writers, a museum pass program to New York City institutions, and innovations in digital publishing, and ensuring access for Bronxville residents to resources.

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The FOBPL works closely with the library director, Greg Wirszyla, to identify funding priorities. The FOBPL funded the purchase of a new children’s room circulation desk (approximately $12,000); the museum pass program ($2,500); the art restoration fund ($3,000 annually); a new projector and flat screen television for the Yeager Room ($3,000); and the repair, restoration, and refinishing of the library’s antique grandfather clock (approximately $8,000), which was inoperable for nearly 20 years.

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“This library has a cultural influence far beyond the field of books and reading,” Wirszyla said. “Universal in its appeal, all ages look to it for pleasure and enrichment through its wide variety of programs made possible by the Friends of the Bronxville Public Library."

Raffle Sponsors included:  Eileen Palma, Nature’s Cradle, Sarah Lawrence College, Silk Road, Underhills Crossing, Bronxville Wellness Sanctuary, Candy Rox, Chantilly, Continental 109, Dobbs and Bishop, Elia Taverna, Elizabeth Ackerman, Harry’s, J.McLaughlin, Louis di Chiarro Salon, Maison Rouge, Mini’s Prime Meats, Newton Garden Design, New York Botanical Garden, Nutmeg, Park Place Bagels, Playa Bowl, Posh, Pure Barre, Root and Vine, Salon Tresses, Toney Toni and the Gang, Womrath Bookshop, Yoga Haven, Yoga Rebels and Value Drugs.

 

Photos courtesy Irena Choi Stern, Co-Vice President, Friends of the Bronxville Public Library


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 



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Bronxville High School Singers Perform Major Choral Work at Carnegie Hall PDF Print Email

By David Fenner, Bronxville School parent


Mar. 13, 2019:  For sixteen Bronxville high school students, this Presidents’ Day vacation week began with a thrill that typically rewards only the most recognized professional singers, an evening performance as the featured artists at Carnegie Hall.

It was cold and windy in New York City on Saturday, February 16. Less than a week before, three-quarters of the group from Bronxville had closed their very successful run of Little Shop of Horrors and were nursing tired voices and sore throats, some fighting back the flu, yet spirits were high for what was to come. Their chorus director, Pamela Simpson, had arranged a unique opportunity for the choral singers, one in which she would not be in front of them conducting but among them singing 

“I got a call last September asking if any of my singers would like to participate in the Gotham Sings! Festival Chorus and Orchestra performance at Carnegie Hall. I’d been asked in years past, but for one reason or another, it was never possible,” said Simpson in her Bronxville High School classroom. “This time, the stars were aligned. The spring musical was done early; it was only a day into vacation; the conductor and the repertoire all combined to make this an opportunity I really wanted our singers to be a part of.”

The conductor was Craig Jessop, the distinguished former music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and founding dean of the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University. The repertoire was Vaughan Williams’s "Dona Nobis Pacem," augmented for length with Mack Wilberg’s Requiem aeternam, the introduction to his Requiem, and Wilberg’s arrangement of David Warner’s "Let Peace Then Still the Strife."

“This was a massive opportunity to perform a major choral work that we otherwise could never do given its size and difficulty,” said Simpson. The full chorus was 203 singers with a 40-piece professional orchestra. 


Front row (L to R): Elizabeth Burnell, Sofia Fenner, Alice O’Connell, Olivia Conniff, Eliza Brennan, Ally Bruno, and Lily Vorbach; second row: Pamela Simpson (L) and Caroline Palermo; third row (L to R): Jack Palermo, John Mignardi, Ashton Minich, Michael Weild, and Anna Maicon; at the back: George Cooney (L) and Catie Burnell. Not pictured: Maggie Lockwood. Photo by Susan Conniff

In the fall, Simpson invited high school chorus singers to join the project on an audition basis. As she would be occupied with the high school musical, singers would have to learn the music independently. Simpson provided them with recordings and a detailed schedule by which they would have to have their parts learned. Students prepared on their own and in chorus class and then rehearsed sections with accompanist Jonathan Faiman.

In the days before the scheduled performance, the group traveled twice to Manhattan to rehearse with the full chorus under Dr. Jessop at the Park Central Hotel Ballroom, across the street from Carnegie Hall. “Singing in such a large group with some very experienced singers was truly rewarding. We learned so much from each other and the conductor,” remarked Bronxville junior Sofia Fenner.

“The most amazing thing happened,” said Fenner. At moments during the rehearsals, the blending of voices gave rise to overtones in the ballroom. Overtones are a natural phenomenon under very specific conditions where the illusion is created that more pitches are being produced than those the musicians are physically creating. “It was like there was another chorus hovering above us. It was angelic!” 

The Festival Chorus comprised singers from a college chorus, three local high schools, and professional ensembles from Utah, Ohio, and New York. “Dr. Jessop treated all of the singers as if they were top-notch musicians,” said Simpson. “Jessop had exacting standards for every singer regardless of age. They quickly learned to respond to his nuanced conducting gestures and the music came to life. It was magical seeing their amazed faces as they heard their voices become part of something bigger than themselves.”


Photo by David Fenner

For Pam Simpson, this would not be the first time performing at Carnegie Hall. As a graduate student at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, pursuing her master’s degree in music education/choral conducting, she performed there under the direction of Robert Shaw and later with the Philadelphia Orchestra under maestros Riccardo Muti and Wolfgang Swallisch. She has performed at Avery Fisher Hall (now David Geffen Hall) with the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur, but this performance was special.

“Rehearsing with Dr. Jessop felt just like the old days,” said Simpson. “It was thrilling. But to sing again at Carnegie Hall WITH my students was amazing.”

The Isaac Stern Auditorium with its vaulted Ronald O. Perelman Stage is a tremendous site. The evening’s program began with performances by the Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale, which was followed by the University of Montevallo Concert Choir. When the program resumed after intermission, it took several minutes for the members of the massive Gotham Sings! Chorus to take their places on the stage as anticipation built in the audience. When the music began, the audience was spellbound, lifted and captivated for nearly an hour before it could return the gift of music with rousing applause. Soloists Cindy Dewey and Errik Hood were fantastic, but the powerful chorus stole the show.

Bronxville senior Catie Burnell summed it all up beautifully: “Singing at Carnegie Hall was an amazing experience! Working with such an experienced and diverse choir really pushed us to perform to the best of our ability. It was an honor to work with Dr. Jessop; he is a very accomplished conductor and really took the time to work with the entire choir to help us improve. We are so grateful Ms. Simpson was able to arrange this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”

To cap the evening, the choral leaders, including Pam Simpson, were called from their places in the chorus to join Dr. Jessop and the soloists in taking their bows. “I had not expected that,” said Simpson. “It was extraordinary!”

The Bronxville participants were Catie Burnell, Elizabeth Burnell, Olivia Conniff, Alice O’Connell, Caroline Palermo, and Lily Vorbach (sopranos), Eliza Brennan, Ally Bruno, Sofia Fenner, Maggie Lockwood, Anna Maicon, and Pamela Simpson (altos), and George Cooney, John Mignardi, Ashton Minich, Jack Palermo, and Michael Weild (basses).

Pictured at topBronxville High School chorus members present their director, Pamela Simpson, with a signed poster commemorating their performance at Carnegie Hall. In back (L to R): Michael Weild, Sofia Fenner, Lily Vorbach, Pamela Simpson, George Cooney, Catie Burnell, and Caroline Palermo; in front: Alice O’Connell (L) and Olivia Conniff. Performers not pictured: Eliza Brennan, Ally Bruno, Elizabeth Burnell, Anna Maicon, Maggie Lockwood, Jack Palermo, John Mignardi, and Ashton Minich.  

Photo at top by Trish Burnell 


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 


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Al Hemberger, Co-owner of The Loft Recording Studios, to Host Next 'Songwriters Listening Room' at The Bronxville Women’s Club on March 15 PDF Print Email

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By Bill Barton


Mar. 6, 2019:  The Loft is a relatively unknown Bronxville treasure.  It is above the Bow Tie Bronxville Cinema. Started in 1968 as a children’s film and theater center, it has since served as a recording studio for artists, including such well-known ones as RihannaRod StewartProcol Harum, and Christina AguileraPete SeegerDonny OsmondBritney SpearsTaj Mahal, and the Average White Band have also recorded there. Al Hemberger is a Bronxville High School graduate who now resides in Garrison but is in Bronxville working at his studio most days. Click here for more on the history of The Loft.

Al hosts a monthly “Songwriters Listening Room” on the third Friday evening of most months at The Bronxville Women's Club. Doors open at 7:00 for socializing; bring your own food and drinks. Shows start at 8:00 pm and end at 10:00 pm. There is a suggested donation of $10 per person. Al plays often with his band, which is composed of other former Bronxvillians Kerry Faselt-Hopwood and John Ellinghaus.  Music styles are mainly American folk, rock, and retro songs, most original compositions. 

The next show will be on March 15.

If you are interested in attending, just show up. You can get further information on upcoming shows and on The Loft in general by contacting Al at  CLOAKING .

Please come and support local musical artists!

Pictured here:  The Bronxville Women's Club.

Photo by A. Warner


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 


 
Award-Winning Author Joan Silber to Launch Sarah Lawrence College Reading Series at the Bronxville Library on March 22 PDF Print Email

By Ellen de Saint Phalle, Director of Community Relations, Sarah Lawrence College


Feb. 27, 2019:  Sarah Lawrence College is delighted to present a faculty reading series at the Bronxville Public Library. Award-winning author and Sarah Lawrence faculty member Joan Silber will launch the series on March 22 at 11:00 am in the library’s Yeager Room. 

The writing program at Sarah Lawrence College is nationally recognized and includes a faculty of active and accomplished writers.

“This faculty reading series at the public library is a wonderful opportunity to share the talents of the college’s renowned faculty with the greater community,” said President Cristle Collins Judd.

Joan Silber is the author of eight books of fiction. Her most recent book, Improvement, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award and was listed among the New York Times’ s 100 Notable Books for 2018. The novel revolves around a single mother whose boyfriend enlists her in a scheme to smuggle cigarettes across state lines, and Silber connects these contemporary New York characters with characters from 1970s Turkey. 

In her review for the New York Times, Kamila Shamsie writes: “This is a novel of richness and wisdom and huge pleasure. Silber knows, and reveals, how close we live to the abyss, but she also revels in joy, particularly the joy that comes from intimate relationships.”

Silber’s first book, Household Words, won the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her other works of fiction are In the CityIn My Other LifeLucky UsIdeas of Heaven, finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize, The Size of the World, finalist for the Los Angeles Times Prize in Fiction, and Fools, longlisted for the National Book Award and finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.

Silber’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Epoch, Agni, Tin House, The Southern Review, The Colorado Review, and other magazines. She has been the recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story; an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; a Guggenheim Fellowship; and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her short fiction has been chosen for the O. Henry Prize, the Pushcart Prize, and Best American Short Stories. She is also the author of The Art of Time in Fiction

A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Silber earned a master’s degree from New York University and has taught at Sarah Lawrence College since 1985.

The Sarah Lawrence Faculty Reading Series at the Bronxville Public Library will feature two programs each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Christine Utchel, head of adult reference, technology and patron services, is coordinating the program for the library.

Book sales and signing will be available after the program courtesy of Womrath Bookshop. No registration is required for this free program. For more information, please contact  CLOAKING  or call 914-337-7680, ext. 24.


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

 
Feed Me! Bloodthirsty Rock and Roll Musical Devours Bronxville PDF Print Email

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By Scott Goodson and Karin Drakenberg, Parents of children in The Bronxville School


Feb. 20, 2019:  Bronxville is fifteen miles from Broadway and the bright lights of Times Square. But watching the students of Bronxville High School perform Little Shop of Horrors, you'd be hard-pressed to know the difference. Foot-stomping, hilarious madness descended on the quiet village of Bronxville. The sold-out performances rocked the house with energy emanating from an extraordinary cast, crew, and orchestra. 

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Little Shop of Horrors was cast and directed by the high school's amazing visionary choral director, Pamela Simpson. The students committed many weeks to daily rehearsals in the midst of midterms and exams, perfecting the exquisite choreography and velvety vocals.

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The show is a horror/comedy rock musical composed by Alan Menken and written by Howard Ashman. The story follows a nerdy and insecure florist shop worker living on skid row, Seymour (Matthew Pytosh), who a raises a plant that, unbeknownst to him when he acquired it, grows only by eating fresh humans. Seymour falls in love with Audrey (Catie Burnell) and wins her love by feeding her boyfriend, the sadistic leather-wearing, motorcycle-driving dentist (Jacoby Goodson), to bloodthirsty Audrey II, the human-eating plant. Next to be devoured is the opportunistic shop owner, Mr. Mushnik (George Cooney).

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The story is bound together by a group known as the Urchins, who, singing doo-wop and early Motown and wearing '60s fashion (Norah Foley, Maya Engenhiero, Alice O'Connell, Vance Wood, Sofia Fenner, and Olivia Conniff), kept the musical moving along in a funky, breakneck pace. The green star of the show was the bloodthirsty Audrey II (Ally Bruno (voice)/Alana McGinness (puppeteer)). The whole cast and crew were fantastic and blew the roof off the new Bronxville theater. And the magnificent orchestra, consisting mostly of students, didn’t miss a beat! Through the generous support of The Bronxville School Foundation and the PTA, the students worked with the professional puppeteer Fergus Walsh to create Audrey II, who really came alive on stage.

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In recognition of the fact that the characters in the musical live on skid row and are struggling to get by, donations were solicited to benefit the food bank Feeding Westchester. In addition, since Audrey, the female lead, is in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend, the show also gave its support to the One Love Foundation by selling little plants in the lobby. https://www.joinonelove.org/

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The musical is based on the low-budget 1960 black comedy film The Little Shop of Horrors. The music is in the style of early 1960s rock and roll and includes several well-known tunes such as "Skid Row (Downtown)," "Somewhere That's Green," and "Suddenly, Seymour."

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See below for more photos.

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Photos by D. Fenner

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 




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