As I reflect on my 20th summer in Sullivan County, the beauty and talent that surrounds me and is activated within me continues to flourish, astound and inspire. Encounters from beginning to end have been an intimate and fulfilling journey.
Starting the summer season, Joan Baez and the Indigo Girls came to Bethel Woods on a starry moon-laden Catskill night. Joan, a noble lady, sang the songs of my childhood memories amongst a quiet, calm and receptive audience, inspiring me to go home and sing folk songs with my husband on our front porch and to read her (Joan’s) father’s and mother’s tales of living in Baghdad in 1951. I reordered a fresh copy of the Joan Baez folksong book—my old one yellowed tattered and lost through the decades.
The next setting, the Shandalee Music Festival, the “Mini Tanglewood” of Sullivan County, is practically in my own backyard. It’s a six-mile trip from my front door to some of the most sublime and soul penetrating music one could imagine. In an enchanting sprawling 75-acre Catskill setting sits the Sunset Pavilion, where an intimate classical enclave has been created, an almost salon-like atmosphere, a place where solo piano and chamber works were meant to be heard. This Catskill gem is where true aficionados of classical music dare not to whisper or cough during each tantalizing musical moment; herein resides a banquet for the soul and mind.
Then onto another magical evening that beckons us down the winding road to the enchanted hamlet of Callicoon Center, NY to hear and witness Americana at its best. Polkas and the “Star Spangled Banner” ring throughout the valley, blanketed in a safe, sleepy corner where dedicated band members come to share and partake in a scene from Meredith Wilson’s “A Music Man” or William Inge’s “Picnic,” although I am not Kim Novak, and, Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore. As the full moon rose in salute to this patriotic ember kept alive, I stood and saluted Old Glory. This tradition occurs rain or shine every Wednesday night throughout the summer since 1934.
And now off to the quaint Delaware River town of Narrowsburg, NY, to support the group I had the good fortune to sing with in my earlier days as a summer resident: the Delaware Valley Opera (DVO) striving for excellence, creating the tableaux required, this year in an attempt to emote the beauty of Mozartian melismatic prosody. An opera company where? In this sleepy river town lies the charming Tusten Theater where the DVO offers operatic opportunities for local youthful participants, future professionals and enthusiastic and dedicated amateurs. This experience led me to study and continue my operatic education—and experiences that are invaluable.
Thank you, Sullivan County for your awe-inspiring natural beauty and for another summer of delicious musical offerings.
[Eileen Ledwith resides in Youngsville, NY.]