Site-specific programs highlight Caramoor’s unique setting
By Kathy Schuman, Artistic Director
When I started planning my first Caramoor summer season in 2018, I wanted to take advantage of our unique setting and all the possibilities therein. As anyone who has attended a concert at Caramoor knows, hearing music here is very different from the experience of hearing it in a traditional concert hall.
Caramoor was already programming day-long festivals of jazz and American Roots music around the grounds, and we had guitar recitals in our Sunken Garden. We’ve also been exhibiting sound art works around the campus (see related article on page 11 ). Programming John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit seemed like a no-brainer – it calls for the audience to wander outside among musicians playing an incredible array of instruments including conch shells, sirens, gongs, bells, drums, cymbals, and glockenspiels, dispersed throughout the landscape. It was also a perfect opportunity to throw open our gates and invite people in for free, encouraging audiences to try something new. The performance, with more than 60 percussionists (on the hottest day of the summer — approaching 100 degrees), was transcendent and inspiring. That summer we also welcomed On Site Opera, who brought a marvelous early Mozart opera, The Secret Gardener to our Sunken Garden. I read about this inventive company in The New York Times after they performed the work in a community garden in Manhattan, and thought it could be a perfect fit for us. Since then I’ve attended a number of wonderful OSO productions in NYC, and we’re planning a return visit for them in 2022.
In 2019, we went all in for birdsong, presenting Caramoor Takes Wing! and bringing French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard to perform the complete Messiaen Catalogue
d’Oiseaux in three concerts over a weekend — two in the Spanish Courtyard and one in the Venetian Theater (the performances were included in The New York Times’ roundup of their “Best Classical Music of 2019”). Birds have always participated in concerts here at Caramoor, but this took things to the next level! The weekend also included a performance in our Sunken Garden of John Luther Adams’s songbirdsongs
by Sandbox Percussion and two piccolo players, two Sunday morning bird walks led by the Bedford Audubon Society, and clarinetist David Rothenberg improvising live with the birds. This summer we’ll present The Forest, performed by The Crossing, a 24-voice choir based in Philadelphia. Created last fall when the choir members couldn’t sing safely indoors, The Forest focuses on the symbiotic relationship between individual trees and the forest – a metaphor for the relationship between each singer and the ensemble. The libretto is made up of the singers’ reflections on their isolation during COVID-Time, overlaid with texts from Scott Russell Sanders’ essay “Mind in the Forest.” Audience members will walk a path through the performance, in which specially designed individual speakers allow the singers to stand 30 feet from each
other and the path. I know this is going to be a very powerful experience for performers and audience alike. Like Inuksuit and songbirdsongs, John Luther Adams’ Ten Thousand Birds explores the connections between nature and music. It’s based on the songs of birds that are native to, or migrate through, the area in which the piece is performed. Chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound, for whom the piece was written, will bring it to Caramoor’s expansive Friends Field, where the performers and audience will move in and around each other (in safely delineated ‘pods’) during the 70-minute work.
Finally, we’ve recently introduced two new concert formats: Concerts on the Lawn, casual familyfriendly concerts on Friends Field that feature high-energy artists in a
variety of genres, and Beginner’s Ear, a Sunday morning series on the East Lawn designed to clear the mind and nourish the spirit through the shared experience of silence and music. I hope to see you in and around the grounds this summer!