The Berkshires-a wonderful week

Aug 23rd, 2010, 08:12 AM
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The Berkshires-a wonderful week

Raining today in Boston but last week the weather was wonderful for our visit to the Berkshires. What a wonderful week it was! This was in conjunction with a Road Scholar program. An aside: we would recommend this newly renamed Elderhostel program for any age. The weeks sponsored by Berkshire Community College are excellent in every way as an on going way to enjoy the arts in the various towns. In an earlier visit we took in the Norman Rockwell museum and Shaker Village, staying at the Morgan House in Lee.

This time we drove from Boston to Pittsfield with lodging at Crown Plaza in Pittsfield
(with stop off and lunch at Old Sturbridge Village). All week long we went to performances in different locales with discussions of what we saw/heard. I won't bother with the web sites for the venues which you can check out or get from www.berkshires.org which includes lodging and such. One of our speakers was Martin Bookspan, renowned voice of Metropolitan Opera and BSO and another was Berkshire arts critic Peter Berger.

What a special art museum in the delightful village of Williamstown...the Clark Museum.
Special exhibit there until Setp 12 is "Picasso Looks at Degas." Did you know that this museum has 32 Renoirs (most on display) and also many other Impressionist paintings? Important notice! During a rennonvation for several years many of these will be on loan elsewhere. Even now they may be taking them down for packing so don't delay your visit! Also there is an unsual exhibit of Chinese looking sculpted figures by Juan Munoz (through Oct. 17). We went to the Clark with the group our first day and then returned on our own Saturday.

On Monday evening we went to the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge for Albee's "A Delicate Balance." Well acted...showing til Sept. 4. This was one of three theatre productions during the week...also "The Taster" at Founders Theatre in Lenox and later on Saturday "Fifth of July" in the beautiful Williamstown Theatre. Someone on Fodors has said Williamstown is a lovely little town which it is. The play there was written by Langford Wilson set in Lebanon, Missouri, near where we lived until a recent move to Boston. As for "The Taster" it is a new drama about a Medieval food taster for the King (guarding against poisoning) with a modern story of a man translating this ancient account, thus moving back and forth from 15th century to the present.

This was our first visit to Jacob's Pillow south of Lenox. We benefited from a prep talk by Andrea Borak about the performance but also modern dance. An emphasis on how it is based on breathing. First up was an Inside/Out on an outdoor statge which none of us liked. But then the performance by the Goteberg (Sweden) Ballet based on Ravel's "Bolero" which was fantastic...and I'm not that into modern dance. The first selection used a wall which was very creative.

Certainly a highlight was the two trips to Tanglewood where the Boston Symphony performs. First event was a real treat which our Road Scholar coordinator has negotiated just for her groups...sitting up front in a closed rehearsal of the BSO. In this instance it was a vigorous conductor Giancarlo Guerro leading off with "Carmen Suite."
Sitting as close as we were it knocked our socks off. What a treat. Also that day was lunch and a talk by another guest conductor, Ludovic Morlot, who was to lead the BSO in the concert we heard the next evening. Actually, that evening while wonderful to be in The Shed wasn't quite as exciting as the rehearsal, perhaps due to the music performed. It did feature soprano Dawn Upshaw. Also earlier we heard a chamber music performance by several BSO members which was great.

So a wonderful week exploring the arts in the Berkshires. There are other theaters as well and lots going on. The whole area is a center for the performing arts. We then drove over to a small town of Hadley, MA, on Rte. 2 to I-91. What a beautiful winding road that is. Didn't know the state had such a rural area. In Hadley we visited friends and located a gravesite of my ancestor who founded the town in 1660, Rev. John Russell, who hid fugitives wanted by the Crown. But that's another story.

Bill now in Boston
Ozarksbill is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 08:30 AM
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Another way to go from Pittsfield to Hadley is Route 9 all the way which is also scenic - which I could probably do in my sleep with having driven it back and forth from Pittsfield to Amherst for 3 years. Glad you had a great trip.
tchoiniere is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 08:54 AM
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Thank you so much for posting this ! I have been fondly remembering our last summer in the US, we spent a month in South Egremont and explored as much of the Berkshires as we could.. not counting all the weekends spent up that way. We considered living there, sometimes I still do :- )

I really loved Williamstown, if there were not so much snow in winter...sigh... The Clark is one of my all time favorite US museums.. we saw the Klimt show when we were there. Wonderful.

Thanks for bringing back some lovely memories ~
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Aug 23rd, 2010, 10:48 AM
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Yes, Rte 9 would be from Pittsfield and we went from Williamstown. Is it as winding a road?

And yes, Scarlett, this is surely a wonderful place to visit.
Each town has its own flavor.

A few extra mentions...it would seem that the Pittsfield area may be coming back from the demise of GE plant. Much depends on promotion of the arts.

Mostly we ate with the Road Scholar group, sometimes sack lunches on the grounds as did many others. But a couple of eateries we liked: Village Inn in Lenox which is in a B&B, Spice Root (Indian) in Wm'town. Pittsfield has lots of places on the main street. Crowne Plaza is centrally located there, a little dated but nice enough. Oh yes, Howard Johnson in Amherst was a deal on priceline bid.

Boston Bill
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Aug 23rd, 2010, 11:35 AM
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Not as windy but you have a river and hills off of 1 side. Lots of spots to stop. Depending on time of year, Wahconah Falls could be worth the spot.

Agreed that Pittsfield is definitely starting to come back (finally). My parents moved out 7.5 years ago (can't believe its been that long, but I still get up there occasionally.

The Colonial Theatre is definitely helping Pittsfield and is worth a visit.
tchoiniere is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 01:47 PM
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Hi there ... just a quick note from the Clark to clarify your post about our exhibitions ... while our Renoirs will be traveling to Spain for the first-ever exhibition of the Clark's collection in Europe, please don't think we will have empty walls! Still on view will be more than 400 paintings ranging from early Renaissance masters to great Impressionist painters, including Monet, Degas, and Manet and a wonderful collection of English landscapes by Turner, Sisley, and more! There will also be special opportunities to see parts of our collection that are not always on view given space considerations. Glad you enjoyed your trip ... and hope you'll come back to see all that we have in store for our visitors in the years ahead!
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Aug 24th, 2010, 09:24 AM
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Thanks to friends at the Clark Museum for the clarification. I had tried to find out, even in the library, but details weren't forthcoming about any other art to be on loan. I was stunned to realize those Renoirs were soon going to be leaving and thus did return for a closer look. Yes, yes, there is so much more besides the Reniors! And that surely includes more than just the Impressionists. What a wonderful museum.

Bill in Boston
Ozarksbill is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 09:41 AM
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Thanks for the report, yes western Massachusetts is a whole other world from Boston!
emalloy is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 10:17 AM
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It surely is beautiful country - thanks for a wonderful report!
LittleWing is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 11:59 AM
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Sounds like a wonderful trip!

I also appreciated your comments about Elderhostel/Road Scholar. I recently signed up to get on their list so have been very curious as to people's experiences with their trips.
musicfan is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 03:49 PM
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Brief word to musicfan...been to 32 Elderhostel/Road Scholar programs. Glad to advise further at [email protected]
Ozarksbill is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 07:01 PM
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Wow--impressive!

Thanks...I may take you up on that.
musicfan is offline  
Aug 25th, 2010, 09:05 AM
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Thanks for the timely report. My sister and I are headed out west for the Picasso exhibit this weekend.
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