The Housatonic Valley Association will offer five free paddle trips on the Housatonic River this summer. Photo courtesy HVA

Bits & Bytes: Free canoe trips; Chesterwood sculpture show; talk at Arrowhead; Berkshires Jazz returns; Mahaiwe fall/winter events

Berkshires Jazz returns to in-person concerts with three events in August. The Mahaiwe has announced a lineup of music, comedy, and dance for the fall and winter season.

HVA to offer free canoe trips on the Housatonic River

BERKSHIRE COUNTY — The Housatonic Valley Association (HVA), in partnership with the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, will offer five free paddle trips on the Housatonic River this summer. These trips are a chance to enjoy a leisurely paddle, appreciate the river as a natural resource, learn how to access the river, and find out more about current river projects and issues.

Paddlers may register to use one of HVA’s canoes or bring their own boat. Two of the trips are especially designed to introduce beginners to canoeing and the river, to be held on the Housatonic River in Lenox Wednesday, July 21 and Tuesday, Aug. 3. Additional public canoe trips, suitable for families with children 10 years old and older, will be held twice a day on Saturday, July 31 and Sunday, Aug. 8 in Sheffield, and once on Saturday, Sept. 11 in Stockbridge. The Stockbridge paddle trip includes, for a fee, a tour of the historic Merwin House and a boxed lunch.

While these trips are free, pre-registration is required, as space is limited. Once registered, participants will receive detailed information about what to bring, what to expect, and directions to the meeting location. For more information and to register, please contact Alison at 413-298-7024 or

On Wednesday, July 21 (6–8:30 p.m.) and Tuesday, Aug. 3 (10 a.m.–12:30 p.m.) HVA is offering beginners’ paddle trips on the Housatonic River. Gain confidence, and learn basic canoe strokes and how to steer while enjoying the river. Suitable for families with children ages 10 and older. Free. To register, contact HVA at 413-298-7024.

On Saturday, July 31 (10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. or 1:30–3:30 p.m.) join HVA for a Housatonic River family paddle in search of turtles. Paddle out and back from Woods Pond in Lenoxdale. This stretch of the Housatonic River is flat and calm with a variety of wildlife sightings possible. Families with children ages 6 and older are welcome. To register, contact HVA 413-298-7024.

On Sunday, Aug. 8 (10 a.m.–Noon or 1–3 p.m.) paddle along the lazy Housatonic through farms and forest with an eye to the sky for raptors and an eye to the bank and river for wildlife. Families with children ages 10 and older are welcome. To register, contact HVA 413-298-7024.

On Saturday, Sept. 11 (9:30 a.m.–2 p.m.) join HVA and Historic New England for a leisurely paddle through Stockbridge along a meandering, slow-moving stretch of river that passes behind the historic Merwin House. Afterwards, enjoy a boxed lunch on the back porch of Merwin House, followed by a house tour. The paddle trip is free. Lunch and tour fee is $40 for members. Please call 860-928-4074 to register.


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Chesterwood announces 43rd-annual contemporary sculpture show

John Van Alstine’s “Sisyphean Circle (coppewebbe),” 2019. Photo courtesy Chesterwood

STOCKBRIDGE — Chesterwood announces it will open its 43rd-annual contemporary outdoor sculpture show on July 10. “Tipping the Balance: Contemporary Sculpture by John Van Alstine” will feature 11 outdoor works. A free opening reception and artist’s talk, sponsored by The Artist Book Foundation, will be held Friday, July 9 at 5 p.m. On Saturday, July 10, the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company will hold two ticketed performances, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., outdoors around specific works by Van Alstine that inspired their choreography.

The exhibition will be on view until October 25, Thursday–Monday, from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Grounds-only tickets can be purchased in advance online or upon arrival at the admissions desk (adults $10, children $5, members free). Guided tours of the historic artist’s studio are also available from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Guided tours of the outdoor exhibition will be offered the first Fridays of August, September, and October at 3 p.m. Registration for the opening reception, the dance performance, and guided tour tickets are available on the Chesterwood website.

Chesterwood’s guest curator, Caroline M. Welsh, an art and museum consultant and director emerita of the Adirondack Museum, selected the 11 works to reveal the depth and breadth of Van Alstine’s creativity and talent. For more than 40 years, Van Alstine has created abstract sculptures with stone and forged or found steel.

A group of smaller works by Van Alstine is on view in the visitor’s center, in the exhibition “Reflecting on 2020-21: New Bronze Sculpture by John Van Alstine.” Faced with the pandemic shutdown and sheltering in place, Van Alstine embarked on a new small-scale series in bronze. He re-focused his exploration on earlier series to bring meaning and an artist’s voice to this very unusual and politically charged period.

“I think of many artists in the past who were able to use dangerous and uncertain times, and the isolation often imposed, as a catalyst to spur on their creativity. I believe my new works are an important and personal record that reflect this unusual time we are all facing; not only a time of pandemic, but one of the most uncertain political situations in recent American history,” said Van Alstine.

All of Van Alstine’s works at Chesterwood are for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to support the mission of Chesterwood. A major hardbound publication that tracks the arc of Van Alstine’s artistic career accompanies the exhibition and is available in the Chesterwood gift shop.


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Caroline Hellman to present talk on Melville’s influence on Ta-Nehisi Coates

PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire County Historical Society (BCHS) will host Dr. Caroline Hellman for a lecture and reading from her book “Children of the Raven and the Whale: Visions and Revisions in American Literature,” published in 2019. The lecture takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 11, in the historic barn at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead. Tickets are $10 for BCHS members, $15 for non-members and available online.

“Children of the Raven and the Whale” looks at how contemporary American writers have responded to texts such as “Moby-Dick” that were historically central to the American literary canon. In their rewritings and layering of new stories over older ones, contemporary writers chronicle a spectrum of American experience, and appraise the project of the United States. This talk will explore Melville’s influence on the work of author Ta-Nehisi Coates, in addition to discussing the larger landscape of American literature today.

Dr. Hellman is Professor of English at New York City College of Technology, of the City University of New York. She holds a BA in English and art history from Wellesley College and a PhD in English from the CUNY Graduate Center. Her first book, “Domesticity and Design in American Women’s Literature: Stowe, Alcott, Cather, and Wharton Writing Home,” was published in 2011. Dr. Hellman was a 2010-2011 Fulbright Scholar in American Literature at the University of Antwerp, Belgium.


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Berkshires Jazz returns to in-person programming in August

Dawning Holmes. Photo courtesy Jeff and Dawning Holmes Facebook page

PITTSFIELD Berkshires Jazz, Inc. announces its return to in-person programming with six events in the second half of 2021, including three programs in August. The events before Labor Day include the group’s annual showcase of local musicians, and two new concerts in the southern part of Berkshire County.

The August events will be followed by the 2nd-annual Lenox Jazz Stroll on September 11 and the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival from October 8–17. Second-half programming concludes on Thanksgiving weekend with a performance by vocalist Dawning Holmes and her husband, Grammy-winning pianist Jeff Holmes.

  • Saturday, Aug. 7: Berkshire Jazz Showcase: This free, outdoor event on the Pittsfield Common will feature three local bands: The Jason Ennis Organ Quartet, The Berkshire Jazz Quartet, and the Darryl Lowery Quartet. The show kicks off at 1 p.m., just as the Pittsfield Farmers Market is winding down. Rain date: Sunday, Aug. 8.
  • Sunday, Aug. 15: The hot swing band Svetlana and the Delancey 5 will perform at The Gateways Inn in downtown Lenox. There will be limited ticket sales in advance, in case the weather forces the outdoors event to relocate inside. As the weather situation clarifies, additional tickets sales may be made available.
  • Saturday, Aug. 28: Insight, a quartet featuring flutist Andrea Brachfeld will perform, among other works, “If Not Now, When,” which was composed with the support of a New Works grant from Chamber Music America. This concert will be indoors at Saint James Place in Great Barrington.

Details and other information, including a link to the online box office, are available on the Berkshires Jazz website.


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Mahaiwe announces fall/winter lineup

Kate Flannery and Jane Lynch perform at The Mahaiwe December 10.

GREAT BARRINGTON — The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center announces new live performances from Paul Taylor Dance Company on September 3–4, Christopher Cross on October 1, Rosanne Cash on November 6, Jane Lynch and Kate Flannery in A Swingin’ Little Christmas on December 10, the John Pizzarelli Trio in The New Standards on December 18, and Tom Papa on March 11, 2022.

These shows join the previously postponed performance from Hot Tuna and David Grisman, on November 27, to round out the fall and winter season.

Tickets to Paul Taylor Dance Company, Christopher Cross, and Tom Papa go on sale to Mahaiwe members July 7 at 12 p.m., and to the public July 10 at 12 p.m. Tickets to Rosanne Cash, Jane Lynch and Kate Flannery, and John Pizzarelli go on sale to Mahaiwe members July 14 at 12 p.m., and to the public July 17 at 12 p.m.

Paul Taylor Dance Company returns to the Berkshires for its 13th year at the Mahaiwe with two nights of modern dance Friday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 4 at 8 p.m. The three works performed will be “Aureole” (1962), a seminal, accessible ballet that shot Taylor into the pantheon of the great modern dancers and choreographers; “A Field of Grass” (1993) which evokes America in the 1960s; and “Brandenburgs” (1988), choreographic grandeur at its finest married flawlessly within the joyous atmosphere of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.

Singer-songwriter Christopher Cross will perform Friday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. In a career spanning over five decades, Cross has sold over 10 million albums. His music has garnered five Grammys, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, an Emmy nomination and five Top 10 singles, including “Sailing,” “Arthur’s Theme,” “Alright,” and “Think of Laura.”

Rosanne Cash. Photo: Michael Lavine, courtesy the artist

Rosanne Cash will perform Saturday, Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. One of the country’s pre-eminent singer-songwriters, Cash has released 15 albums that have earned four Grammy Awards and 12 nominations, as well as 21 Top 40 hits, including 11 chart-topping singles. “She Remembers Everything,” her latest release, is a poetic, lush, and soulful collection of songs that reckon with a flawed and intricate world.

Actresses Jane Lynch and Kate Flannery will perform their cabaret show, A Swingin’ Little Christmas on Friday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. Jane Lynch is an actress, singer, playwright, and author. She received an Emmy and Golden Globe for her portrayal of Sue Sylvester on “Glee.” She is currently the two-time Emmy Award-winning host of NBC’s “Hollywood Game Night” and can be seen on Amazon Prime’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Kate Flannery is best known for her nine seasons as Meredith on NBC’s “The Office” and, more recently, “Dancing with the Stars.”

Jazz guitarist and vocalist John Pizzarelli will perform with a trio on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m., continuing his longstanding annual tradition of appearing at the Mahaiwe during the holiday season. Pizzarelli has established himself as a prime contemporary interpreter of the Great American Songbook and beyond, with a repertoire that includes Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Antônio Carlos Jobim, and The Beatles.

Comedian Tom Papa will perform Friday, March 11, 2022 at 8 p.m. With more than 20 years as a stand-up comedian, Papa is one of the top comedic voices in the country, finding success as an author, on film, TV, radio, and podcasts, as well as live on stage.

He recently released his second book, “You’re Doing Great! And Other Reasons to Stay Alive.” Papa has four hour-long stand-up specials and is a contributor to The New Yorker magazine.