Catherine Liddell will perform on the theorbo in two of four virtual Aston Magna Festival concerts in July. Photo courtesy Aston Magna

Bits & Bytes: Aston Magna virtual concerts; GB Public Theater adds events; Bard’s literary magazine celebrates 40th issue; The Villages Movement talk; Ancram Opera House seeks storytellers

Great Barrington Public Theater's Wet Ink series will feature in-person readings by Treat Williams, Brendan Mathews, Michael Brady, Leigh Strimbeck, and more.

Aston Magna Music Festival’s 48th season offers virtual concerts

GREAT BARRINGTON — The Aston Magna Music Festival’s 2021 season continues its series of virtual concerts, with music from the Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical periods, on weekends in July.

Concerts will be produced and video-recorded from the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and Saint James Place. The free events will feature the music of Monteverdi, Marais, Leclair, Mozart, Beethoven, and others.

The July schedule is as follows:

On Saturday, July 3 at 7 p.m., Aston Magna presents “Three French Masters,” with the music of Marais, Leclair and Forqueray. Musicians are Edson Scheid and Daniel Stepner, baroque violins; Laura Jeppesen, viola da gamba; Catherine Liddell, theorbo; and Michael Sponseller, harpsichord.

On Saturday, July 10 at 7 p.m., the festival will feature “Mostly Monteverdi,” with vocalists Aaron Sheehan and Jason McStoots, tenors; Adam Pearl, harpsichord; Cameron Welke, theorbo; Laura Jeppesen, viola da gamba; Scott Metcalfe and Daniel Stepner, baroque violins.

“Songs and Sonatas of Henry Purcell” will take place Saturday, July 17 at 7 p.m., with Kristen Watson, soprano; David McFerrin, baritone; Daniel Stepner and Julie Leven, baroque violins; Laura Jeppesen, viola da gamba, and Catherine Liddell, theorbo, and Peter Sykes, harpsichord.

And finally, as 2020’s festival season was canceled due to the pandemic, Aston Magna will present “Celebrating Beethoven’s 251st Birthday” on Saturday, July 24 at 7 p.m. Musicians include Julie Leven and Daniel Stepner, baroque violins; Jason Fisher, viola, and Jacques Lee Wood, cello. The quartet will offer Beethoven’s “Eyeglasses Duo,” a string trio in C Minor, and selected string quartet movements, including the Grosse Fuge.

Concert attendees will be able to view the events by logging on to astonmagna.org, where the concerts will go live at “curtain time.” Although the events are free, donations to help underwrite the recordings are welcome for this virtual season.

—A.K.

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Great Barrington Public Theater adds Wet Ink live readings to season

Photo courtesy Brendan Mathews

GREAT BARRINGTON — Great Barrington Public Theater, currently performing a six-week season in the Daniel Arts Center of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, is adding the Wet Ink series to its summer lineup.

“Wet Ink gives us greater opportunity to present new talent, stories, and plays to audiences, to get reactions and feedback for future possibility,” explained the theater’s Artistic Director Jim Frangione. “We look forward to hearing from people after they see what we’re incubating in the wings.”

This summer’s Wet Ink kicks off on Saturday, July 10 at 4 p.m. with live storytelling by Bard College at Simon’s Rock faculty member and award-winning fiction writer Brendan Mathews, whose recent short story collection debut, “This Is Not a Love Song,” was described in The New York Times as “admirably fearless” and whom critics have compared to Michael Chabon, E.L. Doctorow, and Dennis Lehane. He will be joined by the GBPT’s own playwright, poet, and fiction writer Elizabeth Nelson. The event will be held in the Great Barrington Town Hall Park, and will include performers from Berkshire Busk.

On Monday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m., Berkshire playwright Michael Brady will present a reading of his new play, “Queen of the Sea,” in the Daniel Arts Center Liebowitz Black Box Theater. In the play, three strangers meet on a cruise ship for “the voyage of a lifetime.” Nothing in their lifetimes has prepared them for what is to come. “Queen of the Sea” will be directed by Michelle Joyner and feature performances by Elizabeth Aspenlieder, David Joseph, and Jessica Provenz.

treat williams
Treat Williams. Photo courtesy Great Barrington Public Theater

On Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m., in the McConnell Theater, stage, film, and TV actor Treat Williams will give a first look at his new play, “Grant.” It’s an intimate exploration into the life, spirit, character, and candor of Ulysess S. Grant, performed by Williams himself as Grant.

On Wednesday, Aug. 4 at 7:30 p.m., the McConnell stage will host “The Queen of Fenway Court,” a new play written and performed by actor-writer Leigh Strimbeck and directed by Joshua Briggs. The work brings to life what drove Isabella Stewart Gardner to build and fill one of the most extraordinary museums in the world. The reading will be accompanied with live music composed by Jan Jurchak.

As another special addition to the scheduled stage season, on Wednesday, July 14 at 4 p.m., playwright Anne Undeland, director Judy Braha, and members of the cast of Undeland’s new play, “Mr. Fullerton,” will present an afternoon reading of selections from the play and a talkback at The Mount.

—A.K.

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Bard College’s literary magazine Conjunctions celebrates 40th anniversary issue

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. — Novelist and Bard College literature professor Bradford Morrow, founding editor of Conjunctions, will host an online evening of readings to celebrate the publication of the 40th anniversary issue of Conjunctions, the celebrated literary journal published by Bard College. Morrow will be joined by the issue’s contributors Fred D’Aguiar, Samuel R. Delany, Ann Lauterbach, and Sofia Samatar. The livestreamed event, co-presented by Elliott Bay Book Company, will take place Wednesday, July 7 at 8 p.m. For reservations, please click here.

Edited by Bradford Morrow and published twice yearly by Bard College, Conjunctions showcases innovative fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction by emerging voices and contemporary masters. In 2020, Conjunctions received the prestigious Whiting Literary Magazine Prize. Named a Top Literary Magazine 2019 by Reedsy, the journal was a finalist for the 2018, 2019, and 2021 ASME Award for Fiction and the 2018 CLMP Firecracker Award for General Excellence. In addition, contributions to recent issues have been selected for The Best American Short Stories 2021, The Best American Essays (2018, 2019), The Pushcart Prize XLIV: Best of the Small Presses, Best American Experimental Writing 2020, Best Small Fictions 2019, and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2019.

To order a copy, click here, call the Conjunctions office at 845-758-7054, e-mail conjunctions@bard.edu, or write to Conjunctions, Bard College, P.O. Box 5000, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504-5000.

—A.K.

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OLLI at BCC and Villages of the Berkshires present talk on The Villages Movement

PITTSFIELD — The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Berkshire Community College will partner with Villages of the Berkshires for the virtual discussion The Villages Movement: The First, The Local, and the National, on Thursday, July 8 at 3 p.m. via Zoom.

“Villages” are grassroots, community-based organizations formed through a cadre of caring neighbors who want to change the paradigm of aging. Local Villages connect members to a full range of practical support services to help with non-medical household tasks, services, programs, and transportation. Villages also promote staying active by coordinating recreational, social, educational, and cultural programs. These social activities minimize isolation and promote interaction amongst their peers. Villages provide a strong, inclusive community that offers members new opportunities to age successfully.

The event will feature Gina Morrison, executive director of the Village that began the movement — Beacon Hill Village in Boston — along with President Howard Shapiro and Vice President Carl Shuster of the local Villages of the Berkshires, and Barbara Sullivan, executive director of the national Village to Village Network.

—A.K.

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Ancram Opera House seeks local storytellers for next Real People, Real Stories event

ANCRAM, N.Y. — Ancram Opera House seeks local storytellers for its popular series REAL PEOPLE REAL STORIES, which will take place on Saturday, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. in The Hilltop Barn at Roeliff Jansen Park in Hillsdale, New York.

Interested participants can email a story summary to paul@ancramoperahouse.org. The deadline to submit stories is Monday, July 12. All stories must be true, experienced first-hand by the storyteller, and run no more than 15 minutes.

Ancram Opera House Director Paul Ricciardi created REAL PEOPLE REAL STORIES in 2016, and now conducts storytelling workshops throughout the region. “REAL PEOPLE REAL STORIES has become an audience favorite that we produce twice a year,” said Ricciardi. “It seems that now, more than ever, people have a deep need to listen to and tell stories.”

Ricciardi works with storytellers to help them prepare their stories for the stage. “The goal is not to create a polished monologue, but to allow the spontaneity of a real-life story to shine through,” he said.

The Roeliff Jansen Park Hilltop Barn is located at 116 Old Rt. 22 in Hillsdale, across from the Roeliff Jansen Community Library.

—A.K.