Sylvia Berry Aston Magna
“Early Duos for Fortepiano and Violin” will begin Aston Magna's season on June 13, with the music of Mozart, CPE Bach, Joseph Boulogne and Beethoven performed by Sylvia Berry (shown above), fortepiano, and Daniel Stepner, violin. Photo: Tatiana Daubek

Bits & Bytes: Aston Magna’s 48th season; new history kiosk at Clinton Church; Cushing-Gop wins Hull Award; Jane Fleishman on The Stonewall Generation

An outdoor interpretive display that looks to both the past and the future has been installed at the Clinton Church Restoration project site at 9 Elm Court in downtown Great Barrington.

Aston Magna Music Festival’s 48th season to offer six virtual concerts

GREAT BARRINGTON — The Aston Magna Music Festival’s 2021 season will present a series of virtual concerts, with music from the Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical periods, on weekends in June and July. Concerts will be recorded at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and Saint James Place, both in Great Barrington and can be viewed on the or websites, depending on the date.

The free events will roll out on six weekends in June and July, and will feature the music of Monteverdi, Marais, Leclair, Mozart, Beethoven, and others.

The schedule is as follows:

“Early Duos for Fortepiano and Violin,” will begin the season on Sunday, June 13 at 7 p.m., with the music of Mozart, CPE Bach, Joseph Boulogne and Beethoven, performed by Sylvia Berry, fortepiano, and Daniel Stepner, violin.

Marcus Thompson Aston Magna
Marcus Thompson. Photo: Christian Steiner

“Mozart: The String Trios” will be offered Sunday, June 27 at 7 p.m., with Daniel Stepner, violin; Marcus Thompson, viola; and Jacques Lee Wood, cello.

On Saturday, July 3 at 7 p.m., Aston Magna will present “Three French Masters,” with the music of Marais, Leclair, and Forqueray, with 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., “An Evening of Monteverdi” will be performed by vocalists Aaron Sheehan and Jason McStoots, tenors; Adam Pearl, harpsichord; Cameron Welke, theorbo; Laura Jeppesen, viola da gamba; and 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 finally, as 2020’s festival season was canceled due to the pandemic, Aston Magna will celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday a year late with “Celebrating Beethoven’s 251st Birthday” on Saturday, July 24 at 7 p.m. Musicians will be Daniel Stepner and Julie Leven, violins; Jason Fisher, viola; and Jacques Lee Wood, cello. The quartet will offer Beethoven’s “Eyeglass Duo,” a string trio in C Minor, and selected quartet movements, including the Grosse Fuge.

Although the events are free, donations to help underwrite the recordings are welcome for this virtual season.


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New kiosk at Clinton Church site focuses on local African American history

Eugenie Sills Clinton Church
Clinton Church Restoration Interim Executive Director Eugenie Sills stands near the new kiosk. Photo: Ghi Sign

GREAT BARRINGTON — An outdoor interpretive display that looks to both the past and the future has been installed at the Clinton Church Restoration project site at 9 Elm Court in downtown Great Barrington. The eight-panel kiosk, the product of a collaboration between the nonprofit and the UMass Amherst Public History Program, uses images and text to convey information about the church’s 150-year-old history and the nonprofit’s vision for the African American cultural center it is developing at the site.

“We are very pleased to help Clinton Church Restoration bring the story of this historic church and congregation to the public,” said David Glassberg, a professor at UMass Amherst who serves on the nonprofit’s advisory board.

Research and writing for the eight 2’x3’ interpretive panels were conducted by Mike Mederios, Nichole Green, and Danielle Raad, graduate students enrolled in Glassberg’s Museum and Historic Site Interpretation class during the 2018-19 academic year.

The exhibit, titled “Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church: A Sustainable Future for a Historic Church,” also highlights prominent African Americans in the Berkshires, the relationship between W.E.B. Du Bois and the church’s founding congregation, and the centrality of the Black Church in the civil rights struggle and everyday community life. Another panel is dedicated to Reverend Esther Dozier, the first female pastor of the church and a beloved community leader who was at the forefront of regional efforts to celebrate Black history and the legacy of Du Bois. In the tradition of the “freedom church,” as the A.M.E. Zion denomination is known, Dozier also spoke passionately against injustice and intolerance.

Clinton Church Restoration board member Beth Carlson, who collaborated with Glassberg and his students on the project, designed the windmill-shaped display that allows each panel to be turned by hand. With funding from Housatonic Heritage, the panels were designed by Karen Glaz and fabricated by Ghi Sign. The display will remain in place during the building’s restoration.



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Berkshire County winner of Garden Club of America’s Hull Award

Becky Cushing-Gop. Photo courtesy Mass Audubon

LENOX — Becky Cushing-Gop, director, Mass Audubon West, is one of the 2021 cohort of winners of the prestigious Elizabeth Abernathy Hull Award, a distinction that comes with a certificate of commendation and $1,000 honorarium from the Garden Club of America (GCA). As director of Mass Audubon West’s network of 18 wildlife sanctuaries, which includes Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox, Cushing-Gop is the driving force behind the successful Berkshire Environmental Literacy Program, a core component of environmental education for elementary students in western Massachusetts.

The Berkshire Environmental Literacy Program is the longest-running school-based science program in the region. When Cushing-Gop became the director of Berkshire Wildlife Sanctuaries in 2014, she prioritized its growth, including significant fundraising and expansion of the education staff team to meet the demand for more classes. During the past six years, the program has expanded to 1,500 students in 85 classrooms, last year reaching the milestone of serving half of all Grade 3 and Grade 5 students in 10 Berkshire County school districts.

The pandemic shifted the focus from school field trips to exploring nature in students’ own neighborhoods. Despite the disruption in their education, area students have been able to connect to the natural world around them, and their discoveries are sparking curiosity and concern for global environmental issues — all essential qualities in the development of a new generation of conservationists.

“Our work with teachers and schools throughout Berkshire County is critically important in providing early childhood experiences in nature and foundational science understanding,” said Cushing-Gop. “I am humbled and touched by this huge honor and recognition for something that involves such a team effort.”

Recipients of the Hull Award fulfill “Miss Hull’s commonsense approach to environmental awareness by inspiring children under 16 to appreciate the beauty and fragility of our planet.” The Lenox Garden Club will honor Cushing-Gop’s achievements in a presentation ceremony at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary on May 14, and at a future meeting of club members.


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Hunt Library to host Jane Fleishman on The Stonewall Generation

Jane Fleishman. Photo courtesy David M. Hunt Library

FALLS VILLAGE — On Saturday, June 5 at 4 p.m., the David M. Hunt Library will host Jane Fleishman, whose book “The Stonewall Generation: LGBTQ Elders on Sex, Activism & Aging” shares the stories of community members who came of age around the time of the Stonewall Riots of 1969. An unapologetic depiction of queer identity and culture, and the fight for civil and human rights from the 1960s to today, the candid interviews in the book include the voices of those frequently marginalized in the mainstream narrative of LGBTQ history: people of color, transgender people, bisexual people, drag queens, and sex workers. For anyone committed to intersectional activism and social justice, “The Stonewall Generation” provides a much-needed resource for empowerment, education, and renewal.

This event will take place outdoors in the Library’s tent. For more information, call the library at 860-824-7424 or visit the Library’s website.

Jane Fleishman, PhD, MS, MEd, is a certified sexuality educator, researcher, and writer with more than 40 years of experience. In her recent TEDx talk, “Is it OK for Grandma to Have Sex?” she articulates her mission to promote the sexual well-being of older adults.