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Leaf Peeper Concert Series

by Kathryn Boughton

Clarion Concerts, the oldest classical music organization in Columbia County, NY, will begin its 34th season of Leaf Peeper Concerts Saturday under the leadership of its newest musical director, renowned flutist Eugenia Zukerman.

In a recent interview with WAMC, Zuckerman described Clarion Concerts as “an extraordinary organization” founded in New York City by the late musicologist and conductor Newell Jenkins as the Clarion Music Society. From inception, Clarion Concerts has added luster to the autumn season in Columbia County by presenting world-class chamber music concerts in various locations throughout the region.

In 1996 Clarion Concerts of Columbia County became independent of the New York City organization and Sanford Allen, formerly violinist with the New York Philharmonic, became music director. Under his leadership, the Leaf Peeper Concerts Series expanded to include music of the 19th and 20th centuries. With his retirement last year, Zuckerman, who has homes in both Ancramdale, NY, and Manhattan, took over as music director.

In her interview, Zuckerman said she wanted to continue “the really important work Sanford Allen did,” adding that Clarion Concerts advocates for contemporary music as well as classic pieces.

“I have fabulous musical friends coming to join me for our first concert,” she said. “People are flying in from different places to play here out in the woods.”

Zuckerman said that Clarion Concerts is a nonprofit, with all money going to pay its artists. Money to support the program is raised through donations and benefit concerts such as one she did last the spring. “We pay as well as we can,” she told WAMC, but added that “part of our mission is to do outreach” to expose more people to quality music. Thus, tickets are only $25; $80 for series tickets, and students accompanied by an adult are admitted free.

Zuckerman, herself, will perform in the first concert, Fountains of Fine Sound, a title derived from Fountains of Fin, a piece written by Persian composer Behzad Ranjbaran that will be presented Saturday. The program will also feature The Journey, a string trio by David Mancini, the Serenade for string trio in C Major, Op.10 by Ernő Dohnányi as well as music by Mozart and Schubert.

Both Mancini and Ranjbaran will attend the concert and will speak.

The program will be presented in Our Lady of Hope Church, Route 22, Copake Falls, at 7:30PM. Artists include Zukerman on flute; Gary Levinson, violin, Nokuthula Ngwenyama, viola and Suren Bagratuni, cello.

The series continues September 26th with Love and Chaos at St. James Church in Chatham, featuring vocal and piano music. Soprano Arianna Zukerman, Zukerman’s daughter, and mezzo soprano Heather Johnson will sing songs of love and loss accompanied by Giovanni Reggioli on piano.

“The chaos comes in the second half, with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for piano four hands performed by pianists Ran Dank and Soyeon Kate Lee,” Zuckerman said. She promises, “their performance just knocks the breath out of you.”

Baroque and Beyond on Octtober 10th at the Kinderhook Reformed Church honors founder Newell Jenkins with a Baroque Concert featuring Eugenia Zukerman and violinist Sanford Allen, with harpsichordist-organist Anthony Newman, oboist Virginia Brewer and cellist Raman Ramakrishnan.

The final concert, Angels and Earthly Delights on October 24th at St. James Church in Chatham will feature clarinetist Paul Green and the Voxare String Quartet playing works of the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, from Mozart to Mohammed Fairouz.

Zuckerman termed her work with Clarion Concerts as “giving back to the community.”

“Hard as it is (to keep the project going), we are now in the 21st century and definitely growing,” she concluded.