Tomorrow I head off to Cummington in Western Mass., where I teach at Greenwood. Greenwood is an amazing and wonderful place. (Actually Cummington is pretty interesting. William Cullen Bryant, early American poet, author of Thanantopsis and To a Waterfowl, lived there. Richard Wilbur lives there now. Copland wrote music for a film called The Cummington Story, which was about resettling German refugees into the community there during the Second World War. The music survives in a late little piano piece called In Evening Air.) This year will be Greenwood’s 74th. It has a number of famous alums, including Joel Krosnick, Gilbert Kalish, Peter Westergaard, Lucy Shelton, Michael Webster, Anton Kuerti, Pamela Frank, Alan Gilbert, and two members of the Ciara Quartet, which are going to be in residence there this summer for the first time. Greenwood was started by a remarkable woman named Bunny Little, who was basically a good amateur violinist and educator, and who ran the place for 50 years. It was organized around 30’s progressive educational ideas, and is pretty much run as Bunny organized it, except the kids play a lot better than they did seventy years ago. In fact the level is pretty amazing. The kids are dedicated and excited in a very sincere and ingenuous way about music. It feels as though it works as the world ought to be. Being there is nothing short of inspirational. I’ve been teaching there for about a dozen years. It’s really what keeps me going through the rest of the year.
Last year I coached performances of the Schoenberg 4th quartet first movement, the slow movement of the Tippett 3rd quartet, the Shostakovitch Octet (which gets done every year, but it was the first time I’d coached it), a piece of mine, and the first movement of the Copland Quartet, along with some Mozart and Mendelssohn and I can’t remember what else. The Schoenberg, I have to say, was a really extraordinary performance. For a bunch of years now I’ve written a piece each summer for the chorus (all the kids sing in the chorus). So far I’ve done six Wallace Stevens settings, three Gertrude Steins, and some Shakespeare. I’m just about to finish a setting of a Wilbur poem called Green. Last year the camp commissioned a piece from Luna Woolf the the orchestra played at the end of camp; this year they’ve commissioned Julia Carey, a former student of mine who’s currently in the Harvard/NEC program and studying with Lee Hyla.
The concerts start a week from Saturday–they start at 7:30 and go on for ever–until about 11:00. They’re always amazing. Among other things just about no audience listens as intently as they do at Greenwood. If anybody’s in the neighborhood any Saturday night between then and August 6, drop by. Cummington’s about a half hour out of Northampton on Rt. 9.