Fall Festivities

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Capital Region performing arts preview
Fall and holiday season 2014

By Bonnie J. Ross

Summertime eternal, fleeting–it already seems a distant metaphor by the invigoratingly brisk days of October. Summer-stock theater has long ago packed up its troupes and tropes and headed back to more cosmopolitan regions. Music festivals and summer ballet tours have all faded away, transient as the musical notes surrounding them. It may feel as though everything cultural has winged away with the autumn geese–but not so fast!
Resident theater companies are gearing up for their regular seasons, dance companies are bringing out new works to spice up the autumn and winter, and symphony orchestras are tuning up their players for a delightful season. Here are a few ideas to liven up your calendars this fall and holiday season.

Notes from the music scene

Albany Symphony Orchestra
Under the direction of David Alan Miller since 1992, the Albany Symphony orchestra has become a noteworthy organization in the field of American symphonic music. Miller’s inventive programs often juxtapose great symphonic classics with experimental pieces by sonically unique American composers.
After a thrilling season opener featuring renowned classical violinist Joshua Bell, Albany is wending its way into a powerfully introspective and romantic program. The October 18th concert will include Andrew Norman’s “Apart”–which explores the differentiation in roles between the members of an orchestra and the holistic idea of “orchestra” itself, creating an interesting dialogue with Rachmaninoff’s imaginative Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”  and Tchaikovsky’s luxurious “Pathétique.” Featured soloist Joyce Yang is often cited for vibrant technique and intuitive interpretations.
The November 22nd concert is centered on Beethoven’s programmatic “Pastorale” symphony and Mendelssohn’s transcendent violin concerto. Also included in the program is “Last Rounds,” by Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov–a confrontational fusion of tango and string quartets written in tribute to the revered tango composer Astor Piazzolla. Guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen, director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, will be conducting the Beethoven, and young–albeit well-experienced–violinist Caroline Goulding will be soloist for the Mendelssohn.
The symphony’s holiday concert will feature performances on December 20th and 21st in the magnificent acoustics of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Corelli’s beloved “Christmas Concerto,” Bach’s tapestried “Orchestral Suite No. 1,” and Stravinsky’s exuberant and graceful “Pulcinella Suite” (based on his ballet by the same name) will resonate with traditions-lovers. The world premier of Michael Torke’s “The Winter’s Tale” for cello and orchestra promises to insert some of the jazzy minimalism Torke is noted for.
To learn more about the season, visit www.albanysymphony.com

Schenectady Symphony Orchestra
The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra (SSO), which is a combination of professional musicians and talented amateurs, is gearing up for its 81st season on the theme “Old Masters, Rising Stars” at Proctors Theater. While highlighting the timeless compositions of Brahms, Mendelssohn, Grieg, Handel, and Bach, SSO also will feature young soloists who excelled in the orchestra’s student competitions and have gone on in classical music.
The soloists include Madalyn Parnas, whose intense violin style contrasts with the stylistically velvety cello style of her sister Cicely Parnas. They will solo on January 11 in a Mendelssohn violin concerto and a Shostakovich cello concerto, respectively. Ryan Reilly, pianist, will bring an introspective touch to the Brahms “Piano Concerto No. 2” on November 9. Christopher Reynolds will be the piano soloist on April 26, bringing a fitting liveliness to Edvard Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16.”
SSO promises a thematically rich set of concerts for the upcoming season, beginning with a Viennese collection on November 9th. One can hardly have Viennese music without also having Johann Strauss’s waltzes–so be prepared to have ballrooms conjured up in your ears by his “Emperor” and “Voices of Spring” waltzes. Beethoven’s energetic 8th symphony and Brahms’ intricate “Piano Concerto No. 2” round out the program.
On January 11, prepare for “A Festival of Strings” as SSO brings together an ensemble of vibrant concerti featuring violin, cello or both (in the case of Miklos Rozsa’s frenzied “Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 29”).
To learn more about the season, visit www.schenectadysymphony.org
 

Beats from the dance floor

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company
Now entering its 24th season, the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company (ESDC) has proven its place on the dance floor of the Capital Region. One of the intrinsic features of the troupe is artistic director and founder Ellen Sinopoli’s propensity to collaborate across and beyond the arts–resisting any isolation or compartmentalization of her art form. As a result, her choreography is influenced by everything from the brilliant site-based performances of violinist Cornelius Dufallo to the architectural explorations of Frances Bronet. Her inspiration for dance is deeply rooted in her vivid perceptions and interpretations of the creativity surrounding her. Given her artistic ingenuity, it is no wonder her company is the resident company at The Egg.
Continuing an annual tradition, ESDC will be the guest company and collaborative artists for a performance by the dance students of Russell Sage College November 14 and 15 at 7pm at the college’s Meader Little Theater.
Well aligned with the ESDC’s goals of community outreach, the company also will give a joint performance with adults from the Center for Disabilities Services’s MOVE workshops. This is the culmination of a two-month workshop series exploring and perhaps even altering the meanings of terms like “ability” and “disability” through artistic expression. The performance will occur on November 20th. Check ESDC’s website for particulars.
December offers two unconventional performances by the company.
Can science and the arts intersect? Find out December 10th at UAlbany’s Performing Arts Center as the result of a collaboration between Professor Keith Earle of UAlbany and Ellen Sinopoli. A combination of modern dance and physics, performance and demonstration, discourse and discussion, this program the aptly titled “ChoreoPhysics.” Of special interest to science students, this performance will doubtless also appeal to any who applaud Sinopoli’s penchant for unique collaborations.
December 13th offers a performance at the spectacular Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli, a unique haven and creative community for professional dancers and choreographers set in the Catskill Mountains.
To learn more about the season, visit www.sinopolidances.org

Albany Berkshire Ballet
The Albany Berkshire Ballet began 54 years ago as a dance school in Pittsfield, MA, under the artistic direction of Madeline Cantarella. Initially, the company was formed to serve as an outlet for more advanced student dancers, but by 1975 had evolved into the Berkshire Ballet, a professional company dancing across the Northeast and up into Canada. By 1989, the company had added Albany as a second home, and the collaborative company was born. Championing classical ballet as well as edgy progressive works, this company is perhaps to ballet what Ellen Sinopoli is to modern dance in the Capital District.
This November and December, the company will embark on its 40th Anniversary Nutcracker tour, including a gala on November 7th at the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield. As of the publication of this article, a tour schedule had not been established.
Visit the company’s website for updates: berkshireballet.org
 

Behind the theatre curtain

Capital Repertory Theatre
Also known as “The Rep,” the Capital Repertory Theatre has been bringing professional theater to the Capital District since 1981, the only member of “League of Resident Theatres” (LORT) in the Upper Hudson-Mohawk Valley. One of the not-for-profit goals of the company is to ensure that all students in the Capital Region have the opportunity to see a live theater production before graduating high school. So, in addition to quality professional productions, there are performances geared at engaging the younger population.
 The company’s first fall production, running September 30th to October 19th, will be “Other Desert Cities” by Jon Robin Baitz, directed by Michael Bush. Set in the desert city of Palm Springs, it delves into the familial dysfunction and perspectival conflicts of an aspiring memoir-writer, whose political father, shrewd mother, ex-addict aunt and devious brother seem in conspiracy against her. Think of it as a home for the holidays plunge into purgatory. This play was a contending finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and it promises an evening of intricate family relationships and resolutions.
The company’s November/December holiday show emphasizes nostalgia of childhood–and is a classic in good company with Albany Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday concert or Albany Berkshire Ballet’s Nutcracker tour. In a Classics on Stage Production directed by Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, the “Rep” brings its audiences a delightful production of “The Secret Garden,” based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel. This musical, with book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon, premiered in 1991 and won three Tony awards and two Drama Desk awards. The charming tale of a girl who tames a long-forgotten garden, along with the hearts of her peculiar and grim relatives, has a fairy-tale naiveté well in tune with the holiday season.
To learn more about the season, visit www.capitalrep.org.
 

An artful autumn

Whether the romantic Viennese waltzes of Schenectady Symphony Orchestra’s November concert; the vivid intensity of the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company’s Kaatsbaan performance; or the dramatic delight of “The Rep’s” holiday musical, there is no shortage to the vibrancy and variety of the performing arts in the Capital Region.
Check out Part II in the January issue for previews of these artistic companies’ winter and spring offerings!
 

 

Gardening | Susan Pezzolla

Putting the garden to bed…
Doing it properly is the best way to prepare for next spring!

September is a transition month in the garden and the calls to our Extension Gardener’s Helpline reflect a variety of questions about frost dates, planting mums, and wrapping up the outdoor chores. 
From a gardener’s perspective, Fall is the ideal time for many garden tasks. In the Capital Region, the Fall is usually a long season of bright sunny days and cool nights—good outdoor work weather and the perfect time to divide perennials and to plant.  Starting in mid- to late-August, conditions are excellent to plant grass seed and establish a lawn. Many trees and shrubs tolerate Fall planting as long as there are six to eight weeks for roots to grow out into the surrounding soil before the ground freezes, thus lessening the likelihood of the new plant heaving out of the ground as the soil freezes and thaws. The same applies to container perennials that become “irresistible” at the Fall sales.  Many perennials are pot-bound by the end of the summer so tease out the roots before planting to encourage rooting out into the soil.
Fall is the time when a gardener is very aware of the cycles of nature, and it is the wise gardener who taps into that rhythm to accomplish his/her own tasks. To make the process of Fall clean up a bit less taxing, use the following guide as a checklist for your fall gardening chores and you will be well prepared for next spring.
 

Fall is the time to:
• Test soil pH and amend the soil if indicated.
• Harvest, glean, and clean all material from the garden.
• Dig, clean, and store tender bulbs, corms, and tubers such as canna, dahlia, caladium, etc. (keep cool and dry). Contact your local county Cooperative Extension if you need specifics on storing these summer blooming bulbs.
• Check houseplants that have summered outside; repot if necessary but do look carefully and treat for unwanted “houseguests” such as aphids, mealy bugs, or scale. Isolate any plants that you are treating until all applications have been made. Recheck.
• After frost, cut back herbaceous (non-woody) perennials to about three inches. Do not prune any woody perennials (Lavender for example) in the fall; wait until spring.
• Recycle garden debris and leaves by composting material that is NOT diseased.
• Practice a key step in integrated pest management (IPM)—SANITATION. Remove and discard diseased foliage to reduce future disease problems.
• Consider planting a cover crop, such as winter rye, to enrich the organic content of vegetable garden soil.
• Plant Spring-blooming bulbs now for early color next year.  If Bambi is a frequent visitor to your garden, consider daffodils instead of tulips.
• After the first hard frost, mound additional soil around the crown of hybrid roses to a height of 10 to 12 inches. Pruning is best left to the early Spring unless plants are exceptionally tall. Secure canes of climbing types.
• Do NOT add mulch until very late in the season when the ground freezes. Depending on the weather, this can be Thanksgiving or later.
• Enjoy this lovely time of the year!
Susan Pezzolla is Community Educator for horticulture and Master Gardner Coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension, Albany County. To reach Sue, call 765.3516 or email Sep37@cornell.edu.

 

Herbs: extend the taste of summer

By Michele Rowe, Food Editor
 

With the arrival of Fall, it’s so sad that all these great herbs in our gardens will be gone. I have put together some ideas to extend the virtues of these marvelous herbs as well as ways to store them for future use. Enjoy!
Drying herbs can be such a simple way to preserve many varieties including the bundles of mint, parsley and thyme. Rosemary is another variety to be dried. Beyond these herbs, others can get extremely weak through drying and not really worth the effort to do so.
Try freezing herbs after cleaning them carefully and spreading them to dry.  You can freeze them whole or chopped up by laying them on a cookie sheet to be placed in the freezer overnight.  In the morning,, remove and store in containers. These frozen herbs can last for about 3-4 months, making meals extraordinary by extending the taste of summer. Freezing herbs is easy, even if you have a small freezer. Oregano, parsley, sage, and chives are great for this process.
Many people freeze herbs in ice cube trays by cutting the leaves into small pieces and packing them into the trays. Fill with water, freeze and top off the water after the first freeze has settled.  You will need to place the new herb cubes in a storage bag or container to keep for your next pot of soup! Any of the pesto blends that you may have made can be stored this way, as well as sauces.
Preparing beautiful and practical herb-infused vinegars is easy and fun as a family activity. First, send the family on a scavenger hunt for bottles of all shapes and sizes. Make certain that you sanitize your finds in the dishwasher. Buy corks stoppers or corks and some good quality vinegar. White vinegar or white wine vinegar is excellent for lemon balms, chives, tarragon and others, but you can use cider vinegar for other flavored vinegar using oregano and rosemary.
Like all the other methods, wash and pat dry the picked fresh herbs and slide the whole leaves into the bottles. Something long and thin like a chopstick can help get the herbs into the bottles. Use about ½ cup of herbs per 2 cups of vinegar depending on the amount of infused flavor desired. The flavor is intensified with less vinegar and more herbs. Cork and store in a cool, dark place. The vinegar will strengthen for 4 to 6 weeks.
If you wish to store vinegar longer, melt some beeswax (in a small steel can set in a pan of simmering water), and dip the corked end of the bottle into the wax to coat the top ¼ inch of the glass and the exposed cork. Let the wax harden and repeat several times to build up a good coating. You can use as hostess gifts by wrapping a short length of ¼- to ½-inch width of ribbon over the top of the just-dipped bottle after the first dip then dip top a second time.
Lastly, you must try herbal butters. Just mince up the desired herbs and blend 1 part herbs and mash into 2 parts softened butter. Try making a blend of herbs or forming into logs or any other shape that can be molded. Freeze the blended butter.

 

All about apples…

VARIETY               FLAVOR                  BEST USE
Braeburn               Sweet, Tart    Eating, Salads, Sauces
Crispin                   Sweet            Eating, Sauces, Baking
Cortland                Sweet, Tart    Eating, Salads, Sauces, Baking
Empire                  Sweet, Tart    Eating, Salads, Baking
Fortune                 Sweet, Tart    Eating, Salads, Sauces, Baking
Fuji                        Sweet            Eating, Salads, Sauces
Gala                      Sweet            Eating, Salads
Ginger Gold          Sweet, Tart    Eating, Salads, Sauces, Baking
Golden Delicious   Sweet           Eating, Salads, Sauces
Honeycrisp           Sweet, Tart    Eating, Salads, Sauces
Idared                   Sweet, Tart    Sauces, Baking
Jonagold              Sweet, Tart    Eating, Salads, Sauces, Baking
Jonamac              Sweet, Tart    Eating, Sauces
Macoun               Sweet             Eating, Sauces
McIntosh             Sweet, Tart    Eating, Sauces
Northern Spy       Tart                Eating, Sauces, Baking
Paula Red           Tart                Eating, Sauces
Red Delicious     Sweet             Eating, Salads
Rome                  Tart                Sauces, Baking   
Twenty Ounce    Tart                Sauces, Baking

Refrigerate in the crisper section…it’s that simple!
• Cool air maintains quality, juiciness and crispness. Apples stored at room temperature deteriorate ten times faster than refrigerated apples.
• Handle apples gently to prevent bruising.
• Store apples in a ventilated plastic bag away from foods with strong odors.
• Don’t store apples with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, leafy greens, lettuce or spinach. Apples give off a gas that can damage these vegtables. This same gas will speed the ripening of bananas, kiwis, peaches, plums and pears. Place these fruits into a paper bag with an apple to ripen much quicker.

Apple assets
• Contains no fat, and contains no saturated fat—helps reduce risk of cancer.
• Contains no sodium—helps reduce risk or high blood pressure.
• Is an excellent source of fiber—helps reduce cholesterol and may help prevent certain types of cancer.
• Has only 80 calories.
• Contains no cholesterol.
• Contains no artificial colors or flavors.

Apple cooking tips
• Get an apple peeler, corer or slicer.  The modern ones attach with suction right to your table or counter. It makes short work when preparing apples for applesauce, pies, crisps and other baked goods.
• Prevent the natural browning that occurs when apples are cut by dipping the cut fruit in a mild solution of water and lemon juice, or sprinkle it with fresh lemon juice.
• Apple cider and apple juice can be used interchangeably in any recipe.
 

Golden apple oatmeal
Servings 1 cup
1/2 cup (about 1/2 medium) diced Golden Delicious apple
1/3 cup each apple cider and water
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
Dash each ground cinnamon and nutmeg
1/3 cup quick cooking rolled oats, uncooked
• Combine apples, cider, water and seasonings; bring to a boil.
• Stir in rolled oats; cook 1 minute.
• Cover and let stand several minutes before serving

Apple broccoli salad
Servings 4-6
2 McIntosh, Empire or Cortland Apples
3 cups fresh raw broccoli, cut up
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt
• Core and chop apples.
• Mix all ingredients together.
• Serve on a bed of lettuce

Prosciutto apple wedges
Makes 32 wedges
4 medium apples such as Honeycrisp, Empire, Fortune
1⁄3 cup lemon juice
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1⁄2 pound prosciutto
• Slice each apple into 8 wedges.
• Brush each cut surface with lemon juice.
• Spread the cream cheese thinly on each cut side.
• Wrap a thin slice of prosciutto around each wedge.
• Serve immediately or refrigerate, and remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving time.

Apples for breakfast and snack ideas
4 1/2 cup yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese topped with 1/2 cup applesauce and sprinkled with a favorite cereal.
4 1 cup yogurt combined with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, 2 tablespoons raisins, 1 small chopped apple, topped with 1 tablespoon wheat germ.
4 1 apple, chopped and combined in a bowl with instant oatmeal and milk, as indicated on packet; microwaved on HIGH as recommended, about 60 seconds; drizzled with honey, topped with vanilla yogurt and sprinkled with cinnamon.
4 2 slices of multigrain or whole-wheat bread, spread with peanut butter, and topped with thin slices of apple and slices of cheese; toaster oven until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes; sandwiched together if eating on the run.

Courtesy of New York Apple Country www.nyapplecountry.com

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