A Breathtaking Merrywood Music Camp Finale!

If I let my imagination run wild, I would frame this writing around Robin Hood.

The backdrop was the Merrywood Music Camp, nestled in the Berkshires in a dense forest where a friendly outlaw could easily rob from the rich in Lenox, and retreat into the pines, practically unnoticed.

Merrywood was a stone’s throw from Tanglewood, home of the well-established music festival. The camp owner, Ruth Hurwitz, who resided for most of the year in upscale West Hartford, Connecticut brought a contingent of Hartt School of Music students and teachers to her rustic summer sanctuary where she housed two dozen or so campers in a three-story abode with a charming attic space. The place resembled a college co-op like the one I’d remembered at Oberlin. May Cottage, my Frosh digs had the same look with an added roomy basement that gave refuge during tornado warnings.

Merrywood’s space accommodated rows of cots on the two highest floors and down below in the living room was a grand piano, a quaint fireplace, and a Bay window with a view of the magnificent wooded landscape. A stone’s throw from the property, James Stagliano, Principal French Hornist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra serenaded neighbors with his mid-morning horn calls, when otherwise in the ranks of the orchestra, rumor had it he took a swig of spirits from the brass instrument itself.

Campers were awakened promptly at 6:00 a.m. to a blasting Bach Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 piped into rooms on insensitively loud speakers. Jarred out of their sleep, they were conditioned to revile otherwise heavenly music.

By a strange quirk of fate, I was selected to play the last movement of this very Brandenburg 5 (piano part–really meant for the harpsichord) at the final concert concluding camp. The Allegro in 2/4 meter, laden with triplets and tricky rests in between, was a challenge to count, and my first entrance of the subject, imitated by a violinist, flautist, and the whole ensemble, was a hefty undertaking. All I remember was fumbling when my motif returned one last time in advance of the culminating cadence. Before I knew it, the whole composition folded like a house of cards. The music came to a grinding halt as conductor, Neil, articulately whispered, “Back to the recapitulation.”

My heart was racing! In a frenzy, I wondered if I could acquire the presence of mind to count beats leading to my encore entrance?

Like a cyclone, a string of triplets flew by as pulsations quickened.

Suddenly I lost all consciousness of what we’d rehearsed!

Like a racing car driver, revving the engine for the last lap, I skirted into the ensemble, like merging into 3 lanes of traffic!–Meanwhile, the ensemble held its own catapulting into the final cadence!

We made it! And the ordeal was over! Thankfully it was in the past, until revisited at Merrywood’s campfire farewell.

After we gorged ourselves on barbecued franks, baked beans, and s’mores, staff presented an improvised skit, highlighting the summer’s events.

On the front burner was “Back to the Recapitulation,” repeated several times over, earning a ripple of applause amidst a good deal of chuckles. Right then and there I experienced a flush of embarrassment.

To say I felt like a social outcast, was an understatement!

After my ill-fated performance, I never returned to Merrywood, but nonetheless, i cherished memories of Stagliano’s horn calls; Sunday morning trips to BSO rehearsals with Charles Munch at the helm; pint-size, guest conductor, Pierre Monteux climbing to the podium to conduct the War of 1812 Overture; Isaac Stern playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with tears rolling down his cheeks; Lukas Foss, pianist, rendering a magnificent performance of Bach’s D minor concerto, and Eugene Lehner, principal violist, coaching the string quartet where I played second violin.

A tarnished photo

lehnerandmemerrywood

And who could forget the memorable field trip to nearby Stockbridge where Norman Rockwell gave campers a personal tour of his home. It was filled with magnificent paintings, some which graced the covers of the Saturday Evening Post.

Finally, if any Merrywood music campers are out there, please rekindle memories of our Brandenburg summer.

Let’s come out of the woodwork and find each other.
***
IMG_NEW Brandenburg

Brandenburg p 29
RELATED:

Memories, Memories: The Merrywood Property in its current state

http://www.berkshirepropertyagents.com/for-sale/sold/ma/stockbridge/158/

Another Music Camp Journey:

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/appel-farm-music-camp-and-the-chicken-coops/

About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
This entry was posted in 6 degrees of separation, Appel Farm in Elmer New Jersey, Bach D minor piano concerto, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Hartt College of Music, Hartt School of Music, Lukas Foss, Norman Rockwell, piano lessons, piano pedagogy, piano society, Piano Street, piano student, piano teacher, piano teaching repertoire, Pierre Monteux, playing Brandenburg concerto no. 5, samoors, Saturday Evening Post, talkclassical.com, Teach Street, technique, teenagers, whole body music listening, word press, wordpress.com and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to A Breathtaking Merrywood Music Camp Finale!

  1. Jeff Girdler says:

    I attended Merrywood in the summer’s of 1961 and 1962. as the one and only french horn player. I have many wonderful memories of the camp, Mrs. Hurwitz, the counselors and my fellow campers who I was able to keep up with at least through high school and my years at Manhattan School of Music. It was at Merrywood that I decided I wanted to be a professional musician. It was my fellow campers who had so much influence on my musical life. Merrywood was where I found out how much I really loved music and musicians. It was the beginning for me of a career that has spanned almost 50 years of incredible delight. I am so thankful for the opportunity that Merrywood afforded me to explore and to grow under gentle, loving hands. If you are from my era at Merrywood, I do remember quite a few names of fellow campers. I would love to hear more of your memories. Thank you for sharing this memory. Blessings, Jeff Girdler (if you would like to read a brief bio of my career, you can go to the Columbia (Maryland) Orchestra website).

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  2. Jacob Litoff says:

    I went to Merrywood in the Summers of 1969-1973 on violin. It was one of my favorite summer camps I remember and I was always looking forward to it.
    I now play violin and viola in Massachusetts and teach privately after getting my degree in Music at Boston Univeristy in ’81. I really haven’t run into too many people over the years who attended Merrywood.

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    • Hi Jacob, Nice hearing from another Merrywood camper. The only other alum I know out there is Douglas Freundlich who lives in MA I think and plays the lute. He was a camper during my time.
      I also remember a gal who played violin when I attended with the last name of Mather. I don’t remember her first name. And there was a cellist who hung out with T. Davis Dillon, also cello.
      Neil Zaslow or Zaslowksy, (could be with a ‘v”)or something like that conducted the orchestra and was a grad of Harvard. Do you remember any of those people?

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      • Barbara appelbaum says:

        I was at Merrywood for three years in the early sixties. Douglas Freundlich was my boyfriend in those years – we didn’t break up until my freshman year of college! He is still playing the lute. I remember a lot of people as if it were yesterday. I talk to Joe Smith and Tamar Frank periodically. Joe is a professional and Neil is a very well-known musicologist. My brother, George Appelbaum, went for a few years before I did. I still play the viola, but not professionally. For me, Merrywood was more important for social reasons than musical ones, although I m a very good chamber music player as a result. I found myself, for the first time, among very smart artsy people – all those New Yorkers from Music and Art!

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      • We must have known each other as I befriended Doug Freundlich at Merrywood. And met up with him on one date in Central Park. He played the cello at the time and hooked me up with his aunt Lillian, my beloved piano teacher (W. 105th and Riverside) What was your maiden name? I studied with Ruth Hurwitz at camp and played second violin in a quartet with T. Davis Dillon. Eugene Lehner of BSO coached us. Did Doug marry and have kids?
        Shirley Smith Kirsten
        Did you recall Claire Bloom?
        I would say my chamber music experience was incredibly valuable, and trips to Tanglewood (Sunday a.m. rehearsals were priceless)

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      • What about my alma mater, the NYC High School of Performing Arts…
        The Merrywood staff was largely from West Hartford as I recall.
        Do you remember the oboist from Bowling Green?

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      • Yes, of course, Neil Zaslaw is a well-known musicologist. He was dating one of the campers at the time.. her name evades me.

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  3. Susanna says:

    I went to Merrywood the summer of ?1976? and it changed my life. I decided that summer to be a professional violinist, and returned home to practice 4-6 hours a day for the rest of high school. I eventually moved away from that career, but I have very fond memories of that camp.

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  4. Anne Stone says:

    I went to Merrywood the summer of 1977, much later than you did, but had a similarly fabulous and intense musical experience. I know Doug Freundlich, not from Merrywood but from much later: he is a lutenist in the Boston area and works in the Isham Library at Harvard.

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  5. Doug Freundlich says:

    Hi Shirley and all,

    Great to be checking in with all of you! Everything about those summers is burned into my memory. I went to Merrywood for the camaraderie, never dreaming I would be a professional, but here I am! And still a great fan of the Berkshires. I’m married, no kids, recently retired from my Harvard job, still active as a performer and teacher.

    Best to all if you,

    Doug

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  6. bappelbaumB says:

    I happen to have kept the original list of campers and staff from 1963. Anyone interested?

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  7. Hi Doug, I don’t remember George, but yes to Lynne Mather who played violin in Brandenburg 5.

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    • bappelbaumB says:

      Merrywood 1963 Merrywood, 1964

      Barbara Appelbaum, WH, CT Bill Adams Allston MA
      Rodney Ballard, Flushing NY B. Appelbaum
      Jane Berger, West Hartford CT John Berman, Newton MA
      Lorna Breiby, Riverdale, NY Rachel Berman, West Hartford CT
      Wendy Covell, Wakefield, MA Susanna Berman, Newton MA
      Peter Deutsch, Cherry Hill, NJ Richard Cooper, West Hartford CT
      Robert Dick, NY W. Covell
      Allen Douglas, Long Island City Jim Deutsch, Princeton NJ
      Howard Feiten, Huntington NY Evan Dick, NYC
      Tamar Frank, Stamford CT R. Dick
      Douglas Freundlich, Malverne NY T. Frank
      Marc Gerstein, Fairlawn NJ Laura Goldstein, NYC
      Marilyn Gilbert, Little Neck, NY M. Gilbert
      Judyth Goldberg, West Hartford CT Nancy Grant, Hartford CT
      Paul Goldblatt, Succasunna NJ Susan Grossman, Brooklyn NY
      Laura Goldstein, NYC Johanna Hauser, White Plains
      Nelson Gore, NYC Leslie Heller, NYC
      Emily Greenspan, NYC Ann Hurewitz, NYC
      Janice Hamer, Cranford NJ J. Hurwitz
      Howard Harris, West Hartford CT Molly Jones, Briarcliff Manor
      Jane Hurwitz, Bloomfield CT Barry Lehr, Flushing NY
      Laurie Kaplan, Newton MA Robin Magasiner, NYC
      Linda Liverant, Colchester CT Peter Matt, West Hartford CT
      Harvey Marx, Lynbrook NY Esther Mellon, Bronx
      Susan Pratt, Kingston RI Terry Middleton, Concord MA
      Anne Racker, Mount Vernon NY Brenda Mitchell, Maine
      Naomi Rhodes Rosedale NY Steve Morris, Hicksville NY
      Bruce Rosenthal, Valley Stream NY Leigh Meyers, Flushing
      Louis Rowen, NYC Howard Paul, West Hartford CT
      Joel Russell, West Hartford CT Steve Paulson, Plainview NY
      Janice Schupak, Mount Vernon NY S. Pratt
      Joseph Smith, NYC A. Racker
      Marc Visner, West Hartford CT J. Russell
      Susan Winslow, Middletown CT Frank Sacks, Jersey City
      J. Schupak
      Vanetta Bing (both years) J. Smith
      Willa Bing (both years) Pat Smith, Brooklyn
      Sandra Bowden (both years) Lin Steiner, Little Silver, NJ
      William Conable Margaret Strattan, LaGangeville
      Seta Der Hohannesian Emery Tapley, South Winsor CT
      Isaac Hurwitz (both years) Randolph Trayer, Port Washington
      Robert Loud M Visner
      Anne Mischakoff S. Winslow
      Mr. and Mrs. Edward Rabin (both years)
      Ruth Hurwitz (both years) Steve Berman
      Neal Zaslaw
      Dorothy Strahl
      Glenn Jacobson

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  8. Nick Rozen says:

    I went to Merrywood for four summers, 1976-1979. I was the only trumpeter. Had great memories made there, and followed my friend, a French horn player, to Kinhaven after that. I overlapped with some great musicians, including Jeffrey Goldberg and Sean Lyons. Later on I went to Yale and am still an amateur player. I loved the freedom of the place and the darkness of the neighboring woods. Ms. H, herself not a huge fan of brass, assigned us practice rooms that were far from the main building. I now live in Arlington, VA.
    I recall so much from that period, and saying that it was intense is an understatement. My musical abilities were stretched there, and there were some deeply wonderful counselors there. And who remembers the Jamaican cooks?

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    • You’re way later than my time .. cast included Neil Zaslaw, a Harvard grad, and noted Musicologist…Douglas Freundlich, a renowned lutenist, a fellow named Jeff Girdler who played the French Horn, Lynn Mather, violinist, T Davis Dillon, pianist and another from W. Hartford who played cello. I was in a string quartet coached by Eugene Lehner, principal violist of the Boston Symphony. I enjoyed my camping years.. maybe two in total.

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    • By the way the property deteriorated.. and was sold for a song, a few years ago, I believe. I wrote to the realtors when I saw the place on the market….

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  9. bappelbaumB says:

    The lists got squashed together – the names on the left are ’63; the right is ’64.

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  10. Thank you! The big surprise is seeing my best friend, Laura Goldstein on the list.. ’64

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