documentary, Eberfest, Ethan Hawke, film, piano, Roger Ebert, Seymour Bernstein, Seymour: An Introduction

Happy Birthday, Seymour Bernstein!

I just sent the following message back East!

“Seymour, May this be the best year ever with continued celebration of your wondrous achievements as a pianist, teacher, composer, author, philosopher, and global musical ambassador.”

While gratitude is expressed far and wide for what Seymour Bernstein has advanced in the musical and interpersonal communication universe, he is the first to be humbled by the adulation he has received for his big screen presence in Seymour: An Introduction.

In this spirit, Seymour gave me permission to copy a set of e-mails that sprang from his recent appearance at the Eberfest that honors Roger Ebert and showcases selected films of unusual artistic merit.

ABOUT EBERTFEST
http://www.ebertfest.com/index.html

Founded in 1999 by the late Roger Ebert, University of Illinois Journalism graduate and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, Roger Ebert’s Film Festival (Ebertfest) celebrates films that haven’t received the recognition they deserved during their original runs. The festival gives these films and their filmmakers a well-deserved second look.

Ebertfest takes place in Urbana-Champaign each April. Chaz Ebert, Roger’s beloved wife, business partner and fellow film-lover, is the festival host.

While Roger passed away in April 2013, his influence on the Festival continues. True to Roger’s vision, the twelve films screened during the five day event represent a cross-section of important cinematic works overlooked by audiences, critics and/or distributors. Some films come from lists of possible films that Roger drew up over the first 15 years of the festival. Chaz Ebert and Festival Director Nate Kohn select additional films based on Roger’s established criteria for an Ebertfest film. Both Chaz and Nate worked closely with Roger for fifteen years on programming the festival.

The Festival brings together the films’ producers, writers, actors and directors to help showcase their work. A filmmaker or scholar introduces the films, and screenings are followed by an in depth on-stage Q&A discussion among filmmakers, critics and the audience.

Ebertfest is a special event of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, and the festival, in conjunction with the College, hosts a number of on-campus academic panel discussions each year that feature filmmaker guests, scholars and students.

All the festival films screen in the 1,500-seat Virginia Theatre, a restored 1920s movie palace with state-of-the-art 35/70mm and digital projection. A portion of the Festival’s income goes toward on-going renovations at the theatre.

***

From Seymour:

“See below a note from Chaz Ebert, widow of Roger Ebert the world-famous film critic. After the death of her husband, Chaz created what is now considered to be one of the world’s major film festivals. The projection technician, James Bond (what a name) has to be a genius. I was simply in awe of the visual and aural aspects of the film in that magnificent auditorium. I told Chaz that I could not get over the sound of the piano. She took me into her arms where I sobbed for minutes on end. She was crying, too.

“Andrew Harvey was there, and so was Bill who came with me. As we entered the stage for the Q and A session, the entire audience of 1,500 rose in one gesture and roared their approval for a full 2 minutes. Two of the world’s most distinguished film critics were the moderators. After the Q and A, they rolled out a Steinway and I gave a masterclass right there and then to two fabulous students from the University. All told, this was the most rewarding screening I have attended.

“Open the attachment and see the photo of Chaz and me. I believe it tells all.”
Seymour

Chaz Ebert and Seymour

From: Chaz Ebert
To: Seymour Bernstein
Subject: Re: Deep gratitude

My Dear Seymour:

Having you close Ebertfest with your film and Masterclass and the music from the students brought together the whole week for me with grace and beauty. You were absolutely divine and I knew you would be from the first moment we spoke on the phone. Also, Andrew told me to prepare for the absolute beauty you would bring and he was right.

You did my heart good when you said you had never heard it like that before. One of the things we pride ourselves on at the festival is showing movies in a way that the filmmakers don’t get to see them these days of the multiplex theaters. We have this restored movie palace and hired James Bond to help us because he is the best! We all have a deep respect for the films and for the guests who come to the Festival. Thank you.

I want to make sure we get the Golden Thumb to you. Please send me your address so that we can get it out to you right away.

And please thank Bill for me. He was so kind. I would love to hear his music! And I hope he had a first class ticket too! Please let me know.

Big Hugs,
Chaz

From: Seymour Bernstein
To: Chaz Ebert
Subject: Deep gratitude

My dear Chaz,
Words cannot possibly express my emotional response to everything that occurred yesterday. I was so deeply touched by what you made possible for me, plus James Bond’s genius engineering that resulted in my seeing/hearing the documentary in a way I had never before experienced, simply cracked me up. The rest was as you remember: I sobbed in your arms. The audience response, receiving the “thumb” award, the Q and A session, and the master class were all highlights in my life.
And you are at the center of it all. Darling Chaz, my deepest thanks for everything.
Much love and admiration.
Seymour

***

Finally, how Chaz described Seymour: An Introduction in her blog prologue to its Festival inclusion:

Seymour at the piano

“The other documentary is the very charming “Seymour: An Introduction,” directed by Ethan Hawke. It introduces us to Seymour Bernstein, a classically trained pianist who struggled with how to honor his art when it conflicted with the anxiety in his life. It raises questions about the role and responsibility of the artist to himself, to the audience, and to his fellow travelers. Ethan started the project because he questioned whether his life and art had the authenticity he desired. He did a wonderful job coaxing the philosophy out of Seymour as Seymour demonstrated his gift for coaxing the best performances out of his students. Seymour Bernstein will be with us in person conducting a masterclass. Even in the movie, his music transported me. Rumi Scholar Andrew Harvey put Hawke and Bernstein together, and I am hoping he will join Seymour on stage after this beautiful closing film.”

LINK:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/love-the-second-time-around-seymour-an-introduction/

documentary, Ethan Hawke, movie, Seymour: An Introduction

A San Francisco Landmark and musical reunion!

Did I expect a dental visit to UCSF on Parnassus to blossom into a Landmark expedition through the Embarcadero Business Center?! Why not? I’d caught a glimpse of Seymour an Introduction playing in close proximity to my #6 AC TRANSIT point of departure once I stepped off BART on Market Street in downtown San Francisco. Perhaps I’d get out of the dental chair in time to loop around back to Embarcadero for the 12 p.m. showing. This would be my third movie viewing, and a golden opportunity to snag a few more interviews for my budding documentary. Wishful thinking. I didn’t need any more all night video-editing splurges. I was beginning to show signs of blog related fatigue.

Still, I was determined to find the Seymour blessed MOVIE house in a maze of towering commercial establishments with banks of every variety, local and international imposing their shadows on streets wreaking havoc over my my cell phone GPS. Fortunately, a blue collar laborer sipping a latte, rescued me from my dazed confusion and steered me to an escalator that would deposit me on the top floor of LANDMARK Embarcadero.

Embarcadero Landmark Theaters purple sign rectangle.

What a stark shift from the anachronistic Albany Twin, that could easily double as the interior of a high security prison.

Embarcadero Landmark was spiffy by comparison–an architectural triumph and sky-high pleasure dome.

And there I met Myung and Esther who were sitting on an office designed bench waiting for the midday showing of Seymour

Call it less than six degrees of separation…

Myung turned out to be a former student of Seymour’s at NYU, and Esther played for Seymour at an MTAC Convention event.

After making our introductions, we snuggled together on side-by-side POWER recliner chairs that seemed to eat up a lion’s share of space in a rather small theater. But the BIG SCREEN managed to dwarf our recliners..

As opening credits rolled, it was an instant uplift from start to finish, with cloud nine post-movie sharing spilling into an anesthetized space outside the theater.

As icing on the cake, Myung and Esther blessed me with two riveting interviews, and even permitted my eavesdropping on their private conversation about the film rounding out a perfectly satisfying day.

bridge closeup

Following the schmooze, Myung invited me to join her for a delightful Korean repast before I dashed off to the Steinway Piano Gallery to explore the newest grands.

A 9 foot ‘D’ proved to be an additional afternoon highlight—recorded for posterity.

LINKS:

Love the Second Time Around: Seymour, An Introduction
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/love-the-second-time-around-seymour-an-introduction/

Judy, Seymour, and Ludwig
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/judy-seymour-and-ludwig/

adult piano instruction, Beethoven, blogmetrics.org, documentary, Ethan Hawke, film, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Ludwig Van Beethoven, piano blog, piano blogging, Seymour: An Introduction, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten

Judy, Seymour, and Ludwig

Judy

It was no surprise that Judy, one of my adult piano students came to her lesson yesterday gushing about Seymour: An Introduction. And naturally, in the nick of time, I grabbed my super-charged, helium packed iPhone and added the latest film rave to my growing collection.

Need I say more?… or is it SEE MORE?.. Seymour?

Seymour pic

The video speaks for itself and includes a nice chunk of Beethoven’s F Major Sonatina, as Judy honored the composer by playing superbly well considering her exposure to piano lessons has been fairly recent.

Beethoven

Yet, she did herself proud and proved that LIFE at the piano can begin at any age. Would you believe, 64?!

Enjoy! and Don’t forget to pack in 81 minutes of Seymour’s movie. (Directed by Ethan Hawke, and impeccably edited by Anna Gustavi)

LINKS:

Seymour Bernstein: From Maine with Love

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/seymour-bernstein-from-maine-with-love/

Love the Second Time Around

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/love-the-second-time-around-seymour-an-introduction/

http://www.seymouranintroduction.com
Click the “Theater” link to check movie schedules around the country

documentary, Ethan Hawke, film, Seymour: An Introduction

Love the Second Time Around: Seymour, An Introduction

Sonya in front of poster

I’ve seen Ethan Hawke’s sensitive film portrait of Seymour Bernstein now FOUR times as I amass a film archive of interviews and written tributes.

Need more be said?

Run to see a cinematic masterpiece so well framed by Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post: ‘Seymour: An Introduction’ is a soaring, sublime ode to art and life.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/movies/seymour-an-introduction-is-a-soaring-sublime-ode-to-art-and-life/2015/03/26/11ec2c04-d246-11e4-a62f-ee745911a4ff_story.html

LINKS:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/run-to-see-seymour-an-introduction-ethan-hawkes-film-masterpiece/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/a-san-francisco-landmark-and-musical-reunion/