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In evening including Mozart, Kaza to solo with CSO on Schickele’s ‘Pentangle’

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Peter Schickele is many things — a bassoonist, radio personality and a prolific composer of more than 100 works for everyone and everything, from classical music to television shows. But many likely know him by a different moniker: P.D.Q. Bach, and for his comedic compositions that range from satirical to charming, folksy to zany. 

Roger Kaza, principal horn for the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, has been a fan of Schickele’s work “forever,” and has even worked with the composer — who he described as a “soft spoken but hilarious guy” — once during a performance in St. Louis, where Kaza also serves as principal horn of the St. Louis Symphony. Now, the horn player joins his colleagues in the CSO as a soloist on Schickele’s “Pentangle: Five Songs for Horn and Orchestra” at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater. 

Under the baton of Music Director Rossen Milanov, the CSO’s concert is titled “Wit and Genius” — and with Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550, serving as the back half of the evening, it might be tempting to argue that Schickele is the “wit” and Mozart the “genius,” but Kaza was quick to point out Schickele’s prowess.

“Schickele comes from a time when there was such widespread musical literacy, that when you talked about (the composer’s) ‘Iphigenia in Brooklyn,’ or ‘The Abduction of Figaro’, everyone would get the joke,” Kaza said (alas, despite fervent research, this writer still doesn’t get the joke). “It was a rarified, sophisticated humor, but incredibly funny to music lovers. He has very thorough composing chops. He could have gone ‘serious’ but that wasn’t his calling.”  

Schickele used “pentangle” to refer to a group of five songs, Kaza said — the piece has five moments — but also as a reference to the 1960s folk rock group of the same name.

“The work indeed has sections that rock and jam, and the final song is reminiscent of an English ballad that a folk rock group might sing,” he said.

In the third movement, Kaza must play multiphonic chords on his horn — a tradition that goes way back.

“The German composer Carl Maria von Weber wrote them into his horn concertino; they are definitely challenging to pull off,” he said. “Another thing (Schickele) requires, in the last of the five songs, is that the performer actually sing the song. OK — I’m not a trained singer, but everyone can sing, right?”

Typically performed with a healthy dose of ham, “Pentangle” is a concerto for orchestra and horn, and while Kaza said Chautauquans can certainly expect some fun, not everything Schickele composes is “one constant joke.”

“‘Pentangle’ has contemplative moments, exuberant moments, wistful moments, but no tragedy or pathos. It’s music that doesn’t take itself too seriously,” Kaza said. 

In comparison, pathos and poignancy abound in the Mozart, making the evening balanced in a way audiences may find restorative.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Kaza said, “and I think it’s just what Chautauqua needs about now.”

 

Bearing witness: the events of Aug. 12 in photos

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A note from the photo editor:

Bearing witness to tragedy is hard, but it is also deeply important. As the horrible events of Aug. 12 unfolded, The Chautauquan Daily photographers Sean Smith, Georgia Pressley, Dylan Townsend and Joeleen Hubbard, all college journalism students, tirelessly documented events as they occurred. From the sudden horror of the attack in the Amphitheater; the heroic efforts to care for Salman Rushdie and evacuate him to the hospital; and the collective grief of a community united in mourning, they were there. This work was hard, but critical. I am incredibly proud of each of them and the entire staff of The Chautauquan Daily for showing grace under incredible pressure and producing a newspaper under the most difficult of circumstances. The Chautauquan Daily serves as the archival paper of record for Chautauqua Institution. The photographs and stories that appear in the Daily are the first draft of our history and are preserved in the Chautauqua Institution Archives. The events of Aug. 12 are a painful and indelible part of that history.

The following are the images captured by the photography staff of the Daily on Aug. 12. I have removed images of a graphic nature and, out of respect for Mr. Rushdie, have removed any image where he is clearly visible. Viewers should be aware that some of these images are not easy to look at, but I believe that they must become a part of our historical record for all of us as Chautauquans today, and for all Chautauquans to come. These memories are incredibly difficult to carry but it is important to bear witness, and to remember. My pride in, and gratitude to, these young photojournalists exceed the limited power of words.

Dave Munch
Photo Editor, The Chautauquan Daily

Salman Rushdie attacked on stage

  • Chautauquans crowd around Salman Rushdie after he was attacked in the opening moments of the morning lecture. DYLAN TOWNSEND/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Audience members in the Amphitheater react after the attack. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Audience members in the Amphitheater react after the attack. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Hadi Matar is detained by a member of the New York State Police after the attack. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Rushdie is treated on the Amphitheater stage following the attack. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

The Amphitheater is evacuated, police secure the scene

  • A member of security clears Bestor Plaza after the attack. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Police patrol the area behind the Amphitheater. DYLAN TOWNSEND/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Chautauquans react outside the Amphitheater gates. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans react outside the Amphitheater gates. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans react outside the Amphitheater gates. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans react outside the Amphitheater gates. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • The gates of the Amphitheater are sealed with police tape after the attack. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Police secure the area around the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans react behind the Amphitheater as police secure the scene. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Police secure the Amphitheater gates and Odland Plaza. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

An impromptu prayer circle forms on Bestor Plaza

  • Chautauquans gather in an impromptu prayer circle on Bestor Plaza after the attack. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans gather in an impromptu prayer circle on Bestor Plaza. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans gather in an impromptu prayer circle on Bestor Plaza. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans gather in an impromptu prayer circle on Bestor Plaza. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans gather in an impromptu prayer circle on Bestor Plaza. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans gather in an impromptu prayer circle on Bestor Plaza. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Rushdie is treated and airlifted to UPMC Hamot in Erie

  • Salman Rushdie is transported off of the Amphitheater stage. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Salman Rushdie is escorted to a helicopter to be airlifted to UPMC Hamot in Erie, Pennsylvania. DYLAN TOWNSEND/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Rushdie is evacuated by helicopter. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Rushdie is evacuated by helicopter. DYLAN TOWNSEND/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Rushdie is evacuated by helicopter. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

News of the attack spreads worldwide, a press conference is held in Jamestown

  • Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill speaks during a New York State Police press conference at the Jamestown Police Department late Friday afternoon. GEORGIA PRESSLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Major Eugene Staniszewski, New York State Police Department Troop A Commander, and Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill answer questions during the press conference. JOELEEN HUBBARD/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill speaks during the press conference. GEORGIA PRESSLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill answers questions during the press conference. JOELEEN HUBBARD/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

A grieving community gathers for a vigil in the Hall of Philosophy

  • Chautauquans participate in an interdenominational community prayer vigil in the Hall of Philosophy. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Chautauqua Insitution President Michael E. Hill, Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer Deborah Sunya Moore, Director of Sacred Music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist Joshua Stafford, Vice President of Religion Melissa Spas, Rabbi Samuel Stahl, Dr. Shahid Aziz, and Interim Pastor Natalie Hanson hold hands in prayer at the opening of the vigil. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Susie Kuhn, right, Blossom Leibowitz, center, and Karen Goodell observe a moment of silence during the vigil. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Vice President and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education Matt Ewalt is embraced by Robin Harbage. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans gather in The Hall of Philosophy to embrace each other and pray. DYLAN TOWNSEND/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Natalie Hanson, Interim Senior Pastor, speaks during the vigil. DYLAN TOWNSEND/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Chautauquans embrace on the steps of the Hall of Philosophy during the vigil. GEORGIA PRESSLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Joseph Manojlovich, left, puts his hand around the shoulder of Heather Kniess, right, during the vigil. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Director of Sacred Music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist Joshua Stafford performs during the vigil. DYLAN TOWNSEND/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Chautauquans fill the grove during the vigil. GEORGIA PRESSLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Police watch over the Hall of Philosophy during the vigil. GEORGIA PRESSLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Vice President of Advancement and Campaign Director Amy Gardner is embraced by Anita Lin. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill is embraced by Director of Sacred Music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist Joshua Stafford. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Chautauquans make their way down the brick walk after the vigil. DYLAN TOWNSEND/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • A memorial is left outside the Amphitheater gates the evening after the attack. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • A memorial is left outside the Amphitheater gates the evening after the attack. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Reclaiming and Recovering: Chautauquans bless Amp, start to heal

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The stage, silent since Friday morning, was prepared for The Washington Ballet. The dance mats were rolled out; the pit was lowered in its sunken space awaiting its musicians. Stage lights were set.

But it wasn’t the dancers, or the musicians, who were the first on Chautauqua’s Amphitheater stage that evening. At 6:45 p.m. Saturday night, more than 50 people, in their stocking feet, stood in a circle and held hands as the Rev. Natalie Hanson, the Institution’s interim senior pastor, blessed the space that, just the previous morning, had borne the violence of the attack on celebrated author and freedom of speech champion Salman Rushdie, who was to be in conversation with Pittsburgh City of Asylum’s Henry Reese.

As instruments were tuned for the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, and as School of Music students busked in Odland Plaza, playing, among other pieces, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, Hanson evoked President Abraham Lincoln on the stage at the heart of Chautauqua.

“In the Gettysburg Address, he tells us that we cannot hallow this ground. We cannot dedicate it. It’s already been done, by the lives of the people who lived and died here, who have already hallowed it,” Hanson said Sunday afternoon as she reflected on the gathering. “We don’t actually have to hallow this ground, because it’s already been hallowed by the actions and the presence of so many people.”

Hanson had everyone in the circle — dancers from The Washington Ballet, Institution staff, Amp ushers and crew — go one by one, sharing something that made them feel inspired, or loved, or gave them hope or courage.

Justin Schmitz and Hill embrace as Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno is blessed by Hanson, the Institution’s interim senior pastor, during a private service Saturday in the Amphitheater. GEORGIA PRESSLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“Some people brought laughter and some people brought tears,” Hanson said. “And everybody was listening very hard, and echoing each other. It was, for me, a very holy moment. We closed in the sense of reminding each other: ‘This is what makes this holy, don’t forget this moment.’ And everything that matters so much more than this one, painful person and this one, painful act.”

In looking at each others’ faces, in that small circle as the sun cast shadows across the Amp bowl, Hanson asked those gathered to “just remember how precious each of you are, to God, and to each other.”

It was many of those gathered who had seen first-hand the attack on Rushdie, had assisted in the Amp’s evacuation, and who, in all likelihood, prevented the tragedy from becoming more unspeakable. Hanson, stepping down from the stage covered in the protective mats, anointed with oil anyone who wanted it.

A little more than an hour later, the Amp was again filled with Chautauquans, looking forward to an evening of healing, restoration and a semblance of normality, as news was breaking that Rushdie had been removed from a ventilator and was speaking and laughing. 

Institution President Michael E. Hill took the stage.

“I don’t take welcoming you back to the Chautauqua Amphitheater this evening lightly,” he said. “I know that, for some, being in this space may be difficult tonight.”

He thanked staff, and the Amp crew, the group of cleaners who had sterilized the stage earlier in the day, and the Department of Religion for the blessing. These were feats, big and small, of generosity that helped “reclaim what is ours and what is yours.”

“Mr. Rushdie is one of the world’s greatest proponents of freedom of speech and expression,” Hill said. “He said once, ‘How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized.’ Tonight, we pause to consider his courage. Tonight is about reclaiming our sacred space from violence and hate. Tonight, we return to the Amp as a sign and symbol that the work of Chautauqua is critical to combat the madness that can exist in our world. We return tonight to honor the lifelong work of Mr. Rushdie. We return tonight to prove that the mission of Chautauqua, a mission of enriching lives, a mission of convening critical conversation, a mission of elevating the best in humanity cannot and will not be silenced. Our voices will not be muted by those who want to scare us from carrying out this important work.”

Hill’s remarks were met with standing applause.

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill is blessed by the Rev. Natalie Hanson. GEORGIA PRESSLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“But sometimes we don’t know how to give voice to something as unspeakable as what happened yesterday,” he said. “… You may have heard me say, sometimes, that some things are too unspeakable. Sometimes words fail.”

And when we’re processing emotions so complex, so difficult, that they transcend words, we turn to our artists, Hill said.

“I was reminded, talking to Maestro Milanov, how many times our nation and our world have called on artists to serve as healers,” Hill said. “May the majesty of the dancers and the soaring music of the orchestra reclaim and bless this sacred gathering space. May their artistry serve as an expression of our continued prayers for Mr. Rushdie and Mr. Reese and for each and every one of you.” 

The Amp after the performance was again filled with crew and tech scurrying about the stage, working into the night to turnover the space from an orchestra venue to a place of worship. And when Hanson took the stage Sunday morning for the worship of service and sermon, she again spoke healing to those gathered.

“There is a wide-spread sense that the attack on Mr. Rushdie was also an attack on us and that — along with trying to take Mr. Rushdie’s life — the attacker has taken our sense of safety and peace,” she said. “For the faith community, on Sunday mornings, the Amphitheater, this stage, is a holy place; and before we enter into worship, we want to reclaim this space and time as sacred, and declare that God is with us, and has never left us.”

As the congregation prayed, Vice President of Religion Melissa Spas and Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno anointed the stage and the Amp aisles with water — water, Hanson said, that was “the symbol of our tears, but also the symbol of birth, life, new hope.”

Oil and water. Arts and worship. Private blessings and the public contingent of a full congregation.

With these blessings, these calls, these invocations, Chautauqua began reclaiming, and the long work of healing.

In shock Friday, community members respond to tragedy

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In the aftermath of Friday morning’s unprecedented act of violence in the Amphitheater, Chautauquans were left in a state of confusion and sadness, as hundreds witnessed the stabbing of Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie on the Amp stage in the first moments of the morning lecture.

Rushdie and Henry Reese, director of Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, were being introduced by Michael I. Rudell Director of Literary Arts Sony Ton-Aime for a conversation on housing and sheltering persecuted artists in the United States — a conversation Rushdie has been having for decades, after nine years in hiding following the publication of his 1988 book The Satanic Verses. Attacked by a 24-year-old New Jersey man who has since been charged with attempted second-degree murder and assault in the second degree, Rushdie was flown to UPMC Hamot; according to law enforcement, among his injuries were stab wounds to the neck and chest. He underwent surgery, was placed on a ventilator, and has since been removed from the ventilator and is on a long road to recovery. 

Joseph Manojlovich, left, puts his hand around the shoulder of Heather Kniess, right, during the vigil. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Chautauquans, too, began the process of their own recovery in the minutes and hours following the evacuation of the Amp. As they poured out from the venue onto Odland Plaza and Bestor Plaza, many were shaken, crying and attempting to understand what they had just witnessed.

At a Chautauqua Dialogues event at the Everett Jewish Life Center at Chautauqua, facilitators tried to create a “normal” space to allow Chautauquans to process the morning’s events and “give everyone a chance to say what they’re feeling,” said Catie Miller, who anticipated numerous prayer circles throughout the coming days. EJLCC host Joe Lewis was calm, except for the constant ringing of his cell phone.

Walking around the grounds, many were waiting in line trying to leave the gates, or to get in; the Institution had been placed on a temporary lockdown, and national media had gathered in the parking lots. 

At the center of the grounds, Bestor Plaza was already set up for the second Chautauqua Crafts Alliance of the summer, and the crowds surged following the evacuation. Chautauquans Cooper Gilbert and Laura Clark were walking through the artisans’ tents after the Amp was evacuated; Gilbert was in the venue at the time of the attack.

“I didn’t notice until it was happening,” he said. He saw a commotion and said it looked like, at first, Matar was just hitting Rushdie; news was confirmed quickly that the hitting was actually a stabbing. Gilbert said “tons of people rushed to the stage to help.”

Megan Kromer, who has been coming to Chautauqua for years, and was in her fourth week here this season, said she saw Matar “just run onto the stage, hunkered down a little bit, and then he just started beating on (Rushdie’s) arms.”

It all happened so quickly, she said, and in the instant confusion, it took a moment for Kromer to realize what was happening.

A memorial is left outside Gate 2 of the Amphitheater the evening after the attack. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“It was just like, ‘oh my god, this is real,’ ” she said. “… Within seconds, it was ‘oh my god, this is real.’ ”

The Salzes, who have been coming to Chautauqua since 1969, said Matar accessing the stage “seemed like a blur.”

Betty Salz’s first reaction, she said, was to burst into tears as she yelled for security. Her husband, Arthur, shouted “What is that man doing?”

Everyone was “badly troubled and shaken,” Arthur Salz said. Both were impressed by the calm and orderly nature of the evacuation, and the reaction of audience members to rush the stage to try and help.

Gilbert described the scene, with the announcement to evacuate, as one of “chaos, but not panic. You’re shocked; it’s pretty surreal.”

Clay Smith, who is a Muslim interfaith activist and Chautauquan of 56 years, said he was shocked and saddened that such an act occurred on the grounds. It was a common reaction in the hours that followed. 

“In one moment, everything changed,” Betty Salz said. “I felt the world changing right in front of my eyes. … It was quite shocking, almost numbing for this to happen at Chautauqua.”

Clark and Gilbert said they come to Chautauqua specifically because it feels so safe. Their kids, now in college, have always been allowed to walk around the grounds on their own. Ultimately, they wonder how Friday’s events will change Chautauqua.

“This is happening everywhere,” Kromer said. “… Everybody loves this place, but why shouldn’t it happen? This is what America is, and I think until more people have a personal experience like this, we aren’t going to change things.”

Across the grounds Friday afternoon, a similar phrase was repeated: “I don’t have the words.”

“I’m hoping for the best,” said Chautauquan Janet Archidait. “It shouldn’t happen anywhere. … It’s unimaginable. If it can happen in churches and schools and synagogues, then it can happen at our Amphitheater.”

Daily staffers Skyler Black, Megan Brown, Alyssa Bump, Kaitlyn Finchler, GraciAnn Hicks and Cassidey Kavathas contributed to this report. 

Rushdie off ventilator; N.J. man charged

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Last Friday morning, Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie was flown to UPMC Hamot, in Erie, Pennsylvania, after being attacked on the Amphitheater stage, where he was set to deliver a presentation with Henry Reese, director of Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum. 

A man, who has been identified as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, ran on stage and stabbed Rushdie between 10 and 15 times, according to the Associated Press. 

Chautauquans crowd around Salman Rushdie moments after he was attacked at the opening of the morning lecture Friday in the Amphitheater. DYLAN TOWNSEND/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, is detained after stabbing Rushdie. Matar is charged with second-degree attempted murder. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Rushdie, who underwent surgery at UPMC Hamot, was placed on a ventilator Friday and sustained serious injuries. The New York Times reported Sunday morning that he had been removed from the ventilator, citing his agent, Andrew Wylie. 

“The road to recovery has begun,” Wylie told The New York Times in a text. “It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.”

According to Wylie and The New York Times, Rushdie’s liver and the nerves in his arm were damaged, and he might lose an eye. Reese obtained a minor head injury and was released from the hospital Friday. 

Matar was charged with second-degree attempted murder and assualt in the second degree. He was arraigned on Saturday and remanded without bail, according to the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office. Matar pleaded not guilty, and is being held in the Chautauqua County Jail. 

Following Rushdie’s attack, the Institution has implemented a “no bags” policy in the Amp and all indoor venues, including Bratton Theater, Norton Hall, Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, Fletcher Music Hall and Hall of Christ. Small clutches, wristlets and fanny packs smaller than 4.5”x6.5.” are allowed. All other bags must be left in housing or vehicles. 

MSFO to celebrate final performance with optimism, despite challenges

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Crescendoing into its final performance of the season, the 2022 Music School Festival Orchestra will soon watch the flick of Maestro Timothy Muffitt’s baton for the last time. The MSFO will present its final ensemble performance at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater. 

“(There’s) always a lot of emotions,” said Muffitt, the School of Music’s artistic director and MSFO conductor. “There will be a great sense of satisfaction that we’ve completed this, but at the same time, I’m always sorry when it’s over, because it’s a very special environment for music-making.”

Sarah Malinowski-Umberger, manager of the Schools of Performing and Visual Arts, described the season’s end as “bittersweet — it always is.”

The 80-plus musicians in the MSFO have completed a monumental amount of work throughout the past eight weeks, including meticulous training, numerous performances in the Amp and other musical activities.

“The learning curve is steep,” Muffitt said. “We dive right in headfirst and we grow a lot with every rehearsal. There’s really no stagnation. … We will do things on Monday night that we would not have been able to do earlier in the summer.”

Beyond the rigorous nature of the program, the MSFO has had to navigate COVID-19 scares with the mentality that the show must go on, as long as it is safe to do so. Last week’s collaboration between the Chautauqua Opera Conservatory and the MSFO for The Cunning Little Vixen required last–minute tailoring due to people in key roles testing positive with COVID-19. 

“The opera we just did … was immensely challenging in just about every regard. Just the demands on the individual in that work are huge, (for) the singers, the orchestra, the conductor, the coaches and everyone that was involved in it,” Muffitt said. “… And I think that was a remarkable coming together and a huge success.”

With the last-minute changes, Muffitt said he was proud of the way everyone involved rose to the occasion, as “this is the performing arts in 2022.”

Calling the resilience of the MSFO and faculty members inspiring, Malinowski-Umberger said each MSFO performance was a highlight in its own right.

“Each of their concerts were so different and spectacular,” Malinowski-Umberger said. “… These students came here to work hard and learn; their performances speak for themselves.”

As the students prepare for their departure from the grounds, clarinetist Victor Battista said the high-intensity season has helped him grow as a musician.

“At these festivals, you can feel like you’re under a pressure cooker, because you have to learn a lot of repertoire in such a small amount of time,” Battista said. “It has brought to light to not be so hard on myself when learning things that quickly … (and) that the more I do something, the better I get at it.”

The orchestra only rehearses together for six days before each concert, with each rehearsal lasting two-and-a-half hours. This speaks to the fast-paced nature of being a part of the MSFO.

While in this program, Battista has spent the season exploring the e-flat clarinet, which is a smaller version of the standard clarinet.

“I haven’t had much experience with it before,” Battista said. “… It’s really cool because I get to play the e-flat in this last concert, so I think it really puts to light the work that I’ve put in on that auxiliary instrument.”

Tonight’s program includes Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100 and Carlos Simon’s “Tales: A Folklore Symphony.” Muffitt will conduct the Prokofiev piece, while 2022 David Effron Conducting Fellow Yeo Ryeong Ahn will conduct the Simon piece. 

Prokofiev’s Symphony is a colossal work that involves all of the players in the orchestra, and Muffitt calls it extraordinary. 

“It’s also a great piece of music for this time that we’re in now,” Muffitt said. “It was written during World War II, and somehow in the middle of that human tragedy, Prokofiev found a voice of optimism.”

Simon is a living African American composer, whose work reflects on his heritage. His work also serves the present moment in its quality and storytelling abilities.

“It’s a piece that is today. It’s music of our time, and it’s vital,” Muffitt said. “Just another wonderful work for the orchestra to sink its teeth into.”

Erin Hennessey, a MSFO violinist from Ireland, is looking forward to performing both of these pieces on closing night. 

“I’ve never played either, and I’m really looking forward to both,” Hennessey said. “But I am most excited for Prokofiev’s. It is really fun (to play).” 

Nearly everyone involved with the MSFO wants the audience to feel the same sense of exhilaration and completion as they will feel while they perform. 

“They sound incredible,” Malinowski-Umberger said. “Everyone will be blown away.”

Hoping to provide an escape for audience member’s day-to-day lives, Battista said he hopes that they will recognize how valuable art is in the form of orchestral music. 

“I think (presenting music while helping others to put aside their problems) is one of the most valuable things we can do as performers,” Battista said.

Hennessey wants the audience to feel inspired and feel the energy vested within the cohort of students.

“I hope they can share the excitement that we’re bringing to the performance,” Muffitt said. “… I hope the audience can tap into that with us. I hope they feel uplifted by it (through) a dose of hope, optimism and joy.”

Neuroscientist Marsh to talk intersection of fear, courage

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While courageous heroes are often seen as fearless, Abigail Marsh argues these protagonists tend to feel fear more than the average person. 

Marsh

“One of the really interesting things about people who are psychopathic … is that they don’t experience fear strongly … and yet they’re not heroes,” Marsh said. “That suggests that fear is actually not the opposite of heroism. It’s something you need to be a true hero.”

At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, Marsh will open Week Eight’s Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “New Profiles in Courage,” with her lecture, in which she will expand on the vitality of fear.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, will introduce Week Eight’s theme prior to Marsh’s lecture.

“I’m hoping the introduction will situate the idea of courage as a throughline for the week,” Walker said. “Courage, not being simply bravery, but a willingness to put one’s own assets, reputation and status at risk in order to ensure a more fair and just world.”

As an author, psychologist and professor in both the department of psychology and the interdisciplinary program in neuroscience at Georgetown University, Marsh has extensive research experience in psychology and neuroscience. Her work focuses specifically on social behavior, particularly on the reasons the brain enables empathy and apathy. 

“I’ve always really been interested in how people come to behave the way that they do,” Marsh said. “My interest in altruism in particular … can (be) traced back to this incident of having been rescued by a stranger myself.”

When Marsh was 19, she was in a nearly fatal car accident. Her car spun into a lane of oncoming traffic on the freeway, and a man ran across four lanes of traffic to save Marsh’s life. This led her to wonder why he would risk his own life in an attempt to save hers. 

But when Marsh was 23, a contrasting experience occurred. She was hit in the face by a stranger at a New Year’s party, which broke her nose. 

“It was a very unexpected event that I think really pulled my thinking in the direction of (understanding) human behavior as a continuum,” Marsh said.

Her research on altruism can be used to help people understand the core of acts of courage, specifically on a cognitive processing level. During her lecture, she will speak on the need to feel and sense fear, while simultaneously overcoming that fear to help others. 

Too often, Marsh said, real-life heroes are described as guardian angels and saints, which she feels makes their actions seem unattainable. 

“I think understanding the nuts and bolts of what allows (these heroes) to act so courageously, from both a cognitive and neural perspective, makes it clear that the capacity for empathy, altruism and courage is part of the basic makeup of humans and is attainable by most people,” Marsh said. “… There’s nothing supernatural or superhuman about being altruistic or heroic.”

Aspects of Marsh’s book, The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths and Everyone In-Between, will also be brought to the forefront during her lecture, as well as new data she has acquired since its 2017 publication. 

Marsh hopes Chautauquans who attend her lecture “will never describe real-life heroes as fearless again.” 

She believes this sort of categorization lessens how heroic their bravery truly is, as these heroes put their own well-being on the frontlines despite the fear they feel.

“(Those who want to be braver need to remember that) feeling fear is not the opposite of being brave,” Marsh said. “It’s a necessary requirement for being brave.” 

Staff writer Kaitlyn Finchler contributed to this report.

U.S. Rep. Raskin opens week on courage by honoring son

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Sometimes it takes extreme trauma or loss to understand the true meaning of courage. When the unthinkable happens, one of two things can occur: everything stops, pauses and we are unable to go on, or we push forward.

Raskin

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md) chose the latter. A span of seven days in which the unthinkable happened forced him to push through for the rest of his life. 

He will give his lecture, “It’s Hard to Be Human: The Political, Philosophical, and Mental Health Struggles of Tommy Raskin,” at 2 p.m. today in Norton Hall to start Week Eight of the Interfaith Lecture Series “New Profiles in Courage.” 

Today’s lecture was changed from the Hall of Philosophy, the traditional ILS location, for security purposes. That decision was made several weeks prior to the attack on Salman Rushdie last Friday in the Amphitheater.

Week Eight, programmed in partnership with Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, has been in the works since early 2021. And when considering speakers, everyone involved in planning wanted to extend an invitation to Raskin.

“I think what we’ve been most intrigued by is how he responded to a pretty deep personal tragedy all alongside being a national leader,” said Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill. “You’ve got this narrative of personal tragedy and national trauma happening at the same time.”

Raskin lost his son, Tommy, to suicide on Dec. 31, 2020, just seven days before the Jan. 6 insurrection, and two weeks before Raskin presided over President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. The three separate events each required three different kinds of courage. 

Raskin and his wife, Sarah Bloom Raskin, took to their Medium account on Jan. 4, 2021, with an essay-length statement in tribute to their son. 

That essay, and their courageous candor of public grief, went viral. As in the essay, in an interview with The Chautauquan Daily, Raskin discussed the passions Tommy had in his life, both politically and philosophically.

“Tommy was a dazzling young man. He was a playwright, poet and a stand-up performer,” Raskin said. “He was a second-year student at Harvard Law School. But he was really a philosopher and confronted all of the major problems in philosophy and tried to work them out on a daily basis.”

Raskin said he wants to use his platform, at the Institution and writ large, to raise awareness and to honor people who have loved ones who struggle with mental health.

“Tommy battled depression in the last few years of his life and felt trapped and suffocated by it,” Raskin said. “This is a great agony and misfortune for all of us in his family and friends who loved him.”

Along with Tommy’s philosophical views, Raskin said he was a “passionate vegan,” who rejected the eating of animals as “barbaric and unnecessary cruelty.” 

Tommy was also opposed to war and violence, and supported causes like Amnesty International, humane societies and other groups advancing human rights and animal welfare.

“Although he didn’t make much money as a young man, in his different jobs, whatever he did make, he pretty much gave away to the groups that were doing the work he believed in,” Raskin said. 

The family wants to eventually pull together a book of Tommy’s essays, poetry and meditations to share what he had to say. 

“It’s a very beautiful mission,” Raskin said. “It’s also a very tough assignment to live that way. We lost him all too early, but there are lots of things that all of us can learn from his life.”

Raskin wants to highlight Tommy’s life, and his lasting impact, his “profound moral, political and philosophical commitments, and those things are of intrinsic value to us,” and how those commitments intersected with his mental health crisis.

There were many emotions I experienced on Jan. 6, in the middle of the violence and assaults on the Capitol. One feeling I did not experience was fear, because we had already just experienced the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent.”


—JAmie Raskin
U.S Representative (D-Md), 
United States Congress

Seven days after Tommy died, on Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol Hill was stormed, while Raskin’s family was in town. 

“I was extremely concerned for Tabitha, our younger daughter, and for Hank, who’s our son-in-law, married to our older daughter, because they were in the Capitol and they were hiding … as the mob pounded on the door outside,” Raskin said. “I was concerned about where everything was going.”

Although he was concerned for his family and his country, Raskin said he did not experience fear himself.

“There were many emotions I experienced on Jan. 6, in the middle of the violence and assaults on the Capitol,” Raskin said. “One feeling I did not experience was fear, because we had already just experienced the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent.”

Raskin was the lead impeachment manager for Trump’s second impeachment trial on Jan. 13, 2021. He started writing his book, Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy, shortly after all of these events.

“The book began as a love letter to my lost son, Tommy, and it became a love letter to America, too,” Raskin said. 

Raskin’s mother was a journalist and novelist; growing up, he said he remembers her typing away on her typewriter late at night, and he felt connected to her while writing the book.

“I wrote my book in a five-month period of pretty intense insomnia after we lost Tommy and after the impeachment trial,” Raskin said. “I would come home from Capitol HIll around dinner time, (and then) around 8 p.m., I would just start writing and write pretty much throughout the night.”

Beyond Raskin himself, Hill said Raskin’s book perfectly complements the week of “New Profiles in Courage.”

“He was looking for a way to respond, about love and crisis, and was hoping that his story might help many families,” Hill said. “It becomes this perfect example of someone being called to be courageous at a time when I think many of us might want to not be at all public.”

In Unthinkable, Raskin describes the conversation he had with Speaker Nancy Pelosi prior to the impeachment trial, when she asked him to be the lead impeachment manager. Raskin said he wasn’t eating or sleeping, and was unsure if he would be able to move forward.

“I felt Tommy in my chest and my heart, and something deep inside me told me that I needed to do this,” Raskin said. “Nancy (Pelosi) really threw me a lifeline because she was saying that they needed me and I needed to rally and help bring people together to do this thing.”

Raskin said he was initially shocked when Pelosi asked him, but he felt it was his duty.

“It was the hardest moment I’ve had, in personal terms, and she was asking me to do the most difficult thing I’d ever done professionally,” Raskin said. “But she was telling me that I was needed. … It was how I began to reconnect with the ordinary rhythms of life the best that I could.”

People describe him as courageous, and Raskin said people often use the word in connection with him and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo), as both were heavily involved in the impeachment trial and now with the Jan. 6 Committee.  Where some may see courage, Raskin said he sees it as more necessity.

“I don’t think Liz Cheney has felt like she’s had any other real choice, and I certainly didn’t,” Raskin said. “There was no way for me to turn away from the trial and leave our (Jan. 6 committee) team without turning away from everything that I believe in.”

A Community in shock: Novelist Rushdie attacked in opening moments of 10:45 a.m. lecture in Amphitheater, sustains serious injuries

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The world descended onto Chautauqua Institution Friday as an act of violence sent shockwaves through the community within the gates, and across the globe, as Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie was attacked on the Amphitheater stage and  stabbed before a full audience.

Rushdie and Henry Reese, director of Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, were set to give the Chautauqua Lecture Series presentation at 10:45 a.m. Friday morning. The two men were being introduced by Michael I. Rudell Director of Literary Arts Sony Ton-Aime, when a man ran onto the stage, attacking Rushdie at 10:47 a.m.

Police patrol the area behind the Amphitheater following the attack on Salman Rushdie Friday. DYLAN TOWNSEND/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

New York State Police, at a press conference in Jamestown Friday evening, identified the man as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey. According to police, Rushdie, 75, suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck and chest and was transported by helicopter  to UPMC Hamot, in Erie, Pennsylvania. The New York Times reported late Friday night that Rushdie, while stable, was on a ventilator, citing Rushdie’s agent Andrew Wylie that the author “will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.” Reese, 73, suffered a minor head injury. 

At the time of the press conference, Matar had not been charged, as prosecutors and police awaited word on Rushdie’s condition. An arraignment was planned for later Friday. Police were unsure of Matar’s criminal history, but said he was potentially facing federal charges. 

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill speaks during a New York State Police press conference at the Jamestown Police Department late Friday afternoon. GEORGIA PRESSLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The Amp was evacuated immediately Friday morning. In the aftermath, Chautauquans took to Odland Plaza and Bestor Plaza, comforting one another and holding impromptu prayer circles. Hurlbut Church opened as a gathering place for people wanting to commune in silent prayer, and the Church’s meal ministry provided food for Institution staff.

All remaining Institution programming was canceled Friday, as were events Saturday, Aug. 13, including the Corporation meeting and the Class B Trustee Election, which will be rescheduled to take place before the end of the season. Religious services will be conducted as scheduled, and the administration is hoping to confirm the joint performance of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and The Washington Ballet at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amp.

Rushdie, a previous Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author for his book The Enchantress of Florence, is a lauded and prolific author of 20 books, including 1998’s The Satanic Verses. That book was a subject of great controversy, resulting in numerous death threats — including a 1989 fatwa placed on Rushdie’s head by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. A failed assassination attempt on Rushdie’s life came that same year. The fatwa was declared “finished” by Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami in 1998, though it was never formally lifted. 

On the Amp stage in 2010, when asked about the Ayatollah’s fatwa, Rushdie merely pointed out “one of us is dead. … You know what they say about the pen being mightier than the sword? Do not mess with novelists.”

Reese and Rushdie’s conversation, over before it began, was to center the idea of America as a haven of free expression, particularly for persecuted artists. 

“Sadly, the level of persecutions is not dropping, but rising,” Rushdie told Daily staffer Raegan Steffey in an interview prior to his scheduled lecture, “… and safe places are required.”

As Chautauquans spilled out of the Amp by the hundreds in shock and sorrow, the Critical Incident Stress Management Team of Chautauqua County were called to the grounds at 12:30 p.m., stationing representatives at the Hultquist Center to help counsel those who witnessed the attack. The CISM normally serves first responders, but occasionally helps communities in the aftermath of tragedy.

“These things tend to tear people’s psyche up,” said Robert Benson, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Bemus Point and the chaplain for the county fire service, with 38 years of experience in the fire service. “Being able to recognize the things that would set you off and recognize that this is stress, and being able to cope with that by talking to people — I think that’s what’s going to be key and important, especially for the community right now.”

Chautauquans participate in an interdenominational community prayer vigil August 12, 2022 in The Hall of Philosophy. SEAN SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Susie Kuhn, right, Blossom Leibowitz, center, and Karen Goodell observe a moment of silence during a vigil service Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 following an attack on Salman Rushdie during the morning lecture in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Friday evening, Chautauquans gathered in the Hall of Philosophy and the surrounding grove for an interfaith vigil service.

Chautauqua’s interim pastor, the Rev. Natalie Hanson, outlined the evening of music, prayer and healing for those in the grove.

“We’re going to spend some time in quiet reflection and we’re going to pray together,” she said. “… Because the real reason is just to be together in this place, and cherish the fact that we are a community.”

What Chautauqua experienced Friday, with its international reverberations, is “unlike anything in our 150-year history,” Hill said at the vigil. It was “an act of violence, an act of hatred, a violation of the one thing that we have always cherished most: the safety and the tranquility of our grounds and our ability to convene any conversation, even if those conversations are difficult.”

Chautauqua Insitution President Michael E. Hill, Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer Deborah Sunya Moore, Director of Sacred Music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist Joshua Stafford, Vice President of Religion Melissa Spas, Rabbi Samuel Stahl, Dr. Shahid Aziz, and Interim Pastor Natalie Hanson hold hands in prayer at the opening of a vigil service Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 following an attack on Salman Rushdie during the morning lecture in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

“Today was also an attack on an ideal we cherish dom of speech and freedom of expression are hallmarks to our society and our democracy, and the very underpinnings of who we are and what we believe and what we cherish the most,” Hill said. “Tonight, we’re called to take on fear, and the worst of all human traits: hate — and let’s be clear, what many of us have witnessed today was a violent expression of hate that shook us to our core. We saw with our own eyes, and we saw it with our own faces. But we also saw something else today that I hope we never forget. We saw some of the best of humanity in response to the numbers of people who ran toward danger.”

The response, Hill said, has to be love. But it also has to be action.

“We will return to our podiums and our pulpits,” he said. “Our hope is we will continue to convene those conversations that were tried to be stopped today, so we can build greater empathy — and it’s more important now than ever.”

Daily staffers Skyler Black, Megan Brown, Alyssa Bump, Kaitlyn Finchler, GraciAnn Hicks and Cassidey Kavathas contributed to this report. This story is evolving, and will be updated, as the Daily’s coverage of the attack on Rushdie and community response will continue in subsequent editions of the paper.

Sharing stories, wisdom of human thriving, Isay discusses StoryCorps’ mission

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Often, those in positions of power and select historians are the few people chosen to record history for all of humanity. But David Isay, former radio producer and StoryCorps founder, believes history should be written by the masses.

Delivering his lecture, “StoryCorps: A Celebration of Human Thriving,” Isay spoke on Wednesday in the Hall of Philosophy about the nonprofit organization, and played recordings of everyday people telling their stories for Chautauquans. 

Isay’s lecture was titled “StoryCorps: A Celebration of Human Thriving.” Georgia Pressley/Staff Photographer

Continuing Week Seven’s Interfaith Lecture Series theme of “Home: A Place for Human Thriving,” Isay’s lecture focused on how his organization brings people together through deep conversations. Isay, who has won six Peabodys for his work, shared StoryCorps’ mission: “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” 

Prior to founding StoryCorps 18 years ago, Isay found himself more interested in public service than entertaining people as a radio personality. 

“The purpose of StoryCorps is for as many people as possible to be listened to, to be interviewed by a loved one,” Isay said, “… where you can bring anyone who you want to honor by listening to their story — a parent or grandparent or friend … and for 40 minutes you ask questions and you listen.”

After these interviews are recorded, the participants receive a copy and have an option to have their recording filed at the Library of Congress, ensuring it is a part of history. 

“Essentially, because of what happens at the booth, I think what we’re doing is collecting the wisdom of humanity,” Isay said. 

A small percentage of interviews are also selected to be broadcast on NPR and presented around the country at Isay’s talks. 

Studs Terkel, the great oral historian from Chicago, cut the ceremonial opening ribbon on StoryCorps’ first booth at 93 years old. 

“He used to talk about bottom-up history — history through our voices and our stories, as opposed to the top-down history we hear so often,” Isay said.

The first interview Isay presented to Chautauquans featured a fourth grader from Mississippi and his father. The father began to talk about what he was feeling when his son was first born.

“It was like looking at a blank canvas and just imagining what you wanted the painting to look like at the end, but also knowing you can’t control the paint strokes,” the father said. “You know, the fear was just bringing up a Black boy in Mississippi, which is a tough place to bring up kids, period.”

The father began to explain there were statistics that said Black boys born after the year 2002 have a one in three chance of going to prison. This is why the father brought his son to several civil rights protests — to show him what it looks like to bring people from all backgrounds together to create a better world.

Isay clicked play on the next recording, which featured another parent-child conversation, this one from Texas. This conversation was centered around a fifth grader’s experience with active shooter drills, and his mother’s reaction to his powerful bravery — which frightened her.

During one of the drills, the young boy helped his teacher move the desk in front of the door because it was difficult for her to move it on her own.

“The class is supposed to stand on the back wall, but I decided to stand in front of the class because I want to take the bullet and save my friends,” the boy said.

While the teacher did not ask him to stand in the front, the 10-year-old boy felt a calling to step forward as a young martyr. No matter how much the mother pleaded for her son to be selfish if that moment ever occurred, he was adamant that this was not her choice to make.

“Something about this makes me feel sad,” the boy said. “But you raised a good person.”

With the recent overruling of Roe v. Wade, Isay shared an interview from a woman who worked as a counselor at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the only abortion clinic left in Mississippi by 2004, and the clinic at the heart of Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs. StoryCorps released the recording the day the clinic was forced to close in July following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling. The interview with the counselor was recorded more than 10 years ago. 

The counselor was influenced to work there after her own experience being pregnant at 16 and giving birth to a child as a teenager. 

“(After finding out I was pregnant, my mom) sat me down in a chair to comb my hair, but she never combed my hair,” the woman said. “She couldn’t say it was OK, but a touch can mean so much sometimes. … She forgave me at that moment she touched me.”

While the counselor was able to raise her son while finishing high school and college, she wishes she had the option to choose her destiny. Her experience with her mother and raising her son allowed her to relate to several patients at the clinic she worked at. 

“I try to reach that teenager to let them know that it’s going to be OK. And I’ll make sure I encourage the mom or the dad that’s with that teenager,” the woman said. “… Sometimes I can see the mother look over at the daughter, almost as if for the first time. It takes me back to that moment when my mom was doing my hair.”

Out of the 700,000 people who have participated in StoryCorps, Isay said everyone talks about love, their families, their homes and their childhoods, all relating to the themes of human existence. 

Thinking of one of his own StoryCorps interviews Isay did with his father, he called himself a proud son of a gay father. His father was a psychiatrist, and about 10 years ago, was diagnosed with cancer; he died four days after the diagnosis. 

“I never thought about it or listened to it. But at 3 a.m. on the night he died, I listened to (our conversation),” Isay said. “… I have young kids who are not going to remember him, and … that night, I knew that this was how my kids were going to get to know this monumental figure in my life.”

With this, Isay encouraged the audience to record interviews with their loved ones on StoryCorps sooner rather than later, because the future is unpredictable. 

One of StoryCorps’ first initiatives worked with families who lost a loved one on 9/11, aiming to have each family leave a spoken record of their story. But even 20 years after the tragedy, some families have not come forward, and Isay said it is entirely their choice to decide when and if they want to record an interview. 

“There have been … so many surprises with StoryCorps. It’s changed my life in so many ways and taught me so much about humanity and human thriving,” Isay said. “We have facilitators who travel the country, recording StoryCorps interviews for a year or two in these mobile booths, and every single one of them, when they come off the road, … (comes away with some sort of realization) that people are basically good.”

The next story Isay presented was of a man who was raised by a gay father in the 1980s, speaking on the early days of the AIDS crisis and his experience with loss during that tumultuous time.

“My family were mostly gay guys (who) were my babysitters and the guys who took the pictures at my birthday parties. I felt like I had this amazing family. I called them my aunties,” the man said. “It was a really wonderful, amazing world that came crashing down.”

In ’82, when the interviewee was 10, the first person he knew died of AIDS. His name was Steve, and he died two months after his diagnosis.

“It was pretty much a succession of deaths of my family throughout the next decade,” he said. “My stepdad Bill died in ’87. My dad died in ’91 after a really grueling six months of me taking care of him. I was 19, and at that point, everyone had died except for a handful of stragglers who I now hold near and dear to my heart.”

He knew his aunties held so much love and joy in their hearts, and he said this experience modeled “how to survive an epidemic even if you were dying while doing it.”

StoryCorps’ new initiative, One Small Step, works on building human connection across political divides. The last recording Isay shared was one of the interviews that inspired this initiative. The conversation was between a Muslim college student and a sheet metal worker who both attended Trump rally for different reasons — he for, she against. 

The Muslim woman said the man was being harassed by some ralliers because he was wearing a Trump hat, which led to them snatching the hat off of his head. 

“That’s the point where something snapped inside me, because I wear a hijab, and I’ve been in situations where people have tried to snatch it off my head,” the woman said. 

After she approached the ralliers to tell them to stop harassing the man, the two realized that they shared commonalities. 

“I’d like for this to encourage other people to engage in more conversations with people that you don’t agree with,” the woman said. 

While statistics show toxic polarization is skyrocketing in America, Isay said 90% of people want a way out, and are ready to find a way to fix this polarization. 

“There is a multibillion dollar … industrial complex out there in media and social media that gets rich teaching us and telling us to hate each other. But we’ve got to figure out a way to fight back,” Isay said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to stop what’s going on in our country, where we think that our neighbors are our most dangerous enemies.”

Filmmaker Angelini traces divides of American housing policies

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Filmmaker Giorgio Angelini addressed three seemingly disparate phenomena in his documentary “Owned: A Tale of Two Americas.” 

He broached the housing explosion in the desert region of California. He also looked at the killing of Freddie Gray by police in 2015, and finally at an American mortgage system that has placed Black people at a disadvantage. 

Then, he linked them all together. 

“To fix one problem, we have to fix another,” Angelini told the audience at his 10:45 a.m. lecture Thursday in the Amphitheater, titled “The Anti-Social Contract: Rethinking Our Home Ownership Society,” part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series Week Seven theme, “More than Shelter: Redefining the American Home.”

Giorgio Angelini, producer and director of the documentary film “Owned: A Tale of Two Americas,” speaks Thursday in the Amphitheater as part of the Week Seven Chautauqua Lecture Series theme of “More than Shelter: Redefining the American Home.” Dylan Townsend / staff photographer

Angelini has a master’s in architecture from Rice University. After earning his master’s, he opened a boutique architecture firm, Schaum/Shieh Architects, with his former professor. Angelini’s experience of working on housing-related issues led to his exploration of film. “Owned” premiered on PBS spring 2022.

Angelini’s film and lecture argued the “tear it all down” dynamic witnessed in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, occurs when people lose control of their communities, and subsequently, their sense of place. 

Outside corporate and government entities decide whether someone owns a home, and under what conditions they own it. Historically, in the post-World War II era and beginning with suburban boomtowns like Levittown, New York, that meant excluding underrepresented populations to the benefit of the mortgage-endowed white middle class. It meant leaving the populations that remained — largely Black, inner-city populations — to shoulder the fallout from a mass exodus of people and resources.

Levittown is often used as the model of post-World War II suburban development. The massive development was the brainchild of builder William Levitt, who Angelini said “turned the war machine into a home-building machine.” Levitt could build a home in as little as one week, aided by cheap construction materials and the Federal Housing Administration, which helped create a post-war housing boom in communities like Levitt’s by ensuring home mortgages. 

But the FHA also created the practice of redlining, which is identifying neighborhoods viewed as too risky for mortgage investment and insuring. 

Angelini turns his lens to a sinister aspect of Levittown: its exclusion of Black people as homeowners. In Angelini’s film, a woman in circa-1950s black-and-white footage says: “We understood it would be all-white, and we were happy to buy a home here.”

In Angelini’s exploration of Levittown, a retired Nassau County police officer, Jimmy Silvestri, serves as a sort of narrator. After World War II, Silvestri’s family moved from the Bedford-Stuyvesant borough of New York to the former potato farms that became Levittown. Silvestri raised his family in the same house he grew up in. For Silvestri, Angelini said, Levittown is a utopia. 

But Silvestri acknowledges there is an unseemly side, with Levittown’s outright racism. “That is disgraceful,” Silvestri lamented, also acknowledging the favor families like his experienced from a rigged system. 

“When you look at our history, particularly since World War II when the U.S. government embarked on this radical reordering of society, subsidizing both the construction and ownership of the single-family home,” Angelini said, “this enormous social engineering project also meant racially segregating cities and depriving minority communities of opportunity while pouring money into suburbs, when you take into account the persistent and destructive boom-and-bust real estate cycles that only seem to intensify wealth inequality, when you begin to realize that the only reasonable definition of the American Dream today is as a cruel fantasy.”

To demonstrate the long-term effects of redlining, Angelini referred to the social mobility studies of Harvard University researcher Raj Chetty; his studies show that the single biggest predictor of one’s ability to advance socioeconomically is one’s zip code.

“Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is simply no match for place,” Angelini said. 

The conditions on the east side of Baltimore, where Freddie Gray lived, were poor. 

“(Children growing up on the east side) were the unlucky ones born into the wrong zip code because of decades of discriminatory housing policy that had placed them there,” Angelini said. “To diminish a kid’s capacity to dream by forcing them into a kind of urban incarceration is about the cruelest thing I can imagine.”

In his film’s narrative on the need to redefine the American home, Angelini turned to the Inland Empire of Southern California. Much of the Inland Empire — the largest geographic county in the U.S. at 27,000 square miles — is desert. The area prospered as part of the Southern California “Citrus Belt” around the turn of the 20th century, with orange groves dominating the landscape. But by mid-century, the groves were being bulldozed to accommodate urban sprawl.

Today little in the way of orange groves remains. 

“They (razed) orange groves to make way for the new commodity … to be sold on the international market: air-conditioned square footage,” Angelini said.

To compound matters, only 30% of those in the Inland Empire can afford a median-priced home. Across the United States, Angelini said, median income wage earners can’t afford homes in 70% of the country. And for one-quarter of home sales, private investors and hedge funds are offering cash, terms with which the average prospective homeowner cannot compete. 

“A housing implosion in the middle of the desert in California (is) inextricably linked to the death of Freddie Gray,” Angelini said. “(These) were two sides of the same coin, two sides of the American home, and to fix one problem, we really (have) to fix the other.”

He drew on the story of Greg, a once-hopeful young Black man in Baltimore who drove a pocket knife into a fire hose during the Baltimore uprisings. These images circulated on national television. 

“What Greg was trying to say, through his kinetic action, was that there was no system worth saving here,” Angelini said. “Why not burn it all down? And the truth is when you understand the history, how can you really argue with that? Why would any reasonable person want to preserve such an inhuman system specifically designed to keep people like Greg down?”

A core problem is viewing homes primarily as investments, as commodities, Angelini said. Architecture was “having too much fun building totems to capitalism” in the late 2000s, Angelini said. He said the housing crash of the late 2000s proved “profit-driven self-interest was not a way of being a (free) society.”

“Our housing economy is one predominantly driven, legislated and controlled by profit-motivated forces,” Angelini said. “Those narrow interests are allowed to dictate critical decisions around housing policy, around urban planning and infrastructure investments, about the very social fabric of our society, hoping that the profits might also produce the right social outcomes as a convenient byproduct.” 

He paraphrased an observation of a Southern California realtor, Jim, who appears prominently in “Owned.” 

“It’s always been a problem in this industry that there is only one way to determine what something is worth (and that is) to look at what other people have paid for it,” Angelini said. “But what if the other people are crazy? I guess what I’m here to tell you is I think we’re all crazy. I think we’re all crazy. The American home economy of today has deluded us into believing that we’re living in times of great scarcity. It’s helped to transform this country into an increasingly anxious, self-centered and paranoid place. It’s made us crazy.”

He closed with a challenge to the audience to begin by acknowledging the problem.

“Do we radically change the American home in such a way that we account for its racist legacy and build a future that makes us less alienated from one another, less anxious and more secure?” he asked. 

Following the lecture, Angelini participated in a Meet the Filmmaker Q-and-A after a screening of “Owned: A Tale of Two Americas” at the Chautauqua Cinema. 

Cellist Pegis to solo with CSO on Elgar work, with Bermel, Nielsen on program

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In an evening and program touching on contrasts between eras and emotions, displacement and nostalgia, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra will perform at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 in the Amphitheater, under the baton of Music Director Rossen Milanov, sharing a stage with a soloist who’s one of their own.

The CSO will perform three pieces tonight: Derek Bermel’s “A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace,” Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, op. 85, and Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5, op. 50.

Composer and clarinetist Bermel — who has been honored with a Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, the Rome Prize, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among others — is known for his blending of world music, funk and jazz. His “A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace” draws on Hungarian composer Béla Bartók — particularly Bartók’s last years, which he spent in New York City, holding on to his musical roots in an unfamiliar environment.

The New York Times included the first movement of “A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace” on its list of “The 25 Best Classical Music Tracks of 2019,” with a critic calling “amerikanizalodik” a “dizzying melting pot of folklike rhythms, droning tunes and pungent modernist harmonies, spiked with bursts of wailing jazz.” Of the whole, The New York Times described “A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace,” as a “vibrant homage to Bartók.” The album upon which it appeared, Migrations, received a Grammy nomination.

 The composer is in residence Week Seven, having performed with the Argus Quartet Saturday, and workshopping The House on Mango Street: The Opera with author Sandra Cisneros, the librettist adapting her famous novel for the stage. The workshop, which culminates in a public reading Friday in Norton Hall, comes five years after Cisneros and Bermel first collaborated on the inter-arts production of “House on Mango Suite,” which premiered on the Amp stage.

Following the Bermel, the CSO presents Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Jolyon Pegis as soloist. Pegis steps center stage as the original guest soloist, Pablo Ferrández, withdrew from his Chautauqua performance because of travel circumstances. Pegis is the CSO’s principal cellist, and has performed countless times, in numerous capacities and venues, all across the grounds — and the country. Pegis has appeared as a recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestral soloist across the United States, and is associate principal cellist with the Dallas Symphony and a member of the contemporary ensemble Voices of Change.

Pegis, who has been playing with the CSO for nearly 30 years, knew from the first moment he heard cello music as a child that that was the instrument he wanted to play — “The quality of the register just appealed to me,” he told the Daily in 2012 — and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1990. The evening concludes with Danish composer Nielsen’s dramatic Symphony No. 5, composed in the years following World War I and finally gaining recognition outside of Nielsen’s home country only with a 1962 recording from Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. With an aggressive woodwind motif, and an inspiring, grand finale, the work is a study in contrasts; given an elusive, far-from definitive interpretation, according to “Symphony Notes” columnist David B. Levy, the idea of a “study in contrasts may be the safest answer for those who need to know.”

Sandra Cisneros, Sony Ton-Aime to converse on what creates home

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After floating down the stairs and offering a Daily reporter some sparkling water, author and poet Sandra Cisneros needed to do her hair.

She had already pinned her hair on top of her head, but said it was missing something. A bouquet of flowers perched on a side table inside the Hagen-Wensley Guest House. Cisneros selected only the flowers that wouldn’t be noticeably missed from the bouquet, tucked them into her hair, and was then ready to talk about her literature and her perception of home. 

“It’s very hard for women to find themselves at home, in home because home usually has a connotation of work we have to do,” she said.

Homes and houses as physical dwellings have frequently appeared in Cisneros’ literature, from her 1984 novel The House on Mango Street, to her 2015 autobiography, A House of My Own: Stories from My Life. Cisneros will have a conversation about these works and other topics centered on the idea of home with Sony Ton-Aime, the Michael I. Rudell Director of the Literary arts, at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 in the Hall of Philosophy.

“I think it is going to be the most singular conversation that has ever happened on the grounds,” Ton-Aime said.

Cisneros’ stories discuss home in a way that conveys it as more than a building. The House on Mango Street emphasizes this through its use of vignettes to tell the story of Esperanza Cordero. In 2017, the book was both a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle and CLSC Young Readers selection. 

“The idea in The House on Mango Street was the idea of a neighborhood being a home,” Ton-Aime said, “and also a home for people who were not originally from that neighborhood.”

Like the character Esperanza, Cisneros grew up in Chicago. There, she found home in more places than just the house she lived in with her eight other family members.

“I always just dreamed of some quiet space. I had to find that space, when I was growing, in the library,” she said. “My introduction to the world of books was through the public library because we didn’t own books.”

As a writer, Cisneros feels a space that helps spawn creation is essential to the concept of home.

“Home is a physical space, yes, but it is more a place to create, so it’s a house of the spirit,” she said.

Ton-Aime agreed with this concept, as he has found a sense of home in Haiti; Kent, Ohio; and now in Chautauqua. He can do this because home is not just a building.

“Home is very much something I carry with me,” he said. “… It’s very much about the people, the love that I have held, and they are here in my heart. Home is something that I carry with me, and it is something that sustains me.”

Although home is more than a house, Cisneros does rely on physical spaces in feeling comfortable and being able to thrive. She recalled a man with whom she previously lived who only decorated his house with a color palette of white, red and black.

“Needless to say, it’s not my life anymore,” she said.

The stark colors in the home did not help Cisneros in her life of creativity. To create, she needs to surround herself with animals, plants, colors and views that make her feel at peace. These all add up to, in her opinion, the most important goal of a home: feeling security.

“How can we be in a space that is healing and nourishing and — most important for women — makes us feel safe?” Cisneros asked.

One of the key elements to feeling safe is privacy, she said. In her childhood home, her bedroom door could not close. Now, as a woman in her sixties in the current social climate, she still feels that privacy is being taken away and preventing women from feeling safe.

“It’s such a difficult time right now that we’re living in, with so many of our private issues being up to men deciding about our bodies and … what is a ‘good woman’ (coming) from male judgment,” she said.

Cisneros feels that the rescinding of women’s rights is reactionary on the part of men.

“I think it’s a time in which we’re realizing how threatening we are being female,” she said.

But women are not the only group subject to this, Cisneros said; people of color and immigrants also threaten white men’s positions of power, she explained, which often results in the world being unsafe and uninviting to those groups.

“Home is a refuge for all of the above, whether you’re gay or trans or an immigrant or a woman,”  she said. “We’re all in this place of our power being taken from us or being threatened. Our sense of wanting to have a place at the table is threatening to people who don’t want to share that power with us.”

Cisneros’ current home is in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, which was established in the 1500s. To her, this city is the combination of the past, present, and future coalescing all at once. She contrasts this to her experience in American cities like San Antonio or Chautauqua, which view the past as a place it came from and that is distant, rather than actively reacting and mingling with the present.

“In Mexico, the past is the present is the future,” she said. “You could be walking down the street and suddenly turn a corner and see these pre-conquest dancers swinging from a pole in front of the church. So there’s the church and the pre-conquest religion merged into some synchronicity in the future. It’s kind of mind-boggling, and I think it’s a very spiritual sense of time that is nonlinear — and that makes it very creative for me to live there.”

Cisneros’ home has a mountain view, and she loves to watch the sunset behind them. It makes her feel connected to the world around her.

“It’s essential for me to be able to rise and know that the roof of my house is the sky and that part of my garden is the clouds. Part of my garden is that sunset and those mountains, too,” she said. “And it’s very full. As small as my house is — because I live in a guest house rather than a mansion — I feel it’s very large because it encompasses the sky and the mountains and the sunsets and the moonrises. And so that makes me feel very complete. It’s a poet’s house.”

Filmmaker Giorgio Angelini to discuss post-war practices, implications for America

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When Giorgio Angelini was working on a master’s in architecture in the midst of the 2008 housing market crash, he read an article about an abandoned development project in the Inland Empire, a densely populated metropolitan area in coastal Southern California. The article described an uncanny scene of the land that used to be home to citrus groves, but Angelini was surprised that the story did not include photos. He applied for a grant and drove out to the California desert to see and photograph the project for himself. 

“The scale of wreckage was just unfathomable,” Angelini said.

He was awed by the desolate landscape of mass-produced, half-built houses side by side with a scorched orange grove.

“That was a really striking image for me, that in this moment where global capital markets were frozen, and money wasn’t flowing, you were witnessing this commodity shift frozen in time,” Angelini said. “Someone, on a spreadsheet somewhere far, far away, said, ‘Oh, we can make incrementally more money per acre if we convert this from bushels of oranges to bundled, air-conditioned square footage.’ ”

Angelini’s education in architecture during that unstable period and his encounter with the Inland Empire wasteland planted the seeds for his directorial debut: the 2018 documentary “Owned: A Tale of Two Americas.” Angelini will give a lecture as part of Week Seven’s theme, “More Than Shelter: Redefining the American Home.” The lecture will take place at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater. The documentary will also screen at 12:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 at Chautauqua Cinema. 

Angelini firmly believes that we, as a society, need to reconceptualize what “home” means. He thought that the 2008 housing crisis would turn the tide and force America to recalibrate, but that hope has not borne fruit.

“In America, we’re uniquely predisposed to thinking of a home as this wealth accumulation machine,” Angelini said. “And really, that’s first and foremost, and everything else is kind of secondary. But I want people to understand that when we treat a home like a commodity, it necessarily teases out the worst aspects, both on the financial side and the cultural side.”

Post-World War II housing policy implemented deeply entrenched segregation through redlining. With the Baby Boom creating a need for more housing and the lingering specter of the Great Depression, America dreamed of building a thriving society of wealth through home ownership.

The Federal Housing Administration insured mortgages to private banks, but drew up segregated maps with proverbial and literal red lines indicating which neighborhoods they would insure. Given the racist impression that Black residents would bring down property values, the FHA chose to insure mortgages in white neighborhoods, but not Black ones.

Angelini said that those racist impressions persist now, and are part and parcel of the financial and cultural implications of home ownership, as well as the unremitting divide between suburbia and inner cities.

“If a home is just meant to make you money, then you’re going to do everything you can do to protect that investment and your future ability to make more money, more wealth for yourself,” Angelini said. “So if you live in a society that is generally racist, or bigoted or stereotyping of other groups, and you think that a Black family moving into your neighborhood is going to bring down your property values, you’re going to do everything you can do to ensure that that never happens.”

When Angelini set out to make “Owned,” he initially conceived of it through an architectural perspective. He said that architects are uniquely situated to imagine the cultural underpinnings of the built environment. Angelini thought of the film as visually oriented, filtered through the design and even poetry of the home.

The police killings of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray and the ensuing protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore caused Angelini to rethink his concept. He realized he wanted to make a film revealing the inextricable linkage between the wreckage of the Inland Empire and the oppressive conditions of the inner city.

“These urban uprisings started springing up, and I began to appreciate that you couldn’t really critique this abundance of space in the peripheries of American cities without also understanding what was happening in the inner cities, because of course, these two things were deeply intertwined,” Angelini said. “The vastness of suburbia was coming at the expense of divestment from inner-city America.”

Angelini wanted the documentary to be character-driven, so he spent years traveling the country and speaking to individuals from a swath of experiences. In Levittown, New York, which he said is widely regarded as the archetypal postwar suburb, he met a retired police officer named Jimmy Silvestri who became a central figure in the film.

Angelini said that Silvestri’s story aligned with the arc of the postwar history of American housing. Angelini was filming with Silvestri during the Baltimore uprisings.

“Through Jimmy’s eyes, we got to see what I think is the central struggle that’s facing America today, which is a large number of middle-class white Americans confronting the reality that they got a leg up in the system, necessarily at the expense of other people, predominantly Black families,” Angelini said. “That’s just the reality, and truth hurts sometimes. Negotiating those emotions can sometimes produce anger, or confusion, and Jimmy’s storyline, I think, really captures that quite beautifully.”

That type of reckoning is essential to the task of reconceptualizing the American home — not only the physical structure of the house, he said, but the entirety of the lived environment. Angelini pointed out that statistically, the No. 1 factor which predicts one’s ability to advance socioeconomically is one’s zip code.

“If you understand the way that this country was segregated, by race, through housing policy, then you start to realize that we are condemning certain groups of people to living in zip codes that are necessarily going to produce negative outcomes for those people,” Angelini said. “We can’t live in a country like that and say that it’s egalitarian. We have to confront the idealism of the American dream with the American reality.”

IMAN lead Alia Bilal to advocate for creating home away from home for ILS

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Not many people know what they want to do as a career when they’re young. Every child has similar ambitions — doctor, veterinarian, princess, and so on — but when they’re in high school, not everyone dreams of working at a nonprofit. Alia Bilal did, and now as deputy director at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network in Chicago, she works to foster health, wellness and healing in underserved communities.

Bilal will give her lecture, “Homesick in Wakanda: Living, Longing and Fighting,” at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 in the Hall of Philosophy for Week Seven of the Interfaith Lecture Series, “Home: A  Place for Human Thriving.”

She first heard of IMAN when some of the founders came to talk to her high school, which was a Muslim school for all ages in Bridgeview, Illinois. They spoke to students about getting involved and taking action toward criminal justice reform, immigration reform, and relieving food insecurity.

“I just said, ‘Someday I’m going to work for this organization.’ This is everything that I feel like I’d been missing in life, or everything that I feel like I had been wanting to orient my life around,” Bilal said.

She said she remembers feeling elated that people were focusing on these issues in their home of inner-city Chicago, as many of her friends came from immigrant families, and were focused on social issues in their home countries.

Bilal’s parents converted their family to Islam in the ’70s. As a Muslim Black American, she said she didn’t feel the sense of “back home” in the same way her friends from Middle Eastern countries did.

“The community that I was a part of was a very nurturing (and) loving community, very oriented toward that ‘back home,’ and not necessarily focused on the neighborhood they were in,” Bilal said. “That was something I could, naturally, not ever connect with as much.”

Her initial ambition to join IMAN is reinforced through the work she does now. As community organizers and advocates, they create the positive change she has hoped to see for most of her life.

“We’re still working on passing really important criminal justice reform legislation and organizing communities to both learn their rights, know their rights and then fight for their rights,” Bilal said. “We developed our own community organizing curriculum where we train people across the city of Chicago and across the country.”

In efforts to use the arts as a positive, transformational rehabilitation effort, IMAN’s curriculum includes work at Beloved Community Ceramic Studio on Chicago’s South Side as a way to help people decompress and deal with some of the trauma they face.

Her lecture today will focus on these aspects of IMAN, as well as some personal experiences she wants to share. She will also explore the contrasting ideas of “being home,” versus “back home.”

“I’m going to be talking about the fact that there’s an aspiration, for all us, for home to be … tranquil and safe; but in reality it’s not for many of us,” Bilal said. “We, as humans, strive to make this Earth home (and) we create comforts.”

In the Muslim view, home is where the Creator is, and while people can seek comfort in this earthly place, Bilal said the task is to try to make others feel as comfortable as possible.

“The idea for many African Americans (is that) you have a place that is home in this country, and for most of us, the only home we’ve ever known,” Bilal said. “And yet, there’s a missing piece.”

She hopes people will come away from her lecture with a sense of purpose and renewed insight to how impactful it is to have a worldview, regardless if that worldview is influenced by spiritual or religious beliefs or not.

“Even if one doesn’t believe that, I hope people will take away the idea that you can fill your life with purpose in the places we dwell in,” Bilal said, “ … and to not allow oneself to simply exist in a place, but to really try to figure out how one can change that place for the better.”

With new work from Silas Farley, Washington Ballet takes Amp stage

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Thirty-nine years ago, Julie Kent first chasséd across Chautauqua as a student in the School of Dance. Now, she returns with The Washington Ballet as their artistic director. 

“Now to be back as a company, in residence … it’s so many circles and meaningful connections,” Kent said. “Having been here as a student, and then as a faculty member and now as a leader, it’s really exciting. It’s a very special place. I think everyone that’s ever been here can see that.”

At 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater, The Washington Ballet will take the stage in the first public performance of the company’s two-week residency at Chautauqua. Prior to the performance, the Chautauqua Dance Circle hosts a Dance Preview at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10 in Smith Wilkes Hall with Cassia Farley, costume designer, and Silas Farley, choreographer and dean of the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute of The Colburn School. The preview will be moderated by Chautauqua School of Dance Interim Director Sasha Janes.

The Amp performance begins with the premiere of Dowland Dances, which was choreographed at Chautauqua by Farley, set to music by John Dowland and recorded by British singer-songwriter Sting. The piece is complete with costumes designed by Cassia Farley, the choreographer’s wife.

“It’s a really beautiful sort of use of ancient music with a modern voice,” Kent said. 

Farley originally choreographed this piece in 2014 as a workshop at The School of American Ballet — the training academy of the New York City Ballet. 

He would go to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and flip through CDs; there, he fostered a deep connection with Sting’s album Songs from the Labyrinth.

“He has this husky, modern voice singing these Elizabethan-era songs about themes that are always relevant and resonant — about love, about nature, about melancholy and about relationships. They’re timeless in that regard,” Farley said. “There’s something very intimate about the music, because it’s just the one voice and the one (lutenist). It’s as if we’re just sitting around a living room or a campfire and we’re having this very close, visceral exchange.” 

Farley owes the continuation and growth of this piece to the professional dancers who helped workshop it, and to Cassia Farley, whom he calls his muse, confidant and collaborator. 

“She was assisting me (back in 2014), and we had a great time working with the students on that piece,” Farley said. “It’s not like I’d forgotten about that piece. When Julie asked me to do something, … it was Cassia who said, ‘Well, why don’t you go back to the Dowland pieces? Why don’t you build on that idea?’ ”

Farley had always wanted to expand and deepen the work with the professional dancers.

“Oftentimes, when you work in the professional ballet world, you have a very short timeframe to prepare the piece,” Farley said. “So you need to have some homework done already, so that you can come in and maximize that time with the professional dancers.” 

Following Dowland Dances is a classic Balanchine work, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. Kent described the piece as indicative of Balanchine’s brilliance. 

“It’s one of the most famous standalone pas de deux, and is just brilliant choreography and music,” Kent said. “It’ll be both poetic and virtuosic, while showing the depth of talent in our beautiful company.”

Closing the performance is Beethoven Serenade, which The Washington Ballet just premiered in June, choreographed by Jessica Lang. Kent said she thinks Chautauquans will enjoy this wide range of repertoire.

“Our dancers are really facile at moving through different movement languages, different choreographic styles, which makes their performances so meaningful because they’re able to communicate so well with all different kinds of movement styles,” Kent said. “Audiences that discover The Washington Ballet for the first time are really impacted by both the physical beauty and the quality of the work that they bring to the stage.”

Kent feels that The Washington Ballet’s Chautauqua residency, encompassing parts of Weeks Six, Seven and Eight, and the overall environment of the grounds, has already influenced her and the dancers. 

“The creative process is so influenced by the environment. … The environment that you are in as a person reflects everything that you bring to your dance and into your work,” Kent said. “I’m excited to see how this sort of intensive creative, the beauty of the idyllic setting here, will affect the finished product.”

And, she said, having a piece premiere on Chautauqua’s historic Amp stage is extra special.

“Commissions that premiere at Chautauqua will always have that piece of history attached to it,” Kent said. “So as the ballet lives on and is performed on stages all over the world, it takes with it the spirit of Chautauqua. That’s a wonderful legacy.”

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