Week Two at YAP

Sunday, June 28, 2020

As this year's virtual Young Artists Program rounds the corner into its final week, we took a look back at Week Two.

This week Yellow Barn faculty member and violinist Don Weilerstein visited the YAP community, sharing recordings from his tenure as first violinist of the Cleveland Quartet and the Weilerstein Duo, as well as his perspective on life as a chamber musician. A few days later actress Sylvia Milo and composer Nathan Davis shared an inside view of their internationally-acclaimed production, The Other Mozart. (We had hoped to welcome Sylvia and Nathan this summer for a presentation of the Other Mozart As soon as we are able to host them, they will bring their production to Putney.)

YAP musicians continued continued their series of concerts—recorded in their homes across the United States, and in Europe and Asia—including premiere performances of works by YAP composers for their performer colleagues, and performances from John Cage's Song Book together with Cage's instructions for each song. Here is a sampling of their performances, all of which will be shared at the conclusion of the program.

Kyrie McIntosh Fragments (2020)
World Premiere
Yi-Mei Templeman, cello

Bram Fisher Nursery Rhyme (2020)
World Premiere
Grant Houston, violin

John Cage: Song #44
Performed by Lindan Burns

John Cage's instructions for Song #44:

John Cage: Song #35
Performed by Rolando Gomez

John Cage's instructions for Song #35:

John Cage: Song #19
Performed by Phoebe Liu

John Cage's instructions for Song #19:

Yellow Barn opens Beethoven Walks

Friday, June 19, 2020

Yellow Barn artistic director Seth Knopp, who imagined and created Beethoven Walks this year (Photo: Zachary Stephens)

Beethoven Walks is a project begun during our collective isolation, serving a universal need to better understand our humanity through music and the beauty of our world.

These walks incorporate reproductions of Beethoven’s sketches, or leaves from his autograph manuscripts, connecting those walking the path with Beethoven’s music, his creative process, and the inspiration he drew from nature. 

Music Posts placed along the path will prompt people to listen to Beethoven’s works corresponding with these sketches and manuscripts. These autographs lead us along the path, or to Listening Places that invite more spacious listening and looking.

These walks open in honor of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, and are dedicated to the world his music shows us is possible.

—Seth Knopp

A project conceived earlier this year by Yellow Barn Artistic Director Seth Knopp, the first two Beethoven Walks are opening this week. The two walks, which are sponsored by Yellow Barn, are located in our home town of Putney, Vermont.

Beethoven Walks at the Greenwood Trail is located on our summer campus, The Greenwood School. It is our pleasure to gift this trail to the Greenwood School, where it will remain open indefinitely. (Download the app: BW-Greenwood)

Beethoven Walks at the Hannum Trail is located on Putney Mountain. At the request of the Putney Mountain Association, this walk will close on July 18, 2020 (Download the app: BW-Hannum)

Download the App

The Beethoven Walks app is necessary to enjoy the trail—most importantly the music!—and can be downloaded from app stores for phones and other devices. Search for BW-Greenwood or BW-Hannum for your playlist, directions to the trail head, and introductory guidelines.

More information

Please be conscious of social distancing! The trail is best enjoyed in solitude. If you do see others, be mindful and wear a mask when passing on the trail.

Introducing YAP 2020

Friday, June 19, 2020

Yellow Barn’s Young Artists Program is off and running. Last Sunday Co-Artistic Directors Seth Knopp and Mimi Hwang welcomed 30 instrumentalists and composers coming together from across 9 time zones to work with faculty spanning the distance from one US coast to the other, and across the Atlantic Ocean.

Taking full advantage of what the musicians can gain from a "distance learning" program, visiting guests this week included Yellow Barn Composer in Residence Brett Dean for a conversation about his String Quartet #2 ("And once I played Ophelia"), Lewis Lockwood for an exploration Beethoven's autograph manuscripts and sketches, and, as pictured above, Yellow barn faculty member Curtis Macomber and Stephen Jaffe on their experiences working with Mario Davidovsky, offering invaluable advice to YAP musicians as they prepare their first performances of Davidovsky's Synchronisms and other works for solo instruments and electronic tape.
While the lens is different, the core elements of the program are in full swing, including new works written during the program by YAP composers for their performer colleagues. This year composers are focusing on writing for solo instruments, and right now the first set of pieces are being premiered and recorded in house concerts with family members. Many YAP family members are also involved with another element of this year's YAP program: performances of works included in John Cage's Song Books. You can see Seth Knopp's performance of Song #36 as part of this year's virtual orientation. (Look for more performances of pieces from John Cage's Song Books throughout the summer!)

Model shifts from festival to residencies

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Greg Sukiennik, a reporter for New England Newspapers, wrote this story about Yellow Barn's 2020 Summer Season published on May 21 in the Brattleboro Reformer:

Yellow Barn, seen here during a 2017 concert, will replace its usual summer chamber music festival with Artist Residency performances, which will be streamed online. (Photo: Zachary Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)

Yellow Barn will still be making and presenting music this summer — just not the way the festival has presented chamber music for the past 50 years.

The Putney-based chamber music organization will host a series of artist residencies this summer in lieu of a full summer festival season, and will bring the festival back for the summer of 2021.

The summer residencies, with visiting artists who will be staying locally, will be streamed online free of charge from the festival's Big Barn starting July 10 — the day that its planned summer festival would have begun. The organization's mobile musical stage, the Yellow Barn Music Haul, will continue visiting locations throughout the area, with the hope of presenting live music on its mobile stage when regulations permit.

The news comes as multiple summer classical musical festivals in the region have canceled their 2020 summer seasons in light of the pandemic. Marlboro Music, Manchester Music Festival and Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox, Mass., have all announced they will not operate this summer.

"More than anything else we really do care about the well-being of musicians that come to these places every summer," Artistic Director Seth Knopp said of Yellow Barn's musical community. "We are really sad that we can't continue to grow musically with each other."

While the regular festival concerts and the audiences that come to see them are important, Knopp said, "our initial motivation was to bring people out of isolation and into a place of being able to focus on what they love to do most — which is being in residence, working together. That is what motivated us."

The decision came as the organization's board of directors determined the festival could not continue as panned. Instead, Yellow Barn, which pioneered the first residency program for professional musicians in the U.S., will use that model instead of its usual summer gathering on the campus of the Greenwood School in Putney.

Resident musicians, all hailing from within driving distance of Southern Vermont, will live in separate guest homes and maintain social distancing while working on projects that will be presented at the Big Barn performance space — without an audience present.

Meanwhile, participants in Yellow Barn's Young Artists Program "will explore 'from-a-distance' how we use our inner sense of hearing in interpreting without the benefit of making music together," the group said in an announcement. "We will better understand what we are missing by casting light on the work we can only do alone, striving (while failing) to communicate as fully as if we were with one another."

Knopp said festival organizers feel the pain the COVID-19 virus has caused in human illness and the loss of gatherings. However, he added, for musicians living with the ramifications of the pandemic, the situation has presented opportunities for quiet reflection and artistic expression.

"In the case of musicians who are so used to communicating with audiences through music, it doesn't necessarily represent an empty time. It represents a time that holds possibilities of reflection," Knopp said. "Silence is very meaningful in music, and stopping to think and listen to the world around us has been an unusual opportunity. There's something quite beautiful about stopping and listening to the world."

Knopp said he and Executive Director Catherine Stephan have been in regular contact with other festivals and organizations in the music world, in conversations and in larger online conference calls. The sense of loss is universal, Knopp said.

"People are distraught that they can't do this, not just for the younger musicians but for the whole community," he said. "Nobody is doing this for any reason other than a love of music and making music together ... the sense of absence of that is quite palpable among everyone involved."

To Our Yellow Barn Family

Friday, May 15, 2020

In this singular moment, when our human condition is truly universal, what each of us has to offer becomes essential. Science and faith, solace and sustenance: all are essential, and each must find its path to serve a common need.

Music, our universal language, must also find its path, even at a time when there is so much to hear in silence, and at a distance from where its most essential qualities are “virtually” impossible to communicate. This balance has been the focus of our concern as we have contemplated Yellow Barn’s summer.
As always, reflecting upon our very beginning has brought clarity. In that first summer, even before our original barn was used for performances, Yellow Barn was small enough to be hosted by individuals who opened their homes so that musicians could pursue their work, both separately and together. 
While we are not able to gather our entire Yellow Barn family this year, we are creating a series of summer Artist Residencies. The first residency program in this country for professional musicians, Yellow Barn’s Artist Residencies offer an unforeseen model for this time, allowing some of our musicians to be here as representatives of the whole, living in separate guest homes, rehearsing while physically distancing, and streaming performances from the Big Barn. The first performance will take place on what would have been our Opening Night together, July 10th.
Participants in the Young Artists Program that precedes Yellow Barn each summer will explore “from-a-distance” how we use our inner sense of hearing in interpreting without the benefit of making music together. We will better understand what we are missing by casting light on the work we can only do alone, striving (while failing) to communicate as fully as if we were with one another.
Throughout the summer and into the fall, Yellow Barn Music Haul will continue to visit health care facilities and food distribution sites, assisted living communities and rehabilitation centers, neighborhoods and individuals. As soon as it is safe to bring musicians on board, Music Haul will lower its stage for open-air concerts throughout the region.
Ours is not a summer lost but a festival delayed. Every musician who had planned for a Yellow Barn experience this year is invited to join us in 2021, an invitation we extend to all those who make Yellow Barn the magical place that it is. We look forward to our reunion with great hope and anticipation.

—Seth Knopp and Catherine Stephan

Music Haul Visits Brattleboro Memorial Hospital

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Howard Weiss-Tisman, reporter for Vermont Public Radio, wrote this story about Yellow Barn Music Haul's COVID-19 relief tour.

▶️ Listen to the story as it was broadcast on May 4, 2020

Photo: Yellow Barn artistic director Seth Knopp, left, and executive director Catherine Stephan stand near the group's Music Haul in front of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

Vermonters have been helping their communities get through this pandemic by sewing face masks, delivering food, and by donating their time and money. In Windham County, the Yellow Barn Music Festival has been doing its part by bringing music to the places that need it most.

The Yellow Barn Music Festival has this tricked-out U-Haul trailer they call the Music Haul. It’s got big speakers up top, and it’s all wired up with a good sound system.

And Yellow Barn executive director Catherine Stephan said when they don’t have to worry about social distancing, they can squeeze six musicians back there, with their cellos and violins, and put on a concert wherever they park the truck.

“We can take Yellow Barn, and take music anywhere, and transform a field, a sidewalk, a playground, the entrance to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, into a performance venue,” Stephan said.

She spoke to VPR standing next to the truck, which played a Beethoven piano concerto while parked in front of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

“And the idea is that maybe listening becomes more fundamental when you approach it that way," Stephan said. "When people come across it by accident and then they decide to stay and listen, there’s something in that process that’s really magical. And we see people come to life.”

They can’t tote live musicians around these days, so it’s all pre-recorded, but the Music Haul has been busy. They’ve been visiting assisted living homes and food drop-off sites, and recently, they were at the hospital playing music during the afternoon shift change, as doctors and nurses walked past.

Tony Blofson is a doctor at BMH, and he stopped, sat down on a bench and listened for a little while.

Blofson said just like the rest of Vermont’s hospitals, Brattleboro Memorial prepared for the worst and was ready to treat dozens and maybe even hundreds of COVID-19 patients. It’s starting to feel like Vermont might have avoided that scenario, even as major American cities have seen hundreds of deaths a day.

Blofson said he’s beginning to think about what a post-COVID-19 world will look like.

“We don’t know how we’ll look on the other end, but we’ll get through,” Blofson said. “And there’ll be change that will happen from it, and hopefully some good positive change that comes from what we’ve learned. And some people of course don’t get through. But as a society and a civilization we will. Once again, learning that we’re not really so much in control.”

Seth Knopp is artistic director at Yellow Barn, and he’s the guy that programs the playlist. During the hour the Music Haul hung around the hospital, Bach and Beethoven played, and there was some Stevie Wonder and Louis Armstrong, too.

Knopp said as soon as it was clear the coronavirus was here to stay, he decided he needed to get the Music Haul on the road.

“Music is one of the reasons to regain our health, to regain our equilibrium as a culture,” he said. “Not to have health, but to have health so that we can bask in what's so beautiful about life. And I think that it gives us something to shoot for, and to remember, 'This is the goal. This is what we’re waiting for.'”

When the pandemic is over, the Yellow Barn Music Festival will cram the live musicians back in the truck. We’ll need them then, more than ever.