The Hudson Valley is about to get a brand new music festival, the Boscobel Chamber Music Festival, and it has the distinction of presenting the intimate art form of chamber music not indoors but in an expansive and beautiful outdoor setting and a new state of the art performance pavilion with removable walls. From September 3 to 11, the Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison, NY and the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach (CMSPB) will bring you exciting and world class chamber music lighting up the September calendar in the Hudson Valley.
The partnership of these two organizations speaks to their common ground. Both Boscobel and CMSPB dedicate huge amounts of their programming, time and energy to community outreach and education in their communities. This alignment of values, artistry and musicianship is a perfect combination to launch a chamber music festival in the expanding Hudson Valley and its audience of appreciative listeners. This year’s festival has an international roster of artists, led by Artistic Director Arnaud Sussmann and is opening with the Emerson String Quartet as “America’s greatest quartet” begins its final season.
Celebrating its 10th season in 2022/2023, CMSPB has presented over 100 artists including the Emerson, Ehnes Quartet, and Harlem String Quartet, Inon Barnatan, Milos Karadaglic, and members of the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 2019 CMSPB introduced frequent guest artist and acclaimed violinist Arnaud Sussmann as its first Artistic Director, an appointment that would prove timely as Sussmann was key to transitioning the Society to digital programming, keeping audiences engaged when in-person performances were not possible, and opening access to viewers around the globe.
Arnaud Sussmann said, “CMSPB has become an important organization for the art form of chamber music in southern Florida. Even though we are only ten years old, we have some of the best musicians in America, if not the world, and our goal is to enrich communities. Chamber music is an art form that provides inspiration, connects, and creates community with intimate experiences. Also, education and community outreach lie at the heart of our mission. Education is something that all professional musicians pride themselves on and they know that they are responsible for teaching the next generation. At CMSPB, all the visiting artists are asked to go to the schools to play and teach or listen to students play and give feedback. I don’t know any young kids who are not excited about classical music. Whenever we go into schools, they always raise their hands – in Florida, in Menlo. This is the change that we can try for.”
Mr. Sussmann is a busy man as he is playing, performing, mentoring and leading around the world. He is also ably supported by Executive Director Ahmad Mayes, who said, “We are a fairly young organization in a growth phase. We were founded by Vicki Kellogg, a violinist and arts leader, who saw a need for more high quality chamber music opportunities in Palm Beach. Our mission is to spread this in Florida or anywhere else. Being in the Hudson Valley amplifies our impact. We saw the potential for this festival last year after a small pilot project revealed people’s interest in chamber music.” The CMSPB is lucky to have such a vocal advocate for music education, community engagement and diversity, equity and inclusion. Ahmad has become a regular contributor, convener, and organizer around these topics at national industry gatherings such as the League of American Orchestras, SphinxConnect, and ICSOM annual conferences.
“It makes a lot of sense for the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach to come to Boscobel,” said Anthony Pellegrino, the marketing and communications director of this iconic Hudson Valley property overlooking the Hudson River toward the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Not only did the pilot weekend sell out last September but people in the area have been coming to Boscobel for classical music since the 1980s. Just in the past five years, Boscobel has had a partnership with the Greater Newburg Symphony Orchestra and once again their performances sold out this July. “This September CMSPB will be at Boscobel for two weeks and it will be extra special time as we plan to bring in school groups, engage in open and free rehearsals and Q&A for listeners of all ages,” said Pellegrino.
Boscobel opened as a nonprofit museum 61 years ago but it has been a long road to becoming the estate it is today. This beautiful historic house was built in the early 1800s and demolished over 100 years later. Thankfully preservationists, led by Lila Wallace of Reader’s Digest in Pleasantville, NY only 30 minutes away, saved many of the architectural details. Now this Neoclassical mansion is back on its feet 15 miles north of its original location but in better shape than ever before. It has one of the finest collections of decorative arts from the Federal period and 68 acres of beautiful gardens, lawns and woodlands.
One of the unique aspects of this historic house museum is its incredible outreach and position in its nearby communities. With no less than 50 partnerships in 2022 with local organizations and non-profits, Boscobel has become a cornerstone of sustainability and artistic prowess in the Hudson Valley. Pellegrino said, “We actually have a museum educator on staff and she goes to the local schools where she organizes hands-on educational programs about local history, American history, art, and nature.”
One of the community programs this year was EarthFest, a gathering of local farmers and environmental groups, where you could learn how you can help protect our planet. It was a collaboration with the Cold Spring Farmer’s Market, Philipstown Garden Club, Climate Smart Philipstown, Ecological Citizen’s Project, Philipstown Fights Dirty, and the Repair Café where you can bring a broken fan or lamp guitar amps and have it repaired for free. In fact, every weekend the Cold Spring Farmer’s Market takes place on the Boscobel grounds with no less than 1,000 visitors and local farmers and growers offering arts and crafts, cheese and produce. Another regular partnership includes the Constitution Marsh Audubon Chapter, the Putnam History Museum, the Putnam Highlands Audubon Society, the Philipstown Garden Club, and the Cold Spring Farmer’s Market to present the 2000 steps program which is a combination of history and culture and a one mile walk through the woods and the museum and Constitution Marsh.
Throughout the summer, Boscobel hosts films nights, artist classes and plein air painting sessions, arts and crafts for children, garden walks and house tours. You can walk or picnic on the Great Lawn, with Boscobel’s unparalleled view of the Hudson River, Constitution Marsh, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The Frances Stevens Reese Woodland Trail of Discovery offers hikers a tranquil mile through the forest, with river views. The Apple Orchard, Formal Garden, and Herb Garden feature fruit trees and plants prized by New Yorkers then and now. And the Hudson River School Artists Garden, with sculptures by Greg Wyatt, honors 19th-century painters who celebrated this region.
The mission of Boscobel House and Gardens is to engage diverse audiences in the Hudson Valley’s ongoing, dynamic exchange between design, history, and nature. With this kind of mission statement that embraces the future and the aesthetic, a chamber music festival fits right into its repertoire. Pellegrino said, “the performances for him will be like a certain time travel as the historic house of Boscobel and one of Beethoven’s pieces being performed at the Festival were both completed in 1808. He summed it up, “We hope that the Boscobel Chamber Music Festival becomes synonymous with the month of September in the Hudson Valley and that Boscobel becomes everyone’s home on the Hudson for intimate, one-of-a-kind, history-meets-chamber music experiences.”
Top photo of Boscobel House & front lawn with Arnaud Sussmann and two performers from the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach @dji_nimbus