Mid-Shore Arts: The National Music Festival Finds Its Sea Legs

When Maestro Richard Rosenberg and his partner and wife, Caitlin Patton, informed Chestertown in late 2011 that the National Music Festival (NMF), with about one hundred musicians and dozens of planned public performances, would move to their town, one could almost hear the whole of Chestertown say collectively, “who, us, really?”

With a population close to 5,000, and at least forty to fifty miles away from urban centers that would traditionally do a better job in hosting such a large undertaking, Chestertown seemed an unlikely candidate for such a honor. Nonetheless, for a community that prides itself for its love of the arts, and particularly music, there was also a feeling that their small town had just won the lottery. 

Now entering its sixth year of operation on the Mid-Shore, Richard and Caitlin sat down with the Spy last month to talk about the remarkable success the NMF has been in Chestertown and how well suited it has become in bringing together some of the best student talent in the country to learn and perform throughout the region. They also talk about NMF’s year-long educational programming with local schools, and their aspirations for the Festival in the years ahead.

This video is approximately five minutes in length and made in cooperation with the Mid-Shore Community Foundation. For more information about the National Music Festival, please go here.  

Senior Nation: An Adult Son and Aging Mother Find a Solution at Dixon House

Perhaps there is no greater and more difficult decision to make for an adult child of an aging parent than to determine that independent living has come to an end for their mother or father. While “aging in place” has become an increasingly attractive and realistic alternative for many in their senior years, those who enter their 90s, or in some special cases even their 100s, simply are not physically capable of maintaining houses or apartments.

That was certainly the case with Eric Horst and his mother, Natalie Horst. Eric, Natalie’s only living child, had difficulty at first convincing his mother, who was a healthy person overall, that it was time to leave her own home. She had led an active life as a realtor and was a very social person. He comments, “She wasn’t managing the household well anymore, her hygiene habits had changed and she wasn’t cooking meals any longer.”

He adds, “I had heard good things about Dixon House being a well-run facility from community members. It was also an affordable option for us and I was really impressed by the staff here. With its 18 rooms, it felt like a Victorian boutique hotel.”

Eric and Natalie came for a visit and looked at a room adjacent to the second-floor screened porch. He recalls, “The room was unoccupied and stark, so I decided to decorate it for her with blue and white bed linens and valences, in her favorite colors, her artwork from home, and some temporary furniture. I brought her back for the second visit and she stayed the night.”

Eric remembers that the first week of Natalie’s stay at Dixon House, she got her hair done and had a pedicure. With her usual sense of humor, Natalie quips, “I came for a haircut and pedicure and decided to stay!”

Natalie has made friends at Dixon House and Eric feels she is content. Eric’s partner, Mike Thielke, now also serves on the Dixon House Board of Directors. As a special treat on Natalie’s birthday each year, which she shares with one other resident, Eric buys crab cakes for all the residents and staff and hosts a birthday party. He also contributes throughout the year as needs arise, recently donating a flat screen television at Christmas. He comments, “I am a big fan of Dixon House. I have peace of mind that my mother is safe and being cared for here.”

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information on Dixon House, please go here.

In the Footsteps of Martin: Walter Black Jr. Looks Back on Civil Rights on the Eastern Shore

As Martin Luther King Day approaches at the same time the country’s first African-American president is preparing to leaves office, It’s a natural time to reflect on the significant arc of history for civil rights in the United States. And there are very few people in Talbot County that was in a better place to watch that history locally than Walter Black, Jr.

From the age of six, Walter started to realize that there was a racially-divided community when he noticed that white children were being picked up by different school buses than he and his friends. By the time he attended Morgan State in 1960, he had already been active in the NAACP on the Eastern Shore, and from that point forward has dedicated his life to fighting first segregation and later discrimination in Talbot County and the entire state of Maryland as a long-standing president of NAACP’s local chapter and a leadership role in coordinating the civil rights organization in Maryland.

In his Spy interview, Walter, who recently turned 80, remembers what it was like to live in a segregated world and also recalls the tensions that existed in Cambridge during the 1967 demonstrations. Walter also talks about the future of race relations as well as the need to keep Martin Luther King’s words always in mind that, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

This video is approximately eight minutes in length 

Mid-Shore Arts: The Looms and Art of Ulrika Leander

The art world has just a few very special heros who take it upon themselves to work in mediums requiring intense intricacy, precision, and endless patience to complete their work. And nowhere else can one find that special breed stand out more than those who chose the art of tapestry for their artistic expression.

And one can officially include the Mid-Shore’s Ulrika Leander in that select group.

Starting at the age of thirteen in her native Sweden, Ulrika has become one of the great masters of the loom with her intentionally beautiful and large tapestries created in her generous studio a short walk from the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry.

Like clockwork, Ulrika works every day in front of one of her three custom-built looms to produce art that is proudly hung in museums and private homes throughout the world. With a typical project taking well over six months to complete, Leander has found a particular zone to operate in as she plots along a single line of fiber during a day’s work.

In her Spy interview a few weeks ago, she talks about this unique, centuries-old practice, and how she enjoys the special challenges that come with the making one-of-a-kind tapestries.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information on Ulrika Leander work and studio, please go here.

Spy Overview: The YMCA’s “Take the Helm” Program

In less than a week or so, the YMCA of the Chesapeake will formally begin a new program designed to orient and train high school age young men and women in the fine craft of wooden boat building. Intentionally copied from an extraordinarily successful program in the Bronx of New York City named Rocking the Boat, The YMCA’s staff, volunteers, and financial backers have been working for over a year to get ready for this moment, including several visits to Rocking the Boat’s offices along the Hudson River for meetings with its founder and director Adam Green.

With the help of Rocking the Boat’s audio and images as well as Easton videographer CeCe Davis, the Spy has assembled a short overview of the program to give our readers a sense of how powerful this has been for the individuals involved, for the community, and for environmental awareness.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Take the Helm, please go here or contact its program director Adam Hollis at 410-822-0566 or email ahollis@ymcachesapeake.org. 


Home by Sue Ellen Thompson

While it may seem traditional to share with our Spy readers a special holiday message or image as Talbot County ends one year and begins another, it is our instinctive choice to turn to poetry to celebrate this important passage of time.

In this case, we turn to poet Sue Ellen Thompson and her reading of her poem “Home” to set the tone as family and loved ones return to the Shore for reunions and holiday cheer.

We chose “Home” for the same reasons that National Public Radio’s Garrison Keillor chose this particular poem two years ago for the award-winning program devoted to poetry. It is a poem that creates unforgettable images in the mind’s eye for all who listen and think of their own homes during this season of memories.

The Talbot Spy editors and writers send our best wishes to our readers and those coming to our very special home of Talbot County.

This video is approximately one minute in length. “Home” by Sue Ellen Thompson, from They. © Turning Point Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission and can be purchased here.

Sue Ellen Thompson is the author of five books of poetry, including They (2014), The Wedding Boat (1995), and This Body of Silk (1986). Her two other books, The Leaving: New & Selected Poems (2001) and The Golden Hour (2005), were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Known for her elegant control of form, Thompson’s poetry has been praised for its metaphorical heft and sinuous syntax. Poet B.H. Fairchild praised The Golden Hour for its “elegant, wild, beautifully disciplined quatrains and casually rhymed sonnets.” She is also the editor of The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (2005).

Thompson has received numerous awards and honors, including the Samuel French Morse Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize, the Maryland Author Award, and two Artist Fellowships from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. She has taught at Middlebury College, Wesleyan University, Binghamton University (SUNY), and Central Connecticut State University. She currently works at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and tutors adult poets.

Profiles in Spirituality: The Shore’s New Bishop on Christianity and Reconciliation after the Election

It’s safe to say that Santosh Marray, the newly installed Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton. is the most diverse leader they have had since its founding in 1866. But you could also say he is one of most diverse in the entire Church with his extraordinary life story.

Having started his spiritual journey while growing up in Guyana, South America, Bishop Marray’s life in the Episcopal Church has since taken him to virtually every part of the globe. And it is this unique background that Marray brings to the Diocese at a time of unique challenges for his church and this country.

In his first Spy interview, Bishop Marray talks at great length about his experience in some of the farthest corners of the world as well his role with his church in Eastern North Carolina and Alabama. The net result of this extraordinary depth and range of experience can be found in his vision for the diocese, as well as his confidence that his church will be seen as he says as a wreck and ceiling reconciler. In our post-election America

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. For more information about the Episcopal Diocese of Easton please go here.

Spy Report: Avalon’s Holiday Party Not Your Typical Nutcracker

If there is one thing that Jessica Bellis, general manager of the Avalon Theater, wants you to know about this year’s annual holiday play, this is not your mother’s “Nutcracker.” What has become as traditional as hot cocoa, family dinner and presents around the tree during the holidays is The Annual Holiday Play at The Avalon Theatre, but this year, they have moved outside the box, so to speak, to present an entirely reinterpreted version of this seasonal classic.

Starting December 16, the Avalon is proud to present “The Nutcracker: A New Musical” as its holiday fare. This “new musical” is a 2007 release, based on the original story by ETA Hoffmann. In this fantasy, story, featuring interactive sets, music, and dance and over 40 actors, Clara and The Nutcracker along with some very special come-to-life friends struggle against The Rat King and its minions to save Christmas before it is too late.

While “The Nutcracker: A New Musical” is based on the original story by ETA Hoffman, in this fantasy, featuring interactive sets and music and dance for over 40 cast members, Clara and The Nutcracker along with some very special come-to-life friends struggle against The Rat King and its minions to save Christmas before it is too late.

The Spy visited the cast rehearsal last night and returned with the following report.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. “The Nutcracker: A New Musical” is sponsored in part by the donations by Doc’s Downtown Grille, Ben Franklin Crafts Easton, The Hill Group at Morgan Stanley, Carpenter Street Saloon, The Shops at Sea Captain’s Cottage, St. Michaels Marina LLC Rauch INC, Engineering Design & Development Services, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Hill’s Café & Juice Bar, Friends of Easton Dog Park, Shearer the Jeweler, and Berrier LTD, Menswear.

For more information about performance schedule, please go here.

Senior Nation Profile: Janet Pfeffer on Using It or Losing It

Whether it’s her classes at the YMCA in St. Michaels, Easton, or at Londonderry on the Tred Avon, Janet Pfeffer’s name has almost achieved cult status in her efforts to encourage older people to exercise on the Mid-Shore for many years.

Retiring in 2007 from the Talbot County Health Department, she came to the YMCA as a volunteer to help teach strength training, but as class size increased as did demand, Janet now runs a program that can serve up to 300 to 400 individuals year with her message of staying fit at any age.

The secret, she says, is as much to do with strength building and cardiovascular activity as it does with staying mentally fit. She, therefore, combines her classes with current event conversations, a word of the day, and other mental stimulation that not only motivates her students but makes their life more rewarding in a universal way.

The Spy caught up with Janet at the St. Michaels YMCA last week to discuss per observations about senior fitness and the phenomenal upside of remaining healthy as one ages.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Janet’s classes, please go to the YMCA here.

Finding Treasures to Preserve History in Talbot County at Tharpe Antiques

The Talbot County Historical Society (TCHS) is a fairly well-known institution. Its gardens have provided a colorful backdrop for weddings and family photos, its walls house memorabilia of Eastern Shore living, it even curates one of the oldest frame buildings in Easton—dating back to roughly 1790.

The Historical Society has a great weight on its shoulders: to preserve the nuance that is Eastern Shore living while also performing community outreach. These sorts of endeavors do not come cheaply and 25 years ago, in order to generate more revenue, TCHS opened Tharpe Antiques.

“We are a consignment shop,” says DeeDee Wood, Manager at Tharpe Antiques. “Our inventory is about half decorative arts and half antiques.”

What’s unique about the store is that it is operated as a non-profit. “What that means is that when people consign an item, and it sells, half goes to the Historical Society and they keep the other half,” Wood explains. “The half that goes to the Historical Society can be deducted on their taxes.” If someone wants to donate an item instead of consigning it, they can take the full tax deduction.

Indeed the store is brimming with eclectic and interesting pieces. “Our biggest seller is crystal,” Wood goes on to say. “We have Waterford at 50% of retail. We also have Victorian furniture, unusual ceramics, and Satfforshire figures.”

They have expanded in the two years that Wood has managed the store. They now have a section of books for sale as well as an entire room dedicated to doll houses.

One thing Wood is particularly proud of are the lectures Tharpe hosts once a month, March through November. “I noticed people seemed to have a lot of questions about antiques,” Wood says. “So I had the idea to have lectures on a variety of subjects, involving antiques.”

Some lectures this year worth noting are: Mary: Queen of Scots: Her Lacework and Embroidery where an actress performed live as the famous queen, discussing her talents and a bit of her intriguing history; Fiestaware: One Woman’s Tale of Her Parent’s Employment in the 1940s Fiestaware Factory, where a very knowledgeable local antiques store owner discussed her memories of her parent’s employment at the factory; and the extremely popular Halloween lecture, Haunted Antiques. This lecture included the stories behind the world’s most haunted antiques like the Hope Diamond and Myrtle’s Plantation Mirror.

These lectures have served to provide significant outreach to the community offering a place for people to learn about antiques and the history. Another educational outreach program offered by the TCHS—and partially funded by proceeds generated by Tharpe Antiques—benefited students at Easton High School who are in AP Human Geography.

“Students were taught how to distinguish between Neo-classical, Neo-Gothic and Modern Architecture and how to connect architecture with art, poetry and history,” Wood explains. “They were exposed to college-level lectures and visited College Park where they saw college classes, toured a college campus, and were briefed by College Admissions personnel.” All those involved agreed this program was a resounding success.

It is a hefty thing, preserving one’s culture. And as our world spins at a faster and faster pace, it’s nice to know that in one corner of our small town, there are people working to record and maintain what’s special about living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Tharpe Antiques is open Tuesday through Saturday 10am-4pm—closed Sunday and Monday.