We Longbeards continue to have nothing but good things to say about our friends at Music Mountain, America's oldest continuously-operated chamber music festival, and the only such festival devoted specifically to education and performance of the string quartet literature, as it launches its 91st Season with recitals primarily connected to Beethoven's 250th Birthday!

Based in Falls Village, Connecticut, Music Mountain was created in 1930, principally to serve as the permanent home of the Gordon String Quartet, one of the early 20th Century's leading quartet groups. Founded in 1921, the quartet consisted of Jacques Gordon and David Sackson, violins; William Lincer, viola; and Naoum Benditzky, cello. Jacques Gordon's primary concept of Music Mountain was that of a center dedicated largely to the serious study of chamber music in general, and the string quartet in particular. Moreover, in founding Music Mountain, Jacques Gordon took the concept of the phrase 'permanent home' to its literal extreme, in that here, the four quartet members could literally live in actual homes, one for each of the four musicians.

Which explains how Sears, Roebuck and Company came to build Music Mountain. In those days, the construction of houses was a mainstay of Sears' traditional catalogue; indeed, Music Mountain is the only major cultural institution that Sears ever built. Its centerpiece: the magnificent Gordon Hall, developed and constructed as both the literal and physical analog of the violin!

Step through Gordon Hall's French-hewn doors, designed to mimic the F-holes of the violin! What will you find? When you look up at the beaming of the ceiling, you'll notice how it seems to emulate both the sound post and the bass bar of the violin. The knotty pine interior is surrounded by air spaces in the walls, a crawlspace underneath, and an overhead attic. These permit the wood to vibrate freely. This unusually unique architectural structure provides Gordon Hall with its reputation as one of America's finest chamber music halls. It seats no fewer than 335 individuals --- a seating range wherein, perhaps, Haydn, Beethoven or Mozart might find to appropriately comfortable, in that it was this type of approximate space that much of the classic chamber music repertoire was performed in.

Throughout its nine-decade history, Music Mountain, Inc. has been operated strictly with unpaid volunteer management and workers, through the overall supervision of its Board of Managers, led by Jacques Gordon's son, Nicholas. As President of the Board, Nick Gordon consistently (some would say, defiantly!) maintained Music Mountain's constant commitment to volunteerism, relying solely upon operation by men and women doing jobs they would otherwise be professionally paid for. This means that those who volunteer at Music Mountain perform lots of duties, from ticket taking to groundskeeping; from audio maintenance to fence-painting; from running a teaching program to tuning Gordon Hall's venerable Steinway piano!

It is believed that Music Mountain is the only major cultural institution of its specific scope and influence to be operated full-time on a strictly volunteer basis. Music Mountain's financial support is made possible through ticket sales, donations, governmental and foundational grants, and related fundraising activities. Only the on-stage performers, along with certain outside specialized services, get any payments from Music Mountain, Inc.

By tradition, the Music Mountain Chamber Music Series consists of 16 recitals, involving the finest string quartet ensembles from across the 50 United States and from all over the world, accompanied by assisting artists. Also popular is Music Mountain's Saturday evening series, where the finest in 1940's big-band orchestras are given pride of place, along with jazz, country and bluegrass music. A Friday-evening series has successfully given Music Mountain a further impetus in expanding its horizons.

The Chamber Series concerts are usually held on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Underwritten by Edward R. Hamilton, Bookseller, also based in Falls Village, the 16 recitals have been a radio mainstay since 1937. Today, Music Mountain is heard on some 125 stations across the U.S. and Canada, and, via the facilities of the European Broadcasting Union, on radio networks in over 30 other countries --- all under the auspices of Keystone Broadcasting System, Inc. of Sharon, Connecticut, of which Nicholas Gordon had served as Chairman and CEO until his death on October 5th, 2017. Unfortunately, The New York Times Company subsequently sold its terrestrial radio station, WQXR-FM, along with its other media divisions, to the WNYC Foundation, thus forcing the Music Mountain radio broadcasts off the air in New York City proper, and in so doing, ending a legacy of some 30 years' worth of faithful listenership; happily, Keystone Broadcasting's new flagship station in Sharon, CT, Robin Hood Radio --- WHDD, AM 1020 and FM 91.9, the "Smallest NPR Station in the Nation" --- has not only picked up the slack, if you will, it is now fully committed to airing Music Mountain concerts literally each and every week!

As noted, however, Nick Gordon died October 5th, 2017, leaving behind a chamber music legacy unparallelled in both scope and relentlessness. Now, with clarinetist Oscar Espina-Ruiz in command as Artistic Director, Music Mountain enjoyed a big 90th Birthday cake's worth of quartets at Gordon Hall! El Cuarteto Latinoamericano, and the American, Ariel, Arianna, Escher, Harlem, Penderecki, St. Petersburg, Dover, Daedalus, Cassatt, Emerson and Julliard Quartets all performed, as did these guests: pianists Peter Serkin, Benjamin Hochman, Soyeon Kate Lee, Sally Pinkas, Stewart Goodyear, Francine Kay, Victoria Schwartzman, Tao Lin, Pei Shan, Todd Crow and Tanya Bannister; violinist Alexi Kenney; violist Richard Young; cellist Paul Katz and clarinetist Kristyna Petiskova!

For several years, a particular Music Mountain tradition featured the Shanghai Quartet, along with the late pianist Ruth Laredo, for what was then called the annual Rose Crohn Memorial Concert.

As ever, we, The Quartet of the Longbeards, continue to consider Music Mountain as one of the most wonderfully peaceful places on Earth to make our kind of music. The area of Gordon Hall is so peaceful, in fact, that through the years, many romantic couples have held their weddings there! (We should mention, by the way, that we too have played our share of weddings, social functions and the like; and brides and grooms of every description have thanked us for our exceptional high quality style and talent. Of course, there was the time when we Longbeards found ourselves having to serenade a few romantically-inclined aliens from outer space --- but that's another story.)

For more information on Music Mountain and its various activities, please write to Music Mountain, Inc., P.O. Box 738, Lakeville, CT 06039; phone 1-860/824-7126; or e-mail info@musicmountain.org. You can also visit www.musicmountain.org or tune into the Official Music Mountain YouTube Channel.

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