the best family CD out there
Songs from the heart
By Bonnie Langston , Freeman staff
High Meadows School students Lucia Soman, left, and Storey Littleton record a song for “High Meadows Songs.”
A smattering of enthusiastic students at High Meadow School in Stone Ridge have become recording artists thanks to an initiative that features noted area performers, several of whom will entertain tonight at the school.
The event, scheduled for 6 p.m. in the school's performing arts center, is a release party for the CD "High Meadow Songs," which includes the artistry of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Bill and Livia Vanaver, Artie Traum and the band Dog on Fleas along with many others.
But students, including Isabelle Lacedonia, a seventh-grader at High Meadow, and a few of her pals also are among participants in the project. She, Corin Mosack, Rebekah Underhill-Hval and Zoe Saridakis provided vocals for "True True Friend," written for them by High Meadow instructor Debbie Lan.
"I really liked the song," Isabelle said. "It has a catchy tune. It sounds like something I'd listen to, so I enjoyed helping make the CD."
She has even pondered the thought of becoming a professional singer.
"You never know," she said.
Tonight's party, with an admission price of $5, will benefit High Meadow School on Route 209. Sale of the CD will go toward a scholarship fund for participants in High Meadow Arts, a broad program offered during and after school as well as summer.
Amy Poux, founder and director of High Meadow Arts, said she is delighted with the recording as well as the opportunity its sales afford students who cannot pay for the program even at a price she said is reasonable.
The CD compilation was the idea of Elizabeth Mitchell and Jodi Palinkas, who both have children in first-grade at High Meadow.
"They both believe in arts as a community experience," Poux said, not an "elitist" endeavor.
Poux said High Meadow Arts is a new non-profit that has been struggling to increase funding. So far, she said, two grants have come from the state's arts council, and additional funding is expected from the New York Times Foundation. In addition, a proposal is in the works for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Meanwhile, money earned from the CD, she said, will bolster the program's coffers thereby helping to raise scholarship numbers beyond the current two.
Community performing artists, as well as students and teachers, have given generously to the project, Poux said.
"It's amazing how much work has gone into this," she said, "and it's mostly donated time - certainly on the part of Elizabeth and Jodi. But most of the musicians have given their time freely as well. It's incredible."
Among them are Bill and Livia Vanaver, founders and co-artistic directors of the New Paltz-based Vanaver Caravan, an internationally known music and dance ensemble.
Livia Vanaver said she was the first dance teacher at High Meadow. Since then, many of the school's students have participated in the educational programs she and her husband run.
"We always felt connected," she said.
That connection reaches to a former High Meadow student, Raphael Schwartz, 7, with whom the couple recorded "We Are One" for the fundraiser CD. The boy and his mother, Jill, wrote encouraging posts to Bill Vanaver on the Web site Caring Bridge following the artist's heart attack more than a year ago. Raphael earlier performed the song - which the Vanavers use as a closer at their school residencies - in a recital at High Meadow.
Bill Vanaver said he is "definitely" happy with the initial cut to which friend and renowned guitarist Artie Traum of Woodstock, later added a track.
Besides the musicality of "We Are One," Livia Vanaver said she loves the melody's message.
"Oh, it's wonderful. It's absolutely wonderful," she said. "It's very simple. It's very delightful. I think it's an important song for children to hear. It has such a great message."
Mark Morganstern, of the Rosendale Café, is getting out a message that he likes, too - the importance of a clean river and pride of living near it - in the song he penned, "Hudson River Girl."
Morganstern, a supporter of the Clearwater, came up with the lyrics and chords some time ago.
"It was just floating around in my head while I was driving in the car," he said.
Abby Hollander and her father, Brian Hollander of Woodstock, performed the song along with students from High Meadow and Morganstern's daughter, Lily, an alumnus of the institution and currently a senior at Rondout High School.
Palinkas said the intent for "High Meadow Songs" was to focus on traditional themes interpreted by the artists. In addition to "We are One" and "Hudson River Girl," other tunes and their artists include "Buffalo Gals" by Dog on Fleas; "I Had an Old Coat" by Ungar and Mason, "Jama Jama" by Fode Sissoko and Toby Stover; "'Frigerator Box" by Chase Pierson; and "Shady Grove" by Poux.
Although Poux can be heard on Dean Jones' recent album, "Napper's Delight," her solo debut is on "High Meadows Songs" with "Shady Grove."
"The song is a great song," she said. "It's been recorded by everyone sometime or another - even The Greatful Dead."
People who can't make it to the release party tonight, where CDs will be available for $12 each, can purchase them online at cdbaby.com or local music stores, Palinkas said. The albums also will be available at High Meadow School and through a link on the Web site www.highmeadowarts.org.
Corin Mosack, one of the seven-graders who recorded "True True Friend," said she plans to attend the party. She heard the song, including her short solo, on an iPod, and she declared both to be "pretty good." She looks forward to hearing and meeting the other performers, and she also is excited to hear the completed recordings.
She said her mother, Hope Wootan, will buy several albums for Christmas gifts.
"I think that's going to be cool for my family to hear me singing," Corin said.
As for Palinkas, she said the CD is an accomplishment that resonates with the intent of High Meadow Arts.
"It feels like community, she said.
"There were so many people we wanted on this CD, but you couldn't put 50 songs on one album. We would love to do volume II next year."
©Daily Freeman 2007
High In a Meadow
November 29th, 2007
High in a meadow
CD release party for compilation will benefit Stone Ridge arts organization
Want a heartwarming kick-off to the spirit of this burnished season as it brightens the local landscape with almost musical overtones? Or maybe just a gift that will let others know just how much this place we inhabit means to us this holiday?
At 6 p.m. Sunday, December 2, the High Meadow School down in Stone Ridge will be hosting a concert to coincide with the release of its new benefit CD release, High Meadow Songs, a collection of songs from a variety of folksy artists in the region who have come together to aid High Meadow Arts, Inc. a local non-profit organization dedicated “to providing excellent arts education to local children and families.”
The CD itself, produced with the ample help of Woodstock-based indie rock and children’s music favorite Elizabeth Mitchell, is a gem featuring locally-reoriented kids’ classics and a host of new pieces focused on the region’s various treasures. At least half of the artists involved are either teachers at the school or have kids there…or just love the good-time playing represented by this community.
Debbie Lan, known for her work with Robbie Dupree, kicks things off with her own plaintively appreciative mom song, “I’m On Your Side.” Dog On Fleas does a Krumville-oriented “Buffalo Gals” followed by Mark Morgenstern’s new composition, “Hudson River Girl,” sung by Abby Hollander and some old guitarist lending propulsion to a chorus of the song’s namesakes.
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason do a smash-up version of “I Had An Old Coat;” ER doctor Kirsten Jacobson’s “Blue Mountain Moon” captures a sense of winter sweetness in West Saugerties; HMA instructors Fode Sissoko and Toby Stover take the whole mix on a worldly excursion with the rhythmic singalong, “Yankadi,” while the school’s founder and director, Amy Poux, does a heartrending version of the old chestnut, “Shady Grove.”
Dog On Fleas returns with Mitchell and friends on a rousing rural-power version of “Jenny Jenkins,” followed by a kids-oriented improv, “All Around The Kitchen,” by Brooklyn-based indie giants Medeski, Martin & Wood. Mitchell continues with the original, “When Spring Comes,” followed by HMA students The High Meadow Larks doing “True True Friend.”
It just keeps on rolling, making you wish you had this in hand when preparing this year’s compilation mixes…Rebecca Coupe Franks and Her Groovemobile (a school band?) doing the N’Awlins’ instrumental, “Ella Skye;” Dog On Fleas back with the sprightly “Sailing In The Boat;” jammy “Jama Jama” by Sissoko and Stover, again; and the funny tongue-in-cheek white trash blues joke, “‘Fridgerator Box” by Woodstock-based Mechanical Bull’s Chase Pierson.
“Stella,” by The Pelican Movement, is a haunting instrumental in the Albatross vein; whereas Mimi Paturel’s “All The Pretty Little Horses,” a dark lullaby oft-covered, may be the album’s highlight in spite of this being the dusky-voiced Woodstock native’s recording debut.
Bill & Livia Vanaver, with Artie Traum on guitar, do “We Are One” while Dog On Fleas and Mitchell return for another fire-lit singalong: “Handsome Molly.” Barbara Dempsey & Dewitt Nelson do a heartfelt “Wayfarin’ Stranger,” followed by legendary recording engineer Julie Last, who worked on many of this CD’s tracks, lending an exquisite elegance to “Nightingale Lullaby.” Closing all out, aptly, is a return of the student High Meadow Larks doing a new song, “It’s In Everyone Of Us,” guaranteed to bring tears to everyone’s eyes who witness it in performance.
Given the scarcity of local compendium albums of this sort for years, if not decades, it might be too easy to put this in a category with the Woodstock Moods and Moments album of the late 1970s and similar efforts that brought together the town’s various non-superstar talents back in its recording heyday. But it is that good, play after play.
The 6 p.m. release party and concert takes place this Sunday, December 2, at the High Meadow Performing Arts Center, Route 209 in Stone Ridge, NY, featuring as many of the disk’s performers as can make it… as well as ample copies of the CD itself. ++
For further information, visit www.highmeadowschool.org or call 687-4855 for further information.