Gil Gutiérrez at Opus 40

Gil Gutiérrez is a master guitarist who has performed at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and in intimate venues like the Jazz Standard in New York City.

In recent years, he has performed with symphony orchestras and jazz combos; over the last decade, he has been a member of the San Miguel 5, Doc Severinsen’s current group, which has several performances scheduled this year to celebrate Doc’s 90th birthday.

Gutiérrez maintains a busy performance schedule in America and at home in Mexico, but perhaps the most fulfilling way to experience his ongoing musical exploration is in an intimate setting such as a wood-lined parlor while he is at work in a small group, such as in a trio with violinist Robert Stern and bassist David Rodriguez. Hmmmm. On Saturday, May 13, Gil Gutiérrez, Stern, and Rodriguez will bring their music to the Barbara Fite Room at Opus 40 in Saugerties, New York.

Tickets are available for $30 in advance, $40 at the door. Tickets are available online through PayPal, or by calling (845) 246-3400.
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Only one person has asked, which means that many have been wondering silently. It’s a clamor of silence. (In the world of a co-dependent, almost complete silence is the same thing as many specific requests.) The question(s): The photo at the top, where is that? What is it photo of?

Indeed, there is one photo on this web site that is not of me or my duck friend, and it has sat at the top of the front page since The Gad About Town made its debut. It is at the top. It is the view of the Hudson River looking south from Frederic Edwin Church‘s home studio, Olana, near Hudson, New York. It is a photo taken in 2013.
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You Can Help Opus 40; Here’s How

In November I wrote a column about a fundraising campaign to help restore one of my favorite places, Opus 40, in Saugerties, NY. There is a new fundraising campaign this month—and you can help.

Every year, Ulster Savings Bank, an upstate New York institution (it was my bank for years), holds an online vote to pick a nonprofit organization for a cash award. The top award is $3000, which is not much, but as I have explained in previous articles, every bit helps in the rebuilding of the damaged parts of the sculpture park. You do not need to be a Hudson Valley local to vote.

If you click on this link right here: (Mid-Hudson Heroes), you will find Opus 40 at the top. If you have a Facebook account, you can vote. Further, you can vote every 24 hours between now and March 6. Opus 40 is only one of approximately 150 nonprofit organizations being recognized by the bank, so every vote counts.
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Pareidolia, Good to Know Ya

We love our pareidolia moments. The human brain is continuously at work interpreting the world around us, judging incoming information and stimuli on a range of choices and a spectrum of notions, ranging from food or not-food? to friend or foe? to Do I know you? Look at those clouds. Do you see what I see?

Artists have taken advantage of this for centuries. Were I to draw a circle, put two dots toward the top side, a short vertical line under these, and a horizontal half-circle under that, most people would say that I had sketched a smiley human face, even though hardly any human being that any of us knows looks like that. Some neuroscientists say that our brains are hard-wired to look for faces and to quickly identify friend or foe, even with only a part of a face visible. Those ancient humans who survived because of this skill survived to pass that skill on, genetically. Those with superior facial recognition skills today have their ancient ancestors to thank.
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Opus 40: An Update

In March I wrote a column about a fundraising campaign to help restore one of my favorite places, Opus 40, in Saugerties, NY. There has been plenty of good news since March.

Built in an abandoned bluestone quarry in upstate New York by one man, Harvey Fite, Opus 40 is a contemporary American version of Stonehenge or the collection of Easter Island moai.
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Opus 40

There are a handful of places and objects on the planet that photography under serves. Opus 40, in Saugerties, New York, is one of them. Built in an abandoned bluestone quarry in upstate New York by one man, Harvey Fite, Opus 40 is a contemporary American version of Stonehenge or the collection of Easter Island moai. It is one of my favorite places.

Photo by Tom Bookhout

An aerial view. Photo by Tom Bookhout

Fite was a sculptor and fine arts professor at nearby Bard College when he purchased the bluestone quarry. If you have ever walked on a sidewalk in Manhattan, you have walked on bluestone from this or a nearby location. Using the rubble that had not become NYC sidewalks, Fite filled one six-and-one-half-acre section with hand-laid circles of bluestone paths and ramps, leading nowhere and everywhere, from fifteen feet below the ground level up to the magnificent centerpiece, the obelisk, a nine-ton, three-story-tall single stone, which from different perspectives seems to point at the nearby Catskill Mountains, join with the range, or appear to be the reason the Catskills are there. And Fite did it all alone, using ancient techniques. At first intended to be a showcase for his sculpture, over the next 37 years the site itself became Fite’s life work. He died in 1976.

Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy the following year delivered a one-two punch to the sculpture park; Irene saturated the ground beneath the ramps and walls and Sandy’s damage included a collapse of a very tall support wall. Fite’s stepson and his family have engaged the efforts of master stonewallers and stonemasons, who are using those stones that fell and can still be fitted together and finding others from local quarries to repair the damage and rebuild the broken sections. Where possible, they will employ Fite’s own tools and techniques to complete the repairs.

An estimated $30,000 is needed to fund the first stage of the work, and here, non-ancient techniques are being employed: an Indiegogo campaign is currently underway to raise the funds. Almost two months remain in the campaign, and over $6000 of the $30,000 has been raised as of today. The website has details of the perks sponsors will receive in return for their financial help.

If I had not been a student at Marist College, where Harvey Fite’s stepson was teaching, I quite possibly would still not know of Opus 40’s existence, even though I live in the same county. My teacher-friend grew up at Opus 40 and still resides there. In the early ’90s, I attended a friend’s wedding at Opus and in the summer of 1998, I volunteered there, helping direct parking for that year’s music acts. The quarry is a natural amphitheater and the obelisk is an eye-grabbing stage set; the concerts that summer included a blues festival, Orleans, and Pat Metheny.

Here is a brief video of Orleans performing at Opus 40 from around that time period:

The video below, made for the fundraising campaign, documents some of the landmark’s artistic significance and its cultural importance—with clips of Sonny Rollins performing there and Steve Earle, Chevy Chase, and Bela Fleck speaking about Opus 40—and details the amazing work the stonemasons have already contributed to the restoration project.

And this video features my friend explaining in greater detail the history of the quarry, his step-father, and how Opus 40 came to be.