Sigourney Weaver participated in the Ozawa Hall performance “Measure for Measure: Shakespeare in Music” reading texts of the Bard and performing in the world premiere of a work by Kenji Bunch.
Jorge Martin’s Hollywood Variations, written as an homage to composer Leonard Rosenman—based on his original love theme from the James Dean film East of Eden—was premiered on both coasts. Also in the 2004 season, Russian composer Lera Auerbach’s Last Letter received its world premiere in the opening season of the newly restored vaudeville-era Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA. Celebrating the rich cultural history of the Berkshires, CEWM has developed stimulating chamber music programs highlighting the Gilded Age, Edith Wharton and Edna St. Vincent Millay.
CEWM presented the world premiere of American composer Paul Schoenfield’s Refractions trio for clarinet, cello and piano, included in an all-Schoenfield CD recorded for Naxos. Other new commissions have looked to Cuban influences (Jorge Martin’s jazz–inflected piece for accordion, percussion and cello), Klezmer roots (Stephen Dankner’s Klezmer Quintet) and Song of Songs (Lior Navok’s Spring Calls).
CEWM helped rectify the historical neglect of Mendelssohn’s student and colleague Eduard Franck with performances at Merkin Hall in New York City, Detroit and Cincinnati as well as the Berkshires, performing some of his superb works for the first time in 150 years.
Close Encounters With Music returned to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and brought its original programming to the Frick Collection in New York City. A CD of Jorge Martin’s cello works in various combinations—solo, with piano, accordion and percussion—was released in July 2011 by Albany Records. Naxos released a recording of Eduard Franck chamber music in 2012 with artistic director Yehuda Hanani, pianist James Tocco, and violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi. The newest recording project is a CD of original guitar and cello arrangements with Eliot Fisk and Yehuda Hanani, released by Albany Records.
CEWM commissioned new works by Robert Beaser and Paul Schoenfield (Shaatnez for Ady), and again in 2015 (Zemer).
CEWM marked the centenary of the granting of the vote to women in NY State with a “Celebration Quilt,” featuring new commissions from Thea Musgrave and Judith Zaimont. In 2017 CEWM marked the centenary of the granting of the vote to women in NY State with a “Celebration Quilt,” featuring new commissions from Thea Musgrave and Judith Zaimont. Close Encounters With Music is particularly proud of its innovative educational programs—Conversations With, a series of talks with notable writers, artists, and thinkers and the Berkshire High Peaks Music Festival, a teaching and performance summer festival now in its 12th year, as well as its community outreach efforts, audience enrichment activities, and artist development initiatives.
Faced with the challenge of the worldwide pandemic, Close Encounters was among the first music organizations to pivot to the internet with free virtual performances throughout the season, an online High Peaks Festival and outdoor concerts at Berkshire cultural sites.