Mon July 2, 2012
Chautauqua Institution celebrates the Fourth with PBS' Jim Lehrer and a holiday concert
Week two of the Chautauqua Institution focuses on what voters need to know about this year's presidential election. And as WBFO and AM 970's Mark Scott reports, the Chautauqua Symphony celebrates Independence Day with its traditional pops concert.
Back in the 1920s, the New York Symphony would spend its summers at Chautauqua. But when that ended in 1928, it was decided the Institution would create its own symphony orchestra. And musicians have been performing ever since.
The orchestra will be featured in 21 concerts this summer -- four of them, including last Saturday night's concert, air on Classical 94.5, WNED. The symphony is between music directors right now, so Chautauqua has invited 15 guest conductors for this summer's season. Marty Merkley,vice president of programming, says one of the more popular concerts takes place this holiday week.
"Around the fourth of July, we do a pops concert. Stuart Chafetz, our principal timpanist, is always invited to do that concert," Merkley said. "This year...(Michelle Ragusa) will be here to do some vocal selections.
Ragusa is from Buffalo and enjoys international acclaim as a vocalist.
The "1812 Overture" is a traditional part of the program. But don't expect any live cannons during the performance. Merkley says audience members are given paper lunch bags. They blow them up. And at the appropriate moments, the audience pops the bags.
"When you've got 5,000 people popping brown paper bags...at the same time, it sounds like cannons," Merkley said. "It's a hoot!"
Also on this week's musical schedule at Chautauqua is a performance by legendary jazz artist Diana Krall, Friday night at 8:15 at the Amphitheatre.
This week's theme for the morning lectures at Chautauqua is "The Lehrer Report: What Informed Voters Need to Know." Chautauqua's Director of Education Sherra Babcock says public broadcasting's Jim Lehrer will host a week of political discussion.
"This whole week is in style of the News Hour," Babcock said. "(Lehrer) will be asking the questions he asked so well on the News Hour. He'll be representing the audience by asking questions about what informed voters need to know."
The week starts with Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. On Tuesday, Republican strategist Whit Ayers will be joined by his Democratic counterpart Donna Brazile about how their respective presidential candidates will approach the issues. Then, on Wednesday, the 4th, Babcock says Lehrer will take the stage by himself to talk about his long history as a presidential debate moderator.
"This year's Republican debates showed we missed Jim Lehrer and his reasoned, civil questioning," Babcock said.
On Thursday, President of the National Academy of Sciences Ralph Cicerone will explore the role of such science issues as climate change in the presidential campaign. The week ends on Friday with political analysts Michael Gerson and Mark Shields taking on their weekly roles from the News Hour, appearing on stage with Lehrer to analyze the issues. No doubt, last week's Supreme Court ruling upholding President Obama's Affordable Care Act will be topic one.