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Peepers explores new work and old

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Eugenia Zukerman

ANCRAM—Eugenia Zukerman, an internationally known flutist, an impresario and artistic director of Classics on Hudson, is also an author of two novels, a nonfiction book and, this fall, “Like Falling through a Cloud,” a lyrical memoir due out in November from East End Press.

What spurred Ms. Zukerman to write this last book was her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease two-and-a-half years ago. “I didn’t plan to write it,” she said last Saturday. “I had just got through a series of tests that my [two] daughters were keen on,” after she had become forgetful, misplacing papers and losing words.

“I didn’t feel afraid, I didn’t cry, I found some humor” in the situation, she said. “I sat at my desk for half an hour, then picked up my pencil and started writing. I didn’t know what it was, but I was encouraged by friends and my daughters.”

Ms. Zukerman, 74, is scheduled to talk about the book on CBS TV’s “Sunday Morning,” a show for which she was an Emmy-nominated arts correspondent for many years, conducting more than 350 profiles of artists, musicians and performers.

But what Ms. Zukerman wanted to talk about this month was music, specifically the Leaf Peeper series that starts this Saturday with Xavier Foley in a solo double bass concert at Hudson Hall.

Clarion Concert’s Leaf Peeper Series is in its 38th season. Founded by Newell Jenkins, a musicologist specializing in the baroque period and Jack Hurley, it was directed by Mr. Jenkins until his death in 1996. Violinist Sanford Allen became music director then, until he retired in 2014 and Ms. Zukerman became music director.

Clarion has a loyal core audience that wants to hear classics, said Ms. Zukerman and Dave Hall, a guitarist and composer who is Clarion’s board president. He joined Ms. Zukerman Saturday for a talk with The Columbia Paper. The two are neighbors in Ancram and carpool to board meetings, talking music.

As a result, they said, each of this fall’s concerts presents solid classics, and a little more.

On Mr. Foley’s 3 p.m. program are works by Schubert, Mozart (arranged by Mr. Foley), Gliere and two pieces by Mr. Foley, one of them a Clarion commission.

The series continues Saturday, September 21 at 5 p.m. when Ms. Zukerman, on flute, joins the Manhattan Piano Trio in works by Doppler, Dvorak and Mendelssohn. This concert is at St. James Place in Great Barrington, a performance venue created from a former church that was slated for demolition and saved by a grassroots campaign.

Ms. Zukerman and Mr. Hall expressed their pleasure at having the two venues complete their renovations in time for Leaf Peepers to take advantage of the halls, which while still “intimate,” accommodate the series’ growing audiences of 200 to 250.

And, they noted, “you can get a meal in both places.”

Often using the word “adventuresome” for their programming, the two acknowledged that word “implies off the wall, but it’s not.”

For example, they said, Astonishing Accordion (October 12, 5 p.m., St. James Place) presents Hanzhi Wang in a solo concert. The instrument may be unusual for chamber music, but the works are classical, by Bach, Scarlatti, Rameau, Grieg and Schnittke.

The series’ final concert (October 26, 7 p.m., Hudson Hall) finds mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn performing a solo opera, “Science Fair: An Opera with Experiments,” that includes arias, costumes and live scientific experiments.

“This is where we’re breaking out,” said Ms. Zukerman. “We’ve had vocal music and an all-women brass group, but we’ve never presented an opera before.”

Asked where Leaf Peepers fits into the plethora of classical music in Columbia County and the region, Ms. Zukerman said, “We’re both musicians who are branching out and trying new things and imagining ourselves in a hall, listening. We both have many musician friends in New York City that we can invite here. And the train goes to Hudson.”

“We look at all the schedules and try to find open spots,” said Mr. Hall. “What we do offer, under Eugenia’s guidance, is a bolder sense of programming.”

Asked if there had been any disasters, Mr. Hall said, “No disasters, but we’re learning things all the time.”

“It’s fun,” said Ms. Zukerman, “and we learn as we go.”

Three years ago, Ms. Zukerman told The Columbia Paper, “It’s such a shot in the arm to find great happiness,” in Ancram with her husband, Richard Novik, “and great music.”

This year she said her diagnosis “has made her a better performer, a better person, because I know what it is to be dealing with something huge.”

But, she said, “I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I have the best husband in the world, he is helping me keep it together. Life is good.”

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