Tag Archives: Frederic Chiu

Sneak Peaks Set For Beechwood Arts Kickoff

If you’ve never been to a Beechwood Arts Immersion Salon — or seen the namesake Beechwood farmhouse — here’s your chance.

This Sunday (October 14, 2 to 5 p.m.) marks the start of the 2018-19 series.  Beechwood is both the name of Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito’s 1806 renovated farmhouse, and the series there  that brings artists, musicians and other creative types together in unique and compelling ways.

The intimate house setting encourages performances that could not happen elsewhere. That results in interactions between performers and audiences that are also impossible to replicate anywhere else.

Beechwood House, with its magnificent copper beech tree.

This Sunday, Beechwood presents sneak peaks into 2 works in progress. Chiu is particularly excited about “Romeo & Juliet: The Choice.” He co-created this re-imagining of the popular classical ballet. Innovative and immersive — just like the salon — it debuts in Philadelphia next month.

Chiu will play the piano version of Prokofiev’s beautiful score, while actor Samantha Rehr — a Weston native — does dramatic readings from the play.

There’s another sneak peek on Sunday too. This one is of a musical theater piece in creation. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Madeleine Blais is turning her memoir “Uphill Walker” into a musical, in collaboration with singer/composer Sharon Spinettii.

If you can’t make it this Sunday, you’ll have other Beechwood opportunities. A Ben Franklin Dinner — where creative people share special ideas — follows on October 19. There’s also an Art Open House on November 1.

(Click here for tickets, and more information. Click here for an interview with Frederic Chiu about “Romeo and Juliet.”)

Frederic Chiu, The Frick And Beechwood Arts

New York Times classical music critic Anthony Tommasini could have picked any angle to lead Friday’s story about the renovation of the Frick Collection, the beloved 1914 Gilded Age mansion.

He chose Westport’s Frederic Chiu.

In 1999, Tommasini wrote, the internationally renowned pianist told a Frick audience how pleased he was to play in a “wonderfully intimate” music room. The ambience was similar to “the Parisian salons where the early Romantic repertory he was about to perform would have been played.”

The pianist knows all about intimate salons.

Here in Westport, he and his wife — the cutting-edge artist Jeanine Esposito — have created their own circular, immersive room.

A piano performance is just part of one salon.

It’s part of Beechwood, the name for both their their 1806 renovated farmhouse and their series that brings artists, musicians and other creative types together in unique and compelling ways.

The next Beechwood event is July 22: the 7th annual Open. The community pop-up salon is one of their most popular.

For $25, anyone can reserve a spot on the wall for art, a 5-foot slot on stage for music or performance, a place on the table for a dish, a table for an open market, or a moment on the screen for film.

For $40, you can be an arts supporter, and enjoy the afternoon.

Beechwood House, with its magnificent copper beech tree.

Sure, you can go to the Frick to be entertained.

But to be truly immersed in the arts, you can stay right here in Westport.

And see Frederic Chiu, too.

(For more information — and to sign up to participate or attend — click here.)

Ben Franklin Meets Beechwood

Last week, Beechwood Arts & Innovation held its 1st-ever Ben Franklin Dinner.

Modeled after the Junto — a club Franklin created for “mutual improvement” of the self, the community and society — BFDs draw together a dozen or so guests from a diverse cross-section of cultures and generations, with a mix of professions from the arts, science, business, civics and education.

Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin

Each Ben Franklin Dinner begins with a toast and a bite to eat. After a short artistic or music performance comes dinner. A guided conversation ensues, around that evening’s topic.

One of the attendees at Beechwood Arts was Alicia Cobb. She says:

Last week I attended a dinner with 12 other people. I knew the hosts but most of the others I had never met, or only in passing.

When I arrived I quickly realized I was completely different than everyone. I felt out of place for the first 10 minutes or so. A woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation. We talked for 10 minutes, before the facilitator got our attention.

The topic of the dinner discussion was empathy. As you read this, take a moment to define empathy for yourself. What does it mean to you?

We were asked to do this. Every answer was different, but similar. Each person had a different point of view, but we all took the time to really think about them.

After 2 hours of discussion, I realized I wasn’t that different. We all had very diverse backgrounds, but were brought into the room for a reason. That was the whole point.

Attendees at Beechwood's first Ben Franklin Day dinner. Alicia Cobb is in the bottom row, 2nd from right. Hosts Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu are in the middle row, center and far right.

Attendees at Beechwood’s first Ben Franklin Day dinner. Alicia Cobb is in the bottom row, 2nd from right. Hosts Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu are in the middle row, center and far right.

One of these people was a 91-year-old woman with many stories. I was intrigued by her essence; her independence, and how much pride she took in every word she said and every step she made.

I saw myself in this woman. I imagine that if I am blessed enough to make it to 91, I’ll be something like her.

I’m not the social butterfly that most people might think I am. I am sometimes socially awkward, and often struggle meeting new people. This is a challenge I’ve been working to overcome my entire life. Being around that table with this particular group struck a chord in me. I know I will never be the same again.

The point is: You belong. We all belong here or we wouldn’t be here. You may often feel out of place, but you deserve to be here.

beechwood-logoI’ll practice the art of empathy more actively now. I’ll strike up conversations with strangers and go places I’ve never been because I want to, because I need to. The world needs more of this — the ability to be different yet the same. Thank you to our hosts who challenged us in such a way.

Go have conversation with people you think you have nothing in common with. Go places you’ve never been. Find some kind of common ground with someone you are totally opposed to. Practice empathy; put yourself in another person’s shoes and really feel what they are feeling.

You can’t grow in your comfort zone. Get out of there. Let the healing begin.

In 1727 — the year Ben Franklin held his 1st dinner — a copper beech tree on Weston Road  was just a sapling.

Eighty years later, the home that is now Beechwood was built.

Two centuries after that, Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito own and love Beechwood. 

Beechwood House, with its magnificent copper beech tree.

Beechwood House, with its magnificent copper beech tree.

They share it with wonderfully diverse people, through their Beechwood Arts & Innovation program. Now they’ve added Ben Franklin Dinners to it.

Franklin started them decades before we became a country. Today, we need them more than ever.

(Click here to read more about Beechwood Arts’ 1st Ben Franklin Dinner.)

Beechwood Arts Concert Streams Into Your Home

Today — 2 weeks before Christmas — is a busy day for many of us.

We’ve got holiday parties to go to, trees to buy and trim, football games to watch. There aren’t enough hours in the day.

But if you can manage to be free for just an hour — starting at 5 p.m. — you won’t regret it.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Beechwood Arts and Innovation — the unique immersive salons sponsored by Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito at their amazing Weston Road home — is staging another event.

But this time, on this cold day, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home.

You don’t even have to live around here to attend.

All you need is Facebook.

The idea is to replace the “me” in social media with “we,” Chiu explains. “We hope to bring people together to inspire a sense of unity on a global scale.”

Igor Pikayzen

Igor Pikayzen

Today’s salon is a virtual one. Held on Facebook Live, it’s a stream of an actual salon to be held at the couple’s home (called Beechwood). Igor Pikayzen — a 2005 Staples High School graduate, 2007 Westport Arts Horizon winner, and internationally known violinist, will perform.

Fairfield neighbor Orin Grossman will play favorites from the Gershwin songbook on piano, and Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances” with Chiu.

Greg Wall — Westport’s unique “jazz rabbi” — will show off his rarely seen classical side.

“The goal is to create unity around the world, through the universal language of music,” Chiu says. “Facebook Live is the perfect platform, because it’s interactive.

beechwood-arts-logo“People can join us on their phone, computer, tablet or smart TV. They can communicate with each other using Facebook comments — emojis are fine!”

Hundreds of intimate gatherings of friends and families have already been planned (thanks to Facebook, of course). But individuals can join too. Everyone’s invited.

Today’s Beechwood salon is music at its finest — and most accessible.

That football game can wait.

(Click here to join the Beechwood Arts Salon Facebook Live event, or search Facebook for “Beechwood Arts and Innovation.”)

Greg Wall, the "jazz rabbi," plays classical music today.

Greg Wall, the “jazz rabbi,” plays classical music today.

 

Immersive Synesthesia Experience Set For Sunday

Slowly, steadily, over the past 5 years Beechwood Arts & Innovation has built its “immersion salons” into a Westport institution.

Several times a year, Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito open their lovely Weston Road home — once owned by Morris Ketchum, and featuring a magnificent beech tree. They invite audiences to listen to, watch and learn from an ever-changing cast of artists, dancers, chefs and other creative types.

Beechwood House is a perfect place for salons.

Beechwood House is a perfect place for salons.

But this Sunday’s event (October 30, 2 p.m.) may be the most collaborative, wide-ranging and eclectic of all.

“Synesthesia” — which means feeling one sense by stimulating another — brings together traditional artists, along with technology makers. It’s a true celebration of STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.

It’s multi-generational too, including young engineers and artists, and students from Cecily Gans’ advanced culinary classes at Staples High School.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu

And “Synesthesia” is cross-cultural. Frederic and Jeanine have invited a young refugee from Tanzania; a nationally known Hispanic storyteller, and an African American peace activist/singer.

“Synesthesia” — the word — refers to the crossing of sensory wires. Sounds stimulate colors; numbers stimulate shapes; words stimulate smells.

“Synesthesia” — the salon — will stimulate all who immerse themselves in it.

(For more information or tickets on Sunday’s event, click here.)

Joshua Bell Plays Westport

It’s one of the little things that make Westport special.

Frederic Chiu has known Joshua Bell since they were kids in Indiana. So when Chiu — an internationally renowned pianist — asked the universally acclaimed violinist to help celebrate the 5th anniversary of Beechwood Arts & Innovation, Chiu’s innovative, immersive arts-and-culinary salon, Bell’s answer was “of course!”

Which is how last night, Saugatuck Congregational Church hosted an intimate concert of world-class music.

Joshua Bell, on the Saugatuck Church stage.

Joshua Bell, on the Saugatuck Church stage.

Chiu and  his wife Jeanine Esposito hold most Beechwood events in their handsome 1806 Weston Road home (highlighted by a spectacular 300-year-old copper beach beech tree). But the Bell venue needed a somewhat bigger venue, and Saugatuck Church was happy to help.

Chiu and Bell (on his 1713 Stradivarius) performed Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” sonata and the rousing “Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs)” by Sarasate. They were joined by soprano Larisa Martinez for numbers by Gounod and Puccini. The appreciative audience roared its approval after every piece.

Before they played, WQXR’s Elliott Forrest led a conversation with Bell and Chiu. They talked about their long friendship, the rigors of touring — and the importance of arts education for all.

Bell pointed to the balcony, where a number of young musicians sat. Their seats were sponsored by area residents, whom the violinist praised for their generosity.

Westporters sometimes wonder whether we’ve lost a bit of our arts heritage.

Chiu’s appearance last night with his friend — and their stunning performance — proved we’re still at the top of our game.

Joshua Bell Plays Westport — Again

Joshua Bell is the most famous violinist of our time. Wherever he plays — around the world — he attracts adoring, sold-out audiences.

Despite his grueling recording and performing schedule, Bell often finds time for Westport.

Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell

In 2012 Bell helped launch Beechwood Arts and Innovation, the Westport non-profit known for its creative, eclectic Arts Immersion Salons. Music, art, film, performance, food and technology — all come together in a stunning 1806 home owned by Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito.

Bell — a longtime friend of Chiu, Beechwood’s co-founder and himself an internationally acclaimed pianist — kicked off the 1st year by donating an unforgettable concert of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”

He was joined by Chiu, actor James Naughton of Weston, and 13-year-old theater student Rachel Rival. Afterwards, chef Raul Restrepo of the former River Café served an equally memorable dinner.

Several years earlier, Bell appeared with Chiu — with whom he has played for 35 years — at the sold-out Malloy lecture for the Westport Library. A few days later they performed at the Westport Country Playhouse with Audra McDonald, Glenn Close and Tony Bennett, honoring Westporter Joanne Woodward.

Jeanine Esposito, Frederic Chiu, Paul Newman and Joshua Bell, at an earlier appearance in Westport.

Jeanine Esposito, Frederic Chiu, Paul Newman and Joshua Bell, at an earlier appearance in Westport.

Next month, Bell returns to town. On Thursday, August 25 (8 p.m., United Methodist Church) — in the midst of his own vacation — he’ll give a “high 5” to Beechwood Arts & Innovation, for their 5th-year fundraiser. Chiu once again joins him on piano.

The event includes a VIP Meet-and-Greet, a conversation where they reminisce about their early days as aspiring musicians (with WQXR’s Elliot Forrest), and a celebration party at Beechwood Arts, across the street from the church.

Beechwood logoThough every seat at a fundraiser is important, Beechwood is reserving 40 seats for patrons to sponsor young music students from underserved communities. Local music non-profits Spread Music Now, Turnaround Arts, Intake, Neighborhood Studios and KEYS are helping fill those seats.

Students will sit close to the stage, and talk to Bell and Chiu during intermission. Their parents can share in the event — and all will leave with a CD.

“In our youth, both Joshua and I were deeply inspired seeing master musicians play live,” Chiu says. “Those experiences left impressions that lasted a lifetime.

“This inspires both of us to work with students. And it’s why at Beechwood we regularly include students alongside masters of their craft, in all of our events across music, art, film and performance.”

Bell and Chiu have been friends since meeting at music competitions in their native Indiana. They’ve toured together for nearly 40 years, in the U.S., Europe and South America.

Their friendship will be on display August 25. So will their world-class talents, their deep love of the arts, and their wonderful generosity to all.

(Tickets must be reserved in advance. For tickets or more information, click here or call 203-226-9462.)

On one visit to Westport, Joshua Bell played "Four Seasons." On tour with Frederic Chiu in Ecuador, Chiu stood on the winter side of the equator, and Bell on the summer side.

On one visit to Westport, Joshua Bell played “Four Seasons.” On tour with Frederic Chiu in Ecuador, Chiu stood on the winter side of the equator, and Bell on the summer side.

Sunday’s TEA Talk: Where Are Our Arts?

You’ve heard of TED Talks. They cover global topics, in intriguing, inspiring ways.

Westport’s TEA Talks are just as important. And they touch on topics that, while broad in scope, are intensely personal.

This Sunday’s event (November 15, 2 p.m., Town Hall, free, with reception to follow) focuses on the arts. Specifically, it examines how changes in the state mandate toward STEM — science, technology, education and math — might affect our school district’s flexibility to take full advantage of the strong arts curriculum and programming we’ve spent decades nurturing.

This TEA Talk — it stands for Thinkers, Educators, Artists — is sponsored by the Westport Arts Advisory Committee. They celebrate our wonderful artistic and cultural heritage — and keep them thriving.

WAAC

Where will the arts fit in our schools? Will future students have the same opportunity to embrace them? What about students in neighboring communities, not as fortunate as ours? Those are some of the questions Sunday’s TEA Talk will address.

Despite Common Core requirements, Westport educators have found ingenious ways to enhance the curriculum even more, in subjects far beyond visual art. In subjects like math, English and social studies, teachers are utilizing town collections to develop students’ analytical thinking and communication skills.

For example, starting this year every Westport 3rd grader will look at Robert Lambdin’s “Saugatuck in the 19th Century” mural. They’ll explore the painting, and tie it in with many aspects of their curriculum. For instance: How have our town and Connecticut changed — and stayed the same — over time? And what influence does geography play on development?

Robert Lambdin's Saugatuck mural.

Robert Lambdin’s Saugatuck mural.

Sunday’s TEA Talk includes the state commissioner of education; 2 Westport educators, and world-renowned pianist (and local resident) Frederic Chiu. He’ll lead a discussion of the differences in music education in Westport and less affluent districts.

Anyone can watch a TED Talk on the web. But TEA Talks — those are what make this town (like our arts) special.

(For more information on Sunday’s TEA Talks, click here.)

Frederic Chiu Does Debussy

Frederic Chiu is a pianist who has pushed boundaries in the world of classical music — from performance protocols and recording, to teaching and technology.

He’s also — with his wife Jeanine Esposito — host of the wonderfully eclectic Beechwood Arts salon series, in their warm, welcoming home. Check it out!

Chiu is in the spotlight once again. His latest recording combines state-of-the-art audio and video technology, masterpieces of the Western classical music canon, and contemporary works rooted in the East.

Frederic ChiuTitled “Distant Voices,” it’s the inaugural classical music release from Yamaha Entertainment Group of America.

The recording includes iconic Debussy, and music of the Szechuan-born, French- and Russian-influenced  Gao Ping. There’s both an audio CD and video DVD of Chiu performing a unique combination of favorites, and groundbreaking newer music from the piano repertoire, plus commentary from him about his background and music-making.

Chiu calls Debussy’s music “a test for the artist and instrument both.” The recording artist’s performance was captured on the Yamaha Disklavier, a true acoustic piano that incorporates fiber-optic sensing systems and the most modern technology to record and and reproduce every note with unpralleled precision.

Listeners with a Disklavier piano can replicate the performance on their own instruments.

Which is almost as good as hearing Chiu perform live, in his own Westport living room.

 

Frederic And Jeanine’s Old-Time, 21st-Century Salons

In 2002, Frederic Chiu returned to the US after 12 years in France. A Juilliard-trained concert pianist, he settled in Westport. He loved the town’s support of arts and culture; besides, his wife Jeanine Esposito lived here since 1991. She is both an innovation consultant to Fortune 500 firms and a visual artist.

The couple bought a small house in Green’s Farms. As their children grew, they searched for something larger. It took a while, but finally they found an 1806 house on Weston Road. They loved it, for its bones and because there was space to invite artists and musicians for “salons” — just like in old-time Paris.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Five minutes after seeing it, they “crazily” put in a bid. They added a letter, about their dream of sharing arts there with the community. Soon, the house — once owned by Morris Ketchum — was theirs.

They had not even furnished it, when Frederic invited a touring Argentinian pianist to perform at an “art immersion event.” Argentine friends helped prepare native food. Guests called it an “amazing” night.

Frederic and Jeanine staged a few similar events. Each celebrated art, music, film and food, for no more than 65 guests. No one is an expert in everything, so everyone is open to sharing their experiences.

But each one cost money. So last fall Frederic’s friend — internationally renowned violinist Joshua Bell — played a fundraiser there, in the warm, graceful Weston Road home the couple calls “Beechwood.”

Beechwood House is a perfect place for salons.

Beechwood House is a perfect place for salons.

A neighbor — a part-time Westport resident — who had come to every event took the invitations, and pages from the website, and reported Frederic and Jeanine to town officials. The couple spent their fundraising dollars on lawyers.

Planning & Zoning ruled that no permits are needed for private salons. “We’re certainly not running a business,” Frederic notes. But the time-consuming, frustrating and expensive process got them wondering: How could they take something people loved — something that opens up all the senses, includes a mix of young and established artists and performers, and gets people talking to each other, laughing, having a good time — and reach a broader audience?

A piano performance is just part of one salon.

A piano performance is just part of one salon.

Around the same time, Frederic played a concert with 100 other pianos — all over the world. It was streamed over the internet. An idea was born: add technology to old-style salons, in a worldwide web of shared intimacy.

Guests chat with others far away, at satellite salons. The iPads are placed on mannequins, for a more "personal" feel.

Guests chat with others far away, at satellite salons. The iPads are placed on mannequins, for a more “personal” feel.

A donor offered to provide equipment. The challenges were daunting, but on November 17 Frederic and Jeanine hosted an event in Westport. Linked “satellite salons” took place simultaneously in Boston, New Jersey, Virginia and Beijing. All were small gatherings, with Skyped music, artwork, poetry and a Chinese dancer, plus fresh, local food. (In Westport, attendees ate from Wafu, and drank teas from Arogya.)

Frederic and Jeanine have made Beechwood a site for more than their salons. He’s held intensive weekend workshops there, and the couple has collaborated with the Westport Historical Society and Westport Country Playhouse to host events. Last summer, a “Beechwood Open” brought together young and old for an open stage, open mic, open screen (for films), open walls (for art) and open table. Frederic and Jeanine envision Beechwood as “a meeting ground for all the arts in town.”

Up next: a springtime collaboration of artists, musicians, filmmakers and tech folks. They’ll start at Beechwood, then move out into the community to do more.

It’s all part of Frederic and Jeanine’s wish to make their town a “cultural salon hub.” And not just for Westport, but the world.

Sculpture -- indoors and outside -- is an important part of Beechwood salons.

Sculpture — indoors and outside — is an important part of Beechwood salons…

...and so too is great food and good conversation.

…and so too is great food and good conversation.

 

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