Tag Archives: Frederic Chiu

Roundup: Gloria, National History Day …

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Gloria — oysterman Alan Sterling’s beloved boat, which for years after his death has bobbed in Gray’s Creek between Longshore and Owenoke — has run aground.

Several Westporters noticed it yesterday. The years had taken their toll on the wooden vessel. But — defying weather and time — Gloria continued to enthrall everyone who saw it.

Alan was a Westport original. Saw was Gloria.

Her fate now is unknown. (Hat tip: Gene Gavin)

(Photo/Bruce McFadden)

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The last public concert Frederic Chiu played before the world shut down and all his concerts were cancelled was March 5 2020. The internationally famed pianist played a few miles from his home, at The Westport Library for an audience of 400 people.

This Thursday (June 24, 7  p.m.), he return to the Library. It’s his first post-pandemic live concert, once again on the Forum stage.

The program is the 3rd of his 3 Classical Smackdowns. It’s a great format. Chiu pits the music of 2 favorite composers against each other, with the audience voting, interactively, in real-time, round by round.

This one is “Young Geniuses: Mendelssohn vs. Chopin.” It includes music they composed before they were 20. It’s only the second time this program is played, after its premiere in 2020.

The ability to perform live was made only days ago. He’s excited by the chance to have votes from a global audience (virtually) and a live audience.

This is a great opportunity to help Chiu, the Westport Library and Beechwood Arts (series sponsor) celebrate their return to in-person, immersive music experiences!

Tickets are $30. They  provide a “Series Pass,” to see and vote on all 3 Classical Smackdown programs virtually.

To attend in person on Thursday, you must purchase a ticket. If you already have one, you must still register for the entry list.

To attend in person on Jun 24 at The Westport Library, you must register and purchase a ticket. If you’ve already purchased a ticket, you still need to register (for free, using the link above) to be put on the entry list.

To attend the Global Live-stream, click here, To purchase a Series Pass to watch and vote on all 3 Smackdowns at your convenience, click here.

For a sneak peek, click below:

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Staples High School students made history.

At, fittingly, the National History Day national competition.

Honorees included:

  • Zachary Brody, 3rd place, Senior Individual Exhibit
  • Jeffrey Pogue, 4th place, Senior Individual Performance
  • Hannah Fiarman, 6th place, Senior Individual Exhibit
  • Michael Nealon and William Jin, 10th place, Senior Group Exhibit.

Congratulations to all — and to their teachers, Drew Coyne and Neill-Ayn Lynch.

Click below for Jeffrey Pogue’s clever, creative performance, channeling Thomas Paine.

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Speaking of Staples: The high school rugby team returned yesterday from Kansas City. Playing in 100-degree heat, they exceeded expectations: Seeded 5th, they finished 4th, in the 8-team event.

They opened with a 26-22 win over higher-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas, then fell 48-14 to eventual champion Herriman (Utah) 48-14. The dropped the consolation match, 17-14 to Gonzaga (Washington).

Congratulations to coach Dave Lyme and his ruggers on a great run!

The 2021 Staples High School boys rugby team.

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Congratulations to Westport’s newest Eagle Scouts — and #86 and #87 for Boy Scout Troop 100.

For his project,  Benjamin Cohen collaborated with the Mianus Chapter of Trout Unlimited to repair the Norwalk River’s riparian buffer at Schenck’s Island. He removed invasive species, and used native plants to prevent further erosion and decline.

 Jeffrey Pressman worked with Temple Israel to organize materials, books and supplies for classrooms; inventory all materials, to determine needs for supplies; organize High Holiday books; clean and organize the basement to prevent flooding, and build and fix cabinets that hold religious school supplies.

Ben Cohen and Jeffrey Pressman.

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 Old Hill is the site for today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo. Brian Schiller captured a deer, nursing her fawn:

(Photo/Brian Schiller)

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And finally … it’s the first full day of summer.

I could have picked 100 songs with “summer” in the title today. These are 3 that stand out. What are yours? Click “Comments” below.

BONUS TRACK: It doesn’t have “summer” in the title. But it’s hard to find a better summer song than this one:

 

Roundup: Joey’s By The Shore, Private Ryan, Grateful Dead …

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Joey’s by the Shore opened its new location — the former Elvira’s, across from Old Mill Beach, last spring.

The pandemic was in full swing. So for the past year, customers ordered through the app only. They waited outside for orders.

In one more sign that COVID is easing, Joey’s’ doors are now open. Neighbor Don Bergmann (below) was thrilled to finally go inside.

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1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

“On behalf of the Town of Westport, I want to reiterate that acts of discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in our community. Over the past year, as a country, we witnessed the murder of George Floyd, terrifying attacks against the Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and countless other acts of hatred and discrimination. And in recent days, we have seen acts of anti-Semitism strikingly close to us in New York City.

Let there be no doubt, anti-Semitism has no place in our community. We respect our Jewish neighbors and visitors. Westport is an inclusive community that embraces diversity and has always celebrated all cultures and religious beliefs. We must continue to respect everyone regardless of their race, creed or ethnic origin. I encourage all in the community to reaffirm these values during this challenging period.

I stand with our friends and neighbors who feel threatened by these terrible activities. Make no mistake, Westport is focused on protecting all residents and visitors. We have stepped up security in and around our synagogues and temples and will do everything necessary to keep our community safe and free from discrimination and hate.

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Just in time for Memorial Day, the Remarkable Theater has added a very appropriate new movie to its schedule.

“Saving Private Ryan” screens on Sunday (May 30, 8 p.m.). There’s a special holiday price of $25 per car. But of course the classic World War II film is priceless.

Click here for tickets, and the rest of this week’s slate.

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Congratulations to the Staples High School girls track team. They won the FCIAC championship yesterday.

Individual winners for coach Jesse McCray’s team include Ava Harvey (long jump, 16′ 9.5″; triple jump, 34′ 3/4″) and Tatum Havemann (800 meters, 2:17.56, personal record), and Isabelle Blend (pole vault, 8′).

The 4×400 meter relay team of Francine Stevens, Olivia Bollo, Hannah Murphy and Samantha Dewitt blazed to a school record 4:01.52, winning gold.

The 4×100 meter relay squad (Molly Liles, Bollo, Murphy, Laura Spheeris) also set a school record, placing 2nd in 50.13.

The 4×800 meter team (Leigh Foran, Josie Dolan, Nicole Holmes, Lyah Muktavaram) took silver in 9:48.98. Also second: Francine Stevens (100, 12.41; 200, 25.05) and Dewitt (400, 59.68, personal record).

Francine Stevens won her 100 meter heat. (Photo/Barry Guiduli)

FCIAC champions! (Photo/Cari Moore)

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Beechwood Arts’ 2nd of 3 “Classical Smackdown Concerts is set for Thursday (May 27, 7 p.m.). Pianist Frederic Chiu will perform Bach vs. Glass — and an international audience will vote for their favorite.

Frederic’s first of 3 Classical Smackdown Concerts “Heart & Soul” was very exciting with interesting results from the first ever Global Smackdown Vote! The audience was truly global with people from Australia, China, Europe and all over the US!

Click here for details, and tickets.

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Westport Business Networking International (BNI) will sponsor a “Discover Your Well Being Expo” on June 16 (6 to 9 p.m., Salon Paul Michael, Westport).

The free event includes informational booths from a chiropractor, personal trainer, functional medicine specialist, organizer, clean crafted wine distributor, counseling service, plus beverages, hors d’oeuvres and interactive demonstrations.

BNI is a networking group of business professionals. They seek one new members in each of these categories: interior designer, home inspector, developer, heating and air conditioning contractor, chef, and attorneys who practice estate and elder law.

Email salonpaulmichael@gmail.com to register. Walk-ins are welcome too. For more information on BNI, click here.

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Terrapin is an aptly named Grateful Dead cover band. They’ve built a devoted area following.

And next month they’ll play a special, private, 100-person outdoor show, at Wakeman Town Farm. Fine food and themed beverages by Marcia Selden Catering are available for pre-purchase.

The June 26 event is a benefit for CLASP Homes, the great non-profit that helps people with disabilities. Click here for tickets.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo comes from Grayson Braun. She writes:

“This little guy has been hanging around our yard — probably because we are one of the few houses in our immediate area without a dog. He has enjoyed our grass, and the occasional hosta leaf.”

(Photo/Grayson Braun)

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And finally … I can’t believe I missed Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday yesterday. (I also can’t believe he is 80.)

I could link to dozens of his songs that have impacted my life. I could make an entire list of those with I’m-still-discovering-more-there lyrics (“Memphis Blues Again,” “Queen Jane Approximately,” “Desolation Row”), those with political power (“The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Hurricane”), and those whose studio musicians are vastly underrated (“Like a Rolling Stone,” “Jokerman,” “Changing of the Guards”).

But I’ll narrow today’s selection down to 4 that, to me, define Bob Dylan. What are yours?

 

Beechwood Arts: A Decade Of Immersive Innovation

In their first 2 decades here, Frederic Chiu, Jeanine Esposito and their kids lived in a small Greens Farms house.

A decade ago, they searched for something a little bigger. One listing had nothing they were looking for. It was old (1806), had too much property (3 acres), and sat on a busy street (Weston Road).

But for some reason the couple — he’s a world-renowned pianist, she’s an equally talented artist — checked it out. When they saw the big music room, carriage house and beautiful, 400-year-old copper beech tree, both knew it was what they wanted.

There were four other bidders. In a letter to the owners, Frederic and Jeanine described their vision. It would be a place where artists and performers of all types could gather, connect, learn from and inspire each other.

They got the house. Then wondered, “What did we do?!”

Beechwood House, with its magnificent copper beech tree.

They scheduled their first event before they had furniture: a celebration of Latin America. Guests brought chairs.

As soon as the event began, there was an exciting chemistry. Most attendees were strangers, working in different art forms. But they felt united.

Beechwood Arts was born.

Friends said it wouldn’t work. There were too many other arts organizations, they warned. You can’t combine different arts. You’d need a big board of directors. And on and on.

Jeanine and Frederic did not listen to the skeptics. They heeded their own instincts. They had faith that their intimate space, its spirit of energy of openness, and their own belief in celebration and collaboration, would work.

It did.

This year, their project — now called Beechwood Arts & Innovation — turns 10. Their mix of generations, cultural backgrounds and themes has blossomed into a thriving, ever-evolving special salon.

Their day jobs keep them plenty busy (and, until COVID, on the road). But Beechwood is their special baby. As its parents, they look back proudly at a decade of arts experiences.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, at home. That’s where they host their eclectic Beechwood Immersive Arts salons.

The statistics are stunning. Frederic and Jeanine have produced 130 events: arts immersion salons, petit and open salons, livestreams, shows, creative conversations, inspiration retreats, community conversations and more.

Nearly 350 visual artists have shown over 1,400 pieces. Beechwood has hosted more than 180 performers, along with dozens of filmmakers, video artists and creative chefs.

Great food and good conversation — important elements of Beechwood salons.

Beechwood has featured works by international artists like Joshua Bell, and local students. Events have been held in the music room, dining room, and under that magnificent beech tree.

A piano performance is just part of one salon …

… and Joshua Bell in the same space.

Art was drawn during some events. Tiny portraits were hidden in the walls and grounds. Audience members have read out loud. Musical works were premiered. A “sonic sanctuary” allowed guests to create performances that mixed with nature. Chefs and filmmakers competed in smackdowns. Long before Zoom was a thing, Beechwood linked artists and musicians around the world, all creating simultaneously.

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

The lack of a big board of directors — or many other trappings of a traditional arts organization — has allowed Beechwood to be both creative and flexible.

Immediately after the 2016 election, an event was aimed at healing divisions around the country. Less than a month after the COVID lockdown, Beechwood inaugurated weekly virtual programs. Then, a week after George Floyd’s death, a group of Black artists created an delivered an “Amplify Festival,” with original art and performances, and plenty of conversation.

Those conversations are a key to Beechwood’s success. Every event includes opportunities for strangers to mingle.

Attendees at Beechwood’s first “Ben Franklin Day” dinner. Hosts Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu are in the middle row, center and far right.

Frederic and Jeanine are not afraid to talk with other organizations. Though there is often tension in the arts world over perceived competition for audiences and dollars, many Beechwood events are done collaboratively. Partners have included the Westport Library, MoCA Westport, Westport Museum of History & Culture, Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County, Connecticut Alliance for Music, Festival Edelio, Maritime Gallery, MakerFaire and others.

Entering its second decade, Beechwood joins with other venues around the country for 3 compelling Thursday 7 p.m. Classical Smackdowns , with interactive voting– all courtesy of Frederic.

On April 27 it’s Debussy vs. Prokofiev. May 27 brings Bach vs. Glass. Mendelssohn vs. Chopin follow on June 24. All are virtual.

Beechwood also continues its Amplify Festival — “amplifying voices through the arts” — as a partnership with the Westport Library and TEAM Westport (May 8, 7 p.m., in person and livestream). It’s part of the WestportREADS program involving Layla Saad’s book “Me and White Supremacy,” and includes “Duets” by Mozart & Mumford, “Skin” body paint and spoken word, and more.

The Beechwood grounds.

On Sunday, August 1, Frederic and Jeanine plan to welcome artists, performers and guests to their beautiful Beechwood grounds. They’ll show off their frog pond, sculpture field, birds and bees garden, indoor spaces — and of course their beloved copper beech tree.

“Hidden Secrets of Beechwood Arts Immersion” is set for Sunday, October 17.

Both events are great ways to celebrate 10 years of arts in their home. It’s one they never intended to even look at — but now is is their, and the arts world’s, wonderfully innovative institution.

(Click here for the Beechwood Arts website.  Click here for more information on Beechwood’s Smackdown Series. Click here for tickets.)

 

 

Beechwood Amplifies Arts, Social Issues

Beechwood Arts is one of Westport’s most important — and cutting-edge — cultural institutions. Through salons and workshops, in collaboration with artists, musicians, performers, filmmakers and many others, Frederic Chiu and his wife Jeanine Esposito inspire, illuminate and provoke a wide array of audiences, in often unexpected ways.

One of Frederic and Jeanine’s guiding principles is that art is an intimate part of the broader world. Beechwood always makes those  connections clear — but never more so than today. Frederic and Jeanine say:

An important part of Beechwood’s mission over the last 10 years has been to build a collaborative community of artists, performers and audiences across the divisions of age, gender, race, cultural backgrounds and lifestyles.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, at their Beechwood Arts home.

We have been honored to welcome a diverse community across all of our events, including a large number of black artists, performers and audience members. We’ve been heartbroken and horrified by the many violent instances of black lives being extinguished and the evidence of enduring, systemic racism in our communities and our country. We stand in support of identifying and eliminating systemic racism and replacing it with respect and equal opportunity.

In these past tragic weeks, we have reached out to the members of our Beechwood community that are directly affected by these issues to discuss, collaborate and develop together a way for Beechwood to use our resources and our mission to best support them.

The answer that emerged is AMPLIFY. The goal of AMPLIFY is to use Beechwood’s resources to support black artists and the black community by giving them control of the narrative and amplifying their voice, while standing with them in support and solidarity.

For the next 2 weeks, we have invited black members of our creative community to participate with other artists they invite to collaboratively create visual art and to perform (and stream) from our Music Room or under the Copper Beech to share their voice in whatever way they choose through the lens of the arts. Juneteenth falls in the middle of this period. We will have a special performance that evening, from 7 to 9 p.m. (see below).

All activities will run for 2 weeks (June 14-28), on either side of Juneteenth (June 19), the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.’

In addition, Beechwood purchased 40 plain black lawn signs to post along the road on our property. We’ve invited black artists from our community to pick up a sign, create an artwork on one side, then pass it along to a supportive fellow artist of their choice to paint the other side and drop it off at Beechwood. As the plain black signs are replaced with finished artwork, a river of amplified artistic voices will emerge.

Beechwood Arts’ signs, before artists’ creations.

Although Beechwood on Weston Road is not yet reopened to the public, we have invited black performing artists from our community to record and stream performances of music, theater, spoken word, live art, etc. from Beechwood’s Music Room or under the embrace of the Copper Beech.

Performers will stream from Beechwood’s Facebook Live platform, and receive donations to support them and their work, and share with other supportive organizations as they choose. The schedule will be revealed as performers sign up.

For example, there is a special, poignant and powerful performance by Tiffany Renee Jackson’s “From The Hood To The Ivy League (and Back)” about her extraordinary journey as a black woman, on June 19 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Dr. Tiffany Renee Jackson

Dr. Jackson sings and performs the story of her life journey – from growing up in a tough New Haven neighborhoods, to the development of her singing gift in the black church, to walking to lessons at Yale, to becoming an international opera star (she has sung several times at Beechwood!), to teaching at private schools including Greens Farms Academy, to finally returning to New Haven to teach and lift up young black voices.

Once all the art is in and performances have begun, we will work with the artists to forge partnerships with other venues and organizations. The goal is to expand ways to show the art and use the performances to have dialogue and conversations that bring awareness, understanding and support of Black Lives Matter issues. Please email contact@beechwoodarts.org with any suggestions, or if your organization wants to be involved.

We’d also like to share some history about the copper beech tree on Beechwood Arts’ property. Estimated at close to 400 years old, it has been witness to the history of black lives in America since the beginning of slavery.

Beechwood’s main house was built in 1806 — possibly earlier. Inside is a door that, when opened, appears to be a shallow closet, but whose side wall is a narrow entrance to a 4-room underground basement. It is believed to have played a role in the Underground Railroad.

It is reported that President Lincoln saw that tree when visiting Morris Ketchum, who owned Beechwood when it was part of the Hockanum estate.

Beechwood House, with its magnificent copper beech tree.

We did not know this history when we purchased Beechwood and set our mission to share the arts with the surrounding community by building a collaborative community of artists, performers and audiences, or when we included collaboration and community conversation in our mission to explore meaningful, and sometimes difficult and complex, themes through the arts.

But we believe that a space retains the energy of its history to influence its future!

(For more information on AMPLIFY, click here.)

COVID-19 Roundup: The Gift Of Music; Helping Hands; Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! And what a way to celebrate, with this inspiring story.

Stephen Wall played in the legendary Staples High School band Smoke. After graduating in 1970, then earning a degree from the Hartt School of Music, he’s spent the past 40 years as a professional opera singer, primarily with the Seattle Opera. “La Bohème” would have been his 100th production, but the coronavirus put an end to that.

Stephen — whose wife Ginna is on the front lines, working at the University of Washington hospital — has been teaching Zoom lessons to private voice students during the crisis.

To get out of his basement studio, he took his string bass and a small speaker outside. To his surprise, neighbors out for a walk in his Ballard neighborhood stopped, smiled and chatted (from a distance). “They longed for a connection to the world they knew before,” Stephen says.

Last week, he brought a guitar amplifier outside. He hooked it up to some opera karaoke tracks, and began singing “popular Italian stuff.”

All week long, he sang outside. Friday’s performance of “Nessun Dorma,” from Puccini’s “Turandot,” was particularly memorable.

Now it’s been captured for eternity by Ginna, on YouTube. Listen to Stephen’s resonant voice. Check out the rapt attention of everyone, of all ages. Enjoy the applause at the end. Bellissimo! (Hat tip: Patty Graves and Mary Gai)


Jeremy Sherman graduated from Staples High School in 2013. He’s now in the MD/Ph.D. program at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, and volunteers at their free East Harlem clinic, serving people without health insurance.

More than 10% of their population have tested positive for COVID-19. Most have lost jobs; with little savings, they face food and housing insecurity.

Jeremy’s aunt, Suzanne Sherman Propp, asks “06880” readers to consider helping. Click here for details.

Jeremy Sherman


During the COVID-19 lockdown in China, Gao Ping composed “Bitter Cold Night” for violin and piano. The touching piece honored Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old doctor whose early warning about the virus was denounced by Chinese authorities. Dr. Li soon became one of the first fatalities of the disease.

Gao Ping chose Frederic Chiu — the internationally known pianist, who recently recorded a CD of his music — to premiere the piece.

Chiu — co-founder with his wife Jeanine Esposito of the Beechwood Arts & Innovation series, at their Weston Road home — performs the work this Wednesday (April 15) with his brother Cornelius Chiu, a longtime violinist in the Chicago Symphony.

Wednesday’s performance (6 to 7 p.m. EDT) airs during Beechwood’s Facebook Live event (click here). The hour includes other music, art, special guests and more.


This morning, Senator Richard Blumenthal joined Food for the Front Lines,  delivering several hundred Easter Sunday meals to healthcare workers at Stamford Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport.

Food for the Front Lines was started by Westporter Nicole Straight, as a way to support both the Connecticut restaurant industry and healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds raised go to purchase meals for first responders and medical personnel.

Last month, Food for the Front Lines delivered meals to Westport EMS.


Meanwhile, my daily bike ride around town brought me to Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s well-masked, properly distanced, drive-by Easter Bunny.

Aarti Khosla — the generous owner of Le Rouge Aartisan Chocolates — created 200 Easter baskets. Thanks to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, they were available to all (first come, first served). An Easter miracle!

“06880” blogger meets the Easter Bunny. Safely, of course. (Photo/Kevin Bidgood)


And finally: Whether you celebrate Easter or not, who can resist Judy Garland and Fred Astaire?

TEA Talk Sunday: Breaking Barriers Through Arts

Everyone knows about TED Talks.

But here in Westport, we’ve got TEA Talks.

The Westport Arts Advisory Committee and Westport Library’s 8th annual TEA — that’s Thinkers, Educators, Artists — event is set for this Sunday (October 27, 2 p.m., Town Hall).

The topic is timely and relevant: “Breaking Barriers Through the Arts.”

Music, visual arts, performance and poetry artists will share personal stories of breaking boundaries through their work, in 3 20-minute conversations and performances.

There are special appearances by Westport poet laureate Diane Lowman and internationally renowned pianist Frederic Chiu — a local resident — plus an audience Q-and-A, and the presentation of a Horizon Award to a young area artist of note.

Noah Fox

Noah Fox is the winner of that Horizon Award. The 2009 Staples High School graduate — he went by Noah Steinman then — studied photography at Staples, and studio art, art history and queer theory at Oberlin College; earned an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; worked as education manager at the Westport Arts Center, and now serves as coordinator of academic and public programs at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

He’s made a name with a unique project: “transforming” educational books that are “alarmingly misogynistic, homophobic and racist.” Fox paints, draws, sculpts and uses collages to gouge out the books, and “reclaim” them. He “sheds light on the oppressive foundations of American culture, while exposing the ways in which these systems and rhetoric persist today.”

Fox will be joined on the TEA stage by:

  • Illustrator Ann Chernow of Westport, whose works evoke the images of female cinematic figures of the 1930s and ’40s
  • Westport conceptual artist and sculptor Jeanine Esposito, who co-founded Beechwood Arts salon, and now brings innovation to libraries, universities and non-profits
  • Westport director, producer, dramatic coloratura and private voice teacher Wendy Morgan-Hunter
  • Ecuadorean-born violinist, educator and social entrepreneur Angelica Durrell
  • Groundbreaking classical and jazz singer, inspirational teacher, body builder and nutrition specialist Dr. Tiffany Renee Jackson.

The TEA Talk is free, and open to the public. A reception follows immediately afterward. Registration is encouraged; click here.

Booked For Frederic Chiu

The Westport Library’s Transformation Project has been a daring adventure.

For nearly 2 years, officials masterminded a top-to-bottom (literally) metamorphosis of an already great institution. In less than 3 weeks they’ll cut the ribbon, opening it officially to the world.

Last night, a couple of hundred folks got a sneak peek.

The opening reception, prior to Frederic Chiu’s performance.

Library officials took the bold step of scheduling — as their first event in the new space — their signature fundraiser of the year.

Booked For The Evening is a night of fine food, socializing, and honoring a noted member of the literary or arts world. Expectations are high.

The library had never tested its innovations before a live audience. High-tech video and sound systems; a beautiful Yamaha Disklavier piano that can play itself; the vaunted grandstand seating — all rolling out for the first time ever.

Frederic Chiu accompanies himself on two pianos. To find out how, read on.

It was one of the best Booked evenings ever.

The stunning reception area; the new performing arts space; the flow, the ambiance, the energy — it was all there, just as the hundreds of men and women who had worked for so long on the project hoped (and prayed).

Westport LIbrary director Bill Harmer and Sybil Steinberg, contributing editor and former book review section editor for Publishers Weekly, enjoy the event.

Frederic Chiu — the world-renowned pianist and longtime Westporter — gave an inspired performance.

In keeping with the theme of the night — and the Transformation Project’s emphasis on creativity — there were wonderful touches.

The audience voted to see an alternative (happy) ending to Prokofiev’s “Romeo & Juliet” ballet, performed by dancers Marlon Grigsby and Harlee Trautman, as Chiu inaugurated the new piano.

Chiu then played a movement from Philip Glass’s “4 Movements for 2 Pianos,” with his protégé Timo Andres.

WSHU classical music host Kate Remington served as “Booked for the Evening” MC.

There were video — and live — tributes to the honoree.

Then, the finale: Chopin’s “Rondo in C Major, Opus 7 for 2 Pianos.” Chiu did something he’s never done, in his long career: He accompanied himself. The magic came courtesy of the Yamaha; one part was recorded weeks ago.

It was a warm, varied and community-minded evening. It flowed easily, and flawlessly.

Grandstand seating proved popular — and grand.

This morning, everyone who was there is talking about Frederic Chiu — and the newly transformed Westport Library.

It will be booked — by proud, pleased patrons — for decades to come.

(The ribbon-cutting and opening ceremonies for the new library are Sunday, June 23. Festivities begin at 11 a.m., and last until 4 p.m.)

Frederic Chiu: star of the show. (All photos/Dan Woog)

Frederic Chiu: Booked By The Library To Innovate

In its 21 years, Booked for the Evening — the Westport Library’s signature fundraising event — has brought many big names to town.

Tom Brokaw, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Patti Smith, Alan Alda and others have enlightened and entertained us, on the cramped main floor.

But now the library’s Transformation Project is almost complete. Stacks of books have been replaced by a Forum — a dramatic event space framed by a state-of-the-art stage and screen.

This year’s Booked for the Evening is the first chance for the public to see the transformed library. Organizers needed an extra-special honoree, someone as compelling as the new space itself.

Frederic Chiu (Photo/Chris Craymer)

They did not have to look far. Frederc Chiu — the internationally acclaimed, award-winning virtuoso pianist, collaborator, innovator, entrepreneur and Westporter — will inaugurate the Forum’s stage.

And he’ll do it using a spectacular new piano, with a great back story. But more on that later.

Chiu has performed on 5 continents, in all 50 states, and with orchestras like the National Symphony in Washington DC, the China National Symphony and the BBC Concert Orchestra Symphony. He has collaborated with friends like Joshua Bell.

But he’s also our neighbor.

Chiu’s introduction to Westport came in 1986, when he won the prestigious Young Performers International Competition (now named for Heida Hermanns) here.

In the 1990s he lived in Paris. Whenever he played in New York, he visited his friend Jeanine Esposito here. After they married, Westport — with its arts heritage, and proximity to New York and Europe — seemed like a perfect place to be.

Chiu loved the Westport Library. He researched music and travel. He checked out CDs, DVDs and books. And whatever he could not find, the staff tracked down through interlibrary loans.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, at home. That’s where they host their eclectic Beechwood Arts Immersive Salons.

Esposito, meanwhile, helped then-director Maxine Bleiweis develop the next phas of the MakerSpace.

Current director Bill Harmer has impressed the couple too. Recently, he announced that the library will be the winter home of Chiu and Esposito’s Beechwood Arts Immersion Salon series.

“Today, libraries are community hubs” Chiu notes. “They’re places to create bonds, where people can communicate. And they’re accessible to all.”

Chiu is excited that the Westport Library is expanding that mission by including the arts in its transformation. Audio and video production have dedicated spaces, next to the impressive new stage.

On Tuesday, June 4, Chiu’s Booked for the Evening performance debuts not only that stage, but also the library’s new Yamaha Disklavier piano.

It’s an astonishing instrument. Besides its marvelous sound, the piano is a technological marvel. It can play 50,000 songs (like a player piano). It also connects with any other Disklavier anywhere in the world.

And with its video capabilities, it allows Chiu to do something he’ll showcase on Tuesday: He can play a duet with himself. He’s chosen Chopin’s only work for 2 pianos.

Here’s looking at Chiu: The pianist stands in the Forum, while a video of him playing plays on the high-def screen behind the stage.

That’s just one piece of Chiu’s performance. He’ll play with Timo Andres, an award-winning young pianist/composer.

He also brings his interactive production of Prokofiev’s popular “Romeo and Juliet: The Choice” ballet to the stage. At the end, Booked guests vote for either the tragic conclusion, or the composer’s little-known happy ending.

But back to that Yamaha piano. It’s a gift from Stacy Bass and her brother, David Waldman. It honors their mother, Jessica Waldman, who died in January.

The donation has special meaning for Stacy, who helped start Booked for the Evening 21 years ago.

“My mother was passionate about theater and music,” Stacy says. “David and I wanted to give something to the library that really represents her. The piano will be part of the stage. She will live on every day.”

Frederic Chiu, at the beautiful new Yamaha Dislavier piano. It’s a gift from Stacy Bass and David Waldman, in honor of their mother Jessica. (Photos/Dan Woog)

Last week Chiu sat at the piano, in the still-unfinished Forum, and smiled.

“I’m being honored, and I’ll be onstage. But the soloist is always the instrument and the music. I do my best to put them out front. I’m of service to great music, and a great piano.”

Chiu notes that when the piano was invented more than 300 years ago, it “brought music to the masses. It was as much an innovation as the printing press and computer were, for bringing information to the public. Playing it is unlike any other activity people can do.”

No one plays better than Frederic Chiu.

And there is no better choice for Booked for the Evening, to inaugurate the Westport Library’s new age of arts and innovation.

(For more information on the June 4 Booked for the Evening, including tickets, click here.)

Beechwood Arts Celebrates Mentors

In 2014, recenet Staples High School graduate Noah Johnson bonded quickly with Carnegie Mellon University roommate Scott Krulcik, a brilliant tech engineer.

After college, Noah was hired by Accenture. Scott worked for Google. Both were in New York City, and remained close.

Scott Krulcik

Last December Scott died of a rare, previously undiagnosed congenital heart condition. His service was filled with stories of how he had helped, encouraged and mentored many people to do more than they thought they could.

He had mentored those younger — and older — than himself. Most were on completely different life paths. He accomplished much in his short 22 years — for himself, and so many others.

Scott’s life and death gave Noah’s parents — Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito — an idea. They want to encourage people to become mentors.

Frederic and Jeanine have the perfect platform to make their plan a reality. They’re the founders and hosts of Beechwood. The series — named for their their 1806 renovated farmhouse on Weston Road — brings artists, musicians and other creative types together in unique and compelling ways.

Karl Schulz

“Beechwood Arts Celebrates Mentorship” is set for this Sunday (May 5, 3 to 6 p.m.). The salon features a special pairing: noted jazz and gospel composer/ pianist/singer/ teacher/choir director Chris  Coogan, and 14-year-old jazz pianist prodigy Karl Schulz.

Scott’s mother, father and sister are coming from upstate New York and California, to join Frederic, Jeanine and scores of others at the event.

The Beechwood Arts theme for this season is “Journeys.” It will be explored — via music, visual art, sculpture, performance, film and culinary arts — in all its forms, real and metaphorical. Click here for more information, and tickets.

Going forward, Frederic and Jeanine will provide seats to all events for 1 mentor, and 1 mentee. Email contact@beechwoodarts.org for nominations.

In honor of the mentorship celebration, Frederic and Jeanine offer these thoughts — from Scott — on what all humans should strive for, to help others:

  • Share your knowledge to help others achieve their dreams.
  • Encourage them that they can do it.
  • Celebrate them and have joy for their accomplishments.
  • Make time. Help others, in spite of your busy schedule.
  • Make things — and share what you make.
  • Give out smiles generously. You can always make more!
  • Say thank you, for all things big and small.
  • Value and honor friends and family. Show up.
  • Be accepting. Be generous. Be humble.
  • Accept the challenge — and do your best.

Beechwood House — with its magnificent copper beech tree — is the site of fascinating salons.

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.”)