April 19, 2019

CT River Museum Hosts Dinner in Old Lyme Tonight With Guest Speaker Jeff Cooley; Benefits Curatorial Fund

Jeff Cooley will be the speaker at the Connecticut River Museum’s Brenda Milkofsky Curatorial Fund benefit event on April 18 at the Old Lyme Country Club.

Would you like to know more about the ins and outs of collecting in the contemporary art world? 

Join the board, administration and members of the Connecticut River Museum Thursday, April 18, at the Old Lyme Country Club when Jeffrey Whitman Cooley of The Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme presents “Outs & Ins: The Art in the Life of an Art Dealer.” The event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. and includes dinner.

Cooley, a Hartford native trained at Harvard, apprenticed in the American Painting Department of Christie’s Auction House and graduated to the American Paintings Department at the Wadsworth Athenaeum will share his stories.

In 1981, Cooley established The Cooley Gallery in a yellow storefront on Lyme Street. There he continues to identify, gather, exhibit and interpret American paintings and painters to numerous different audiences.

He serves as an enthusiastic and committed advisor to the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury and the former Lyme Academy College of Fine Art, where he was awarded an honorary degree. Cooley is a board member at the Florence Griswold Museum and an Elector at the Wadsworth Athenaeum. He has been an influential guide to young, talented artists helping many to emerge as professionals.

Proceeds from this evening support the Brenda Milkofsky Curatorial Fund. Organized in 2009 to recognize the work of the Connecticut River Museum’s Founding Director, the fund is restricted to the acquisition and conservation of objects and manuscripts that enhance the historical focus of the Connecticut River Museum’s collections.

Purchases from this fund have included the portrait of a Middletown merchant mariner; a landscape of the oft-painted view of the Ox Bow below Mount Holyoke; the stern board of a Portland-built stone schooner; an Old Lyme hunting scene, and a model of a Blue Line tug-boat.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit this link or call the Connecticut River Museum at 860-767-8269. Tickets are $100 per person.

The Connecticut River Museum is located in Essex, Conn., and is the only museum dedicated to the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its Valley.  The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street, Essex and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Legislators, Superintendents, Residents Express Universal Opposition to Forced School Regionalization

Special to LymeLine.com

Sitting in the front row of the audience at Monday night’s forum on school regionalization were local school superintendents (from right to left) Ian Neviaser (Lyme-Old Lyme), Pat Ciccone (Westbrook) and Jan Perruccio (Old Saybrook.)

Over 100 people turned out for an Education and Regionalization Forum at Old Saybrook Middle School on Thursday, April 11. The event was hosted by Rep. Devin Carney, (R-23rd), with Senators Paul Formica, (R-20th), and Norm Needleman, (D-33rd).

While the two parties differ on Connecticut road tolls, all three local officials said they are against forced regionalization of school district bills proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, Senators Bob Duff and Cathy Osten, Deputy President Pro Tempore, and by Governor Ned Lamont.

Rep. Carney said there was an enormous public outcry by small towns and school districts, thousands of pieces of testimony received and hundreds of people, including students from Region 18 schools, who testified in March hearings.  While this probably means that the idea of aligning school districts with recently consolidated probate districts is not advancing, the matter of reducing and reallocating education costs is very much still alive, and pieces of proposed legislation could still become law.

“Nothing is truly ever dead until we gavel out at midnight on June 5,” Rep. Carney said, explaining the state legislative process and timelines of the ongoing session in Hartford. 

State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) addresses the audience Monday night while (left) State Sen. Paul Formica (R-20th) awaits his turn to speak. Almost hidden from view, State Sen. Norm Needleman (D-33rd) stands to Rep. Carney’s right.

Of the six bills introduced that address regionalization of schools or services, three have been passed by the Education Committee and further action could be taken on them:

  • Governors Bill 874 establishes an appointed Commission on Shared School Services that is charged with developing shared school services recommendations, requires boards of education (BOEs) to report on currently shared school services and requires regional BOEs to post online monthly current and projected expenditures and to submit information to their town’s legislative body. The commission would issue a report in December 2020, recommendations could be binding on towns and districts. Because of costs of setting up a commission, the bill has been referred to Appropriations Committee;
  • HB 7350 requires regional education service centers (RESCs) to distribute an inventory of goods and services to member BOEs, and the Department of Education (DOE) shall develop a report of best practices by RESCs for regional cooperation. (LEARN, at 44 Hatchetts Hill Road in Old Lyme, is a RESC);
  • SB 1069, proposed by Sen. Needleman, which allows the DOE to study the effects of towns working together as Local Education Agencies, is intended to encourage voluntary regional cooperation and maximize efficiencies and cost savings without being mandated to become regional school districts.

Superintendents Ian Neviaser (Lyme-Old Lyme), Jan Perruccio (Old Saybrook), and Pat Ciccone (Westbrook) addressed how their districts have been sharing services and resources to reduce costs while maintaining the quality of curriculum along with educational, extracurricular and sports activities and programs.  Standard practices include health and dental insurance, energy, financial software, food service and supplies, plus student transportation for specialized programs.

Old Saybrook, Westbrook and Region 4 (Chester, Deep River and Essex plus the three elementary schools for each of those towns, which are not part of Region 4) school districts already share staff, Perruccio said, in an arrangement that has the flexibility to change yearly based on each districts’ demographic needs.

Perruccio said she was alarmed that the forced regionalization bills showed a lack of regard and understanding of how school districts are already sharing resources with a focus on quality of education.

Ciccone cited how the districts are coordinating to provide professional development for their teachers, and how Westbrook’s school facilities, sports programs and fields are utilized by the Town Parks and Recreation Department and local YMCA. The schools and town share legal and financial services support, as well. 

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser stands at the podium during Monday evening’s forum.

“There is a money issue here, we need to be frank about it,” said Neviaser, pointing out that significant redistribution of wealth from school districts with higher property values and tax base already occurs. 

Fifty-one percent of New London’s school budget is paid by the state, he said., as is over 60 percent of Norwich’s, 33 percent of Montville’s and 14 percent of East Lyme’s school budgets. Meanwhile, Lyme-Old Lyme Schools receive less than one percent of operating expenses from the state.

“There was no mention of improving educational outcomes in these regionalization proposals,” commented Tina Gilbert of Lyme. “It is because of our school district’s focus on that, we are in the top four in the country in education.  There is no discussion of parent involvement in schools; we are not wealthy or privileged people, we chose to live in this school district for our children.  What it takes to build [highly performing schools] is parent involvement, working with parents.”

When asked if they moved to their town because of the quality of the schools, a high number of people in the audience raised their hands.

While the majority of questions and comments addressed specifics of proposed legislation, the overarching issue of state fiscal problems and how to address government spending arose. Lyme and Old Lyme residents were some of the most vocal about the impact of proposed legislation on property values, taxes and the quality of local school districts.

“The majority of the state doesn’t have a problem, town government works in Connecticut, but Hartford is not responsible,” said Curt Deane of Lyme, pointing out a seven-page summary of education service-sharing produced by LEARN in February.  “The initial [regionalization] proposals would have raised my property taxes by 50 percent overnight. Taxes go up, property values go down. People have to understand, this is going to hit our property taxes and hit hard. This isn’t going to go away.” 

“We can’t be a state with only great little towns and not great cities,” Sen. Needleman said, citing imbalances of health care outcomes and school performance between wealthier communities and the state’s large cities. He continued, “While we don’t want to mess up what we have, we can’t turn our backs on the disparities.”

The legislators encouraged voters to speak up, write letters, follow grassroots organizations such as Hands Off Our Schools or form their own group to express concerns to elected officials.

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Five Days of Fun at Connecticut River Museum This Week

Come to the Connecticut River Museum during April School Vacation for a week of creativity and discovery. Join for one session or the whole week!

Staying in town for April vacation?

Connecticut River Museum (CRM) has five days of cool things to do for your child or children from April 15 to 19. Whether you are looking for one day or all five, there is something fun and exciting waiting for you at the Museum.

Bring your imagination and come prepared to create and experiment as we explore the River and its history. This year the Museum expanded their April Vacation day offerings to full days of fun. Workshops are designed for ages 6 – 12. 

Offerings this year are

  • Poetry and Art
  • Maritime Madness
  • Create a Museum
  • Mud and Dirt
  • Spring is in the Air

Explore the museum, go outdoors, create projects, do arts and crafts. Get more information about each day’s activities and register at www.ctrivermuseum.org.

Programs run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are $45/day, $205/week for CRM members and $50/Day, $230/week for nonmembers. Advance registration is required and space is limited.

Email sburns@ctrivermuseum.org or call 860.767.8269 x113 with questions. The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street.

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Letter From Paris: And So It Goes On … Brexit, That Is

Nicole Prévost Logan

“Order, Order!” barked John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons before announcing the results of the third-time-around vote on Theresa May’s Brexit “deal” .  “The ayes to the right 286, the noes to the left 344,  the left have it.”

It was that fateful day, March 29 – chosen by the Prime Minister as the deadline to decide on the “divorce” of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU).  The masterful and funny Speaker was able to control his troops and even to provoke laughter, telling one Member of Parliament (MP), “Get a grip, man, do yoga, it will be beneficial to you.”

In retrospect, not much progress had been made to resolve the Brexit issue on the British side since the June 23, 2016 referendum. It seemed that the government was taking its time and fantasizing about the legal elbow room it actually had to make decisions. (See my previous articles published on 3/5/2016; 4/6/2017 and 12/29/18)

Action in the House of Commons started really in earnest on Nov. 15, 2018 when Theresa May’s original deal was voted down. A second vote on the same motion, and a third with almost identical text were also rejected by the MPs. By drawing red lines, the tenacious but inflexible Prime Minister made it hard for herself to negotiate.

During the winter months, the parliament at Westminster offered the world a spectacle of one “decisive week” after another with votes ending in an inability to reach a majority. By March 14, Theresa May had lost her voice and the headlines in the press read “Game over.”

On the eve of the March 29 deadline, the situation turned surrealistic with two superimposed pictures (to use the words of Le Monde special envoy to London) of a vote on May’s deal and eight others on alternative proposals the MPs had organized on their own.  In a dramatic gesture, Theresa May used her last joker – stepping down from office – in case her deal was supported.   

The Prime Minister described the situation as “the end of a process” with the MPs having said no to everything : to the deal, to the absence of a deal, to Brexit, to Article 50 itself, to the eight separate proposals. In the face of this total collapse of a possible way out of this impasse, Donald Tusk, European Council President announced an extraordinary summit in Brussels on April 10.

A surprising amount of information and live coverage is now appearing on the French media,  shedding a new light on Brexit.

One report showed to what extent the public opinion was in fact manipulated.  More than 80 percent of the British press was hostile to Europe and contained “fake news” items.  The “Brexiteers” promised that the Commonwealth would save the UK. The famous red bus of Boris Johnson traveled throughout the country, displaying the number of 350 million pounds sterling ($455 million) in giant letters . That is the amount “BoJo” (Boris Johnson’s nickname) claimed that the UK is sending the EU every week instead of using it to fund the National Health Service (NHS). 

A Canada-based web site called AggregateiQ, created by Dominic Cummings, utilized private data collected from social networks and used it to “microtarget” individuals with “dark ads.” The “Vote Leave” site used a strategy comparable to that used by Cambridge Analytica, a company heavily implicated in the 2016 US election manipulation.

Other reports helped better understand why re-establishing a border between the two Irelands was a visceral impossibility. The Good Friday agreement in 1998 brought peace back but the catholic and protestant communities in Belfast, are still separated.

In this fragile context, the Irish people fear that a 300-mile external border with the EU would jeopardize the hard-won peace agreement. Trying to solve the problem of a border is an attempt at squaring a circle. The only solution might be a border at the bottom of the Irish Sea.  The backstop which allows the border to remain open until a final treaty is signed, is only a temporary solution.

It was not until the 11th hour – or less than one week before the March 29 deadline – that a significant turn occurred in London.  Prime Minister May entered into talks with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, in spite of their sharp disagreements.  It was such a breakthrough that the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond declared on April 5, “the threat of the UK crashing out of the Union is heavily diminished.”  The Conservative party began to lean toward a “soft Brexit” and the possibility of the UK remaining in the Custom Union.

During all these months, the Europeans showed a consensual unity.  Their only caveat being that another delay would have to be justified by a clear plan such as general elections or a second referendum.  Their patience though began to wear out by early April as some divergences of opinion emerged. 

The priority for Angela Merkel is to avoid a no deal Brexit and she will bend over backwards to make that happen.   Although sharing many views with the UK in economy or trade, Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, confirmed his alignment with the collective position. 

The “flextension” of one year suggested by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, might not appeal to everybody. President Macron and EU Commissioner Juncker sound tougher on more delays. However, Macron reaffirmed on April 1, that he will stand by the decision made by Brussels and will not use his veto.   

The repeated postponements requested by Prime Minister May (April 12, May 23, June 30) forced the MPs to cancel their Easter recess. Much more serious, is the imbroglio caused by the colliding of the Brexit discussions with the European elections scheduled to take place May 26.

This long saga turned rather nasty when Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, ultra Brexiteer, tweeted on April 5, “Let us stay [in Europe] and this way we will be able to damage the Union from the inside and oppose our veto on any Brussels decision”.

And so, the suspense goes on.  During these final hours, the two Houses of Parliament are scrambling to find a solution and seem to agree that a no-deal Brexit is unacceptable.  The Europeans do not want to push the UK out of the Union.

Chances are that the outcome will be Britain remaining in the Custom union, an à la carte solution, which was almost obvious from the beginning.  The British should take heart.  It only took 22 years for Norway to establish relations with the EU through the European Economic Area (EEA), and 29 years for Canada to negotiate with Europe through the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)!

Since all the thorny issues – the City, fishing , citizens’ rights, Gibraltar, etc – are included in the 27 pages of the non legally-binding Political Declarations, a  second part of Article 50 (in other words, swept under the rug ) will have to be negotiated later . Brexit will continue to haunt both the divided British opinion and also Europe .

Some may think it is the UK’s vocation is to be independent from Europe and turned toward the rest of the world.  It certainly seems British people consider EU membership a straight-jacket. Interestingly, these are the same reasons General Charles de Gaulle gave persistently more than 50 years ago as to why he was against the original entry of Britain into the European Economic Community (EEC).

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Letter From Paris: And So It Goes On … Brexit, That Is

Nicole Prévost Logan

“Order, Order!” barked John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons before announcing the results of the third-time-around vote on Theresa May’s Brexit “deal” .  “The ayes to the right 286, the noes to the left 344,  the left have it.”

It was that fateful day, March 29 – chosen by the Prime Minister as the deadline to decide on the “divorce” of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU).  The masterful and funny Speaker was able to control his troops and even to provoke laughter, telling one Member of Parliament (MP), “Get a grip, man, do yoga, it will be beneficial to you.”

In retrospect, not much progress had been made to resolve the Brexit issue on the British side since the June 23, 2016 referendum. It seemed that the government was taking its time and fantasizing about the legal elbow room it actually had to make decisions. (See my previous articles published on 3/5/2016; 4/6/2017 and 12/29/18)

Action in the House of Commons started really in earnest on Nov. 15, 2018 when Theresa May’s original deal was voted down. A second vote on the same motion, and a third with almost identical text were also rejected by the MPs. By drawing red lines, the tenacious but inflexible Prime Minister made it hard for herself to negotiate.

During the winter months, the parliament at Westminster offered the world a spectacle of one “decisive week” after another with votes ending in an inability to reach a majority. By March 14, Theresa May had lost her voice and the headlines in the press read “Game over.”

On the eve of the March 29 deadline, the situation turned surrealistic with two superimposed pictures (to use the words of Le Monde special envoy to London) of a vote on May’s deal and eight others on alternative proposals the MPs had organized on their own.  In a dramatic gesture, Theresa May used her last joker – stepping down from office – in case her deal was supported.   

The Prime Minister described the situation as “the end of a process” with the MPs having said no to everything : to the deal, to the absence of a deal, to Brexit, to Article 50 itself, to the eight separate proposals. In the face of this total collapse of a possible way out of this impasse, Donald Tusk, European Council President announced an extraordinary summit in Brussels on April 10.

A surprising amount of information and live coverage is now appearing on the French media,  shedding a new light on Brexit.

One report showed to what extent the public opinion was in fact manipulated.  More than 80 percent of the British press was hostile to Europe and contained “fake news” items.  The “Brexiteers” promised that the Commonwealth would save the UK. The famous red bus of Boris Johnson traveled throughout the country, displaying the number of 350 million pounds sterling ($455 million) in giant letters . That is the amount “BoJo” (Boris Johnson’s nickname) claimed that the UK is sending the EU every week instead of using it to fund the National Health Service (NHS). 

A Canada-based web site called AggregateiQ, created by Dominic Cummings, utilized private data collected from social networks and used it to “microtarget” individuals with “dark ads.” The “Vote Leave” site used a strategy comparable to that used by Cambridge Analytica, a company heavily implicated in the 2016 US election manipulation.

Other reports helped better understand why re-establishing a border between the two Irelands was a visceral impossibility. The Good Friday agreement in 1998 brought peace back but the catholic and protestant communities in Belfast, are still separated.

In this fragile context, the Irish people fear that a 300-mile external border with the EU would jeopardize the hard-won peace agreement. Trying to solve the problem of a border is an attempt at squaring a circle. The only solution might be a border at the bottom of the Irish Sea.  The backstop which allows the border to remain open until a final treaty is signed, is only a temporary solution.

It was not until the 11th hour – or less than one week before the March 29 deadline – that a significant turn occurred in London.  Prime Minister May entered into talks with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, in spite of their sharp disagreements.  It was such a breakthrough that the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond declared on April 5, “the threat of the UK crashing out of the Union is heavily diminished.”  The Conservative party began to lean toward a “soft Brexit” and the possibility of the UK remaining in the Custom Union.

During all these months, the Europeans showed a consensual unity.  Their only caveat being that another delay would have to be justified by a clear plan such as general elections or a second referendum.  Their patience though began to wear out by early April as some divergences of opinion emerged. 

The priority for Angela Merkel is to avoid a no deal Brexit and she will bend over backwards to make that happen.   Although sharing many views with the UK in economy or trade, Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, confirmed his alignment with the collective position. 

The “flextension” of one year suggested by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, might not appeal to everybody. President Macron and EU Commissioner Juncker sound tougher on more delays. However, Macron reaffirmed on April 1, that he will stand by the decision made by Brussels and will not use his veto.   

The repeated postponements requested by Prime Minister May (April 12, May 23, June 30) forced the MPs to cancel their Easter recess. Much more serious, is the imbroglio caused by the colliding of the Brexit discussions with the European elections scheduled to take place May 26.

This long saga turned rather nasty when Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, ultra Brexiteer, tweeted on April 5, “Let us stay [in Europe] and this way we will be able to damage the Union from the inside and oppose our veto on any Brussels decision”.

And so, the suspense goes on.  During these final hours, the two Houses of Parliament are scrambling to find a solution and seem to agree that a no-deal Brexit is unacceptable.  The Europeans do not want to push the UK out of the Union.

Chances are that the outcome will be Britain remaining in the Custom union, an à la carte solution, which was almost obvious from the beginning.  The British should take heart.  It only took 22 years for Norway to establish relations with the EU through the European Economic Area (EEA), and 29 years for Canada to negotiate with Europe through the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)!

Since all the thorny issues – the City, fishing , citizens’ rights, Gibraltar, etc – are included in the 27 pages of the non legally-binding Political Declarations, a  second part of Article 50 (in other words, swept under the rug ) will have to be negotiated later . Brexit will continue to haunt both the divided British opinion and also Europe .

Some may think it is the UK’s vocation is to be independent from Europe and turned toward the rest of the world.  It certainly seems British people consider EU membership a straight-jacket. Interestingly, these are the same reasons General Charles de Gaulle gave persistently more than 50 years ago as to why he was against the original entry of Britain into the European Economic Community (EEC).

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Essex Winter Series’ Presents ‘Chanticleer’ This Afternoon in Old Saybrook

The final concert in this season’s Essex Winter Series will feature ‘Chaticleer.’

Essex Winter Series’ presents Chanticleer, the Grammy Award-Winning ensemble dubbed an orchestra of voices, on Sunday, April 7 at 3 pm at Old Saybrook High School, 1111 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook.

They are celebrating the ensemble’s 40th anniversary with the program, Then and There Here and Now, which contains music by some of Chanticleer’s favorite composers. From Palestrina and Victoria to Mason Bates and Steven Stucky, with lustrous examples of the South American baroque, as well as audience favorite arrangements by Jennings, Shaw and others. This program reflects the expansive aesthetic and seamless virtuosity in ensemble singing which have been Chanticleer’s hallmark for four decades.

Essex Winter Series is honored to be part of Chanticleer’s anniversary year and concludes its season with this fabulous program.

Seating is general admission and tickets may be purchased by calling 860-272-4572 or visiting www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2019 season is generously sponsored by The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Masonicare at Chester Village, Tower Laboratories, Guilford Savings Bank, and BrandTech Scientific.
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Letter From Paris: Present Pace of European Politics is Dizzying

Nicole Prévost Logan

The unity of Europe is being put to the test now more than ever: the deadline of the Brexit pushed back from March 29 to April 12 is heightening the uncertainty to an almost unbearable level, the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping to Italy, Monaco and France is preoccupying several members of the European Union (EU), and the populist votes in recent European elections are gaining strength.   

On March 22, British Prime Minister Theresa May was in Brussels, waiting for a decision by the European Council gathered at an extraordinary Summit. She obtained a short “technical” extension of the Brexit deadline until May 24 in the event the House of Commons reaches an agreement.  In spite of their weariness, the 27 EU members wanted to show some benevolence by granting a few more days.  Another reason was that they did not want to be the ones to lower the hatchet on the UK.

Xi Jinping and his wife, a former opera singer and general, Peng Liyuan, landed in Rome on March 21.  The president of China has found in Italy a major beachhead for its Silk Roads initiative in Europe.  Italy, which fell into recession at the end of 2018, needs money to invest into its infrastructure. Presidents Giuseppe Conte and Xi Jinping signed contracts for billions of  Euros, including some earmarked for the development of  Trieste and Genoa commercial harbors. It is extremely worrisome that one of the G7 countries would grant access to Schengen Space to a foreign power.

French President Emmanuel Macron planned the official visit of the Chinese couple in grand style with a program loaded with symbols … an overnight in the famous Negresco Hotel in Nice; watching the sunset over the sea from the museum-villa Kerylos (a replica of an Athenian residence) in Beaulieu  and thus alluding to Ancient Greece as the cradle of European culture; dinner at the Elysée palace for 200 guests, including – at the request of Xi Jinping –  a French actress from the most popular TV series in China.  The top pastry chef, cheese expert and wine sommelier of France were collectively watching over the dinner, the menu of which remained a secret.  Last time Paris went all out for a Chinese president was in 2004, when the Eiffel Tower was turned red to mark the visit of Hu Jintao. 

But the crucial message of the visit came out loud and clear when Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU  Commission, together greeted the president of China.  The message was to present a joint European front.  In his address, Macron formulated the general guidelines of future relations between China and Europe avoiding no confrontation, a partnership based on reciprocity while not appearing to be naïve.

In recent years, the Chinese have invested more than 140 billion Euros in Europe.  Since 2014, they have organized “16+1” summits attended every year by 11 Eastern European and five Balkan countries to expand economic cooperation.  In announcing his vision for “renovated multilateralism,” Macron hopes to hamper China’s strategy, which has been until now to pressure individual countries with its power and capitalize on their vulnerability.  Finally, Macron stressed that European countries must preserve their sovereignty and stop the take-over of strategic installations by foreign countries. 

Although Europe appeared united as a bloc in the face of Brexit, recent developments in The Netherlands , Hungary and Poland are emblematic of changes taking place in the political landscape.

In The Netherlands, elections took place on March 20, the day after the terrorist attack on the tramway in Utrecht.  A new party, “Forum for democracy (FvD), headed by jurist and historian Thierry Baudet, age 36. caught up in the polls with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the “Popular and Democratic” party (VVD).  Baudet is a right-wing Eurosceptic, anti-migrants, and a supporter of Donald Trump.  He is for a “tolerant and inclusive nationalism.”  He denounces political “élites”and a multicultural society.

On March 16, Zuzana Caputova, a lawyer, divorced and pro-choice, won the presidential elections in Slovakia, a very catholic country of close to six  million people.  She won in the second round of the ballot against Maros Sfcovic of the leftist populist party.  Having worked before for an ONG defending human rights, she holds liberal views on the economy.  The elections were influenced by the murder, one year ago, of a journalist and his fiancée — the journalist was investigating the links between the Italian Mafia and the Slovakian Central Executive.  The protest demonstrations in Bratislava that followed the murder were the largest since the independence of Slovakia in 1993.

On March 4, Gdansk again showed its importance as a center of the opposition in Poland.  After the murder of  Pawel Adamovicz, the city’s mayor, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, the mayor’s deputy, won the mayoral election with a landslide.  She may become a strong adversary to the government.

In another development, Robert Biedron, head of the party Wiosna (spring), 42, and Poland’s first openly gay politician, wants to end the monopoly of two parties in power since 2005, namely, PO –  a civic platform, conservative but liberal economically — and PiS or “law and order,” the ultra-conservative ruling party.  Although far behind the two major parties, this new candidate, who is anti-church, pro-women’s rights, and an ecologist, is a sign of change in Polish politics.

Hungary is the country making the most waves.  On March 20, ultra-right prime minister Viktor Orban’s party Fidesz was reprimanded for putting up anti-Brussels posters, and for his repressive policy.  The European parliament decided to take action and suspended  Fidesz from the Parti Populaire Europeen (PPE) with an overwhelming majority of 190 to. 4. 

Many are sickened by Orban’s provocations.  He appears obsessed with George Soros, the American  billionaire of Hungarian origin.  The European Parliament in Strasbourg voted to maintain Soros’ Central Europe University. “We put Orban in the freezer and Van Rompoy* holds the door”(*Herman Van Rompoy, a Belgian, is former president of the European Council) commented a Belgian Euro-deputy.

The suspension will at least prevent Orban from joining hands with Matteo Salvini of the Far Right League in Italy and the Law and Justice party in Poland.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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‘Burt & Me,’ Featuring Love, Laughter & Great Music, Opens at Ivoryton Playhouse; on Stage Through April 7

Josh Powell, Andy Christopher and Nathan Richardson appear in ‘Burt & Me’ at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

IVORYTON – The Ivoryton Playhouse opens its 2019 season with a dazzling parade of hits by the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the musical comedy Burt & Me by Larry McKenna.

This coming-of-age story is narrated by Joe, who tells the story of his obsession with the music of Burt Bacharach alongside his high school romance with Lacey. The old story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again, develops a new life in this nostalgic paean to the music and culture of America in the 70s.

When Burt Bacharach and Hal David met in the New York City offices of Famous Music in 1957, they had no idea that their collaboration would have such an impact on the world of pop music. In their years of writing together, they produced almost 150 songs. Sometimes the words came first, sometimes the music, sometimes both at once.

One Iyric (“Alfie”) took three days; another (“What The World Needs Now Is Love”), three years. This nostalgic juke box musical contains many of their greatest hits including, “What the World Needs Now,” “Walk On By,” “I Say A Little Prayer” and “This Guy’s in Love with You”.

Andy Christopher and Lauren Gire sing a duet in ‘Burt & Me’

The cast includes Playhouse favorites Adrianne Hick* (South Pacific), Lauren Gire* (My Way: the Frank Sinatra Story )  Neal Mayer*, (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Oliver!) and Josh Powell* (My Way: the Frank Sinatra Story and Love Quest).

Making their Playhouse debut are Andy Christopher* as our protagonist, Joe, Katie Luke and Nathan Richardson. The show is directed and choreographed by Brian Feehan, musical directed by Michael Morris, set design by Emily Nichols, lighting and sound design by Tate Burmeister and costumes by Lisa Bebey.

This may well be an evening of pure nostalgia but it also serves to remind us of Bacharach’s genius for melody, the complexity of his arrangements and David’s keen sense of human motivation. These are the songs that form the soundtrack of our youth and even their sad songs make you feel good.

Burt & Me runs through April 7. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. There will be one Thursday matinee on March 21.

Tickets are $55 adult / $50 senior / $25 student / $20 children 12 and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org  (Group rates and subscriptions are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

*denotes member of Actors Equity

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Needleman Proposes New School Regionalization Plan, Public Hearing Today on Another Proposal on Same Subject

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

Yesterday State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd) proposed a new plan for school regionalization. His proposal would create legislation tailored to help school districts and municipalities cooperate to share services and resources on their own terms, in contrast to recent legislation that would mandate school changes.

Needleman appeared with East Haddam Selectman Robert Smith, Chester First Selectman Laurent Gister, Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Essex Board of Education member Lon Seidman, Portland First Selectman Susan Bransfield and CABE Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy.

Watch this news clip from NBC to see a summary of what Needleman proposed.

The 33rd Senatorial District includes the Town of Lyme.

Today a public hearing will be held at 11 a.m. in Hartford on HB 7192, AN ACT CONCERNING MUNICIPAL AND REGIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND EFFICIENCIES, a Governor’s Bill dealing generally with regionalization and shared services for local governments

Sections 7-10 of the bill are the same as Sections 1-4 of SB 874, the Governor’s Bill on school regionalization and shared services. If you have already submitted testimony to the Education Committee on school regionalization bills, this is an opportunity to comment before a different committee specifically on SB 874.

– Make sure to read the four sections of HB 7192 (again) and comment on them specifically (of course, you may also comment on any other sections you choose).

– Include only HB 7192 (same as first sections of SB 874) in your testimony, as this is the only language from the three school regionalization bills that is before Planning & Development.

Written testimony should be submitted by 9 a.m. to PDtestimony@cga.ct.gov

Sign-up to speak between 9 and 10 a.m. (lottery) in Room 1D.

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Needleman to Join with District, School Leaders Today in Hartford to Show Support for Shared Services, Resources by School Districts, Municipalities

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

Today at 10 a.m. State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd) will join with district leaders and school officials in the Legislative Office Building Room 1A, in Hartford to voice their support for legislation tailored to help school districts and municipalities cooperate to share services and resources on their own terms, in contrast to recent legislation that would mandate school changes.

Needleman will appear with East Haddam Selectman Robert Smith, Chester First Selectman Laurent Gister, Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Essex Board of Education member Lon Seidman, Portland First Selectman Susan Bransfield and CABE Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy.

The 33rd State Senatorial District includes Lyme.

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Essex Winter Series presents New Haven Symphony Orchestra This Afternoon with Violinist Tai Murray

Violinist Tai Murray, who will perform Sunday in the Essex Winter Series.
Photo: Marco Borggreve for HM

Essex Winter Series presents its Fenton Brown Emerging Artist Concert featuring the New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO) with violinist Tai Murray on Sunday, March 17, at 3 p.m. at Valley Regional High School, Deep River.

Maestro William Boughton, in his final season with NHSO, conducts four masterpieces showcasing the string family of the orchestra, as well as the internationally and critically acclaimed violin soloist Tai Murray. The concert will include Mozart’s Symphony No. 31, better known as the Paris Symphony; Violin Concerto in G minor by Prokofiev; Barber’s solemn, yet powerful Adagio for Strings; and Haydn’s Symphony No. 102.
An inspiring talent with a silky and sweet tone from even the highest registers of her instrument, impeccable intonation, the hugely musical Murray has become an essential personality in today’s classical musical world. A former BBC Young Generation artist, member of the Marlboro Festival and of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society, she gave her London Proms Debut during the summer of 2016 with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Thomas Sondergard.
Living between New York and Berlin, Murray has been heard on stages such as the Barbican, Queen Elisabeth and London Royal Albert Hall, aside orchestras such as Chicago Symphony, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.
Essex Winter Series’ 42nd season concludes on April 7 at Old Saybrook High School with Chanticleer, known around the world as “an orchestra of voices.” The program celebrates the ensemble’s 40th year with a program of beloved composers, from Palestrina and Victoria to Mason Bates and Steven Stucky, as well as audience favorite arrangements by Jennings, Shaw and others.
Seating for all concerts is general admission and tickets may be purchased by calling 860-272-4572 or visiting www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2019 season is generously sponsored by The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Masonicare at Chester Village, Tower Laboratories, Guilford Savings Bank, and BrandTech Scientific.

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Letter From Paris: Will Europe Fight Back in Face of World, Local Challenges?

Nicole Prévost Logan

The European Union (EU) is under attack from all sides.

Will the EU strike back?

The most serious threat against Europe is the dislocation of the world system of security and defense, which Europe relies on as a protection.  During the past two years, an avalanche of steps taken by the US is unraveling the Atlantic-dominated frameworkwith a possible US pull-back from NATO;  a hasty and sloppy departure of US troops from Syria in December 2018 putting the European allies in front of the fait accompli; breaking away from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in February 2019 (immediately followed by Russia doing the same thing the next day.)

The noxious transatlantic relations came to light during the Munich Security Conference (MSC), February 15-17, an annual event, since 1963, attended by the decision-makers of the world.  Angela Merkel was the voice of many worried Europeans. The contrast between her speech and US vice president Mike Pence’s was striking. 

Without a script, the German chancellor made a passionate plea for multilateralism, clearly pointing at the US, Russia and China to save the world order which she sees in danger of decline and destruction. 

She received a standing ovation.

After her spirited performance, the US Vice President’s words sounded leaden.  “He admonished Europeans the way Brejhnev did the Iron Curtain countries back in the USSR days,” commented a French analyst.  Pence’s speech was met with an icy reception.  There was an incredible moment when he brought Donald Trump’s greetings. 

An interminable and deafening silence followed.  He clearly was expecting applause from the audience. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov proposed to prolong the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction) Treaty after 2021. This treaty – limiting the number of long-range nuclear missiles- is one of the last remaining from the cold war era.   

Sylvie Kauffman, editorial writer for Le Monde, commented, “The Europeans feel left out in the cold, tetanized by the major powers working out a system above their heads.”  Sigmar Gabriel, former German minister of foreign affairs, wrote, “In a world of carnivorous geopolitics, the Europeans are the last vegetarians.  After the departure of the UK, we will become vegans, then prey.”

One way to attack and therefore weaken Europe is to capitalize on the fact that it is divided.  Some foreign powers have become quite adept at using the “Trojan horse” strategy.

On Feb. 13-14, the US and Israel chose Poland as the location of a conference on the Middle East. In Warsaw they were able to meet with the other members of the Visegrad group (V4) —  Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic. These four countries are run by populist and authoritarian governments and clear in their intention to unravel the EU as it exists today.  There was little media coverage here about the conference, which was by-passing Brussels.  Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, was not even present.

Steve Bannon, former advisor of Donald Trump is busy traveling all over Europe, giving his support to populist countries like Italy and Hungary.  He proclaims that Brexit is a great thing and advocates the creation of a possible axis through Rome/Budapest/Warsaw to counter the Franco-German “couple”.  He has purchased a monastery near Rome and turned it into a training center for “sovereignists.”

Europe represents a juicy market of over 700 millions inhabitants.  It is particularly vulnerable because it continues to respect some rules, which are disregarded elsewhere.  The most striking illustration of unfair competition is the recent failure of the fusion of the two European railroad  magnates Alstom and Siemens.  The EU Commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, stopped the process lest it violates the antitrust rule, a rather outdated notion when one considers the size of the giant telecommunications companies in the US.  The danger for Europe is that this decision in Brussels leaves the way wide open for China.

China is by far the main predator trying to wedge its way into Europe, hiding under a charming euphemism of “silk road” (the Chinese call it also the “Belt and Road Initiative.”)  The investments of Xi Jinping’s government have increased in leaps and bonds to reach a peak in 2016, particularly in the infrastructure of smaller and poorer Eastern European countries, where they are financing bridges, tunnels, or taking over commercial harbors, airports.  Even in Western Europe, they are rescuing failing companies or acquiring new ones — China has already taken over the electricity grids of Greece, Italy and Portugal.

How can the EU strike back?

Nathalie Loiseau, French Minister of European Affairs, 55, an extremely intelligent woman and a candidate to watch for in the May 26 European elections, wants to be positive and stresses what has been accomplished, “We have gained more in 18 months than in decade on the subject of defense … Germany has joined us on the idea of a common budget for the Euro zone … Poland agrees with France on the PAC  (Common Agricultural Policy) … There is no cohesion among the nationalist governments … Austria and Hungary disagree on many topics.”

Business leaders of the MEDEF (Movement of French enterprises) met in February to reassert their economic sovereignty against malicious cyber attacks and industrial espionage, “Being liberal, they say, does not mean being naive.”

On March 4, the French president Emmanuel Macron published a “Letter to the Citizens of the 28 EU countries.”  His vision for the “renaissance of the construction of Europe” is consistent with the seminal speech on foreign policy that he gave at the Sorbonne on Sept. 26, 2017, and also with the Aix-la-Chapelle Treaty of Jan. 22, 2019, between France and Germany.  Macron advocates a protective Europe with external  borders guaranteeing free “Schengen Space,” a strong defense and security treaty, the harmonization of salaries, and protection against cyber attacks during elections.  

The reactions of the 28 EU members were favorable, although several of them said that trust is more important than the creation of new institutions. 

The attitude of all the member countries of the EU to Brexit has proved that those 27 countries do not, in fact, want to leave Europe.  Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has so far accomplished the almost impossible in keeping his troops together. 

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Sen. Needleman Meets With Lyme Selectmen, Issues Statement on School Regionalization

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

State Senator Norman Needleman (D-33rd), whose district includes Lyme, issued the following statement Monday on school regionalization proposals.

“On Monday afternoon, Sen. Needleman met with the Lyme Board of Selectmen and had an extended conversation with them about his work so far in the legislature, the policies he will and won’t support this legislative session, and how he can best work with the town.

The discussion featured school regionalization as a lead topic. Sen. Needleman has proposed Senate Bill No. 572, “An Act Encouraging Regional Cooperation Between School Districts,” which would allow multiple boards of education acting in concert to define their own school districts and have that collaboration recognized by the state as a Local Education Agency, or LEA. 

“Collaboration on school services can provide schools with increased efficiency and save both the schools and taxpayers money,” said Sen. Needleman, “Unfortunately, current law makes such collaborations complicated and discourages districts from actually engaging with one another.”

Needleman points to his hometown of Essex and its collaboration with Chester and Deep River for grades K-12. The towns are required to operate five boards of education with thirty-three board members in order to share costs and comply with current state statutes.

“There is a good argument to be made that one of the reasons why school districts aren’t doing more together is because of this level of complexity,” Needleman said. “We should be encouraging creative solutions that let our educators to do what they do best. No two school districts are the same; we should allow them to innovate and determine what works best for students.”

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Third Annual Festival of Women’s Plays Continues at Ivoryton Playhouse Today

Waltrudis Buck’s play, ‘Water Without Berries’ iwill be read on the opening night, March 1, of the Third Annual Women Playwrights Initiative at Ivoryton Playhouse.

Tickets are on on sale now for the Ivoryton Playhouse’s Third Annual Women Playwrights Initiative – Passion, Power and Prose 2019.

Tori Keenan-Zelt

The Initiative includes the Ellie Award and a $500 stipend for each of the four women playwrights chosen and provides a safe, nurturing environment for the development of new, one-act plays by and about women and the issues that shape their live, including a week of intensive rehearsal with the playwrights, directors, and actors.

The weeklong workshop culminates in two evenings of staged readings which will take place on Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT, followed by discussions with playwrights, actors and directors.

Friday, March 1, at 7 p.m., there will be two readings presented.  

  • How to Be A Widow by Tori Keenan-Zelt and directed by Susan Einhorm.  In this wickedly funny play, two young women grapple with the freedom and power of their new widowhood.
  • Water Without Berries by Waltrudis Buck and directed by Todd Underwood. Two brothers—a school teacher and Shakespearean actor—return to Harlem to persuade their infirm grandma to leave the tenement where they grew up. In this bittersweet drama, yearning, art, rivalry, and hope struggle against the relentless forces of reality.

Kathleen Cahill

Saturday, March 2, at 7 p.m. there will be two readings presented.  

  • Partner of – by Rachael Carnes and directed by Leslie Snow. What can her grandmother and mother teach young Sally about agency, expectation, and the roles society permit women? Through the lens of three enslaved women, the property of Thomas Jefferson, we face what it means to be the “partner of –”
  • The Robertassey by Kathleen Cahill and directed by Hannah Simms. Roberta’s trip to Ireland becomes a surreal odyssey when the airlines lose her suitcase containing her father’s ashes. The dialogue is sharp, and the tone is magical, in a comedy that explores the universe’s indifference, filial obligation, forgiveness, and the power of love.

Rachael Carnes

To purchase tickets for the Friday, March 1, or Saturday, March 2, readings – each start at 7 p.m. – call 860.767.7318 or visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Tickets are $20 for an adult each night; $15 for a senior each night; $10 for a student.  Buy tickets for Friday and Saturday night performances for $30 adult; $25 senior; $10 student – call the box office 860.767.7318 to book a two-day package.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT  06442.

For more information about the Women Playwrights Initiative and to read bios of the playwrights, visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

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Don’t Miss a Swashbuckling Party Tonight at Connecticut River Museum

The Privateer Crew is ready for your arrival on Saturday. Photo Credit: CRM

Arr” you in?

Come down and show your swagger on Saturday, Feb. 23, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Grab your sword, hoist your sails and get to the Privateers’ Bash, presented by Gosling’s Rum, at the Connecticut River Museum. Come in costume (or not!) and let off a bit of winter steam. Relive riverfront history at the 13th annual Privateer Bash; a playful nod to the privateers who made their wealth by plundering foreign ships of their valuable cargo.

Grog, grub, music, and dancing will fill the floors of our exhibit galleries while Brad and Brian will help create a tropical mood with the sound of the Islands. Savory bites will be provided in-part by Gourmet Galley, Coffee’s Country Market, Catering by Selene, Da Vinci Pizza and David Allen Catering. Treasure can be found with great prizes up for raffle, plus booty awarded for best costumes.

You can’t help but have a good time at the Privateer Bash! Photo Credit: CRM

A $50 Privateer ticket includes hors d’oeuvres, grog, and one complimentary drink. Or take advantage of a two-ticket purchase deal and buy two Privateer tickets for just $85. A $75 Commodore ticket includes hors d’oeuvres and grog plus an open bar. Tickets may be purchased by calling 860-767-8269, online at www.ctrivermuseum.org, or at the door on the evening of the event.

All proceeds benefit the Connecticut River Museum. Support for the Privateers Bash is provided in part by Bogaert Construction, Reynolds’ Garage & Marine, Sapia Builders Corp., All Pro Automotive, Essex Law Group, Marwin Mechanical Services, Kleinschmidt Associates, Brown & Brown/McCutcheon Burr & Sons, Essex Steam Train & RiverBoat, Pages, Inc., Shore Discount Liquor, CCA Services and Young’s Printing. In-Kind support provided by McChesney Design and Connecticut Rental Center. 

The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street on the Essex waterfront and is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. The Museum is dedicated to the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley. For a full listing of Museum programs, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269.

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RiverQuest’s ‘Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruise’ Offers Remarkable Insight, Views of CT River

This juvenile bald eagle flew alongside the RiverQuest during our recent afternoon cruise. Photo by Michael Pressman.

Oh, what a trip!

The RiverQuest at the Connecticut River Museum dock

RiverQuest hosted several members of the Fourth Estate recently on a wonderful Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruise. Temperatures were distinctly chilly last Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 13), but the heated cabin stayed warm while the boat gently sailed upstream from the Connecticut River Museum.

View from on board the RiverQuest.

The views were stunning throughout the trip and, despite the frigid temperatures, the majority of the 30 or so on board stayed outside most of the time to enjoy the whole experience to the full.

Look hard and you’ll see the mast (slightly right of center) of the sunken luxury yacht in Hamburg Cove.

As we sailed north, apart from all the wildlife on the water and in the sky, we saw the mast of the luxury yacht that has sunk in Hamburg Cove and the always delightful view of Gillette Castle high atop its East Haddam perch overlooking the Connecticut River.

Gillette Castle commands a stunning of the river.

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule shared a vast amount of fascinating facts, figures, history, happenings, and anecdotes about the river and its inhabitants, ably accompanied by naturalist and crew member Cathy Malin.

Naturalist Bill Yule shared a great deal of interesting information with the passengers.

Both were on board for the duration of the trip and, while not busy disseminating information in a lively and engaging manner, they were actively spotting and identifying wildlife of all shapes and sizes on, above and alongside the river and its banks.  They also took great care to ensure the  passengers were at all times warm, comfortable … and supplied with plenty of hot coffee!

Cathy Malin kept her eyes on the prize and was rewarded with sightings of 13 bald eagles on this trip..

Although named an ‘Eagle Cruise,’ the sighting of an eagle cannot, of course, be guaranteed, but we were fortunate to see 13 bald eagles on our trip, one flying immediately alongside the RiverQuest, and also enjoyed numerous sightings of cormorants, black-backed gulls, and common merganser ducks.

An adult bald eagle spotted during our cruise keeps a close watch on everything happening on the river beneath him. Photo by Michael Pressman.

The bald-headed eagle — the national emblem of the United States of America — reaches maturity at around age four when it acquires its signature white head and maximum wingspan of approximately six feet.

All eyes — and binoculars– were on the sky … and water.

Declared an endangered species in 1973 with the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, bald eagle populations slowly began to recover following the ban on DDT, and by 2007, populations had recovered to such an extent that the species has now been removed from the endangered species list.

There were a number of professional photographers on board sporting rather larger lenses than our cell phone!

The magnificent raptors are, however, still protected on the federal level by the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Spotting eagles was the job of everyone on board.

Every winter a number of bald eagles migrate south looking for open water on which to feed as the lakes and rivers in Canada and northern New England  freeze. Many of these magnificent birds stop in Connecticut and winter along major rivers and large reservoirs, where they can also be seen feeding and sometimes nesting on the banks of the Connecticut River.

A record of all the birds seen during each trip is kept in the Connecticut River Museum.

Counts taken in 2018 indicated there were 80 pairs of nesting bald eagles in Connecticut, which produced a record 68 chicks.

The Connecticut River Museum was the start and end-point of our trip.

The Connecticut River Museum is currently hosting a “Big Birds of Winter” exhibit, which offers an excellent overview of all the birds that might be seen on the river.

This mock-up of an eagle’s nest and the raptor silhouettes are part of the Connecticut River Museum’s “Big Birds of Winter”exhibition.

Your $42 ticket not only gives you two hours on the river aboard the RiverQuest, but also admission to all the exhibits at the Museum.

Our unequivocal opinion of this wonderful trip is simply, “Take it … it deserves two big thumbs up!”

Editor’s Note: For more information on Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruises, visit this link. For more information on RiverQuest and all the trips they offer, visit this link.  For more information on the Connecticut River Museum, visit this link.

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Essex Winter Series Presents Midiri Brothers Sextet This Afternoon

Paul Midiri who will play in the Midiri Brothers Sextet on Sunday, Feb. 17. File photo courtesy of Essex Winter Series by Tom Salvas.

ESSEX – Essex Winter Series’ presents its Stu Ingersoll Jazz Concert featuring the Midiri Brothers Sextet with special guest Jeff Barnhart on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 3 p.m. at John Winthrop Middle School, Deep River.

The incomparable Midiri Brothers Sextet performs a phenomenal jazz program celebrating the great reedmen, including Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Jimmy Noone and many othersJoseph Midiri is considered a virtuoso of clarinet and saxophone, and Paul Midiri’s wide-ranging talents include vibraphone, drums, and trombone. The added bonus will be Essex Winter Series’ Jazz Advisor and pianist Jeff Barnhart, who will join the group with his dynamic energy.

“I am thrilled to have multi-instrumental virtuosi Joe and Paul Midiri return for a concert, this time with their jazz ensemble, the Midiri Brothers Sextet,” said Barnhart. “The Sextet has been a mainstay of the CT Jazz scene throughout the Great CT Traditional Jazz Festival and the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival, and their legions of fans will be out in force to see their new show celebrating music of the great jazz reedmen. Don’t miss it!”

The lineup includes Joseph Midiri, co-leader, reeds; Paul Midiri, co-leader, vibraphone; Danny Tobias, jazz cornet, trumpet; Pat Mercuri, guitar, banjo; Jack Hegyi, bass; Jim Lawlor, drums; Jeff Barnhart, piano.

Essex Winter Series’ 42nd season continues on March 17 with violinist Tai Murray (the 2019 Fenton Brown Emerging Artist) joining the New Haven Symphony Orchestra under the direction of William Boughton for a program featuring Mozart, Prokofiev, Barber, and Hadyn.

The final concert of the series is Chanticleer, known around the world as “an orchestra of voices,” celebrating their 40th year with a program of favorites composers, from Palestrina and Victoria to Mason Bates and Steven Stucky, as well as audience favorite arrangements by Jennings, Shaw and others.  The concert will take place on April 7.

All performances take place on Sundays at 3 p.m. with the February jazz concert at John Winthrop Middle School, 1 John Winthrop Middle School Road, Deep River; the March concert at Valley Regional High School, 256 Kelsey Hill Road, Deep River; and the April concert at Old Saybrook Senior High School, 1111 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook. Seating is general admission and tickets may be purchased by calling 860-272-4572 or visiting www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2019 season is generously sponsored by The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Masonicare at Chester Village, Tower Laboratories, Guilford Savings Bank, and BrandTech Scientific.

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Letter From Paris: Life in the ‘City of Light’ is a War Zone … with Wheels!

Nicole Prévost Logan

Paris is waging a war on wheels.

In order to survive crossing the street, pedestrians have to defy car drivers while on the sidewalks, the war is between the people who walk and those on wheels in a multitude of forms.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a socialist, has made it her mission to reduce pollution in the French capital by shrinking the space open to vehicles.  It is a laudable cause and many Parisians appreciate its immediate results. 

Thanks to the closing of the roadways along the Seine, people have regained the previously lost pleasure of walking leisurely near the water, away from the noise of the traffic, while their children can play freely.

It is possible now to walk miles and discover Paris from east to west.  More boats line up at the quays and have become floating cafés.  In warm weather, tons of sand and palm trees appear overnight to give the berges (banks) de la Seine a summery look. 

But the process of narrowing avenues with larger sidewalks and creating bicycle and bus lanes can be overwhelming for residents.  For months, the ambitious project to reduce the Bastille circle to merely an intersection of avenues has turned the area into a gigantic worksite. 

People have to struggle through ever-changing makeshift paths amid the noise and dust of heavy equipment that is variously moving mountains of dirt or asphalt, installing fire hydrants and electrical cables, and relocating bus stops.  Everyday the urban landscape changes causing irritation among Parisians and resultant excessive horn-blowing. 

For pedestrians, crossing a street feels like an obstacle course.  When the lights change, motorcycles seem to think they are at the Le Mans 24 hour race (the most famous car race in France), backfire their engine to make as much noise as possible and surge forward riding only on their back wheel.  Pedestrians had better get out of the way! 

Arriving at a traffic light, drivers will not stop until it turns to amber.  The crossing space, called les clous in France (it used to be-marked by what looked like oversize thumbtacks), is encumbered with trucks, cars and busses through which one has to meander to find a passage. 

Even when the light turns green, a war of nerves starts between drivers and pedestrians. Tourists and out-of-towners hesitate and are too polite.  This is a big mistake, which is interpreted as an opportunity to move forward rapidly by drivers.  But old-time Parisians are more daring and will bluff their adversaries at the wheel.  At busy intersections, the vehicles coming from side streets do not even slow down, turning the scene into ridiculous grid locks .

Sidewalks are supposedly designed for pedestrians. Wrong!

A ‘trottinette’

A ‘gyrorue’

Today the latter share the space with an ever-increasing number of humans on wheels: big-engined motorbikes taking a short-cut then parking right in front of their destination, bicycles, skateboards, electric scooters or trottinettes — the current rage — and monowheel scooters or gyroroue.  The list is open-ended since technology invents new devices all the time. 

Traffic on sidewalks is not regulated and follows the rule of the jungle, which means no rules at all.  

Last month, I attended a big event along with hundreds of residents of my arrondissement to hear our mayor present his New Year wishes.  Among the elected members of the conseil municipal (town council), I spotted the person in charge of transportation and commented on the war-like atmosphere in our streets. 

He was very evasive, saying, yes, we are aware there is a problem, but I wondered what this transportation official was actually doing besides “being aware of the problem.” 

I almost forgot … I should add another category to my story about the wheels onslaught and that is the hordes of tourists pushing their suitcases … on wheels!

Living in Paris is an enjoyable challenge.  Having no wheels definitely keeps you on your toes.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Ivoryton Playhouse Hosts Auditions for ‘Godspell, Mama Mia and Cabaret’ Today

The Ivoryton Playhouse will be holding local auditions for Equity and non- Equity actors for the 2019 summer musicals – Godspell, Mama Mia and Cabaret – on Friday, Feb. 8, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Ivoryton Playhouse Rehearsal Studio, 22 Main Street in Centerbrook, Conn.

The Playhouse is looking for actors, singers and dancers to fill all roles. Check their website for production dates at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

All auditions are by appointment. Bring a picture and resumé and prepare a song in the style of the show.

For audition appointments, call 860-767-9520, ext.207 or email lizzy@ivorytonplayhouse.org

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Letter from Paris: Picasso’s Early Years on View in Blue … and Pink

Nicole Prévost Logan

In October 1900, Picasso – at age 19 – arrived at the Gare d’Orsay in Paris from Barcelona. So, it is appropriate that the Orsay Museum would host an exhibition about the young Spanish artist.

The blockbuster, which opened in the autumn of 2018, was called “Picasso. Bleu, Rose” and refers to the 1900-1906 years. It is a long overdue theme, never before treated in France.

For several reasons, this period is unique among Picasso’s long career. It reveals the precocious virtuosity of such a young person as a draughtsman;
never again will he express such intense emotions; Harlequin — a main character from the Commedia del’arte — is introduced for the first time and will remain his double throughout his life’s work. The image at right shows “Arlequin with an acrobat” (1905) portrayed as a young and emaciated boy.

Between 1900 and 1904, Picasso made several trips between Spain and Paris, until he settled permanently in the French capital where he rented a studio, along with other artists, in a dilapidated building baptized the Bateau-Lavoir (washhouse.)

He liked to hang around at the tavern of Els Quatre Gats (Four Cats) in Barcelona where he met Catalan friends – such as Santiago Rusinol or Ramon Casos. The exhibit shows hundreds of the small portraits and sketches, sometimes humorous, that he created at full speed.

With a voracious curiosity, he would watch the colorful, loud crowds at cabarets, bordellos, night clubs or caf’concs (cafés with a music hall performance) of Montmartre.

Toulouse Lautrec was his idol.

Like him, Picasso depicted the dejected night-life customers stunned under the effect of absinthe. “Arlequin and his companion” (1901, Pushkin museum, Moscow) shown at left represents a couple totally alienated from each other, sitting at a bistro table, with vacuous expressions on their faces.

The man is Harlequin, dressed in his usual costume with lozenges.

The “Portrait of Gustave Coquiot” (1901, Musee d’art moderne, Paris) at right is emblematic of this garish night life. The collector and art critic is depicted as a well-fed individual, with half naked girls dancing in the background, his mouth snarled in a lecherous grimace, under an insolent mustache.

But those years were lean years for Picasso. Both in Barcelona and in Paris Picasso lived in utter poverty.

This was the height of his “Blue Period” — the color of the bottom of the abyss. Beggars, orphans, the poor — Picasso showed his empathy for all of them.

He would take for models the former prostitutes incarcerated at the Saint Lazare prison in Barcelona, where many were dying of venereal diseases .

One usually links the Blue Period with the death of his close friend Casagemas in 1901 The painting at left of the young Catalan artist on his death bed, (1901, Musee Picasso, Paris) is realistic and shows the bullet wound on his temple after he committed suicide. The feverish multicolor strokes around the candle are reminiscent of van Gogh’s technique.

Abject poverty did not prevent Picasso from leading a lively, bohemian life among artists, poets, writers in the Montmartre district of the French capital, which was the center of the artistic world at that time.

The German art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler immediately discovered the genius of Picasso. Things started looking up when art merchant Ambroise Vollard bought several of his paintings. His melancholy disappeared when he fell passionately in love with Fernande Olivier, one of his many companions whose body and face he kept deconstructing.

The distinction between Blue and Pink Periods is rather artificial. Sadness lingered on through both periods.

Pink became predominant when the artist became interested in the circus world. Several times a week he would go to the cirque Medrano. But unlike other artists like Seurat, Rouault or Matisse, he was not interested in the spectacles per se but rather in what happened backstage and in the miserable existence of the acrobats.

In “Acrobate a la boule” (at right), a frail adolescent is trying to keep his (her) balance on a round ball watched by a heavy set acrobat sitting on a massive cube. Art historians give a deep meaning to the scene, to the contrast between the spiritual world, taking risks, being continually in motion with the stability of life grounded in the earth.

In the summer of 1906, Picasso’s life took a new turn. Being with Fernande on the hillside village of Gozolf, he seemed totally happy, enjoying the sun and inspired by the pink and ochre color of the clay. He discovered the Iberian sculptures of the fifth and sixth centuries BC influenced by Phoenician and Greek cultures as well as 12th century medieval sculptures.

His art seems to be changing course. In “Deux Nus” (1906, MOMA), shown at left, the bodies of the naked women, are deformed, with disproportionate legs and heavy torso. Picasso was ready for another discovery … African art.

Matisse showed him an African statuette in the apartment of Gertrude and Leo Stein. Picasso was stunned.

As a result, after numerous sketches, (the Steins bought most of them when Picasso was still unknown), Picasso produced the ‘Demoiselles d’Avignon’ (1907, MOMA), which remains probably the most important painting of the 20th century.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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