This past weekend started for me with a stellar performance, as usual, by the Emerson String Quartet at the Staller Center on the Stony Brook University campus. This marvelous string ensemble comes to us directly from Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center or at any given time, from other musical capitals in the world. They are, incredibly for us, in residence at Stony Brook and as part of the deal struck with SBU past president, Shirley Kenny, they give four performances a year here.
The quartet features Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, who alternate at first and second violin, Lawrence Dutton on the viola, and now Paul Watkins, who replaced David Finckel in 2013, playing the cello. The original group formed when they were students at Juilliard, then turned professional in 1976, and in the course of their career they have released more than 30 albums and won nine Grammys along with the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize. They were inducted into the Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
Friday night, they played two selections by Haydn and two by Beethoven. Attending their concerts is made even more delightful for not having to drive more than a few minutes from door to door and being assured of convenient and free parking upon arrival. The audience routinely gives them a standing ovation.
Moving onto the next day, three friends and I joined up to view the 37th annual Candlelight House Tour, traditionally held on Friday evenings and Saturday daytimes, and made possible as a fundraiser by the hard work of the Three Village Historical Society. Members take care of the myriad of details from selecting to decorating the homes, along with professional help made possible by local contributions. Each year homeowners graciously allow hundreds of visitors to traipse through their rooms, checking out the decor and listening to the history explained many times over during the day by society members and helpers. This year the homes were centered in Old Stony Brook, and the weather cooperated magnificently. Many of us well remember in past years waiting in line to enter the homes in subfreezing, or snowy, or rainy or sharply windy days. Sunny Saturday was a Goldilocks day for touring: not too cold, not too hot, just right.
And if house tours are your thing, the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce has worked hard to organize the Lantern Light House Tour, this year centered in Harbor Hills. Also a fundraiser, the event is scheduled for this Saturday, Dec. 12, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Like the one in Three Village, the tour is very much a community effort with generous contributions of time and financial backing.
As if this weren’t enough activity for a satisfying weekend, we enjoyed the lighting of the splendid Christmas tree on the Stony Brook Village Green, sponsored as usual, by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization Sunday night. WMHO has been happily celebrating its 75th anniversary throughout this past year. On Jan. 19, there will be a special anniversary commemoration of the night Ward Melville hosted a dinner at the Three Village Inn for the owners of the sundry shops and unveiled his plans for the first shopping mall in America, a crescent village on the hill overlooking Stony Brook Harbor. After much good food and drink, the shop owners agreed to join the effort. The result was the picturesque Stony Brook Village Center, designed by architect Richard Haviland Smythe that we enjoy now, three quarters of a century later.
The ongoing vibrancy of the village was further illustrated by the ribbon-cutting party later that evening at the site of the latest business to join the Stony Brook shopping center. Blue Salon & Spa, formerly Legends, welcomed guests, who devoured delicious hors d’oeuvres provided by owner, Cathy Hansen, in her newly renovated salon. It was a symbolic end to the evening’s festivities.
Meanwhile in the other direction, Port Jefferson Village offered the Dickens festival last Saturday and Sunday for the 20th year. Originally the brainchild of former mayor, Jeanne Garant, churches, schools, the theater, stores and restaurants all joined together to transform the village into a Dickensian wonderland, replete with 19th century characters walking the streets and engaging the public. (And throughout December you may stop at Santa’s Workshop, a brilliant creation of the talented Pat Darling.) Encouraged by the wonderful weather, visitors came out in droves to the festival, putting Port Jefferson on the map as the glorious destination village that it is.