By Barbara Mellon
With closed eyes, the exquisite sounds enveloping me delighted my ears. The chirping of birds, the croaking of frogs, a hint of children’s laughter enhanced the gentle music coming from the stage at the first outdoor concert in Ballantine Park on the afternoon of June 6.
The duet of Helen Avakian and Terry Champlin strummed their guitars as they performed music in a variety of styles, including classical, Flamenco, traditional and Armenian Folk. The performance also included pieces written by Ms Avakian and Mr. Champlin, and one by George Gershwin, which they dedicated to George Ballantine, creator of the park. Champlin, undaunted by the accompaniment of numerous birds, told the audience that he and Avakian have a porch at home where they sometimes practice. The birds there are very selective about what pieces they will sing along with. Obviously, the avian residents of Ballantine Park approved of all the afternoon’s selections.
What a perfect afternoon! Despite gray clouds that had threatened all morning, the sun persevered, complemented by a trace of breeze. Dozens of people wandered into the park throughout the concert, settling in chairs or stretching out on blankets to take in the sights and sounds of the day.
During a brief intermission, platters of fresh fruit and cheese and crackers were served, along with a variety of cold drinks.
I found myself thinking of old-fashioned outings as a group of boys and girls chased each other around the park and huddled on the bank of the stream eyeing treasures appreciated only by the whimsy of a child. Colorful hats and parasols covered the heads of those wishing to protect themselves from the heat of the sun, and a few well-behaved dogs joined the festivities.
Ballantine Park is a beautifully serene setting, boasting streams and lush foliage, rock outcroppings and tall trees. Bill Drew, of Tri-town Services, maintains the park for the Town, but treats it as if it were his own. Many a day he can be seen strolling from tree to tree, checking for dead branches, caterpillar tents and other issues that could compromise the splendor and health of the plantings.
The day’s event was the first of a series of four concerts arranged by the Friends of Ballantine Park. Chairman Michael Passafiume and Vice-Chairman Marge Adelson have been working for months to bring the events to fruition. The idea for concerts in the park came from Peg Ellsworth of the MARK Project, who helped the group secure grants from the New York State Council of the Arts Decentralization Program and the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation. Marge and Mike both attributed the success of the program to Town Supervisor Marty Donnelly, whom Marge described as “incredibly supportive, enthusiastic and helpful.” “We couldn’t have done it without him,” she said.
A performance by Country Express is scheduled in the park on June 27, followed by a show by Blind Mice, three singer-songwriters playing their own acoustic music in three-part harmony, on July 25, from 2 – 4 pm. Don’t be one of those driving by wondering what’s going on in the park; drop in and enjoy some music and friendship in a truly bucolic setting.
Although owned by the Town of Andes, Ballantine Park’s maintenance and the events held in it are supported by donations. If you would like to help, you can send a donation to Friends of Ballantine Park, PO Box 362, Andes, NY 13731. ~