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Dickens Christmas Brings Its Magic to Skaneateles

Do you believe in magic?

If not, you may have a hard time explaining the 60+ Victorian-era characters who will soon be roaming the streets of Skaneateles.

Dickens Christmas returns for its 18th year Nov. 25 and runs noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 18, with a limited show (noon to 3 p.m.) Dec. 24.

And what brings these merry marauders to town? The year is 1842, and Charles Dickens is gathering research for his soon-to-be-written classic, “A Christmas Carol.” He and Queen Victoria journey to Skaneateles, where they meet such villagers as Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Fagin, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

The free, family-friendly event draws more than 20,000 visitors each year. It is produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment and sponsored by Mirbeau Inn and Spa and the Skaneateles-area business community.

Highlights include:

• The World’s Smallest Christmas Parade, which kicks off Nov. 25 at noon. The parade—featuring Charles Dickens and his entourage and a handful of floats—begins at the old firehouse on Fennell Street and proceeds east to Jordan and Genesee streets, arriving at the Sherwood House porch in time for the 12:10 p.m. grand opening.

• The Revels Live—Christmas carol sing-along—2 p.m. every day at the Gazebo. Twelve groups form, each representing one of the 12 days of Christmas. The groups vie for attention, and at the end, Queen Victoria awards a silver teasel to the most spirited performer. Winners have been known to wear their coveted silver teasels throughout the season.

• Scenes from “A Christmas Carol,” featuring guests from the audience, performed at 12:30, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. on the steps of the Masonic Temple.

• Performances by Striking Strings, the Eastman Community Music School Hammered Dulcimer Ensemble, at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Skaneateles Library.

• Horse-drawn wagon rides around the village, departing from the Sherwood Inn.

• Free refreshments, including roasted chestnuts donated by Tops Friendly Markets and roasted outside Johnny Angel’s, and Byrne Dairy eggnog served by the Girl Scouts.

For children, Mother Goose will read holiday stories at the Skaneateles Library and Father Christmas will hand out treats from the porch of the Masonic Temple.

Everyone is invited to borrow period costumes from the Chamber of Commerce, 22 Jordan St., and join in the merriment. New this year will be the identification of “Official Dickens Photo Spots,” which serve as an ideal backdrop for family photos.

“Our village becomes a magical place during the holiday season,” says Susan Dove, director of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “We invite Dickens fans from near and far to step back in time and join us for a slower-paced, more enjoyable atmosphere, where shopping can still be fun. We have more than 70 shops and restaurants, sure to please any taste.”

Looking for still more magic?

Meet John Henry Anderson, Wonderful Wizard of the North.

Anderson (aka Dave Rojahn, of York, Pa.) will perform comedy magic shows at 1 and 3 p.m. Nov. 25 and 26 at the Skaneateles Library; at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at the United Methodist Church (as part of Skaneateles Sings); and at 1 and 3 p.m. Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11 at the Skaneateles Library.

Anderson was a popular Scottish magician who toured the United States in the 1840s and 1850s and “led a very diverse life,” says Rojahn. “He grew up poor and was orphaned at the age of 10 but was determined to make something of himself. At 17 he started performing magic. His show went on to become world famous, and he performed for Queen Victoria and other crown heads of Europe and the Orient.”

Rojahn says today’s audiences would find Anderson’s tricks dull (“things moved a lot slower back then”), so he’s added a partner to the act—Rocky, the world’s only mind-reading raccoon. “Children and adults alike find him irresistible, with his outrageous antics and amazing feats of mind-reading,” he says.

To ensure that audiences always see something new, Rojahn changes the act from year to year. This year, Rocky will pull water from someone’s head, make cards jump from one person’s pocket to another, and make money appear and disappear.

Rojahn describes the Dickens cast as “absolutely wonderful” and says “everyone comes to have fun.” What does he enjoy most? “Just being in Skaneateles—what better place is there to celebrate the holidays? It’s like being in a storybook.”

Behind the scenes

Magic doesn’t just happen—it’s conjured by the cast and crew and village merchants, with an assist from Mother Nature.

Dickens Christmas has a cast of about 65, including young apprentice talent, which is joined by a variety of guest musicians and caroling groups. The show comes together in just six rehearsals. “We pack a lot in and streamline the process of building a character,” says Jim Greene, of Dryden, who is producing director and plays Dickens. “Every actor learns music and uses improvisational techniques to build his character and become part of the ensemble.”

Direction comes from Maria Wechsler, of Marcellus, who is artistic director and plays Queen Victoria; Kristen Baskewicz, of Rochester, who is music director and plays the headmistress of the finishing school; Brian Goldblatt, of Lafayette, who is associate director and plays Jacob Marley; Krystal Scott, of Weedsport, who is associate director; and Tracey Greene, of Dryden, who is costumer.

The artwork for this year’s poster was provided by Kathleen Schneider, of Camillus, a co-owner of Gallery 54 whose artwork also formed the basis for this year’s Lavender Festival poster.

More than 120 local businesses make Dickens Christmas possible through their sponsorship support. This year’s presenting sponsor is Mirbeau Inn and Spa. Father Christmas sponsors include Johnny Angel’s Heavenly Hamburgers, KeyBank, The Sherwood Inn, Summit Auto, Tops Friendly Markets and Verizon Business Services. Charles Dickens sponsors include ADworks of Skaneateles, Arbor House Inn and Suites, Bluewater Grill, Community Bank, Creekside Books & Coffee, Doug’s Fish Fry, Group M Communications, Haylor, Freyer & Coon, Imagine, Joe’s Pasta Garage, M&T Bank, Mid-Lakes Navigation, Paris Flea, Pomodoro, Rhubarb, the Skaneateles Library, Skaneateles Town Square and Wegmans.

“I’m always excited about the magic we create, and the magic people bring to this show,” says Jim Greene. “You gotta believe….”

For more information on Dickens Christmas, go to http://www.skaneateles.com, call 315-685-0552, or follow the event on Facebook (Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles) or Twitter (@DickensXmas).

Posted: Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 @ 10:39 am by Curt
Filed under: Blog Skaneateles
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“Join in on the Spirit of Holiday Traditions” Auburn: History’s Hometown Free Holiday Celebration December 12, 2010

Holiday Traditions is an event that was created by the Seward House over 33 years ago as a token of appreciation to the Auburn community. Since that time, other local cultural attractions and sites have opened their doors for free the second Sunday in December for residents to enjoy during the holidays. Now, the “open house” is a tradition, and again this year, participation has expanded to include churches and other organizations.

Auburn’s Historic & Cultural Sites Commission
To ensure communication between the many Holiday Traditions’ partners, the City of Auburn’s Historic & Cultural Sites Commission coordinates publicity and advertising for this event. The Commission site members include Auburn Public Theater, Auburn Schine’s Theater, Cayuga Museum & Case Research Lab, Harriet Tubman Home, Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, Seward House Museum and Willard Memorial Chapel.

The Cayuga Museum
203 Genesee Street
(315) 253-8051

Open from Noon to 5PM – come tour the Cayuga Museum beautifully decorated for the holidays. On display will be “Visions Past: Paintings from the Collection of the Cayuga Museum.” The exhibit will include portraits and landscapes by local artists including: Edward Gohl, George Clough, Charles Petersen and Frank Barney. The selected works give insight into the social and physical landscape of Cayuga County during the turn of the 20th century. This exhibit opens November 20th and will be up through December 31st. At 2PM, enjoy a special performance by the Roosevelt Memorial Baptist Choir.

The Harriet Tubman Home
180 South Street
(315) 252-2081

Although only open by appointment this time of year, the Harriet Tubman Home will be open from Noon – 5PM. Please call the Home directly for details on that day’s program.

Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center
205 Genesee Street
(315) 255-1553

Open from Noon – 5PM, come tour the 30th annual juried quilts exhibit Quilts=Art=Quilts, on display through January 9, 2011. The exhibit features 95 quilts by 81 artists from all over the world. This year’s jurors, Jeannee Beck, Elizabeth Busch & Erin Wilson, reviewed 358 entries by 207 artists and selected quilts for their overall visual impact, design and originality.

Enjoy a quilt trunk show by Priscilla Kibee, which starts at 2PM. Priscilla loves to travel shopping for textiles to add to her wearable art collection. She has taught quilting to school children in Nepal, taught Seminole patchwork to seamstresses in Thailand, and jackets and embellishment to quilters in Turkey. She’s created garments for five Fairfield and Bernina Fashion Shows and teaches classes on embellishment and wearable art.

Seward House Museum
33 South Street
(315) 252-1283

Area florists have adopted the Seward House this year to provide an array of holiday decorations. Visitors will be welcomed from Noon – 5PM and admission is free. Live musical performances throughout the day will add to the holiday splendor.

St. Francis of Assisi Church
303 Clark Street
(315) 252-7593

The Church will be open from 3 – 5:15PM. The Auburn Chamber Orchestra will perform from 4 – 5:15PM, coffee hour to follow.

St. Mary’s
17 Clark Street
(315) 252-6343

St. Mary’s will host their open house from 1:30 – 5PM. Enjoy a concert by the Finger Lakes Camerata, singers from CCC, who will perform at 3PM. The gift shop will be open, and refreshments will be served.

Ward O’Hara Agricultural Museum
Route 38A
(315) 252-5009

Celebrate the holidays during the 1800s from Noon – 4PM. Tour the museum and take part in trimming the tree. Enjoy horse drawn-wagon rides, Christmas cookie decorating and holiday musical presentations.

Westminster Presbyterian Church
17 William Street
(315) 253-3331

From Noon – 5PM, visitors can view a display of hand-sewn Advent banners that tell the Christmas story in needlework, and tour the historic church. Children’s activities from Noon – 2PM include decorating a Christmas ornament and a Christmas storytelling program at 1PM. The MasterWorks Chorale will perform selections from its holiday concert at 2PM in the sanctuary.

Willard Memorial Chapel
17 Nelson Street
(315) 252-0339

The Chapel will be offering guided tours from Noon – 5PM. Children can read with Santa, sponsored by the Literacy Volunteers, at Noon and at 3PM. The Literacy Volunteers will also offer a Holiday Book Sale. Enjoy listening to the Herman Ave. Elementary School Chorus winter Concert – performance at 1:30PM.

For more information about Holiday Traditions, call the Cayuga County Office of Tourism at 255-1658. If you have questions regarding a specific venue, please phone them directly.

Posted: Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 @ 9:14 am by Curt
Filed under: Blog Skaneateles
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Dickens Christmas Opens Nov. 26 in Skaneateles

From the world’s smallest Christmas parade to a visit by New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton, lots of surprises are in store

When Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria take up residence in Skaneateles this holiday season, they will be accompanied by a new dignitary—New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton—as the three make their way to this Finger Lakes village via the historic Erie Canal.

The year is 1842. Charles Dickens is gathering research for his soon-to-be-written classic, “A Christmas Carol.” On village streets, he encounters Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and a bevy of other characters.

Magic, music and merriment prevail, as the revels play, visitors ride by in horse–drawn carriages, and improvisational street theater rules the day.

It’s all part of Dickens Christmas, which returns for its 17th year the Friday after Thanksgiving. The production runs noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 19, with a limited show (noon to 3 p.m.) Dec. 24.

The family-friendly event—produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment and sponsored by the Skaneateles-area business community—draws some 20,000 visitors each year. (more…)

Posted: Thursday, November 4th, 2010 @ 11:04 am by Curt
Filed under: Blog Skaneateles
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Skaneateles Prepares for Another Season of Holiday Magic
Dickens Christmas Opens Nov. 27

Close your eyes and imagine. It’s easy if you try.

The year is 1842.

You’ve just met Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria, strolling the village streets.

They’re accompanied by Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, Fagin, the Cratchits, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and assorted townspeople and street urchins—all delighted to meet you and draw you into their world.

The revels play. Visitors ride by in horse–drawn carriages. And there are free refreshments for all.

In Skaneateles, it’s just a typical holiday weekend.

Dickens Christmas returns for its 16th year the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 20, with a limited show (noon to 3 p.m.) Dec. 24.

The event—produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment and presented by Verizon and Skaneateles-area businesses—draws some 20,000 visitors each year to this picturesque Finger Lakes community.

“We invite Dickens fans from near and far to step back in time and join us for a slower-paced, more enjoyable atmosphere, where shopping can still be fun,” says Susan Dove, executive director of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Improvisational street theater, live music, and our 70-plus shops and restaurants make for wonderful family memories. A live brass band plays every Saturday on the village streets; a bagpiper or two may be found entertaining on Sundays; and local musical groups share their many talents in that heartwarming Dickens spirit.”

Highlights include:

• The Revels Live—Christmas carol sing-along—2 p.m. every day at the Gazebo. Twelve groups form, each representing one of the 12 days of Christmas. The groups vie for attention, and at the end, Queen Victoria awards a silver teasel to the most spirited performer. Winners have been known to wear their coveted silver teasels throughout the season.

• Free carriage rides around the village, provided by Chariots of Downtown. Rides depart from the Sherwood Inn on Saturdays and Creekside Books & Coffee on Sundays.

• Roasted chestnuts in front of Johnny Angel’s, donated by P&C Foods and roasted by Mid-Lakes Navigation.

• Cider and donuts at the Skaneateles Hotel.

• Hot chocolate on Saturdays, served by local Girl Scouts, at M&T Bank.

• Magic shows by John Henry Anderson, Wonderful Wizard from the North, Dec. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 1 and 3 p.m. at the Skaneateles Library.

• Scenes from “A Christmas Carol,” acted out on village streets.

Entertainment—and education—provided for and by children

Children who visit can hear holiday stories read by Mother Goose at the Skaneateles Library, or receive treats from Father Christmas on the porch of the Masonic Temple.

But those who join the cast derive so much more.

Scarlett Rat Entertainment, which is committed to artistic growth and community involvement, offers a Dickens Academy, providing workshops for the youth cast and affording them the opportunity to work with successful professionals. The program—which uses improvisational exercises focused on developing a character for an experiential life lesson—aims to Build Character by Building Characters.

Expectations are clearly stated, and each youth participant and his or her parent sign an agreement at the outset of the program.

“Through the Dickens Academy, young people learn to elevate each other and make positive choices,” says Jim Greene, who heads Scarlett Rat. ”We set the bar high, and we expect kids to step up. With this experience come self-awareness, respect for others, and growth and maturity.”

Two graduates of the academy—Lydia Shahan and Gretchen Thomas—are now youth cast captains, assisting the directors during workshops.

“It’s rewarding to watch young people mature and make better choices,” says Greene, who has plans to expand the academy.

Behind the scenes

Dickens Christmas has a cast of about 60 (30 of whom are children). The show comes together in just six rehearsals. “We pack a lot in, and streamline the process of building a character,” says Greene, who also serves as producing director and plays Charles Dickens. “Every actor learns music and uses improvisational techniques to build his character. It helps that many of the actors return year after year.”

Assisting Greene are four associate directors: Maria Wechsler (who plays Queen Victoria and oversees character development), Kelly Stallard (who plays Abigail Fillmore and oversees music), Brian Goldblatt (who plays Fagin and oversees production of the Staves) and Tracey Greene (who oversees costumes).

Father Christmas sponsors are The ADworks, Chariots of Downtown, Johnny Angel’s, KeyBank, M&T Bank, the Sherwood Inn, and the Verizon Small Business Unit.

Media sponsors are News 10 Now, Eagle Newspapers, The Citizen/Skaneateles Journal, The Post-Standard, the Syracuse New Times, WCNY and WRVO.

“Visitors should come ready to have a good time and interact with the characters,” says Greene. “We invite people to experience the magic of Dickens. The real magic is in the interaction, and in the stories that unfold.”

For more information on Dickens Christmas, go to http://www.skaneateles.com or call 315-685-0552.

Contact: Sue Dove
Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce

Posted: Thursday, November 5th, 2009 @ 1:15 pm by Curt
Filed under: Blog Skaneateles
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masterworks_chorale Central New Yorkmasterworks_chorale_maureen_mccauley


Familiar Carols and Christmas Anthems
Sunday  December  21, 2008 4:00 pm
St Mary’s of the Lake Roman Catholic Church
81 Jordan St., Skaneateles, NY 13152
MasterWorks Chorale was founded as Marcellus Chorale in 1965 by Dr. Joseph Centrone, the Chorale’s first conductor. Dr. Centrone formed a chorus from four church choirs in Marcellus, New York. The present conductor, Maureen McCauley, assumed leadership in 1977.

Throughout the years, Chorale has presented a wide variety of performances. Christmas concerts have ranged from cabarets with choreography and costumes, to joint concerts with local choirs, high school groups, and handbell choirs. Original productions of popular choral arrangements with choreography, dialogue, and costuming were presented for many years. Marcellus Chorale performed jointly with other community choral groups, including the Oneida Area Civic Chorale, Endwell Community Chorus, Oswego Festival Chorus, and Mt. Carmel Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

MasterWorks Chorale, Inc.
PO Box 27
Marcellus, NY  13108

Gradually an increasing emphasis was placed upon performing classical music. In 1988, Marcellus Chorale reorganized and incorporated as an auditioned group with the purpose of presenting choral masterworks.

The Chorale voted to change the name of the musical organization to MasterWorks Chorale in 196 to more adequately describe the music performed and to reflect the fact that members come from a wide geographical area. Since that time, the repertoire has focused upon works of major composers such as Verdi’s Requiem Mass, the Bach’s B Minor Mass, Mozart’s Vespers, and Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer.

In keeping with the goal of presenting the finest in choral music to Central New York audiences, MasterWorks Chorale often employs professional soloists and orchestral accompaniment.

Presently the singers hail from three counties: Onondaga, Oswego, and Cayuga. The hallmark of participation is a desire to aspire to the highest artistic standards.

MasterWorks Chorale welcomes vocalists who embrace the classics. Come join a dedicated group of singers who enjoy performing great works of the masters.
There are generally three major performances each year. The winter concert features one or more major works by classical composers. MasterWorks Chorale is also available for subscription concerts.

MasterWorks Chorale performs throughout Central New York, principally in Onondaga and Cayuga Counties. Performance locations have included Auburn, Aurora, Camillus, Marcellus, Skaneateles, Syracuse and Oswego.

Our orchestra musicians have typically come from the ranks of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. In seasons past, we collaborated with the Auburn Chamber Orchestra to present Mozart’s Requiem, and with the Syracuse Chorale in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and the Berlioz Requiem.

Posted: Sunday, December 21st, 2008 @ 8:16 am by Curt
Filed under: Events in CNY
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