Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Leonard Lehrman and Helene Williams in Upstate New York, Aug. 3-8

Leonard Lehrman and Helene Williams, who gave us a wonderful performance of songs from Leonard's musical The Booby Trap at Green Fest 2007, are performing again in upstate New York this August. Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008, Leonard and Helene will perform together with national treasure Helen Boatwright at 3pm in a program of music by Charles Ives, Howard Boatwright, and Leonard Lehrman at Helen Boatwright's home in Fayetteville, co-sponsored by the Society for New Music. Admission by invitation only. Please contact Leonard and Helene by email at

Later that week, Helene and Leonard will be leading "Free Your Voice" workshops Wednesday and Thursday Aug. 6 & 7 at 3, and performing in concert Friday evening Aug. 8 at 7 with Cary Bair in the Opera/Musical Theatre Special Interest Group of The Naturist Society, as part of the Northeast Naturist Festival at Empire Haven in Moravia, NY. For details, call (315) 497-0135 or go to the festival website.

Helene and Leonard rehearsing.

Leonard and Helene have had a busy spring. On Saturday, May 17, 2008, the first performance of The Booby Trap since Susan Blake's death, took place in her memory, at Womanspace at the Great Neck Senior Center, co-sponsored by Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition's "Prevention Is the Cure" Week. Performing were Helene Williams, Kathryn Wieckhorst (taking Susan's part and also playing the cello), and Cary Bair and Leonard Lehrman, who alternated at the grand piano. In attendance were 50 people, mostly women, mostly retired. Professor Scott Carlin of Long Island University gave an illuminating lecture, and led a lively discussion afterwards.

Helene and Leonard with Kathryn Wieckhorst.

Prof. Scott Carlin, Michael and Cindy Rosenbaum, Cary Bair, Ann Mayer-Kristiansen, Helene, Gladys Roth, and Leonard at Womanspace on May 17, 2008.

On Saturday, June 7, 2008, a full-to-capacity Court Street Music in Valley Stream hosted their 7th annual recital by and for students of Helene Williams & Leonard Lehrman, and their friends & families, this year dedicated to the memory of Susan Blake. The major work premiered on the program was Leonard's new song cycle "Long Island Songs of Seasoned Women," settings of 10 poems by 9 Long Island women poets, all of whom are represented in the anthology, "Songs of Seasoned Women" (Quadrasoul, 2007), edited by Patti Tana. Helene sang settings of poems by Tana (opening and closing the cycle), Sally Ann Drucker, Susan Astor, Lynn Green, Pat Falk, Margaret Dinzler Shaw, and Muriel Lilker. Helene's student Ijeoma Merenini sang settings of poems by Marcia McNair and Lorraine Mund. McNair, Green, and Lilker all attended.

Leonard, Helene, Lynn Green, Marcia McNair, Muriel Lilker and Ijeoma Merenini at Court Street Music on June 7, 2008.

Tana, whose mother passed away that evening, sent copies of the book for all in the grateful audience to follow the texts. Musical references quoted in the cycle, which was introduced and accompanied by the composer, include two Christina Rossetti settings of Leonard's, Trouble in Tahiti, La Bohème, Hair, "Dayenu" from the Passover Seder (which Susan attended in Valley Stream regularly), Schubert's "Ave Maria," the anti-war song "Study War No More," which was sung at Susan's burial October 8, 2007, led by Lisa Fishbein, who herself passed away January 29, 2008 at age 51, and two duets from The Booby Trap that had been written for, and performed by Susan: "Bras, Not Genes," and "Pusher Bra." Nassau County People's Poet Max Wheat and his wife Virginia attended the run-thru the day before, and spoke glowingly of the poems and their settings, promising to try to help enable the booking of other performances.

The People's Poet Laureate of Nassau County, Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr. and his wife Virginia.

On Thursday, June 19, 2008, the 55th anniversary of the death of Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, the National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case held its annual memorial meeting, this year for the second time at NYU's Tamiment Library, which houses the Committee's papers. Messages of solidarity from Robert and Michael Meeropol and the Association pour le réxamen de l'affaire Rosenberg in France. Audience members numbered 132. $1515 was collected. Tributes were paid to members of the Committee who recently passed away: Helene Williams sang Edith Segal's "My Loved One" and "Underneath the Spanish Stars," the latter in memory of Moe Fishman (whose widow Georgia Wever spoke and mounted a beautiful photo exhibit of him) and Muriel Goldring, whose papers, left to the Tamiment, are still being processed, and who also left considerable sums of money to, among others, the Committee, the Tamiment Library, and the Rosenberg Fund for Children. Muriel's late husband Ben, and Moe Fishman, both fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Following Richard Corey's and Julie Eigenberg's singing of Richard's setting of "Ethel's Last Letter," 92-year-old Miriam Moskowitz, who had been imprisoned on the testimony of the same Harry Gold who was a star witness against the Rosenbergs, and who spent considerable time with Ethel in jail, movingly read the chapter on Ethel from her memoirs.

Morton Sobell, the Rosenbergs' co-defendant, Tamiment Director Michael Nash at the podium, "Professor" Irwin Corey and Leonard at the Tamiment Library, June 19, 2008.

Also featured as speakers were this year's National Lawyers Guild award recipient Margaret Ratner Kunstler (Helene performed Leonard's setting of Bill Kunstler's sonnet on Corliss Lamont, in tribute to her); Carol Jochnowitz, author of an eye-opening article in the latest Jewish Currents; and the Rosenbergs' co-defendant Morton Sobell--for whom Helene performed an excerpt from Leonard's & Kim Rich's new opera in progress, Alger: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of a conspiracy... to make life better for other people...?" Fifteen members of The Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus performed three works on texts by Abel Meeropol, the man who adopted the Rosenbergs' orphaned sons: "Lost Forever" (melody by Meeeropol, arranged by Leonard Lehrman); "Conscience" (music by Leonard Lehrman, performed in memory of "the social conscience of Long Island" who had spoken at the last several meetings, Susan Blake); and concluding with "The House I Live In" (music by Earl Robinson, arranged by Leonard Lehrman).

The photo of Susan Blake at the beach on Fire Island, first posted on this blog, is included in the tribute to Susan on the website of The New Music Connoisseur.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Great American Healthy Food Festival!

If you are in Brooklyn on June 28, be sure and visit the Great American Healthy Food Festival sponsored by the East New York Food Co-op. The festival will take place on New Jersey Avenue between New Lots & Riverdale Avenues, Saturday, June 28, 2008, 11am-7pm. Michele Danels, the secretary and one of the founders of ENYFC, spoke on our local foods panel at Green Fest 2007.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Visit Green Fest at Clearwater

Visit our Green Fest booth at the Clearwater Festival this weekend, June 21 & 22 from 10am to Dusk on the Shores of the Hudson River at Croton Point Park. Below is our team at Clearwater 2007.

New York Green Fest 2009

Fri.-Sun. Aug. 7-9, 2009
Howell Hall, Alfred University, Alfred, NY

Spend a weekend sharing skills for sustainable living and sustainable politics on the Alfred University campus in rural upstate New York. Learn how to build a small wind turbine, bake in an earth oven, set up a CSA, live job free, build new media outlets, run a third party political campaign and much more at NY Green Fest 2009, Fri.-Sun., Aug. 7-9, 2009. Green Fest is a benefit for the Green Party of New York. The festival is open to all who are interested in sustainable living and sustainable politics.

The $65 fee for the weekend includes all workshops, tours and keynote addresses, exhibitors, swimming, yoga and hiking. Lodging and meals are additional. Dorm rooms, camping and the Saxon Inn are available on campus. Local bed and breakfasts are also available. Meals prepared from locally-grown food will be served at the Alfred University dining hall.

Our workshop schedule is being developed. We invite Green friendly activists from across New York State to offer workshops on sustainable topics. We also invite Green friendly exhibitors to set up tents and sell their own crafts, local food items, books and renewable energy systems outdoors on the Alfred campus green next to Howell Hall.

New York Green Fest is a biennial event. Green Fest 2009 is our third Green Fest. For 2009, Green Fest is moving to the campus of Alfred University in the picturesque, small village of Alfred. Alfred is in rural Allegany County, 80 miles south of Rochester. The Short Line Bus runs several buses daily between Alfred, Westchester, New York City and Long Island. Green Fest will arrange buses from Rochester for attendees.

For more information, visit our new website,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Gay Nicholson earns award for outstanding community service

Gay Nicholson, who gave us a great presentation on community organizing for sustainability at Green Fest 2007, will be the recipient of The Cornell Tradition’s seventh annual Debra S. Newman ’02 Community Recognition Award for her volunteer efforts. Nicholson will receive her award at the National Volunteer Week Day of Service at Cornell. The event will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 26 at the Women’s Community Building, and is designed to be community-wide celebration of volunteerism in the greater Ithaca community.

Nicholson received the Newman award as a result of her strong commitment to community service and leadership, including her work with Sustainable Tompkins, a coalition she helped create in 2004. Nicholson has served as program coordinator for the organization at its founding, and continues to further the organization’s mission by facilitating workshops and study circles, convening the Cayuga Sustainability Council, and much more. More information about Sustainable Tompkins can be found at

Monday, March 17, 2008

Planning Green Fest 2009

The planning committee has decided to make New York Green Fest a biennial event, and is considering Fri.-Sun., Aug. 7-9, 2009, on the campus of Alfred University in Alfred, NY for the dates and location of Green Fest 2009.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Susan Blake Tribute, 2/2/08

From Leonard and Helene Williams Lehrman comes this report on the tribute to Susan Blake held Feb. 2, 2008, at Court Street Music in Valley Stream. The tribute included showing a video of last summer's performance of the Booby Trap at Green Fest. The purpose of Green Fest is to build recognition for the work of wonderful activists like Susan, Leonard and Helene. We are glad to post this tribute to Susan, whose work at PeaceSmiths has been an inspiration to us all.

"Fifteen of Susan's closest friends came and together watched & listened to more than an hour of video and audio recordings of her, including but not limited to the 9 minutes played at the Jan. 20 Shelter Rock celebration of her life that had been attended by (by our count) c. 135 people. We began with the July 22, 2004 "Return the Light" Fundraiser (at which Susan spoke briefly, and enjoyed watching Lisa Fishbein singing her own new words to "Which Side Are You On?" Lisa passed away last Monday, age 51, so our event was in her memory as well as Susan's. (On Sunday morning, Feb. 3, at United Methodist Church of Huntington & Cold Spring Harbor, the choir sang "A New Wind A-Blowin'" by Langston Hughes & Elie Siegmeister. Siegmeister shared the same Jan. 15 birthday with Martin Luther King and Lisa. We dedicated the singing of the anthem to her memory.)

"Then we watched Susan's speech on Bob Goldberg's video of the June 24, 2007 Cedarmere ceremony at which Max Wheat became, in her words, "the People's Poet Laureate of Nassau County." It was one of the best prepared and best delivered speeches she ever gave. I was proud to be with her, sharing a blanket, that day. Richard Barnhart then read his own delightful verse tribute to Max, a copy of which we're looking forward to receiving, having previously received and posted here his tribute to Susan and her bicycle.

"Next we watched Susan deliver a 2-minute question at a June 23, 2005 Nassau/Suffolk panel discussion on the death penalty, in which she brilliantly summed up the interconnectedness of the death penalty issue with so many other issues today. Max remarked immediately that her words ought to be transcribed and made available. And so they shall be - perhaps we'll have them posted together with her Cedarmere speech, and Richard Barnhart's poem.

"Susan first came into our lives, attending our April 3, 2005 Long Beach Library concert, at which she distributed flyers promoting that June meeting. Two months and a day later, June 4, 2005, she sang in her only concert with the Oceanside Chorale, which I conducted, and which my wife Helene Williams captured on videotape. Watching her quick-change set-up stage managing (for which she got applause) and then getting into the screamingly funny character of Eileen in "Ohio," the Comden-Green-Bernstein Wonderful Town duet with Dorothy Martin, was simply priceless.

"Our first appearance at PeaceSmiths, a recital-cum-party Feb. 17, 2006 for my book, Marc Blitzstein: A Bio-Bibliography (Praeger, 2005) was filmed by Bob Goldberg, and contained a few nuggets we watched of Susan introducing us: She talked about the social significance of Blitzstein's work, thanked the Maldeb and Edgar Lehrman Memorial foundations for their support, and described her own identification with the autobiographical aspects of Blitzstein's radio song play about a composer seeking and finding a social purpose for his work, "I've Got the Tune," reading Elie Siegmeister's vivid description of it, quoted in my book. Our recording of that work, released on Original Cast Records (also in 2005), has been played (by Bill Propp) on WBAI. Copies of the CD were handed out yesterday as party gifts to all attendees, including one member of the PeaceSmiths board.

"After that came the Russian Scene from my & Karen Ruoff Kramer's E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman, filmed by Bob Goldberg Mar. 25, 2007 at the Long Beach Library, in which Susan shouted out the line "So why don't you go back to Russia?" and then played the simultaneous interpreter into English of Emma's confrontation with Lenin on the question of human rights (in Russian, which he insisted that they speak). Then came two numbers performed by Susan at NY Green Fest on the Ithaca Commons, videotaped by Craig Seeman, Aug. 12, 2007: first was Leah Fichandler's & Joel Mandelbaum's "The Causes Are Waiting for You," from the 1983 musical As You Dislike It, slightly updated by me (for Susan), in which she was joined at the end by Helene; second was "The Pusher Bra" from The Booby Trap by Sydney Ross Singer & me, which I wrote for Susan while sitting with her in the drip room at Dr. Michael Schachter's office in Suffern Oct. 4, 2006, almost one year to the day before she died. Cary Bair sang this with her in all other performances to date, but since he couldn't make it Aug. 12 I got to sing it with her. "Don't ever leave me... It must be love..." we sang to each other, with so many levels of both irony and affection such as I shall never forget. One-minute speeches by Susan on the importance of support groups and social activism concluded the NY Green Fest segments shown.

"Then we watched excerpts from the Aug. 10, 2007 performance of the Opera/Musical Theatre Special Interest Group of The Naturist Society at Empire Haven in Moravia, NY. Susan began and was part of the quartet in "A Song to Begin," with music by Gerhard Bronner, who also passed away just last year. Then she launched into the anthropologist's solo, "Where Is the Tribe for Me?" a comic tour de force, followed by the duet, with me, "Words, Words, Words" from Walter Marks's 1964 Broadway show Bajour. Max said in reaction: "I never knew she could be so entertaining!" Nobody did. But maybe if we can get these videos up on YouTube, more people will. A short solo from Capitol Steps preceded 13 selections from The Booby Trap, with Susan's joie de vivre and spirited, singing, acting and dancing holding us all mesmerized.

"The first performance of The Booby Trap in Susan's memory will be held Sat. May 17 at 2pm at Womanspace, at the Great Neck Sr. Center, 80 Grace Ave. in Great Neck. On Sat. June 7, at 3pm, we'll have our annual Court Street Music student recital & house concert, at which Helene will sing the first complete performance of my song cycle in memory of Susan, "Long Island Songs of Seasoned Women," based on 10 poems by 9 poets in the collection, "Songs of Seasoned Women," edited by Patti Tana. We had a preview yesterday of one of those songs, "Long Island Just Isn't Long Enough," on a poem by Marcia McNair, sung by our student IJ Merenini, who will also be singing it (among other things) at the Feb. 10, 2008 United Methodist Church of Huntington & Cold Spring Harbor talent show, and at the Suffolk Peace Concert at Cinema Arts Center in Huntington Mar. 2, 2008.

"The last recording we played was a phone message of Susan coyly telling us that she had unexpectedly become available to join our Seder (which she did attend) last spring; and we immediately invited all present to attend our Seder this spring. We're not sure yet whether it will be Sat. Apr. 19 or Sun. Apr. 20, and we're not sure how many people will be able to come, nor how many we can accommodate, but in the spirit of the Obama campaign, let's all think as positively as possible: 'Yes, we can.' "

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Susan Blake's Bike

A sonnet in memory of Susan Blake was read at PeaceSmiths on Dec. 7, 2007, by the author, Richard Barnhart.


In Memory of Susan Blake

In college, Susan vowed no more to drive
When, at the wheel, she hit a cat upstate
"It had the right to live and stay alive,"
She countered when her biking I'd berate.

Two times I saw the bicycle she'd ride.
The first was on a cold, bleak winter day.
The snow came down and covered it outside
The nursing home where her mom Betty lay.

The second time was only this past spring,
Deep in a hallway of First Methodist,
Its basket filled with plant sale wares to bring
To her small garden. Lord, how she'll be missed!

Her bike was old and worn, not worth the steal,
But, oh, what tender thoughts those times reveal!

--Richard Barnhart
10/8/07, 11/27/07