On a Sunday afternoon, in between intermittent rain, I set out for Merestead Estate in Mount Kisco. It was the culminating event for Cultivate, the Copland House residency program for young composers. For the uninitiated, American composer Aaron Copland lived and wrote music here in Westchester, specifically in Cortland Manor where he spent the last thirty years of his life from 1960 to 1990. A group of community folks, among them George Leitner, Edwin Mashberg, David Kornreich, Gladys Muller, Elsa Lampmann, Florence Stevens and Danny Osyczka, with the help Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi, worked hard to establish a not-for-profit to restore and operate the house known as Rock Hill. I recalled that the group came to see me in 1991 when I first arrived in Westchester to seek support for their plan.
So there I was reminiscing in the rain, setting my GPS for Copland house at Merestead and riding for about an hour when I finally realized I was on my way to Rock Hill, not Merestead which is owned by the county and serves as a venue for Copland house events. Merestead also has a legacy as the former home of William Sloane, President of the W & J Sloane Furniture Company, where my mother bought her first couch in the thirties. While down on its heels like Scarlett’s Tara, it is an extraordinary example of a bygone era with furnishings and paintings to prove it.
I reset the GPS and arrived at Merestead in time for the last piece, a spirited clarinet concerto by Derek Bemel. As a kid, I played the clarinet, not well, but well enough to know how brilliantly Bemel played. I gave up the clarinet for the bass clarinet, which my mother thought was very unfeminine, and thus ended my music career. But I digress. The Cultivate residency program, (which includes Derek Bemel), the Copland House at Merestead, and the development of Copland House as a nationally important organization are all the work of Michael Boriskin, Copland’s artistic and executive director who is fulfilling the dream of those early founders. Boriskin orchestrates everything including his mother-in-law, who caters a foodie’s delight buffet after each concert with her company “Let’s Have An Affair.” So go for the music. Go for the estate. Go for the food. And by the way, it took me ten minutes to get home, as it turns out Merestead is almost just around the corner.