Newsletter 8: Farewell to 2013

We’re back, after a modest hiatus, to offer a final newsletter for the 2013 season. While the boys have been home for over two weeks, we’ve not been entirely idle. We completed the 31st Annual Rittner Run on a glorious August Monday, finishing in record time with over 50 runners participating. The Shareholders, Board of Directors, and Senior Staff and Program heads have all had their end-or season meetings, reviewing a fine year and beginning to plan for 2014. The physical plant has largely been put to bed – floats and docks stacked on shore, tennis courts and soccer goals disassembled, boats ashore and stowed in cabins, etc. Today, while Kenny Moore mows the athletic fields on the Ferris, new gutters are going up on the Lodge, and Reed Harrigan and crew are finishing up the painting of the Messhall – inside and out. Danny managed to grab a few days and head over to Deer Isle Maine with Julia, staying at a charming little B&B while they caught their breath – and Dottie and Tom are just back from three days on the western border of Algonquin Park in Ontario, where they enjoyed some time with family, scenic canoeing, and a couple of lazy afternoons in the sun. Now, though, there are final reports to write, software systems to roll over for a new year, the 2014 application to prepare, and winter Open Houses to schedule. Mild but contented exhaustion yields to anticipation and excitement yet again. As we begin to look forward, though, we thought we’d take a moment to look back at two of the signal moments of Pemi Week – the opening night of our annual Gilbert and Sullivan performance and Danny’s toast for the Final Banquet. We hope you enjoy these two final windows into Pemi, 2013.

Clive Bean Reviews Iolanthe

Tuesday night (August 6th!) witnessed the triumphant return to the Pemigewassett Opera House of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe, last produced on these shores in 2003.  As musically complex as it is memorable, the show is unusual for us in that it requires two distinct sets and especially elaborate costumes – all considerations that led to the hiatus in performances. Anyone lucky enough to be in the audience on Tuesday or Wednesday will acknowledge, though, that the challenging revival was more than justified by the performance. No less a G&S aficionado than Dorin Dehls’ father Jim – camp alum and lifelong musical professional – said it was the most energetic and entertaining Pemi performance he had ever witnessed. This reviewer is not inclined to question that judgment.           

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Music Director, Ian Axness

Much of the credit for the stellar quality of the show obviously goes to our musical staff, with Music Director Ian Axness being aided this year by fellow Oberlinian and pianist superb Josh Hess. As a result, Ian was able to concentrate on musical direction as Josh manned the keyboard. Never have the men’s or “girls’” choruses been stronger, and few shows could boast similar finish or verve in the leads. With Josh playing for the performances, Ian was able to conduct each night from the orchestra pit (aka a low bench and pillow) and further sharpen the show even as it unrolled. We should also mention that Ian joined Josh at the pianoforte for the show’s overture, which they delivered with the varied lyrical grace and power one might expect from a duo that has been sharing the same keyboard all summer.           

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George Cooke as Iolanthe

Iolanthe opens with the entrance of a flock of fairies. The first to step – or perhaps flit – onto the stage was Matt Cloutier, who managed to appear shorter and more solid than a fire hydrant and more pixie-ish than Taylor Swift in a giggle fit. Matt had recently shaved his beard, but a healthy crop of chest hair gave due notice that the Peers would have some tough ethereal customers do deal with to deal with. For a full roster of Matt’s winged Fairyland compatriots, look for the full program in this year’s published Bean Soup; but we’ll note here the dramatic and musical strength of Tucker Jones as Leila, Jacob Berk and Andrew Altherr as Celia (first and second nights), and Will Adams as Fleta. The most powerful fairy of all was the Queen Herself, frighteningly played by Nick Ridley in a long flowing tutu that nonetheless managed to reveal some buff biceps that wouldn’t look bad on Brian Urlacher. No wonder the Peers were terrified of him. Rounding out the Fairy brigade was the title character herself, Iolanthe, played by George Cooke with a dramatic flair that ended up garnering him the Johnnies’ Plaque. Never was George out of character as he represented the fetching female who risked her life for love.          

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Larry Davis, Teddy Gales, Tom Reed Jr.

Anchoring the men’s chorus were G&S veteran counselors Henry Eisenhart, Fred Seebeck, Ben Ridley, and Dan Reed, ably abetted by Ben Chaimberg, Nick Bertrand, and a host of talented campers. (Again, see Bean Soup). Chaimberg came close to matching George Cooke in character consistency, playing lordly arrogance and privilege in a way that only someone from Hanover NH could manage. Larry Davis and Tom Reed, Jr. reprised their past roles at Lords Mountararat and Tolloller, no doubt cashing in on their years’ experience as college professors to play two self-absorbed gentlemen who think the world revolves around them. Their innate sense of superiority was nowhere more apparent than when, in the lovely quartet “Perhaps I may incur your blame,” Hugh Grey as the lowly Private Willis broke into their number like Cinderella coming to the Ball. Who was this upstart pipsqueak in scarlet? Well, we say, nothing less than one of the best performers of the night, in this reviewer’s humble opinion. Bravo, Hugh Grey – and good on the Fairy Queen for finally choosing you as a husband rather than this pair of entitled ninnies.          

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Ethan Pannell and Dorin Dehls

Ethan Pannell gave us Strephon with a strength and confidence – both musically and dramatically – that garnered him this year’s Scott Withrow Gilbert and Sullivan Award. No one worked harder on this role than Ethan, and no one gave a more creditable performance. Contesting the right to be deemed the most professional player of the night, though, were Dorin Dehls as Phyllis and Teddy Gales as the Lord Chancellor. Dorin matched her truly operatic voice with Oscar-worthy acting, reminding us yet again how lucky we are to have a person of her talent in our ranks. Meanwhile, Teddy mastered what is likely the most demanding role in all of G&S, whipping through his three patter songs with the finish and confidence of a musical Demosthenes and playing his Mildly Dirty Old Man role with a dexterity that makes it clear Teddy wasn’t lying in his resume when he told Danny he was going into the theater as a career. If his “Nightmare Song” wasn’t the show-stopper, his trio with Davis and Reed was. Everything Teddy touches seems to turn to gold, so we caution all of you to avoid at all costs shaking hands with him.          

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Deborah Fauver

Thanks for a terrific production also go to Penelope Reed Doob, as Producer/Director, and Ezra Nugiel, who migrated this year to the other side of the curtain as Assistant Director. The look of the show was immeasurably enhanced by Associate Producer and Costume Director Deborah Fauver, who spent countless hours and days assembling the togs and props the show required. Major kudos also to Megan Fauver Cardillo (Jake’s mom), who brought vibrant new life to Betsy Reed’s original sets. Speaking of whom, easily the most moving moment of the night came in the Fairy Queen’s love solo when she delivered a verse recognizing Betsy for over fifty years of service to Pemi as the founder and sustainer of the annual Gilbert and Sullivan extravaganza. The show literally stopped, as the audience rose to applaud the person without whom none of these wonderful evenings would ever have happened. In a show about fairies, you look for magic. The real magic opening night was Betsy blowing the cast a kiss from her 96-year-old lips. Wow!  

Wow indeed. What a show! If you missed it, make sure to pick up the dvd. Never has a Pemi show been more engaging or had more energy or talent poured into it. The bar moves ever higher. Here’s to 2014, when our distinguished repertory company turns its attention to HMS Pinafore. Book early. Little Buttercup is already topping up her inventory.    — Clive Bean

And now for Danny’s toast, offered at the start of the Final Banquet on Thursday, August 8th, after Al Fauver, Tom Reed, Jr., Dan Reed, and Ian Axness had delivered the customary four-part, a capella banquet grace.

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Danny Kerr

Here’s to the summer of 2013 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 106th in Pemi’s proud history – a summer that began seven weeks ago for campers, eight weeks ago for staff, almost ten weeks ago for counselors attending the Wilderness First Aid Clinic, the Nature Clinic, or Life Guard Training Clinic, and 13 weeks ago for the gang that met in Nahant, Mass on that rainy weekend in May to begin sharing our dreams, ideas, and inspirations for this 106th Pemi summer.

Here’s to a summer that ends with days growing shorter and temperatures low enough to merit sleeping bags at night, a summer that by all accounts has been a spectacular success, made possible mostly by the people in this room.

Here’s to the 257 campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this summer, campers from 23 states of the United States and 7 foreign countries, and here’s to the Slovakian, Czech, and Hungarian flags that we added to our collection in the mess hall this summer, as well. Here’s to campers in their first year at Pemi – and yes, Ben Chaimberg, Nick Bertrand, Nick Thomas, Arthur Root, and Matt Kanovsky, here’s to campers in their eighth.

Here’s to the dedicated counselor staff at Pemi in 2013 – to the cabin counselors and assistant counselors who share close quarters and become family with the boys, and who, for some magical reason, are able to inspire, mentor, and capture the imagination of their campers in ways even their own parents cannot.

Here’s to the program staff at Pemi that so enthusiastically shares their own knowledge with our boys and have perhaps inspired them to follow in their footsteps in whatever their field of expertise may be. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a Pemi boy has discovered a passion, while at camp, that lasts a lifetime.

Here’s to the hard-working crew that Reed Harrigan leads so vigorously each day – Brandon and Ken and Jason and Jacob and Chris, who allow us to take full advantage of this beautiful campus; to Heather, Kim, and Judy in the office who never get enough credit; to Stacey, Ruth, Nancy, Betty, Chloe, Servacs, David, Daniel, Vladimir, David, and Tibor, who spoiled us each day with delicious food cooked from scratch, and fresh produce from the nearby farms of New Hampshire. And, of course, here’s to Monica, Laura, and Kellyn, who cared for us and nursed us back to health when the Coxsackie virus made its way through the ranks.

And here’s to the Reed Family and the Fauver Family who, in their loving and supportive way, continue to expect nothing short of excellence from each of us and who see stewardship of Camp Pemigewassett as their chance to make the world a better place, one boy at a time.

Here’s to the wonderful program at Pemi and to Kenny for keeping everyone moving in the right direction; here’s to Deb and Amy down in Art World; to Charlie and all the coaches in the athletics program; to Tom and the dozens of trips that he was able to send out this summer, despite the cantankerous weather pattern; to maestro Ian and the beautiful music we enjoy; and to Larry and Deb and the world-class nature program they manage.

Here’s to the weather this summer, despite its vicissitudes – the crisp mornings, blazing afternoons, and peaceful golden haze across Lowe Baker Pond at day’s closing that we enjoyed in these final weeks; and here’s to our capacity to get the most out of the stormy days we braved in the first part of the summer.

Here’s to the things that made 2013 feel unique: helicopters and Iolanthe; the new two-day changeover and a day at a Whale’s Tale’s water park that our full season campers enjoyed; all-camp Frisbee Running Bases in the outfield of the big baseball diamond; the “serious duty” that Junior Camp staff performed; and the British Invasion that brought us so many talented international staff this summer.

Here’s to those things that are so uniquely Pemi: the Pee-Rade, Pink Polar Bear, Sound-Painting, Larry’s stories at Campfire, distance swims, Woods Dude’s Day, dope stops, the Pemi Kid, and the ever-lasting quest to discover “what’s a bean?”

Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi: Bean Soup when we laugh at ourselves and anticipate “things to look for”; Campfire, when we are treated to, amongst other things, beautiful music, riddles, Greek myths, or even the opportunity to watch someone lick his elbow; and here’s to Sunday Meeting, when we’re reflective and thoughtful about such things as the storied history of Pemi, the unlimited potential for rakers not leaners, and the heartfelt reflections of a group of campers entering their final week as Pemi “boys.”

And finally, here’s to our 15-year-old’s – to the leadership they provided and to the lifelong friendships that they have created. I know from experience you’ll be in each other’s weddings, be godparents to each other’s children and, hopefully, be the next generation of counselors at Pemi.

Bryce, Hugh, Daniel, Zach, Nick, Ben, Arthur, Max and Matt, Julian, Rosie, Cole and Ethan, Jack, Theo, Patrick, Nick, Jackson, Matt, Graham and Nick; thank you for being models each day of what it means to be a Pemi boy – and for your uncanny capacity to say just the right things to those many younger boys who look up to you.

Here’s to Camp Pemigewassett, 2013.

Good luck, long life and joy!

 

With that traditional, tripartite Pemi wish, we’ll sign off with this year’s newsletters. We look forward, though, to being in touch via other channels in the very near future and throughout the year. For now, thanks to all Pemi parents for your indulgence and trust. We hope your sons have come back to you with a bounce in their steps, a twinkle in their eyes, and an arresting tale or two of happy and productive times in our midst.

— Tom and Danny

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