Thursday, September 16, 2010

COTA 2010

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) held their 33rd Annual Jazz and Arts festival throughout the town of Delaware Water Gap, PA during the three day weekend beginning Friday September 10th and ending Sunday September 12th. The festival have proven to be a haven and Mecca for jazz and art lovers throughout the world attracting people who have traveled as far away as the European nations as well as people who live within a few miles. Those returning to this year’s festival found it to be everything they loved about it and more while those who attended it for the very first time discovered its delightfully addictive quality inspiring them to mark their calendars so they would be sure to attend next year.

The festival began Friday September 10th with an Artists’ Reception at The Antoine Dutot Gallery and Museum featuring works created by numerous artists exploring a variety of medium all centering on the “Music Motif Show” central theme which was (as the exhibition‘s title suggests) music. A number of people waited outside the gallery as the final preparations were made for their entry.

It was during this waiting period that the first of many new additions to the festival made itself known. The Classical Trio “Calliope” (consisted of Laura Goss on Basson along with Gina Bertucci and Barbara McMahon on Flute) performed outside the gallery. The enthrallment of the Classical and Baroque movements almost enticed them to stay even when the long awaited moment of the gallery opening its doors occurred. However, once they found the will power to leave this musical entreatment, they soon found their explorations of the Dutot’s a very worthy endeavor.

A wall singing the delightful tunes of colors and images transfixed those who were fortunate to cast their gaze upon them. The atmosphere was electrifying which increased as the enchanting energies of conversation and delicious foods enhanced the evening’s event. One felt a shear joy while experiencing the work and the camaraderie of those who love the festival and were overjoyed with the event that opened it.

The “Music Motif” Show has long been a part of COTA and features a juried show inviting artists throughout the Pocono Area and beyond to share their talents with the gallery. Jurors for this year’s exhibition were Steve Berger, James Gloria, and Joni Oye-Benintende. Although the work presented was of the highest quality, special awards were given to those artists listed below. Their endeavors were truly outstanding and, as a representative of The Forwardian Arts Society, I congratulate them and I encourage all who read this to share their congratulatory sentiments as a comment to this article.

The Best of Show was given to Garth Woods for his photographic piece titled, “Spencer Reed.” The 1st place award in Photography was given to Francine Douaihy for her work titled, “Philly Groove” while the 2nd place award went to Bud Nealy for his work titled, “Marko.” The 1st place award in Painting was given to Ka-Son Reeves for his work titled, “Jazz in Space” while the 2nd place award went to Bob Doney. The 1st place award in Crafts was given to Lenore Fiore Mills for her work in Batik titled, “Bastille Day at Cercle Rouge” while June Auger was awarded Honorable Mention for her Quilt titled, “JAZZ.”

The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery is an Art Gallery and Museum housed in a brick school house build around the year 1850. The Museum focuses on the local history Delaware Water Gap, PA which was settled by Antoine Dutot which gave the town its original name “Dutotsville.” The French flavor of the early settlers can still be seen in Delaware Water Gap’s architecture. This and the prevalence of Jazz has led some to dub the town as “the New Orleans of the Poconos.”

The Gallery features a variety of exhibitions throughout the summer and early fall months featuring an eclectic array of artists whose qualities enhance the community through their talents. The “Music Motif Show” continues until September 19th. The next exhibition will feature the work of Arthur Kvarnstrom with an Artist’s Reception on Friday September 24th beginning at 7pm and continuing until October 10th. Please Explore The Antoine Dutot Gallery and Museum Website at or call them at 570-476-4240 for more information.

The first day of the festival continued with an evening filled with music, theatre, dance, and poetry at The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain (PCOM) located across the street from The Dutot. This presentation has long been part of COTA and has become well known for the grace, beauty, and burlesque aspects of the performances. This festival proved to be no exception as expectations were not only satisfied but were exceeded beyond imagination.

The evening at PCOM began with some welcoming remarks made by Pastor Karen Nickles and soon gave way to a few words given by the event’s host Denny Carrig. The Marsha Cahn Ensemble performed with Marsha on Viola and Agnieszka Rybska on Cello along with Wendy Davis and Mark Woodyatt on Violin. The selection proved to be a wonderfully elegant beginning with works ranging from Charpientier to Bach and from Gershwin to Richard Rogers. The music moved its listeners even while they remained stationary. Ahhh.

The night continued with a dance composition Choreographed by Angeline Wolf based on the Bob Dorough song “Three is a Magic Number” which he written for the 1970’s ABC Schoolhouse Rock Series which appeared between the Saturday Morning Cartoon Schedule. Bob performed the song while Laura Buzzard, Rose Gloria, and Maeve Godshalk of The TOTTS Gap Arts Institute (TGAI) located in Bangor, PA interpreted the lyrics through the art of dance.

Later in the evening, Rose Gloria of TGAI danced to the Eric Doney composition titled, “And Why Not?” and Emily Perkins along with Angeline Wolf performed a piece titled, “Duet” based on a composition written by John Coats titled, “Never Have Known an Esther.” Both works were Choreographed by Angeline Wolf of TGAI and performed musically by Eric Doney.

The Tott's Gap Arts Institute (TGAI) is “a school designed to nurture artists of all ages, and to awaken the excitement, passion, and possibility of both the fine and performing arts by offering classes, showcasing talent, and hosting events that will infuse our community and the region with a love and respect for the creative process.” (from the TGAI Mission Statement) Please Explore The Tott's Gap Arts Institute Website at or call them at 610-588-5817 for more information.

The show at PCOM continued to introduce some new additions to the festival by presenting a number of non musical performances. These included not only the theatrical presentations those who frequent the festival have come to expect and appreciate but a variety of poetry and spoken word performances. This all proved to be a refreshing change of pace and led many to hope this will be a permanent feature in the festivals yet to come.

The first of these performances was the presentation of a monologue which was written and performed by Betsy Jackson titled, “Why I Write: Chapter 9.” Those who were in the audience were taken upon a literary journey which led to roads of laughter and avenues of reflection. Laughter and thoughtful silence touched our hearts as each story interwove with one another creating a pattern for a cloth the soul longs to adorn itself in.

The second of these performances were some spoken word presentations given by Amber, Sofiya, Joel, Bekah, and Ceez Live of Urban Mountain Voices (UMV). After some introductory words given by UMV Coordinator Tricia McGarvin, the poets “Spat” (a new colloquialism for the act of recitation) their thoughts, experiences, and revelations onto the audience. This was met by some perplexity by those who have come to the festival throughout the many years of its existence, but soon the universality of their poetic messages struck a cord leading many to nod their head in recognition of the experiences as the poets shined a mirror onto their souls.

Urban Mountain Voices (UMV) is dedicated to strengthening the community by embracing its multicultural diversity through the empowerment of young adults ages 13-20 years throughout Monroe County. They provide safe and uncensored creative writing and performance workshops, adult and peer mentoring, public performance opportunities and the publication of works addressing issues of Social Justice while becoming effective leaders in the community. Please Explore The Urban Mountain Voices Website at or call them at 610-587-3725 for more information.

A One Act Play titled, “Sure Thing” written by David Ives was well performed by Leah Thomas and Joe Arner. The play is about a couple who meets in a coffeehouse and explore the many avenues a conversation can take as it transpires. This was demonstrated by a ringing of a bell whenever the male character found himself saying something that bought about an unfavorable reaction of the female character whom he wanted to develop a romantic relationship with. This comic device led to some hilarious play on words and delighted the audience greatly. In other words, it was funny.

Jazz Drummer Michael Stephans left his drums at home but not the beat his talents produce as he reads a selection of his poetry. Many amused the listeners while quite a number of them gave cause for reflection. The entire performance allowed many to see another side to the well known drummer which inspired a deeper appreciation to the multidimensionality of his artistic gifts.

Host Denny Carrig along with Dave Hymes performed not one but two classic pieces written by The Monty Python’s Flying Circus Comedy Troupe. They were “Flying Sheep” and “Blue Parrot/Lumberjack.” The performance was quite remarkable as the work was presented without any resemblance to they way it was originally delivered. This force the audience to see the work in a new light and experience the work merely on its merits as a funny piece of theatre. This combined with the comedic talents of the duo inspired a great deal of laughter and brought the evening to a delightful conclusion.

As those attending the PCOM event left the church, one can see their thoughts of anticipation as they looked forward to the remainder of the festival to continue. In addition to their participation in The Celebration of the arts festival The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain (PMOC) holds a weekly concert at their Gazebo every Sunday from 6pm until 7:30pm running from June until August. They are free and open to the public with concessions available for purchase. When it rains (or rain is expected), the concert moves inside the church itself. Please Explore The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain Website at or call 570-476-0345 for more information.

The remaining two days of COTA continued outside in its main festival area. The full days of concerts, strolling musicians, and artists sharing their work in their perspective booths are what many think about when they think of the festival. Among the many things that made this year’s festival more special than those in previous incarnations was the celebration of The COTA Cats 30th year of existence. There will be much more about them along with the special tribute later paid to them in this article. But for now, I would like to share with you all the wonderful occurrences that took place during the time I was fortunate enough to be a part of.

On the second day of the festival began on Saturday September 11th. A mellow tone was set by a performance given by Eric Doney and Zack Brock featuring Eric on Piano and Zack on Violin as they took the stage at noon. This tone was continued with few exceptions throughout the remaining two days of the festival which encouraged attendees to take a breath from the hectic times we live in and just relax. They were followed by The Matt Vashlishan featuring Matt on saxophone, Phil Markowitz on piano, Evan Gregor on bass, and Ian Froman on drums and then by Urbie and Kathy Green with the Jesse Green Trio featuring John Jensen featuring Urbie along with John Jensen on trombone, Kathy Green on vocals, Jesse Green on piano, Paul Rostock on bass, and Bud Nealy on drums. Michael Stephans Spatial Edition featuring Michael on drums, Zach Brock on violin, Jim Ridl on piano, and Steve Varner on bass took the stage with Michael moved his sticks causing those who experienced his reading at the PCOM on the previous Friday night were a gracefully moved by his words.

These groups of Jazz artists were followed by The Jazz Artists Repertory Orchestra (JARO) as directed by Jazz Pianist Wolfgang Knittel and consists of numerous musicians well known to those who attended COTA throughout the years and are too many to name here. Their stated desire to preserve and promote the rich heritage of big band jazz was delightfully manifested through their performance. Their smooth sounds were reminiscent of the big band era of the 1930s and 40s while bringing a sense of newness to the pieces they played.

An Intermezzo followed their performance featuring a "Tribute to Bob Dorough" given by Spoken Word Performing Artist Tricia McGarvin. One could tell a great deal of love and poetic skill when into the piece as its delivery gave many more reasons to appreciate the talents of Bob Dorough. This appreciation was further enhanced when The Bob Dorough Ambassadorial Trio Plus took the stage. The group featured Bob piano and vocals, Steve Berger on guitar and vocals, Pat O'Leary on bass, Bill Goodwin on drums, Ed Hudak on percussion, Matt Vashlishan on alto saxophone, Jay Rattman on baritone saxophone, and Rick Chamberlain on trombone. The word “Plus” in the group’s name indicated there were more musicians performing than the usual number in a Trio. But then, to Bob, three has always been a magic number.

Soon after Bob left the stage, The Dennis Jeter Quintet featuring Dennis on trumpet and vocals, John Jensen on trombone, Jesse Green on piano, Evan Gregor on bass, and Bill Goodwin on drums performed. They were followed by Co-Op Bop featuring Alan Gaumer on trumpet, Nelson Hill on saxophones, Tom Kozic on guitar, Ron Oswanski on The Hammond B3 organ, and Gary Rissmiller on drums. While the music continued the mellowed tone set by Eric and Zack earlier in the day, a definite crescendo began to build as the final group prepared to play. The Gypsy Jazz Quintet featuring John Curtin and Vince Marrone on guitars, Nick Driscoll on clarinet, Mark Woodyatt on violin, and Bob Wilson on bass presented music that moved the entire hillside on which the majority of festival goers are seated off their mounds so their dancing could reflect the wildly subtle tunes before going home to sleep in preparation of a new day at COTA.

The last day of the festival was met with some rainy weather. There were periods of drizzles, heavier downpours, and dry spells all taking their turns in a randomized fashion. This proved unfortunate as it kept the number attendees down. But, for those who braved the elements discovered their courage was well worth the endeavor as the music and other events of the day made if a memorable one.

Sunday September 12th began under the big COTA tent used under such weather conditions with The Annual COTA Jazz Mass with music composed and conducted by Jazz Pianist Wolfgang Knittel and led by The Reverend Karen Nickels of The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain along with The Reverend Bill Cohn. The service featured The JazzMass Choir under the direction of Teresa Marino with solo performances given by Michele Bautier, Bob Dorough, and Bonnie Childs. Also featured was a huge Jazz Orchestra with numbers too many to name. The service provided its usual uplifting spiritual encouragements.

This year’s message by Pastor Karen was notably prevalent as it addressed the recent moves by some Christian sects to “honor” those who were killed in the September 11th, 2001 attacks by burning a Koran and working to keep a Mosque from being built at the Twin Towers Area known as “Ground Zero” in spite of the facts that contradict their position’s hyperbole. She noted the Muslim Sacred holiday of Ramadan ended this year on September 11th which signifies an end of a fasting period and is traditionally celebrated with great feasts. She continued to wonder aloud how their celebrations might seem insensitive to those still harboring resentments of the day. She then concluded her message by stating such moves are inspired by hate and fear and she refused to live a life ruled by such impediments. She further declared the day to be a “Day for Peace in Delaware Water Gap” with hopes it’ll be recognized annually. This was met with a great amount of cheering from the many who came to partake of the service and I share in this hope the day will be recognized and become a part of the COTA Tradition.

Note: The full text of Pastor Karen’s sermon can be found at

As the Service ended, the rain (at that time) seemed to be leaving the festival so the stage was rearranged so the remainder of the performances could be played for an outside audience. Once all work toward this endeavor was completed, The Absolute Trio featuring Bill Washer on guitar, Paul Rostock on bass, and Glenn Davis on drums began the musical performances in the afternoon. It was a great way to be reunited with the wonderful jazz COTA has become known for.

This was followed by another of COTA’s new addition to the festival experience. Members of the Urban Mountain Voices (UMV) presented their Spoken Word Poetry to those who were sitting on the hillside. A soul to soul communication occurred as each utterance, each syllable, each pause was taken in and kept in that special place where we keep the most dearest of our thoughtful possessions. It is said music speaks to us in ways words cannot. And, many who come to COTA to hear its music find this to be very true. But, the word shared by these young poets come pretty damn close and I hope they will be given a permanent place to utter them in future festivals.

As mentioned much earlier in this article, the one of the special highlights of the festival is the 30th Celebration of the COTA Cats formation. This formation occurred when COTA surviving founders Phil Woods and Rick Chamberlain saw a need for area high school to develop their music programs to include instruction in the art of Jazz. This realization led to the development of a mentorship program in which established world class jazz musicians work with students who exhibit interests and extraordinary talent in order to enhance their skill with their chosen instrument. The tutoring and sharing of inspirational experiences cumulate with a performance during the festival by all those students who benefit from the program. Thus, a COTA Cat is born.

COTA Cats Volume XXX as directed by Ryan Churchoe, Thomas Fadden, Lance Rauh, and Special Guest Kayte Clogg showcased the talents of the students who benefited from the program this year. Their many instruments and numbers prohibit me from naming them all but their talents shown like a beacon and allowing a glimpse to the future of the musical art form. Although each COTA Cat possess exceptional talent, there are some who are recognized for having special promise and are awarded scholarships so they may continue their musical education. This year, the precipitants are Nate Partis, Tim Gillies, and Erica Jack. Please join with me in congratulating these talented musicians through leaving a sentiment in this regard in the comment section of this posting.

The festival continued with a performance by Nancy and Spencer Reed featuring Nancy on bass and vocals and Spencer on guitar and vocals. They were followed by The David Liebman Group featuring David on saxophone, Vic Juris on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, and Marko Marcinko on drums. This led up to one of the grand events of the festival.

Phil Woods and The COTA Festival Orchestra presented a Special Tribute in honor of The COTA Cats
the 30th year featuring former COTA Cats Nellie McKay and Najwa Parkins on vocals along with quest performance by Joe Boga on trumpet and Phil Hyman on bass trombone. The COTAlum Sax Attack and Pianolums were also featured throughout the set. The remaining membership of the Orchestra read like a who’s who of COTA with most of the musicians being COTA Cats Alumni. They are too numerous to name individually but many are know throughout the jazz world and several have receive honors and awards including Grammys. I was a not only a delight to hear the entire ensemble play but a cause of reflection on how COTA and its programs can change and enhance the creative lives of all it touches.

This performance was followed by that of The Bobby Avey Group featuring Bobby on piano, David Liebman on saxophone, Thomson Kneeland on bass, and Jordan Perlson on drums. The festival came to its conclusion with a rousing set given by The Roamin' Gabriels featuring Len Mooney on keyboards and vocals, Erin McClelland on guitar and vocals, Chuck Cooper on drums and percussion, and Special Guest Tim Carbone on violin, guitar, and vocals. Dancing and laughter along with an eagerness for the 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts to arrive in 2011 filled the Delaware Water Gap as the moist evening atmosphere brought them home.

Throughout the Saturday and Sunday portion of the festival, there was much to experience that wasn‘t on the main stage. There was music, storytelling, and art to experience and explore. The children who attended the festival enjoyed the stories Maria Horn and Rick Peoples wove along with the tunes played by Bob Dorough and Steve Berger at the COTA Children’s Area. In addition to this, Artists Andrea Levergood Flaherty painted the faces of all children (regardless of their age) much to their delight.

Strolling Musicians such as The Dixie Gents featuring Bob Leive on Trumpet, Paul Hubbell on Soprano Saxophone, Rich Chamberlain on Trombone, Ray Schweisguth on Banjo, and Jim Daniels on Tuba who performed on Saturday while The Lost Ramblers featuring John Updike on 5 string banjo, Neil Morris on guitar, Coleman Smith on fiddle, Anthony Hannigan on mandolin, Jillian Brosnan on flute and pennywhistles, and Scott Hornick on bass performed on Sunday. In addition to this, Mark Hamza performed with his accordion throughout the weekend and was occasionally accompanied by Jay Rattman on Saxophone and Mark Woodyatt who whistled along. Artists and Artisans such as Jewelers Ingrid Blackert, Shelly Ann D’Anna (along with Clay works), Harriet Ford, Patrice Jiunta, and Ursula Pooley (Me Crazy Jewelry) presente their work. Clay works, Pottery, and Sculpture by Rachel Cohen, Steve Linden, Don Conklin, Tim Helman, John Sittig, Pia Somerlock, Joann Stratakos (MudWorks Pottery), and members of the Madala Design Works presented their work. Also David Coulter and Ron Ford presented their photography, Dawn Linden and Robert Doney presented their paintings, and various other works were presented by Emily Gartner, Linda Newswanger, Liz Pemberton, Paul Reiche, and The Totts Gap Institute.

The Celebration of the Arts Festival is an all volunteer organization and receives a great deal of community support. As a sign of appreciation for this support, COTA recognizes exceptional individuals by presenting them with awards. The 2010 Sterling and Dorothy Strauser Award which was given to James Gloria in honor of his contribution to the visual arts, The 2010 Joanne Mayer Award which was given to Allisen Trotter in honor of her Volunteer endeavors for COTA, and The 2010 Fred Waring Award which was given to Spencer Reed for his outstanding contributions to the arts and the community. Each of these awards reflect an intricate aspect of the spirit that moves COTA to be what it is to so many people.

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival is an annual event that began in 1978 by Phil Woods, Rich Chamberlain, and the late Ed Joubert. From its humble beginnings which consisted of a 4 hour concert held on risers at the steps of an Annex of the Castle Inn (which was later destroyed by a fire). The size of the audience of just over 500 people and was mostly made up of friends, family, and some ardent jazz fans. It only took a few years for the festival to become what it is today. It has expanded considerably to include the COTA Cats Program and Camp Jazz which is a Summer Camp designed to provide musical education in a more relaxed environment than that found in a school.

Those who wish to be part of COTA may do so by attending their General Meetings which are held the Second Tuesday of the Month at The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA. They begin at 7:30pm and all who wish to volunteer their services in the variety of positions available are welcomed. Photographs taken during these Meetings can be found in The Forwardian Arts Society COTA Meetings 2010 Gallery while more Photographs of The 33rd Annual Celebration of the Arts Festival can be found in The Forwardian Arts Society COTA 2010 Gallery at Please Explore The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Website at or Contact them at 570-424-2210 for more details. I look forward to seeing you next year and I’ll keep a good thought for you until then.


Unknown said...

Excellent work Paul!

Unknown said...

A most beautiful article about COTA and I thank you so much for your support of the arts. You have turned a weekend that I never thought could been transposed into words into a beautiful and soulful representation of the weekend. Again thank you so much.

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