Certain events in everyone's life bring on a feeling of sadness and regret: taking down the Christmas tree, perhaps, or putting on the snow tires. Taking the boat out of the water or wrapping up the ski equipment for the season, for example.
For me, it's always sad to look back over a summer spent with the arts in our area, and to relive the discoveries, the feelings, and the memories from the days when the weather was warm and the days were long.
Sadly enough, Chautauqua closes tomorrow, schools will be opening soon, and it's time to begin putting away summer things and prepare for a busy and demanding autumn.
Visual art exhibits at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute were some of the many art-rich opportunities for area residents and the many visitors to our area, during the summer of 2011.
Since the end of June, we have written 20 arts-related pieces for publication, among which were reviews of 23 performances, exhibits, etc.
The numbers don't come out even, because some pieces contain as many as six reviews of specific events, while others are simply informative and contain no reviews at all.
If we lived nearly anywhere else in our country, that would be a great many, although for us, it has been the most sparse summer in decades. Fortunately, what we did see and hear was of outstanding quality.
I entered into the summer in a situation which could be described as ''behind the 8-ball,'' which was partially responsible for the scant season of art, so I need to own up to that as well.
The late days of spring were full of family duties. Several funerals, an important wedding, and other events demanded my attention. My usual manner of working turned out to be overwhelmed in the process.
I typically get 20 to 30 newspaper-related emails per day, not counting announcements that I've won the Irish Sweepstakes, or that friends of mine have gone off to visit Europe and have had their wallets/purses stolen, so I should just wire them $500.
Items which advertise events which will have ended before I can get them into print, either get forwarded to the editors, in the hope they can squeeze them into the regular pages of the paper, or they get deleted.
Items which might be good ''winks'' or which might relate to an upcoming column, review or story, get forwarded to a different email account, which I never use for anything but storing that information. Items which require a response or further action get flagged for future attention.
During the times when I was away from my duties, the number of emails in my principal account went up by hundreds upon hundreds. I spent any number of full days, just sitting at the computer, sorting and trying to respond to emails, although some were missed, and if they were from you or related to you, I sincerely regret it. Mea culpa.
As far as I know, things are returning to normal, and while I can't do everything that everyone asks of me, I sincerely hope that no one will be ignored. No one deserves to be ignored.
My talents as an individual, are better focused on response than initiative. When I first started writing for The Post-Journal, I was very active in digging up new events and people to focus readers' attention upon. The years have taught me a different way of working, however.
I get so many contacts wanting coverage, that I have substantially reduced the amount of seeking out of new subjects which I do. It seems unfair, when artists and arts groups are asking me for coverage, to tell them I can't help them, then to seek out individuals and groups who don't care about coverage or at least don't take the time or effort to let us know what they're doing.
I sat down, yesterday afternoon, during a break, and jotted down more than 30 events during this past summer alone, in which I met with an individual or a group of individuals and told them I could arrange for them to have coverage if they could provide ''x'' or ''y'', only to have them fail to provide the interview opportunity, the photographs, the statistics, etc.
Supposedly these are especially difficult times for artists and arts groups, financially speaking, and yet sometimes the same individual was explaining for the third and fourth times why he just had been so busy, he hadn't gotten around to providing what he had earlier said would be no problem to provide. Very often, paid publicists are less dependable than volunteers.
The newspaper pays its staff, buys its raw materials, and makes its profits by selling advertising. When we write a feature story which clues the public in on what someone is doing or an event which is about to happen, it's like a restaurant giving away food or a taxi company providing free rides. It isn't a favor to us. What if someone gave a performance, an exhibit, or whatever, and nobody knew it was happening, so they didn't come?
More and more people seem to have the idea that they'll allow us to write about things or they'll do us a favor by giving an interview or letting us in, to do our jobs. It never fails to astound me.
Let's look at the summer:
As I said in my preview of the Chautauqua season, in our area, Chautauqua Institution for the arts lover is the equivalent of the Super Bowl to the football fan or the World Series to the baseball lover.
I count 14 pieces which I wrote about Chautauqua in the past season, which for a nine-week season is fairly many, although again, it is probably the sparsest coverage in decades.
As has become the standard, The Chautauqua Theater Company got the lion's share of publicity. We wrote five reviews and two full-page columns about them.
The reviews were of ''Three Sisters,'' ''Love's Labour's Lost,'' and the three new plays from their festival of new plays: ''Carve,'' ''Elijah'' and ''Build.'' The festival was an excellent idea which served long-term Chautauqua visitors especially well. All three were diamonds in the rough, but genuinely both entertaining and intellectually stimulating.
The company took an experimental approach to their Chekhov offering, and in my experience, the audience either loved it or hated it. If they had done more advance publicity to let everyone know what they would be doing and why, I think it would have made for happier audiences.
Chautauqua Opera did only three performances of two operas, this season. ''Luisa Miller'' was done in the Amphitheater, which is not the ideal circumstance for the performance of opera, with powerboats occasionally roaring in the background, dogs barking, etc. The open-sided Amphitheater lends itself to people drifting in and out of performances of all kinds, which can seriously damage the concentration and enjoyment of other members of the audience.
On the other hand, it allows for more people to attend. It doesn't put a major attraction in competition with the opera. When the company performs in their usual home of Norton Hall, audience members who choose to attend have to ignore the fact that they have a paid ticket to whatever is playing in the Amphitheater, in order to pay again, and attend.
The Amphitheater isn't governed by the requirement made by the Norton Family on the hall they donated, many decades ago, that operas can only be done in English. The projection of an English translation above the stage, works very well, and allows the singers to make the sounds the composer had in mind. Because members of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra perform the orchestra parts of operas, the company is forced to give performances where they fit in the musicians' schedules, which prevents their scheduling matinees and performances at unusual times, to avoid conflicting with whatever is being done in the Amphitheater, as other companies can do.
''Luisa Miller'' has some very powerful music in it, and the larger Amphitheater allows for a full orchestra, which is vastly more thrilling than a reduction, as we can expect in Norton Hall. ''The Magic Flute'' is one of my personal favorites, and the company did a charming job of it, in their other production of the season. Norton Hall is approaching 100 years of age. It is not insulated and can't be reasonably air-conditioned or heated, and it has problems such as uncomfortable seats.
On the other hand, if the opera company had reached out more to organizations which were ready and waiting to fill the public in on what was being done, it would have helped create the kind of public demand which they deserve, and which might help them ''catch up'' to some of the other programs in the Institution.
My remaining feature on Chautauqua was an interview about the voice department, headed by Marlena Malas. I understand why they don't do publicity, because voice lessons don't require audiences, and among singers, the program is internationally well-known, and considered one of the finest in the world.
I do wish they would share more about the frequent small venue productions which they and other groups do. When I drove to Chautauqua to interview Mrs. Malas, I walked by poster after poster announcing performances that I would have loved to have attended, given in Fletcher Hall, McKnight Hall, Lenna Hall, and other new and up-to-date venues which have sprung up on the grounds in the past few years.
Also, when I did learn about them, I eventually asked seven people who worked for the Institution how someone outside the grounds could attend, what it would cost, etc., and they didn't know and didn't find out and send us the information.
Someone told me that the Chautauqua Women's Club publishes information about the productions in an annual book, but didn't know how one went about getting such a book, unless one happened to be on their mailing list.
The voice students' production of ''The Crucible'' was stellar.
This year, we were forced to forego Toronto's splendid Luminato Festival in June, because it fell during our period of funerals and weddings.
Luminato is a wonderful weeklong-plus blend of art, from classical opera and ballet to business lobbies full of paintings to dancing in the street, small venue jazz, band concerts in parks, rock divas, celebrations of the cooking arts and more.
I was sorry to miss it, but glad I could include the ''how to do it'' information for them, as they sent it repeatedly, in a wide variety of forms, for many weeks before the event took place. If you went, I hope you'll share the event with me one of these days.
Shaw and Stratford festivals are such delights for theater lovers, I find myself overflowing with enthusiasm. Although Shaw had a strong season, I can't remember a Stratford season which appealed to me as much as this one.
I managed to attend each of them once, and have some hope of getting back, before they end their seasons in November, although I have no specific plans at the moment.
We saw 11 plays, between the two festivals, all of them professionally done. Some were more successful than others, but none was just a bland success. Far better to see a group trying something new, than just falling back on what has always worked.
All three festivals, and a number of others in our good neighbor Canada, send us regular financial reports, attendance reports, etc., which indicate that they're clearly doing some things right. I know dozens of readers who never miss a season, and I often hear about others who are faithful attendees, as well.
It gives me hope for the future.