'Falling for Pawling' A Musical Celebration of Our Hometown

“I’m falling for Pawling, like I never thought I could” are lyrics from the opening song in a concert performance created in collaboration with the Pawling Central School District and the Sherman Chamber Ensemble. The public is invited to attend on Wednesday, April 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the High School Auditorium where the Pawling High School Band and Chorus, the Seventh and Eighth Grade Chorus, and selected instrumental players from Middle School will perform alongside ten professional musicians in concert.

Launched in 2015, “Falling for Pawling” is based on student work from government and AP English Literature classes taught by Lisa Horn and Erin Stewart. The original score was composed and orchestrated by Eliot Bailen, Artistic Director of the Sherman Chamber Ensemble, who will conduct the performance.

Students in Horn’s government class researched historical and contemporary aspects of the Hudson Valley, which were used by the literature students to develop creative non-fiction. As an open-ended, personalized assignment, students were able to follow their interests and imaginations delving into topics as diverse as Hudson River School painters to Quaker Hill’s Mizzentop Hotel.

Many different motivations inspired the students. One had fond childhood memories of Murrow Park and wanted to know more about the person it honors. Another wanted to explore his mother’s contributions and experiences in small town government. Other students wondered about old local photographs or oft-heard, yet unexplored, local legends.

Other themes revolve around nearby Stewart Air Force Base, haunted houses in the area and George Washington’s Headquarters. The end products range from an original series of Petrarchan sonnets to the diary of a teenage waiter at the turn of the twentieth century.

Elisabeth Clemmons was one of the English students from three years ago. She is a hiking enthusiast who appreciates the region’s beautiful landscapes. She said, “My project was a series of five poems inspired by the Hudson River School, which was considered to be the first unique art movement in the United States. I researched the history behind each painting and that made me appreciate the complex influences behind each work, as well as the short but nevertheless fascinating chapter in the history of the Harlem Valley.”

Clemmons further explained, “I tried to capture the attitudes of five different artists in my poems, and in the process I also gained an appreciation of just how special the place we live in is. I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished product and think that it’s important we continue to follow the vision of the Hudson River School painters to develop our own unique artistic heritage and to foster a greater appreciation of our past.”

Bailen, impressed by the high level of student work, used it to create an instrumental and vocal oratorio over the 2016 – 2017 school year. He worked alongside music teachers at the schools, sharing the composition process with students and rehearsing performance techniques with them.

The project was inspired by “Song to Symphony” – a large-scale extravaganza Bailen creates every four years with the Sherman School System just over the Connecticut border.

Pawling Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Kim Fontana attended this event in 2014 and was inspired to propose a similar concept to the Pawling Board of Education. They agreed to provide financial support and resources for the program with additional funding from the Elmwood Foundation.

The Wednesday, April 25, 6:30 p.m. performance will take place at the Pawling High School Auditorium, 30 Wagner Drive, Pawling, New York. The concert is free and open to the public. However, due to limited seating, tickets must be reserved ahead online at https://fallingforpawling.eventbrite.com, or by calling the Sherman Chamber Ensemble at (860) 355-5930.