TBT Throwback Thursday for Kelly Ellenwood's Singing Career in Phantom of the Opera

Did you know that we have a real, live, former cast member from Broadway's "The Phantom of the Opera" living in our town of Beacon? It's true: Kelly Ellenwood played the role of Carlotta Giudicelli in "The Phantom of the Opera" from 1994 to 1998. She also played Mrs. Fezziwig in the Madison Square Garden production of “A Christmas Carol” from 2000 to 2003. This four-year span was during the final years of its ten-year run in the theater at Madison Square Garden. One of the performances from this time is preserved in the Lincoln Center Archive. Frank Langella, stage and screen star, performed the role of Scrooge that year.

Kelly has kept up with the arts in Beacon, becoming involved in various community projects. She is currently Vice President of BeaconArts, as well as a Founding Member and Director Emeritus of the Wee Play Project, which has raised over $100,000 to build the toddler park in Beacon (we covered it here when they secured a playground upgrade). She is also involved with the Beacon Arts and Education Foundation (BAEF) which has raised $80,000 since its inception in 2004, and is currently an adjunct Professor of Voice at SUNY New Paltz.

Carlotta (played by Kelly Ellenwood) in The Phantom of the Opera.

You have most likely seen Kelly around town at the annual lighting of the Bicycle Christmas Tree produced by BeaconArts, or presenting at Board of Education meetings on behalf of the high school theater initiatives with The Beacon Players. Most recently, you may have read about Kelly in The Philipstown Paper in a preview of the Beacon Music Factory's 3rd Annual New Year's Day concert. At that event, Kelly and the Beacon Music Factory All Stars band performed Linda Ronstadt's 1974 album, "Heart Like a Wheel."

Being that most people know Kelly in her current roles, we are dedicating this #TBT, Throwback Thursday, to her career in opera and community service, which helped us learn even more about what makes her tick:

Did you stop singing operatic style?

Not really... I just don’t delve into the extremes anymore. I used to get paid pretty well (and regularly, LOL!) for what is known literally as “the money notes.” I’m aging and I simply don’t have the same ease of access to that part of my range, and frankly, it is a lot of work to maintain. But I make up for it in other ways! :) Age and experience do have their advantages.

Where can you be found singing now?

What is so great about Beacon is that there are plenty of opportunities to collaborate. I’m working on a concert concept with my dear friend and colleague Irina Mozyleva and another fabulous Beacon musician (and mom), singer-songwriter Carla Springer; and I’m even starting a new band! Not quite ready to announce yet, but stay tuned. All you need to know is that I bought an accordion yesterday.

I’m also asked to sing regularly at SUNY New Paltz where I’m on faculty, and you never know, Madera Vox may make a comeback. [Editor's note: The quintet featured Kelly on voice, and others on oboe, bassoon, piano and percussion.] I’m definitely not doing too much theatre these days, and I’m definitely not auditioning, although I do still get calls fairly often.  If the project is right, I will make time in my schedule to work in the city, at a regional theatre or do a special concert out of town. And I’ve been known to sing the national anthem from time to time at big sporting events. [Editor's note: How many people can say that?!]

Are your children following in your footsteps?

Both my girls love to sing and are innately good musicians. We have been doing some trio work together recently, which has been really fun and gratifying. Since you asked, Rowan is one of two children at her school asked to participate in the All County Chorus Weekend, coming up at the end of February. That will be a great experience for her. And we just found out a couple of days ago that Rhiannon will be playing the title role in the Beacon (HS) Players production of PETER PAN. The show dates are April 8, 9, 10 and you should buy your tickets NOW! It’s going to be just great. They are even bringing in “Flying by Foy” so the kids will be actually flying. It’s pretty extraordinary. So glad that there is a strong drama program at the high school. So yes, I guess they are “following,” although they both made these opportunities happen all on their own. #proudmama

What was your first foray into contributing your time and creative energy to Beacon on a volunteer or community level?

I guess it would have to be my seven-year stint fundraising for and building the Wee Play Tot Park.  I am thrilled that the organization has grown and continues to do so much good in our community.  I like to think that the playground was a catalyst for much of the growth we are experiencing now in this town.  I remember moving here in 2003, and not knowing where to find other mothers with young kids. We built a network, and that network continues to drive change and bring people together, as well as attract new residents. It makes me super proud.

What community and/or public school initiatives are you currently working on that you want to share with us today?

Well, I am super active in BeaconArts as a board member. If I’m re-elected at the end of this month - our Annual Meeting is January 27 - it will be my last term. I’m looking forward to implementing our strategic plan, and further stabilizing the organization as it heads into its 15th year.

I’m also active with the Beacon Arts and Education Foundation (BAEF) as the BeaconArts Board liaison. BAEF is a sponsored project of BeaconArts. As a parent, I’m fairly active at both of my kids’ schools, although I recently made a personal pledge to be MUCH more active at the high school - there is so much positive stuff that happens that gets overshadowed by the less positive.

PS:  We could use help with the BHS PTSO West Point fundraisers! The Beacon High School PTSO works concessions at West Point sports events, including football games, and raises a pretty decent amount of cash for the organization to give away as scholarships, teacher grants, etc. You have to be 16 and have an ID to work. The Beacon High School PTSO has a Facebook page if you want to find out more.

Carlotta and her understudies in the touring company for "Phantom of the Opera." This photo was taken on one of their last days on the road, in Denver.

Can You Spot Kelly In This Video?

To add to our Throwback Thursday, here is a video with Tim Curry as Scrooge during the 75th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, in which Kelly gets a little facetime in costume from her days of performing in MSG’s Christmas Carol. It was right after 9/11, and Kelly says about that day: “I remember the feeling very well. The temperature was quite warm, not cold at all as we breezed down Broadway. Intense memories!”


#TBT: Vogel's Old Sign Gets a New Paint Job

A staple in Beacon is the Vogel Pharmacy sign. Vogel is located right next door to Homespun Foods, and is an easy spot to pick up your prescriptions while getting a chocolate chip cookie next door. Vogel Pharmacy is your old school, original, locally owned pharmacy, tended by Anthony Valicenti. Over the years, the sign had grown a little tired. In fact, this was our very first "Where Is This?" contest picture back in 2011, and the hint we gave was: "It's peeling." Vogel was actually the subject of another "Where Is This?" contest picture, this time the interior.

Looks like the sign came out of its throwback stage, and got a fresh coat of paint! Local artist Erica Hauser, who has been known to repaint objects out in public, approached Vogel to repaint it, and was hired to do the job.

Job well done!

#TBT Throwback Thursday: The Unofficial Restoration Of The Dummy Light By Erica Hauser

This little bit of Beacon trivia for #TBT is courtesy of the yarnbombing incident, which inspired people to post memory photos of local artist, Erica Hauser, taking it upon herself to restore the Dummy Light down on the far East End of Main Street, across the street from 1 East Main. Erica serves on the board of BeaconArts, who has been an organization that attracts residents of Beacon to its board who take it upon themselves to improve their surroundings.

According to an article in Philipstown, Erica wrote to the City to ask about any restoration plans of the Dummy Light, but not much of a response was generated. So she got some paint and a safety vest and...painted it.

Erica Hauser, restoring the paint on The Dummy Light
Photo by Erica Hauser.

Tragic Crash on Mt. Beacon is Remembered During Path Through History Weekend

The history in this region is inspiring, and at times tremendously sad. This weekend on June 20th, 2015 as part of

Path Through History Weekend at I Love New York, a hike will commence up Mt. Beacon at 10am to remember the six Navy personnel who were killed thirty minutes after leaving Wright Caldwell Airport in Caldwell, NJ en-route back to the Quonset Air Naval Base in Quonset, RI after their Navy Beechcraft Twin Engine Transport plane crashed near the northwest ridge of Mt. Beacon in the Town of Fishkill, NY. The hike will end at the crash site.

The Friends of the Mt. Beacon Eight are responsible for organizing this walk to remember the men who died in the crash, which happened on November 11, 1945, just two years before November 11th officially became Veterans Day, in addition to already being Armistice Day, the official end of World War 1. The mission of The Friends of Mt. Beacon Six is to remember all of the men who died that day.

The plane crash happened at noon on a foggy day with "swirling rain," according to a recent article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, right after the pilots had radioed the Stewart Airfield in Newburgh as they flew over, asking for directions and weather conditions. If you have seen Mt. Beacon on a rainy or foggy day, you know it can be quite thick up there.

The crash killed all 6 men on board immediately as it was engulfed in flames and black smoke. The fog was so thick, that it took searchers 15 hours to find the wreckage. When night fell, the dying fires from the crash illuminated the location.

John Ferro's article in the Poughkeepsie Journal has a very detailed account of the crash.

The article also highlighted one man, Commodore Dixie Keifer, who was not from this area but had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by Beacon native James V. Forrestal, who was the last Cabinet-level United States Secretary of the Navy and the first United States Secretary of Defense. Forrestal also once served as city editor of the Poughkeepsie News Press, a predecessor of the Poughkeepsie Journal. The article explores Dixie's service, heroism, and incredible threshold for pain while saving others during times of suicide plane attacks on his navel carrier and other crucial moments of survival. His life ended instantly here, after serving in World War II and rising up the ranks past captain to become commodore. His muddy cap is depicted in the picture above, which was published at the Poughkeepsie Journal.

The other men are mentioned in the story, and I'll repeat them here to help with the Friends of the Mt. Beacon Eight's mission of remembrance:

  • Lt. Cmdr. Dr. Ignatius Zielinski, 45, of Salem, Massachusetts. Zielinski was assistant medical officer at Quonset and a medical examiner in Salem County prior to entering the service.

  • Lt. Lloyd P. Heinzen, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Heinzen was the senior pilot of the plane. During eight months of combat in the Pacific, he shot down eight Japanese planes, earning the title of "ace."

  • Lt. Hans K. Kohler, 25, of Garfield, New Jersey, the plane's co-pilot.

  • Clarence Hooper, 23, an aviation machinist's mate third-class from Greensboro, North Carolina.

  • David O. Wood, 23, a seaman first-class from North Franklin, Connecticut.

This is one more reason to gaze at the mountain in awe and appreciation for this land, what others have given for our country, and the moments we live in now. Hikers are meeting at the Scenic Hudson Fishkill Ridge Parking lot at 10:00am to commence up Mt. Beacon to the crash site.

#TBT: Howland Cultural Center as The Howland Circulating Library

Howland Cultural Center for TBT as Howland Circulating Library

The Howland Cultural Center, Beacon's current hub for all kinds of classes and events, was built initially as the Howland Circulating Library when it opened its doors for the first time in August 1872. The then library was the brain child of Civil War General Joseph Howland "and several prominent men of the area, names which are still familiar today: Brett, Mackin, Brinckerhoff, Mase, Van Buren, plus others," according to the Howland Cultural Center's website.

Howland was a son of a New York City merchant family who grew wealthy from the China trade. Howland, with his wife, Eliza Newton Woolsey, moved from New York City to their estate Tioronda, (today called Craig house). Eliza embarked on a sanitary mission to feed and care for soldiers fighting in the Civil War, which you should definitely read about here.

General Joseph Howland commissioned his brother-in-law, Richard Morris Hunt, a sought after architect, to design the library. The design was conceived in a Norwegian Tudor style with 6 gabled roofs and was one of the last libraries designed to use natural light. More description about the design is here at the Howland Cultural Center's website. After Hunt designed this building, the architect went on to design a wing of the Louvre Museum in Paris, the base of the Statue of Liberty, the renowned “Breakers” in Newport, Rhode Island, and the entrance and lobby of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and more.

The Howland Circulating Library was intended as a circulating library among a paying membership, and its original 2,200 volumes grew quickly. In 1929, it was one of two subscription-based libraries in the state of New York. A bequest was made by a donor, with a condition that the library be made public, which it was. It remained a library until 1976 when its rapidly expanding requirements compelled a move to larger quarters.

Today the Howland Cultural Center is a center for the community, a hub for the arts, and a local historical treasure.

#TBT: Dia:Beacon Museum Skylights Once Showered Natural Light on Package Printing Process for Nabisco

A pressman checks packaging for Nabisco's Saltine Crackers Boxes in the Natural Light Let In Through the Skylights, Which Now Shine Down on Art in the Dia:Beacon
Our first Throwback Thursday for the blog! Beacon's history is very rich and deep, and we want to remember it and feel its roots.

Taken from the very first chapter of the book Beacon Revisited, by Robert J. Murphy and Denise Doring VanBuren, this throwback goes to the authors' pointing out of how the overhead skylights in the 300,000 square foot space for what is now the contemporary art museum Dia:Beacon, once provided natural light "necessary to ensure uniformity in the package-printing process" when the building was a former Nabisco cardboard box-printing plant. These pictures show the skylights, and the uniform light in which this pressman inspects labels for saltine crackers.

Beacon Revisited
Find Beacon Revisited at Beacon Institute
for Rivers and Estuaries
, or on Amazon.