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Happy to Be Here: Culture is the mark of Bucks County

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Continuity is an asset to be cherished in this era of short-lived institutions and products.

That’s why artists and art lovers flocked to the Phillips’ Mill in Solebury Township last weekend for the opening of the 93rd annual art exhibition. The Phillips’ Mill Community Association has hosted the show since the original New Hope Impressionists founded it in 1919.

And music lovers headed for the Doylestown Country Club to celebrate 70 years of the Bucks County Symphony Orchestra. In 1953, according to the orchestra’s website, “Two groups of local musicians placed an ad in The Daily Intelligencer inviting any musician in the area who was interested in playing in an orchestra to come to the Central Bucks High School band room for a trial run. Conducting was Vernon Hammond, Director of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. The purpose of the orchestra was “to bring good music well performed to the people of the area at a price which makes it available to everyone; to provide a place for the many fine amateurs and retired professionals in the area to perform; to promote musical education programs for the young people of the area.”

Over 70 years, the orchestra has had only four music directors: Hammond, Karl Middleman, Rosalind Erwin, now director of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, and Gary Fagin, who has just retired. Beth Clark, president of the Bucks Symphony Board of Directors, introduced Chilean conductor Jose Luiz Dominguez to the enthusiastic audience gathered to celebrate the anniversary.

Rod Eastburn, a former board member, spoke about his parents at the event. They were among the founders at a time when families in postwar-America were bursting with plans for the future. His parents were part of “The Greatest Generation,” he said, energetic community-minded people who wanted a cultured environment.

”I was raised to appreciate the arts,” Eastburn said, and in Bucks County the arts are everywhere. Rod has served as a board member and president and daughter Sarah is on the board.

And for the special evening, guest Elizabeth Pitcairn performed music by Vivaldi and Gershwin on her legendary 1720 Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius Violin. Elizabeth is the daughter of the founder of the Lenape Chamber Ensemble and longtime Bucks Symphony board member, Mary Eleanor Pitcairn and the late Laren Pitcairn.

At Phillips’ Mill the night before, about 200 guests walked through the mill’s gallery and sipped wine served under a tent outside, along the Primrose Creek. Painters and sculptors received awards for the work they had submitted to the jurors who set the standards for this prestigious event.

The 93rd Phillips’ Mill Art Exhibition, featuring 100 framed paintings, and 20 sculptures plus many portfolios, continues through Oct. 30 at the mill on River Road north of New Hope.

Continuity is evident in more than these two organizations – the weekend also features the New Hope Arts and Crafts Festival and the SPCA benefit Barn Bash. And the Tinicum Civic Association will open its Stover Mill Gallery season Oct. 15. And the Michener Art Museum opened its show of shoes as art.

The list goes on and on.


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