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Behind the Capitol Steps with Pianist, David Kane

Capitol Steps is a favorite among our guests here at Cranwell each summer. With nightly shows, except for Tuesday, and a cast that changes out weekly you will always enjoy a unique performance and leave with a smile on your face. Shera Cohen from IntheSpotlight.com recently interviewed David Kane, a long time pianist with the Capitol Steps cast.

1)  Describe a typical performance (at Cranwell) for you.  Is it fun? Unique each night?  Relatively the same?  Depends on the audience?  Depends on the day of the week?

It is generally fun- it’s a comedy show! Some aspects are similar as we tend to do the same show over a week. Variables include errors from the cast or myself (hopefully, not too many of those!), age/mood/size of the audience and the day of the week as well but in all in all, there is a general and agreeable consistency to the shows.

2)  Do you have input in preparation for the show? (i.e. choice of music.)  Do you ever help with the new lyrics? Do you offer suggestions?

I have little input with the music selection- which is a good thing since I’m a jazz musician at my core (Jazz= no revenue). I have occasionally made lyric suggestions that have been incorporated in the show but generally speaking, most of the extant humor comes from our crack team of writers.

3)  Do you feel a bit left out of the “action” and humor, literally being on the sidelines at your piano?

Nope. I have my hands full at the keyboard as most of the time I’m emulating a band, trying to remember each performer’s key and following the idiosyncratic tendencies of each performer.  I’m content to leave jokes to the professionals.

4)  How did you get this gig?  How long have you been with Capitol Steps?

I had myself recently carbon-dated and concluded that I have been with the Steps for 18 years or so. I was foolishly recommended by one of our other pianists, who should have known better, Lenny Williams. The rest is history.

5) Besides CS, what else would we read on your resume?  What is your training?  Where have you performed?  How long with Capitol Steps?

I trained as a classical performer/ composer and as a jazz saxophonist though I know better than to play saxophone now. I’ve worked in a wide variety of situations from Symphony Orchestras to Greek Wedding Bands and I even recorded a Zydeco album years ago. I love all music and have been fortunate to play a little bit of just about everything. I also work as a professional chess coach and tournament director.

6) Do you ever get so caught up in the audience’s laughter that you laugh along and, maybe and literally, miss a beat?

Humor tends to lose its impact with repetition so while I will know the upcoming punchlines, I find it useful to identify with the audience’s enjoyment and that makes it more fun for me- it’s like seeing a funny movie with a friend that you’ve already seen before- you feed off of their reactions. There have been only one or two times when something unexpectedly funny happened onstage that caused me to break concentration but that’s only because I’m a battle-hardened professional.

7) Do you think you would ever want to be one of the comedians/singers instead of the accompanist?

No way! Sometimes I imagine I could up there and be funny but, truth be told, the thought terrifies me. In very rare instances there will be a mismatch between our show and an audience where they’re not enjoying the humor as much as they could be- it is at those times I’m happy to be cowering behind the relative safety of my piano.

8)  Are there any onstage or backstage anecdotes you would like to talk about?

Sharing life on the road with a bunch of comedians for 18 years has surely generated an impressive pile of anecdotes over the years- it would be difficult to single out one or two that your readership would appreciate. Rather than leave you empty-handed, I will relate one of my worst moments on stage: During a show many years ago, during intermission, our leader needed to substitute a different song than had been listed. He asked my if I remembered the song “Women’s Room Line”, a song we used to do all the time but hadn’t done in a while. I said ” I don’t think I remember it well enough” as the song had some complexities which eluded my recall at that moment.

Unfortunately, the backstage environment was noisy at that moment and he thought I said “I remember it well enough”. This led to an uncomfortable moment when the singer, one of our pluckier performers, came out and started singing “Women’s Room Line” to my utter shock and horror. Since she had already started singing I was forced to try and play the song which at that point, I remembered approximately 10% of. This led to a bizarre rendition where I played the wrong chord, she tried to adjust to my chord which led to me playing even wronger chords and so on.

Somehow, we got to the end of the song and the audience dutifully applauded despite the fact that from their perspective, they had just listened to the equivalent of an Arnold Schoenberg atonal song with oddly satirical lyrics. After the show, our leader said “We shall never speak of this again.” I’m hoping that with the passage of the years, finally the truth can be told without me losing my job. This is certainly a much more palatable anecdote than the time when I vomited onstage in full view of the audience at the Chicago Field Museum. I will not speak of this again.

See Capitol Steps nightly through August 31 , except for Tuesdays, at Cranwell Spa & Golf Resort here in Lenox, MA. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.

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Savor the Taste of Summer at Cranwell

With the beautiful weather, rolling green hills, golf and swimming comes brand new menus and some particularly tasty events at Cranwell.

Featured on the brand new menu at Sloane’s Tavern is a variety of special appetizers, such as Cranwell’s Vegetable Tempura and Crab Salad Sliders, and some exciting new entrees including Vegetable Gateau and Kabob of the Day.

If Mansion dining is what you’re after you won’t want to miss the gluten free House Cured Salmon and Crab Roulade and Halibut. The exciting new menu also features a variety of salads including the Deconstructed Caesar.

Savory Summer Events at Cranwell

WineTastingIn addition to the delicious new menus we’re also bringing back our popular Monday night BBQ at Sloane’s and adding some tasty events at the Mansion!

  • Sloane’s BBQ – every Monday from June 29 – August 24, 5 – 8 pm, $18.95 plus tax and gratuity. See the full menu here.
  • Wine & Spirits Tasting at the Mansion (Rose Terrace, weather permitting), Every Tuesday from June 30 – August 18, 4 – 5pm  weather permitting.   Berkshire Mountain Distillery Spirits will be showcased.
  • Mansion BBQ – Every Tuesday from June 30 – August 18, 5 – 8pm weather permitting.     Elegant BBQ showcasing locally-sourced food including House Wine, Bottled Beer and Soda.  $75 pp plus tax and gratuity. See the full menu here.

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The Sweet Way This Groom Surprised His Bride Who Missed Her Mom

There are few things more exciting for the Cranwell Resort team than being part of a guest’s special day. Part of the excitement is hearing every couples unique story and helping them translate that into the wedding of their dreams. That was especially the case during Jess and Matt’s destination wedding here in the Berkshires.

Your heart will melt when you hear the sweet thing Matt did for his bride-to-be who was missing her mother on their special day. Get the tissues!

 

This loving California couple not only got the Berkshire wedding of their dreams, they have one of the sweetest moments caught on film here at Cranwell Resort. With wedding season about to kick off we can’t wait to see what special moments will be captured here in 2014. We hope to see you here!

Interested in your own dream wedding here at Cranwell Resort? Learn more our services and packages here.

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The Power of Less: 30 Seconds to a Happier You

First let me say, my other ‘career’ is in health and wellness where, for over 20 years, I played in that sandbox with a leader in the wellness space. As the head of an organization, and that can mean most any collection of people, I have recognized the value of taking time to keep my emotional and physical wellbeing in check. Being both physically and emotionally fit keeps things in perspective and helps me to better respond to situations versus react to them, at least more of the time.

As I have heard and have found myself, taking care of yourself is essentially about time – having it when you think you don’t. In between your time here at Cranwell relaxing and gaining perspective on living, I would suggest there are at least 30 ways to live better by making better choices in less than 30 seconds for each ‘exercise’.   Here are 5 that I hope will help, some you may have done and can start again, some may be new and hopefully exciting!

1. Floss Standing on One Foot

Flossing has been proven to help reduce the risk of cardio vascular disease by reducing inflammation which is a result of minimizing bacteria systemically traveling throughout your blood stream. The standing on one foot promotes balance, perhaps the most important element for longevity of movement.

2. Smile at 30 or More People Each Day

Smiling sends a neurological message to your brain you are happy – thus you are.

3. Take the Stairs – Always

Simple but true, even if you are in a 20 story building, take a few flights of stairs and then jump on the elevator.

4. Add One Fruit or Vegetable to Your Daily Diet

“Whole foods” is not just the name of a store; it is the most effective way to nourish your body. I would suggest you choose organic produce which is even more important with today’s food supply.

5. Scream Out Loud

Scream as loud as you can – a release that refreshes! I prefer the car as it allows for a lower risk of disturbing others. You may have used primal screaming in the past but not by yourself which is a very different experience.

Check back soon for the next 5 things on our list of 30 second things you can do to have a positive impact on your health!

Carl Pratt
General Manager
Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club

 

Photo credit: Alex
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The DO’s and DON’Ts of Visiting Potential Wedding Venues

As the Wedding Events Manager at Cranwell Spa & Golf Resort, I consider the many aspects of this unique setting and how to convey this to the individual interests of each couple I connect with regarding their wedding day. The day of the visit to Cranwell, I provide ample time to tour the many facets we have to offer to gain a true feel of the campus including the Spa, golf course, and guest rooms and of course the specific areas previously discussed in my preliminary calls with the couple.

There is of course a great deal of information that is available on the web about our location, from reviews on Wedding Wire, resort information on The Knot and of course our resorts website. However, the real excitement for me is the initial conversation that allows me start to form images that represent the unique ‘personality’ of our couples and how I can help to have this reflected in there ceremony and the  weekend.

I put a lot of thought into how I will present the property to every single couple that visits Cranwell. Once I have a couple on property for a site visit, I want to ensure that I provide enough time to look at everything they want to view. Whether it’s our spa, golf course, rooms, or something specific  they would like to see, it important that we tour it all.

I ask a number of questions beforehand to help me get to know the couple, best prepare myself for their visit, and come prepared with specific information or guest rooms on property. One of the most challenging aspects (and why I love my job) is that some couples  are unsure as to what their dream wedding weekend would look like. This can be daunting  for the couple and prevent them from getting the most out of their visit. To help make sure you don’t miss a thing while visiting your potential wedding venues, I’ve put together this simple list of DOs and DON’Ts:

The DO’s

DO arrive 10-15 minutes early. Just relaxing, enjoying the view, and to get a real feel for the location. This allows more time for you as the couple to take everything in at the venue.

DO call if you expect to arrive late.  As a Certified Wedding Professional, I’m here to make the most use of your time and a  phone call can help me make any adjustments that might be necessary to maximize your time.

DO allot  for enough time to tour the venue or property in its entirety.  When making your appointment, ask how long it typically takes for a complete tour.   This will help you better schedule your time and be more relaxed if you plan to visit other venues that same day.

DO take as many pictures as you feel you need to remember the venue! Photos are a great way to remember the special aspects of each location and help you come to your final decision.

DO ask questions! I love when a couple comes in with a list of questions! It lets me provide them with the most relevant information about our resort and to help personalize their wedding day.

Do ask about planner charges.  I’m here to assist you in planning your wedding at Cranwell at no charge to you, but it’s important to always inquiry upfront if there are any planner charges.

The DON’Ts

DON’T assume anything during the visit and ask for clarification.  If you have a concern or there is something you do not understand, make sure you ask.  I’m happy to answer questions or explain any aspect in more detail.   I hope  a couple leave  feeling like they truly understand the many unique elements  our resort has to offer.

DON’T bring a large group of people for your site visit.  I understand how important it is that your families view the event spaces (especially if they are contributing financially).  It’s also important to remember that you will be the ones working with the Wedding Planner the majority of the time. A connection with that person to ensure that there is trust and a comradery with each other throughout your wedding planning process is crucial.

DON’T forget to make an appointment if you would like a detailed tour.   There is so much  care and planning that goes into preparing for each couple’s visit, you will be giving yourself the full benefit of my expertise when you make an appointment in advance.

DON’T forget to tell the venue when your search is over.    I could not be more thrilled if you found what you were looking for, even if it wasn’t our venue.  So please  leave a short voicemail or email letting me know that your hunt is over. It truly is very much appreciated.

Following these simple suggestions during each visit, I know that you will be able to collect the best information possible to help you both select the ideal wedding venue for your perfect wedding day/weekend!

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Cranwell Welcomes New Executive Chef & Fresh New Menu

From tender Grilled Lamb Lollipops to fresh Lemongrass Poached Halibut, the redesigned Wyndhurst menu by Cranwell’s new Executive Chef David Jordan is not to be missed! We sat down with Chef Jordan, who has been making magic in the Cranwell kitchen for years as the Sous Chef, to learn more about him and his love of food.

1. When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?

I first knew I wanted to be a chef when I was in my teens working here at Cranwell and also at Canyon Ranch in Lenox through my high school co-op program. I learned a lot under both Chef Correia and Chef Deluce at Canyon Ranch and Chef Cardillo at Cranwell.

2. How would you describe working in your kitchen?

Definitely fun and rewarding. If you were to look in on us working, you would probably think it’s organized chaos, but we have all worked closely with each other for so many years now that we make a great team and have a system that works for us.

3. On a typical night at home, what do you cook for yourself? 

I love cooking  anything on the grill. I make a lot of simple foods like burgers and hotdogs to kabobs, BBQ chicken, beef tips and summer corn.

4. With all the trends coming and going, what do you think will be the next big thing in the food world?

Farm-to-table has been a big hit for a while now. I can see restaurants going to local farms to set up tables and cook everything right there on the farm using the fresh produce from only a few feet away. At these special farm dinners, chefs would be presenting their specialty dishes, which would change daily, made right in front of their guest. It would be similar to a Chef’s table, but only in an open farm field.

5. Whether it be a new dish or your seasonal favorite, which dish are you looking forward to seeing most  this year on your Summer menu? The Lemon Grass Poached Halibut

6. What inspired you to make this dish?  I love trying new things out in the kitchen and putting ingredients together that I know work well and compliment each other. We’ve also changed the way we present the dish at the table which is something we haven’t done before It’s all new and fun for us, our servers and our guests.

Stop into Wyndhurst at the Mansion and try the Lemongrass Poached Halibut or try it at home with the easy to follow recipe below. You can also see what other offerings Chef Jordan has prepared for you on the full Wyndhurst menu here.

Lemongrass Poached Halibut Recipe

Ingredients (serves 4)

Halibut 7-8oz skinless boneless

Poaching liquid

  • 1 stalk lemon Grass
  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 1 spanish onion chopped
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups water

Salad

  • 1 cup braizing greens (Cranwell uses greens from Equinox Farms in Sheffield, Ma)
  • 6  popcorn shoots
  • 1 tbsp crimson lentils
  • salt and pepper to taste

Tomato Consommé

  • 1 fennel corsely chopped
  • 3 vine ripened tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup water

Garnish

  • 4  slices of vine ripe tomato
  • 1 pinch of micro Asian mix

Preparations

  1. Start tomato consommé first. Sweat fennel and butter together until soft. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer together for 30 minutes. Blend together in blender and strain through a cheese cloth into another pot.
  2. Combine poaching liquid ingredients and bring to a simmer. Poach halibut in simmering poaching liquid for 10-12 minutes.
  3. Place 4 tomato slices in the bottom of a shallow bowl.
  4. Mix salad greens and place on top of the tomatoes.
  5. Place poached Halibut on top of salad  greens.
  6. Add garnish on top of halibut.
  7. Pour hot tomato consommé over fish and around the bowl.
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$10,000 raised for the Pittsfield YMCA Capital Campaign

With the efforts of so many and support of many more, over $10,000 was raised with the support of our friends here in the Berkshires and beyond. The Pittsfield YMCA initiated their Capital Campaign over a year ago and we were happy to get involved. The health and wellbeing of our community is vital and this effort will help improve their facility to better serve the needs of those in the community. We look forward to continuing our efforts through the fall with our Cran“wellness” event on Columbus Day which will benefit the Melanoma Foundation of New England.

In July, we brought back the Swim-A-Thon which raised an amazing $7,406. The special month-long event saw 99 pledges and 29 participants with the youngest being only seven years old. The Swim-a-Thon allows participants to raise money based on the distance they swim, jog, or walk in the water throughout the month. One young swimmer, 10-year-old Sam, set and reached a goal of 20 miles in 21 days!

More recently, we held the first annual Cranwell Open Fall Classic golf tournament. We hosted 54 players for a day of fall golf, food, and fun on our stunning 18-hole golf course where together we raised an additional $3,300 for the Pittsfield Family YMCA. After our teams of four spent the day on the course we finished off the evening with a delicious dinner and raffles in the mansion.

We are so proud to be part of the Berkshire County community and to be able to host such fun and rewarding events to benefit our community. Thank you to all of the generous and thoughtful people that made these events such a success! We truly hope you will continue to support our efforts throughout the year to benefit more deserving organizations and that you will join us for both of these events next year!

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5 Must-Do Fall Activities in the Berkshires

Like so many, the Berkshires is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “autumn”. With the stunning mountain views and an endless sea of fall foliage there is just no other place like it in the world. You have to try a few of these very New England fall activities while you’re here this season. You can also get the full scoop on fall foliage from the Berkshire Visitor Bureau’s Leaf Chief here.

Go Apple Picking

There is something so special about spending the afternoon at the orchard on a gorgeous fall day with your family picking apples. Only 10 miles from Cranwell is Hilltop Orchards in Richmond where you can visit their beautiful orchard or participate in a variety of moonlit hikes and wine tastings.

Go Leaf-Peeping

Whether you opt to rent a bicycle from the Pro Shop and take one of our many guided tours or hop in the car with one of our Scenic Driving Itineraries you’ll be transported into a magical autumn wonderland.

Attend a Fall Festival

Throughout the season you will find a variety of fall themed events. Every year the Town of Lenox hosts the Apple Squeeze, a two day event full of delicious fall food, crafts, music and fall foliage. A couple of miles away in Pittsfield is the annual Berktober Beer Festival where you’ll be able to sample a variety of local and regional brews.

Go on a Hayride

There are few things that will make a New Englander more nostalgic for their childhood than a hayride. Located in Hancock, Ioka Valley Farm opens up their amazing pumpkin patch and corn maze every fall where they offer hayrides all day from the weighing station across the road to the pumpkin patch. You can also check off a few other fall bucket list items like hot apple cider and delicious cider donuts.

Eat

Aside from all of the delicious hot apple cider and cider donuts you have to try some more savory fall favorites as well. From butternut bisque to pumpkin flavored anything fall has some of the best flavors all year. Stop into Wyndhurst or Sloane’s Tavern to see what fall specials we’ve created for you!

What other activities do you look forward to in the fall?
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A Closer Look at Capitol Steps with Producer Elaina Newport

Capitol Steps returns to Cranwell for another year of must-see performances. Each show is packed with laugh-out-loud humor that will leave you wanting more! We recently sat down with Elaina Newport of Capitol Steps to learn more about this hilarious political satire.

1.  How did the Capitol Steps get started?

We started, back in 1981, as entertainment for a Senate Office Christmas party. We decided to make fun of our bosses – I know, not very bright, looking back, but seemed like a good idea at the time!

You may have heard the story – we briefly considered staging a traditional nativity play, but throughout the Congress we couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin.

We thought that we’d do just this one party, but since much to our surprise, no one fired us for doing this or even asked us to stop, so we’re now in our 32nd  year.

2.  What were some of the songs at that first show?

It was the early days of Reagan, so it was a fun time for satire.  The first show had James Watt singing “Mine Every Mountain,” and Ed Meese in “The Meeseketeers,” and a song about big defense spending, “Immense Expense is Mainly in Defense.”  And of course, there was the perception that Reagan didn’t exactly work all that hard, so we had a song “Workin’ Nine to Ten.”

3.  Are most of the Steps really former Congressional Staffers?

For the first fifteen years of our existence, we had a strict rule that every performer had to have Capitol Hill work experience.  Then, in 1996, when we got far to busy for our own good, we relaxed that rule and added some local Washington-area performers.  But it’s still our roots – at last count, members of the troupe had worked for fifteen Senators or Members of the House.

4.  Do the politicians ever get mad?

Over the years, we’ve been pleasantly surprised at what good sports the politicians have been.  We’ve performed for five Presidents (six if you count Hillary), and the only complaint we can remember is from Senator D’Amato of New York, and his gripe was that we DIDN’T have a song about him!

5.  How do you write the stuff?

Picking the right song is essential (and a rhyming dictionary really helps!).  That’s why we love politicians named “Kerry” or “McCain.”  And sometimes, even international incidents make good puns, like “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Crimea?”

Also, you can get a good laugh if you get a good pun that really hits both the feel of the original and the feel of the subject you’re covering.  For example, when we were thinking of Hillary and Barack working together, it reminded us of “Ebony and Ivory” but we gave it a little twist and it became “Ebony and Ovaries.”

6.  How would you describe your show to someone who hasn’t seen it?

We’re hitting all the major stories and political figures in the news, both on the right and the left, and updating constantly, setting headlines to songs.  If you’ve ever wanted to see Barack Obama sing a show tune, Joe Biden sing a rock song, and Chris Christie do a classical ballet, this is the show to see!

8.  Do you ever run into a dry spell?

When we first started out, we were concerned, and it went something like this – “What if all the politicians get quietly competent and solve all the problems?”  We worried about that for about five minutes.

So they always come through.  But actually, it is an odd way to make a living, because you don’t listen to the news like a normal person.  If something happens, you don’t think, “is it good for the country,” but more “is it funny, and what rhymes with it?”

9.  So the juiciest stuff must have been when Clinton was president?

Well, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but as good as Monica and Bill were for satire, it was almost like at that point, comedians were redundant.  You could pick up the paper and laugh.  Now, dealing with wars and economic problems – it’s tougher – but probably more important – to do what we do.

10.  How long have you been performing at Cranwell, and how do you like performing in the Berkshires?

We did our first run at Cranwell in 2007, and the cast absolutely loves performing there.  It’s a beautiful resort, and the audiences are the best (don’t tell the other audiences!) – we get folks from all over New England and New York…and beyond!  So, we may throw in the occasional Massachusetts reference, but we don’t change the show – it still hits all the major national headlines.

11.  What if someone has seen the show before…will it be different this year?

Yes, there will be lots of new material!  We have a whole new album since we were at Cranwell last summer.  It’s called “How to Succeed in Congress without Really Lying.”  And we’re pleased to report that the past year has been full of political scandals!  So, the show is changing all the time.  If something big happens in the headlines, come right to our show and find out what rhymes with it.

Ticket Information:

Performances July 4 through August 31, 2014

Shows nightly at 8 pm, excluding Tuesdays

Show duration: 90 minutes

Tickets:  $45 per person, open seating

Box Office: 413-881-1636 or purchase tickets on line.

capsteps@cranwell.com

Check out the video below for a small sampling of the night of laughter that awaits you!