Inspired by a crumbling Catskill Resort, Grossinger’s is a musical and visual odyssey through time, space, memory and one’s own reality …
“Borscht Belt” is a term for the mostly defunct summer resorts of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York that were a popular vacation spot for millions of Americans, predominantly Jewish-Americans from the 1920s up to the 1970s. In its prime the region was internationally known for its recreation, food, entertainment and is noted as being the birthplace of stand-up comedy. At its peak during the post WWII era, more than six hundred year-round resorts and hotels were in operation. Some of these resorts were so huge that they had their own post offices, airstrips! Comedians such as Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Billy Crystal, musicians such as Bette Midler, Sammy Davis Jr, Benny Goodman had performed there creating an influence on mainstream television, film, music and popular culture.
In the decades following the 1970s the tourism industry at “Borscht Belt” encountered a decline from which it has never fully recovered. All of the resorts have been abandoned, most of which have been demolished.
During its heyday, Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel was the biggest resort at “Borscht Belt”, offering a complex of 35 buildings on 1200 acres with its own airstrip and post office. As of 2014, Grossinger’s is the only resort from the era that is not completely demolished, though abandoned and in a very bad condition overall. Because of extreme degradation, it has become one of the most disturbingly beautiful, melancholic structures in the United States.
The resort’s history and haunting allure is the main inspiration for Erdem Helvacioglu’s new work “Grossinger’s”, composed for cello, electronics and visuals. Based on a female character who lost her child, the piece will depict her distant memories with her daughter at the Grossinger’s using the nearly torn-down architecture of the resort as a metaphor for her mental turmoil and her struggle with the acceptance of reality. Just like this turmoil and struggle, the music will bend the notions of time, space, memory, and reality. To be able to achieve that, with Ashley Bathgate we will explore the limits of the cello through the use of preparations, extended techniques and sophisticated processing algorithms, yielding a unique work and concert experience. The piece will have an approximate duration of 50 minutes and will be in 8 movements.
Excerpts from Erdem Helvacioglu’s music: