Returned From A Week’s Break

I just returned from a week at Chautauqua Institution. If you have never visited there it is time that you did. Sunday is a free day. All you have to pay is for parking. What a great time to let the children and grandchildren see this center for the arts.

Last Sunday was a day to remember. The Army Band and Chorus was the featured program. Such talented musicians we have. They are doing their best to spread the word about the Army program. The program featured a history of the army from the Revolution to the War on Terrorism. All of the music was from the era as it was featured. It was a wonderful history lesson for all of us.

For those of you unfamiliar with Chautauqua, it is a cultural and educational center for the arts that welcomes all religious denominations. Most of them retain houses on the grounds. You can do as little as you like during your week’s stay, or you can do as much as you want. A full schedule is available. Some years I have taken classes, but not this year.

The institution was begun by Lewis Miller and John Vincent to educate Sunday school teachers and pastors. The first year 20,000 people attended. The Miller Cottage is still on the grounds. This season the gardens are being worked on. To get to the cottage head right for the Miller Bell Tower. Chimes are played from this tower daily at intervals. The 14-note Westminster Chimes were added in 1967. The bells are played from a keyboard at the base of the tower. The chimemaster is Carolyn Benton.

Religion is an important facet of the Institution. Most of the major religious faiths have a house on the ground to welcome visitors. There are services held in the Amphitheater six out of seven days of the week. Saturday is the changing of the guard so to speak with most visits ending on Saturday morning. There is also a religious lecture each afternoon Monday through Friday. This one is held in the Hall of Philosophy which is an outdoor venue. It is a favorite spot for weddings before or after the nine-week season.

After a week at Chautauqua I feel saturated mind, body and soul. We walked, we listened, we participated. The opening concert was by Alison Krauss. When her program ended with “It Is Well with My Soul” everyone was on their feet. The blending of the voices on stage was magnificent. Sunday evening ended with the playing of “Largo” while everyone sat quietly in their seats. What a stirring ending to the day.

Our minister for the week focused on the book of John the fourth chapter. Each sermon tied well with the next; however, it could be enjoyed on its own. That first day the pastor focused on a picture of Jesus and the woman holding a cup. It was impossible to tell who was holding the cup and who was receiving it. As the story goes each had something the other needed.

I met a cousin and her family up there even though I had no idea they were there. We ran into each other several times. Both of us were enjoying the week of lectures and church services. I went to the back porch to greet someone I had not seen in a long time. A girl that was in my first grade class was the liturgist for the week of church services. That girl not only remembered the stories that I read to her, she remembered that I told the class that I had no television. Who knew that I made such an impression?

One week I received a message via e-mail that said, “Every next level of your life will require a different version of you,” author unknown. That was especially true of my week at Chautauqua. We heard a variety of speakers, some I agreed with and others I questioned. I listened to them all with interest. It was time to open my mind.

When I attended a chamber concert, I turned around to see a former classmate of mine. We had been in contact by e-mail but I had no idea he would be there this week. We had a nice visit. We will meet again in September as our class celebrates our seventy-fifth birthday celebration. I am really looking forward to that event. Our foreign exchange student is coming for the first time. She reminded me that we have not seen each other in nearly sixty years. I am looking forward to rooming with her and getting reacquainted. That will call for another version of myself.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at