Arts and Culture in New Hampshire
It is clear that New Hampshirites value their cultural and artistic traditions and work hard to safeguard them. New Hampshire residents are known for being industrious, independent, and yet community-minded at the same time, all things reflected in their local art. Many of the folk and traditional arts that New Hampshire enjoys today are based on customs brought from England, Ireland, Scotland, and French-speaking Canada.
The people of New Hampshire are deeply connected to the land and its history, and the state has seen many grass roots efforts to care for and preserve historical buildings. Numerous century-old opera houses have been preserved and are enjoyed by modern New Hampshire audiences. Traditional music links New Hampshire to its past as one of the original 13 colonies. Undoubtedly, the arts are appreciated in New Hampshire and are inextricably intertwined with the state's past and future.
New Hampshire opera fans have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal. The Opera League of New Hampshire stages professional opera productions at reasonable prices via its program Opera New Hampshire, and it also presents free opera to schoolchildren. The league’s first performance, of Verdi’s Rigoletto, took place on April 6, 1963. After a dormant period in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sarah Caldwell of the Opera Company of Boston invited the Opera League to join an eight-member New England consortium, and it came back to life.
Opera North is a summer opera festival that performs high-quality productions in the historic 710-seatLebanon Opera House. In the off-season, Opera North presents informal talks on opera in private residences. Its Young Artists Program introduces opera to children, teens, and adults throughout New Hampshire and Vermont.
Granite State Opera debuted with Amahl and the Night Visitors and Carmen in 2001. Located at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, it expanded to the Music Hall in Portsmouth with its production ofMadame Butterfly in 2009.
The Southern New Hampshire Dance Theater and Southern New Hampshire Youth Balletparticipate in many community events, including a bookstore story hour, nursing home performances, local school presentations, artistic collaborations, benefit performances, and public library showcases.
The Northern Ballet Theatre Dance Centre (NBTDC) was founded in 1986. Originally named the Granite State Ballet Company, the Nashua-based company offers an eclectic mix of classical ballet and contemporary works. NBTDC is a member of the touring roster of the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.
The New Hampshire Philharmonic is an orchestra composed of student, amateur, and professional musicians from around New Hampshire. It is the oldest orchestra in the state and has performed regularly since 1905.
The Granite State Symphony Orchestra gives New Hampshire’s best professional musicians the opportunity to play classical music at a low cost to audiences. The orchestra's home is the Concord City Auditorium.
Music has always been important in New England. English colonists imported many music and dance traditions as early as the 17th century. Both the lower and upper classes enjoyed the music played forreels, jigs, and marches. Modern New Hampshire musicians play the same music on fiddles, flutes, accordions, and pianos for contra dancers. In colonial times, contra dance instructors traveled around teaching the intricate movements of social dances. Later, dance callers became an important part of the experience, and today dance callers are still valued for the way their voices add to the music.
French Canadians have greatly influenced the state's music, added their tradition of making music in intimate home gatherings. French-Canadian traditional music centers on the fiddle and shares many rhythms with Celtic jigs, reels, and marches, as well as German waltzes. French fiddle playing has a distinctive bowing style and includes embellishments such as added notes.
The New Hampshire Music Festival debuted in 1952. Today the festival presents more than 160 annual events, more than 30 summer concerts, and more than 130 year-round classroom activities in local schools.
New Hampshire has a long history of live entertainment. Theaters in New Hampshire and across the United States were often called "opera houses" in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rather than opera, however, they offered vaudeville, traveling shows, and community functions.
In the early 1900s, the Claremont Opera House was the entertainment center for central New Hampshire. Claremont druggist Harry Eaton ran the opera house for 32 years. He imported stock companies, who performed plays, musicals, vaudeville minstrel shows, and more. In 1906, John Philip Sousa's Band of 50 performers, with three soloists, appeared at a Saturday matinee.
The oldest professional summer theater group in New Hampshire is the Barnstormers. Originally a summer touring company, it transformed an old store in Tamworth, New Hampshire, into a permanent theater in 1935. Today, the Barnstormers Theatre brings local and regional talent to the stage and offers much-anticipated summer productions.
New Hampshire's second-oldest summer theater group, the Peterborough Players, was founded in 1935. Edith Bond Stearns converted an old abandoned farmhouse with no electricity or running water into a rustic performance place. Today, the Peterborough barn is a state-of-the-art theater.
The Rochester Opera House (ROH), a historic landmark inside Rochester City Hall, presents four different kinds of live entertainment to New England cities and towns. Its Arts & Education Series uses theater to teach kids about literature, history, and life. Its Family Series entertains and educates children and adults with symphony, plays, concerts and comedy. The ROH Mainstage Series offers performances from internationally and nationally known artists, regional artists, as well as local performing arts companies. Finally, its Dance Party Series offers everything from big bands to rock and roll. In 1908, New Hampshire architect George Gilman Adams—a distant relative of President John Adams—unveiled a unique mechanism that raises the Rochester Opera House auditorium floor at an incline for amphitheater seating or levels the floor for dancing. Today, it is the last historic moveable theater or hall floor in use in the United States.
The New Hampshire Film and Television Office holds a quarterly lunchtime roundtable to enable industry professionals, amateurs, and students to network and share ideas. Its "industry meet-up" meetings are held in the evenings and are open to the public. The organization also presents a screenplay reading series in which selected film scripts are read by actors in front of an audience. The screenplays must be either set in New Hampshire or have the possibility of being filmed there.
The first American ski film was made in New Hampshire. Otto Schniebs of Hanover and John McCrillis of Newport debuted their film in December 1932 at the National Ski Association Meeting in Illinois.
The New Hampshire High School Short Film Festival was created in 2007 to give high school filmmakers the chance to create and showcase short films in a statewide competition. The festival works to promote the educational benefits of storytelling through film.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, celebrated documentary filmmaker Ken Burns resides in Walpole, New Hampshire. Burns' notable productions include The Civil War and National Parks: America's Best Idea.
Famed poet Robert Frost bought a farm in Franconia, New Hampshire, in 1915. While residing there, he began an illustrious career writing, teaching, and lecturing. The farm was the Frost summer home until 1938 and is now a museum and poetry conference location.
Contemporary author Dan Brown was born and raised in Exeter, New Hampshire. The author of The Da Vinci Code grew up on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy, a coeducational boarding school, where his father taught math. Phillips Exeter Academy is referenced in some well-known novels. John Knowles based the Devon School in A Separate Peace on Phillips Exeter, and John Irving, who attended the prep school, set his novel The World According to Garp at a school based on the academy.
Originally known as the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences, the New Hampshire Institute of Art was established in 1898 in Manchester. An art college accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, it offers Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, certificate programs, and a continuing education program. Its mission is to teach students to "respond artistically to contemporary social, political, and aesthetic issues."
In New Hampshire, ceramics was arguably elevated to "fine art" when major artists like Edwin and Mary Scheier and Vivika and Otto Heino came to the state to work. In 2004, a show called "Creations in Clay" at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester featured the work of contemporary New England potters. Gerry Williams, a master potter and New Hampshire's first artist laureate, was the consulting curator for the exhibition.
The New Hampshire chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art assists women in the visual arts and offers them art education as well as networking and exhibition opportunities.
New Hampshire’s opera houses offer some of the most interesting architectural examples in the state. Well-known architect and Rochester native George Gilman Adams designed the Rochester Opera House, which first opened in 1908 and is located in the town's city hall. The theater's dramatic architectural details include a horseshoe balcony, proscenium, intricate stenciling, and superlative acoustics. Adams also added a newly invented mechanism that raised the auditorium floor at an incline for amphitheater seating or leveled the floor for dancing. The City of Rochester received the 1997 Governor's Award in the Arts for Community Spirit for its work in the opera house's restoration.
The Claremont City Hall building in Claremont, New Hampshire, also houses an opera house. The Italian Renaissance Revival building was dedicated in 1897 and cost $62,000 to build. The building materials were mostly local: the foundation was built of Green Mountain rock, and the exterior used nearly one million bricks from Lebanon.
Soldier's Memorial Hall in Franklin, New Hampshire, opened to the public on September 5, 1893. Designed in the Romanesque Revival style, the hall boasts 504 flexible seats on the main floor and 288 fixed seats in its balcony. The building also houses town offices, police and water departments, and the city court.
The Beaux Arts style originated was imported from Paris and was popular between 1885 and 1925. The style is known for its intricate ornamentation, lavishness, and balance. New Hampshire boasts a beautiful example, the Beaux Arts lobby of The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Newly renovated and unveiled in 2009, design elements added include columns, gilding, garlands, and curved walls.
In keeping with the eclectic style of Beaux Arts, The Music Hall lobby incorporated old and new local history into the construction of the new space. It boasts tiles from the original lobby and seashells from the Portsmouth coast. The trusses between the lobby’s columns mimic those of the Eiffel Tower (built during the Beaux Arts period) and also those on the three bridges Portsmouth shares with its neighbor, Maine.
New Hampshire boasts many longevity records for its historical structures. It has, for example, the oldest unrestored meetinghouse in the United States. The Old Meeting House, an excellent example of original colonial architecture, was built in Danville, New Hampshire, in 1775. The oldest unaltered textile mill in the country is the Belknap Mill in Laconia built in 1823. The mill contains a working set of Industrial Age drive wheels and belts. The 278-foot (85-m) long Haverhill-Bath Covered Bridge is the oldest covered bridge still standing. It was built in Woodsville, New Hampshire, in 1829.
HANDICRAFT AND FOLK ART
The traditional crafts of New Hampshire reflect the state’s long history. Quilts, hooked and braided rugs, spinning, fly tying, stone wall building, timber framing, and boat building are just some of the crafts routinely practiced in the state.
The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen was founded during the Great Depression to help New Hampshire craftspeople survive the economic downturn. The league held the first-ever crafts fair in the United States in 1934 at Crawford Notch. Today, it sells crafts in seven New Hampshire galleries, at the annual Craftsmen's Fair in Newbury, and at special events. The league promotes high standards for its crafts, teaches the public about the fine craft produced in New Hampshire, and supports community-based craft education around the state.
New Hampshire has a long history of basket making. The strongest baskets are made from strips of brown ash trees (called "black ash" in other parts of New England). Two hundred years ago, baskets were used to contain nearly everything. They were also used as a form of measurement and came in specific sizes such as a bushel and a peck. Basket making is considered an art form in the state, and many people collect the finely crafted containers.
New Hampshirites love to fish, and in the cold winter months, many of them spend their time tying flies. The work requires knowing how to find, collect, and choose good materials. Fly tyers use a vice and an elevated clamp to hold the hook in place and then attach other materials such as feathers and tinsel using special thread fed through a bobbin. The Milne Special Collections and Archives at the University of New Hampshire in Durham contains one of largest collection of fly-tying literature in the United States.
-World Trade Press