Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chautautqua, an assembly for sharing

It has been a great pleasure to participate in the relaxed atmosphere at the Elling House in Virginia City, Montana each third Saturday evening of the month from January through April. Music, poetry, essays, humor and drama are presented by anyone who wishes to participate. And we never ceased to be amazed at the quality and quantity of talent in our area. Laughter, camaraderie, and mutual support and encouragement are all part of the evening that begins with a potluck dinner.

Toni James and the Elling House Arts and Humanities Center hosts four Chautauqua assemblies each year, offering the unique opportunity for authors, artists and musicians to perform for a receptive crowd of people who love good food, great music, and original literary and dramatic presentations. 

A Chautauqua, according to Wikipedia began as an adult education movement in the United States and was highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Chautauqua assemblies spread throughout rural America until the mid 1920's, bringing entertainment and culture to communities. Speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers, and specialists of the day participated. President Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying that the Chautauqua is "the most American thing in America." 

The final Chautauqua assembly for this year at the Elling House will be held this Saturday evening, April 18 at 6:30 p.m. beginning with the potluck, followed by entertainment at 7:30

Residents and visitors of Virginia City and many surrounding towns are very grateful for the efforts of Toni James and the Elling House Board for bringing this delightful tradition back to life in Montana.  

The photographs on this page are by Stan Hill, Back Acre Productions. The first picture is of the Elling House, then Toni James, our host, Janet Zimmerman, the MC of the evening of the March 21 Chautauqua, Janet Muirhead Hill, reading on February 21, and two of the many talented musicians, Caleb Harbor and Jeff MacDonald.