The Retreat at Heron’s Landing

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The Retreat at Heron’s Landing

Work Hard, Relax Harder

Upper Saranac Lake, NY, June 15 – 21, 2017

By Richard Edgcomb for Cabaret Scenes

What started as a casual conversation between two friends and colleagues two years ago has at last become reality. Carolyn Montgomery-Forant and Lennie Watts first discussed hosting a class for developing singers back in 2015. They wanted to focus on much more than what had been done before. In the past, there had been workshops, Master Classes and Cabaret Symposiums for those individuals interested in perfecting the craft of cabaret, but nothing like they had envisioned. 

They wanted to offer an organic, spa-like experience  along with song and performance analysis: a singers’ retreat that was a powerful and restorative opportunity for the singer/actor to revitalize his or her craft. Initially based on the three R’s: Revive, Rejuvenate, and Refresh, and later adding Rest and Restore, The Retreat at Heron’s Landing was born. The founders envisioned a place where, in addition to classes in singing, auditioning, repertoire, and acting techniques, there would  be restorative activities. Montgomery-Forant and Watts were joined by Karen Mason and Tracy Stark to invigorate the artistic experience, provide expert one-on-one coaching, and to encourage focus on the next steps in the students’ professional performance journey. Limited to eight students chosen by a taped video audition showcasing two contrasting songs, the available spots filled quickly. The retreat was held over five days and six nights in the spectacular setting of Upper Saranac Lake in the historic Adirondack Park. Cozy cabins with fireplaces served as accommodations for those on retreat. Meals were served in a central Dining Cabin, while a Great Room with attached outdoor balcony offering an unparalleled view was the central gathering place for most classes and nightly salons.

Left: Karen Mason & Lennie Watts
Right: Tracy Stark & Carolyn Montgomery-Forant

The days began at 7 am with a quick snack to start the day, followed by an hour of yoga and meditation to help limber the body and get the day moving. A nutritious sit-down breakfast preceded a three-hour group master class in the Great Room. A delicious lunch was served and then the retreaters had two hours to rest, rejuvenate and restore. This individual time was filled daily with swims in the lake, boat rides, kayaking, canoeing, naps in the hammock, or gentle hikes along the nearby trails. It was also a time where a student could share some individual time with a teacher while walking, boating, or just sitting on the porch. From 4 pm – 7 pm, an additional Master Class or stimulating workshop was held. Dinner was served from 7 pm – 8 pm and then a nightly Salon was held during which each participant performed followed by a “talk” session. The night ended with “homework.’’ Each student was asked to keep a journal, and various assignments were given out nightly.

Left:  Todd Phillips & Karen Mason;
Right: Erika Cockerham & Carolyn Montgomery-Forant

This year’s participants were Richard Becker, Erika Cockerham, Christy Eichel-Trapp, Kathleen France, Todd Phillips, Lynda Rodolitz, Becca Kidwell, and Alison Nusbaum.

Richard Becker                                                        Lynda Rodolitz

The Retreat at Herron’s Landing was an adult experience. It was a supportive, positive escape from the stresses of the city, and the environment was the perfect place to contemplate a new approach to music, stories, and song selection. Everything was provided for the students. The kitchen was always open for snacks or a beverage. Wine was available with dinner. The coffee pot was always full. Besides all the technical aspects of performing, the participants were also able to work on any personal obstacles in their life and art. The retreat brought these personal struggles to light and helped the artists overcome their fears, insecurities, and any issues they were having that might be blocking their own personal success as performers. Working through these challenges, whether in the group setting, with individual teachers, or on their own, was the key to each student’s success. Each person learned his or her individual strengths, as well as those special qualities and the things that made them unique as cabaret performers. Kathleen France, one of the participants, said of the experience, “The Retreat at Heron’s Landing was not only an amazing experience working in a beautiful, peaceful, supportive and intimate setting being mentored by top cabaret professionals, but it influenced me in a much more spiritual way in my life as a performer. It sets artists up for success and focuses on bringing yourself into your performance.” It was a fantastic experience for all involved, both students and teachers. Carolyn Montgomery-Forant also said of the week, “Yes, there are really good meals, and boat rides, walks and kayak/canoe/swimming action. We have gazed at the stars, stared into a crackling fire, and listened to rain on the roof. But this retreat is not about goofing off. It’s about being present and taking advantage of every beautiful moment. Today, we decided the motto for the retreat is ‘work hard, relax harder.’ It’s a good mind-set.” Plans for a second retreat next summer are in the works.

The gang’s all here!

Richard Edgcomb

Richard Edgcomb has been an aficionado and fan of cabaret way before he ever knew what cabaret was. He was a fan of Broadway music and the Great American Songbook from an early age. Even in his teens, records by Jane Oliver and Liza Minnelli shared space on the turntable with Aretha Franklin and other R&B artists. All came full circle when he hosted several radio shows on WDVR FM 89.7/91.9 New Jersey Public Radio for 18 years. His first show, Lazy Monday Afternoon, an easy-listening slot, morphed into Center Stage, a cabaret show filled with music, talk and interviews. Richard began writing for Cabaret Scenes early in 2000.