Gilded Age Concert at Smithfield Church

by Kevin T McEneaney, Preview

Currently streaming on HBO Max is an historical drama set in the Hudson Valley: The Gilded Age, those boom years of the 1880’s when the economy sprouted mansions along the banks of the Hudson River. The first series has received rave reviews and a second series is now in production. The series of nine episodes explores the manners, mores, and culture of that exciting period in our area. There is, of course, a musical soundtrack; the music director (and performer) of that soundtrack is Poughkeepsie resident Christopher Brellochs who plays saxophone. Brellochs was Chair of Dutchess Community College Music Department up until recently when he became Dean of the School of Music Dean of the School of Music SUNY at Schenectady.

Photo by Evangeline Gala

Local house (mansion) entertainment of that era focused on bringing in opera singers from the NYC Metropolitan Opera, as well as small instrumental combos for music of that era. On Saturday, Nov. 5, 4 pm, the Bang Family Music Committee from historic Smithfield Church in Amenia, which features marvelous period acoustics, will host Christopher Brellochs and HBO opera singers Ann Marie Adamick (mezzo-soprano) and Dr. Elizabeth Gerbi (soprano) live with Max Caplan at period Steinway and Brellochs on saxophone. The title of the event is Gilded Melodies.

This exuberant period of artistic expression was personified by the bel canto opera style embraced not only by French composers such as Jules Massenet, but also by Italian composers Donizetti and Bellini, and the Belgian composer, conductor, and instrumentalist Louis Mayeur. All were drawn to France for the freedom of artistic expression that it offered. Together their collective body of work captured the lyricism, romance, sensuality, sentimentality, and theatricality of the period.

The Nov. 5 program will juxtapose these famous vocal arias with the accompanying “fantasies” (instrumental virtuoso display pieces). Inspired by and adapted from the original scores and performed by instrumentalists, these fantasies expanded the reach of those compositions and popularized opera. Led by Dr. Christopher Brellochs, the program will juxtapose the original arias with instrumental adaptations:

Lucrezia Borgia: Nella fatal di Rimini (1833), Donizetti

Fantaisie Brillante sur de Lucrèce Borgia (1877), Mayeur

I puritani: Qui la voce sua soave (1834), Bellini

Fantaisie sur des Puritains de Bellini (1878), Mayeur

Werther: Des cris joyeux d’enfants and Va! Laisse les couler mes larmes, (1887), Massenet

More information (like directions, etc.) may be found at the Smithfield Church website: Smithfield Church now features disabled access with a new elevator. Audience is requested but not required to give a twenty-dollar donation to help offset the cost of this unusual production. After the concert there will be a reception where the performers will mingle with the audience.

Link to more concert info:

What is BECCS anyway?

by Bill Schlesinger

When trees are used for biomass energy, they are first pelleted, then dried and shipped to a power plant—all energy consuming activities. When burned, all the carbon they contain is emitted to the atmosphere, essentially immediately. The wood pellets replace the fossil emissions from coal, but it takes 40 to 100 years of forest regrowth to balance the carbon dioxide emissions from burning these pellets—longer than the time for commitment to carbon neutrality by the nations using them.

Thus, burning wood pellets is a net source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for decades, and because wood has less energy per unit of carbon than coal (28.8 kWh/kgCO2 vs. 3.0 kWh/kgCO2), you must burn lots of it—that’s why we switched to coal hundreds of years ago.  All this adds up—the emissions from drying, shipping, and burning wood, and the time to recapture the CO­2—to make wood pellets a bad source of energy. As MIT’s John Sterman points out, for reducing CO2 in the atmosphere, one is always better letting an existing stand of trees grow and sequester carbon, than to harvest it for pellets, even if the overall region is showing a net increase in standing timber. 

A lot has been said about carbon capture and storage—CCS, or BECCS (Biomass Energy with carbon capture and storage), in which the CO2 from burning wood is captured and injected below ground.  In theory, BECCS offers a direct means to reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. The British Power Company DRAX has even proposed a BECCS plant in California to receives payments for its carbon sequestration.

Yet, BECCS is unproven; I do not know of the implementation of any BECCS scheme, at the scale of utility operations, that is in place and successful in capturing the magnitude of the CO2 generated.  BECCS depends on appropriate geological formations to receive the CO2 and these are not always local.  Pipeline shipping may be necessary. Overall, the energy used in BECCS adds about 30% to the carbon emissions to the atmosphere from burning biomass directly.

Overall, implementation of BECCS can cut CO2 emissions from biomass power in half, but it does not eliminate them.  And the widespread implementation of BECCS would have an enormous impact on the amount of wild, forested land that will remain for wildlife.


Bakj, E., et al. 2018.  Geospatial analysis of near-term potential for carbon-negative bioenergy in the United States.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115: 3290-3295.

Jonker, J.C.G, M. Junginger, and A. Faaj. 2014.  Carbon payback period and carbon offset parity point of wood pellet production in the southeastern United States.  Global Change Biology Bioenergy 6: 371-389.

Natural Resources Defense Council. 2021.  A Biomass Bet.  NRDC Fact Sheet.

Schlesinger, W.H. 2018.  Are wood pellets a green fuel?  Science 359: 1328-1329.

Sterman, J., W. Moomaw, J.N. Rooney-Varga and L. Siegel. 2022.  Does wood bioenergy help or harm the climate.  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 78 (3) , pp.128-138.

God is Always with us

Pic from NASA

by Kevin T McEneaney

Few tongues speak the language of God,

which is not found in Greek or Hebrew.

The language of God is mathematics:

not many are fluent in that language.

One may find divine wisdom in writ words

as well as words spoken by minister,

rabbi, imam, or a hip Buddhist monk,

or even from a primitive shaman—

or at times from a singer or poet.

We can perceive the divine but dimly.


God also discourses on magnetism,

electricity, and quantum theory,

for those languages are a translation

of numbers—alternate calculation!

About Kevin T. McEneaney

Kevin T. McEneaney is the author of Hunter S. Thompson: Fear, Loathing, and the Birth of Gonzo; Russell Banks : The Search for Freedom; Tom Wolfe: Heroes, Pranksters, and Fools, as well as two poetry collections: The Enclosed Garden and Longing, which was published in French and Japanese. At the moment he is obsessed by music.