The creative spirit on Star Island, ever present in our summer programs, is equally ingrained in our summer staff. Before work starts, between shifts, or when a day is over our staff can be found painting on the rocks, strumming their guitars, or taking photographs of the beautiful scenery. Even during work you might find our staff — the Pelicans — singing while they fold laundry, or thinking up ideas for a skit in that week’s Pelican Show.
What is the Pelican Show? This is the staff’s weekly talent show for our guests. Usually held in the Oceanic Hotel lobby, the show is our staff displaying their talents generally through music and acting. The Pelicans often sing or play original music, sometimes inspired by their island experiences. Others perform covers of songs that speak to their summer. Their have been flashmobs with Pels jumping out from all over the lobby to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and barbershop quartets dressed in costume. Original poetry and prose are shared, and skits are often remakes of classic Monty Python skethces.
Scenes from a Pel Show
These Pelican Shows have been occuring for years, and our island museum in Vaughn Cottage has a number of recordings from shows in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. You can click here to listen to a sampling of that collection. Throughout the years the outfits have changed, but the enthusiasm and talent has remained constant. The Pelicans still gather in front of the gift shop doors to perform and guests are seated in dining hall chairs moved into the lobby.
When you visit one of our week long summer programs, you’ll be treated to a Pelican Show. And as you stroll around the island during the day you might even come across Pels practicing music while sitting on the lawn. Stop and listen, you’ll be amazed at the beautiful voices and pure talent.
When each Pelican Show concludes the staff finishes by singing the Pelican Encore. Here’s that encore from a show in the 1970’s.
The creative spirit is alive and well on Star Island every summer with programs specifically devoted to music, singing, and dancing. Join in fun, lively programs like Chamber Music, Star Hampshire Dance, and Star Harmony. These programs offer brilliant demonstrations and avenues for development in a picturesque setting.
Sure you can listen to live music on the mainland, but the Star Island setting is what sets these programs apart. Activities happen in such places as our 200-year-old stone chapel set on the island’s highest point, in the lobby of the historic Oceanic Hotel, or overlooking the waterfront with sailboats passing by. And what can you expect in 2015?
Friday, September 11 to Sunday, September 13
Cellist Theodore Mook returns to Star Island with a cast of friends to delight visitors with music from French Impressionists — Debussy, Ravel, Satie. The weekend will feature concerts and talks in the stone chapel, hotel lobby, and pink parlor. You’ll enjoy the exquisite music, and the equally exquisite views.
Professional musicians provide structure to this traditional dance focused weekend where contra-dances are the main feature. English country, square, and couples dances are also held throughout the day. Known mostly for fantastic dances each evening in the Brookfield building overlooking Gosport Harbor, this program starts every day with waltzes before breakfast in the hotel lobby. These morning waltzes are accompanied by the sounds of the lobby’s majestic grand piano.
Looking for a chance to sing? This program is for you. Star Harmony is a weekend of a cappella harmony singing led by Mary Cay Brass, Mary Alice Amidon and Peter Amidon. You’ll have the chance to sing so many types of songs: spirituals, hymns, folk, and shape-note, among many others. And all this singing takes place on a beautifully rugged island.
If songwriting is more your style, check out Writers in the Round which provides a supportive, creative atmosphere to stretch your songwriting wings. You’ll have classes, small group discussions, a chance to workshop your creations, and time to hone your material. Find inspiration in the sound of waves crashing against the rocky shore, or the smell of salty ocean air.
If you’re new to Star Island, you probably have some questions. Sure, you can look up pictures of Star Island on Facebook or Instagram, but you want to know more. You want to know what you’ll be doing.
Located about an hour’s boat ride from Portsmouth, NH, Star Island is not your typical summer vacation. And that’s exactly the way it’s meant to be. We are without traffic lights, department stores, and fast food joints. The commute you’ll be most worried about each morning is if there’s a line to get coffee on the front porch. And even if there is a wait, you’ll be waiting on the front porch of a historic hotel on an island surrounded by ocean views.
So let’s clear some things up and answer this important question: what do I do on Star Island? Here are our suggestions.
Attend Your Program
Most likely, if you’re coming to Star Island, you’re attending one of the summer programs. For the most part, these programs have activities for everyone throughout the day and into the evening. Program leaders fill out schedules on chalkboards in the lobby, often with meticulous handwriting and/or beautiful drawings. The activities listed on these chalkboards, except for orientations, are optional. So you can pick and choose which activities you want to take part in. For example, there might be a photography workshop at the same time as a history tour. Ask yourself which one you’d rather do and go for it.
Your time on Star Island will be as invovled as you make it. So attend those morning theme talks, engage with the theme speaker, and soak in all that you are learning. Bring that knowledge with you to lunch and dinner, and have a conversation over grilled cheese and tomato soup.
If you have children and are attending one of the multi-generational programs, your kids are going to be just as busy as you. With youth programming, they’ll probably be rowing over to Smuttynose Island one morning and running around Star Island to complete a scavenger hunt in the afternoon. Your kids can sit with you or new friends at each meal. You might even find yourself and your older child enjoying some independence from each other knowing that you are both nearby.
In the evening, your options might include things like a talent show in the lobby, musical performances in Newton, or card games in the Snack Bar alcove. No matter what, wholesome and entertaining activities are never far away.
Scenes from a talent show
Choose Your Own Adventure
You might be wondering, what if I don’t want to attend that photography workshop? Or, what if I want to sleep in one morning? Hey, that’s fine with us. You choose how involved you are with the program you sign up for. Besides orientations, you are free to attend as much or as little of the scheduled activities you would like. If you want to take a rowboat out one afternoon, go ahead. If you want to drink coffee on the front porch while reading a novel, do it. Not full after an ice cream social? Order your own sundae at the Snack Bar. There are so many activities you can take part in on Star Island, that you might find yourself just as busy even not attending scheduled events.
And while we promote our welcoming community atmosphere, we also recognize that many people come to Star Island to find a peaceful location to focus on projects like writing and painting. So if your mission in coming to Star is using our beautiful vistas for inspiration, please know you’re welcome. We also know, you’ll have to come in for a meal sometime, so we look forward to greeting you in our historic dining hall with a hearty meal.
Visit the Chapel
Hey, you know we have a chapel. Nice research. Our chapel is used most often by our summer programs for morning and evening services. Evening services are held by candlelight creating some of the most beautiful and soulful experiences you’ll have in a spiritual setting. Services are typically non-denominational, and are generally led by a person attending a summer program or a Minister of the Week. Ministers generally come from congregations affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association or United Church of Christ.
And what if you’re not UU or UCC? Very good question. We welcome people of all faiths, and those without, too. People talk about the spiritual aspect of Star Island, and that spiritual part can be an uppercase or lowercase “s” for you. Just like your involvement in the program activities, we leave how you renew spiritually up to you.
What About the Mainland?
We get it. You’re coming to Star Island for the first time, and you want to know what to expect. Have it in your mind that you’re swiping left on the mainland for a bit. It will be there when the boat brings you back. We strongly suggest you try to leave your mainland worries behind. Or, try to focus on activities on Star Island that will make your life better, more informed, reinvigorated on the mainland.
Your cellphone will, in our experience, work. But you’re not coming to Star Island for a typical experience, so we encourage you to use the phone as little as possible. The west end of the front porch, the side closest to the mainland, will get you the best reception if needed. There’s also wi-fi available on island, with computers to use in our business center as well. We’re hoping when you’re talking about facetime on the island, it isn’t a feature of your phone or tablet though.
Star Arts is an affirming community of emerging and established artists in many mediums who come together on a magical island to engage and create in a safe, nurturing environment. Amidst music, laughter, sea gulls, and spectacular sunsets, we inspire each other to deep personal reflection and to deep interpersonal connections. Sometimes we expand on current talents; sometimes we take risks on new frontiers. Always, we come away refreshed, relaxed and wishing to come back again.
Whether venturing into joint efforts or following a solitary voice in personal reflection, Star Island can be a creative, spiritual place to call home. Professional and amateur artists alike are welcome to spend their mornings in the workshops of their choice: music, writing, drama, photography, painting, or dance. Conferees are also welcome to let their muses choose the time and pace of their inspirations. “Porch sitting” is an honored occupation as well. Other activities include glorious music, spontaneous performances, concerts, talent shows, chapels, rehearsals, quiet contemplation, afternoon skill-sharing, and other adventures to nourish the creative, spiritual, and curious mind. Do everything – or do nothing. It’s your week.
Jon Arterton, music; Laurie Brown, visual arts; Ron Cox, photography; Jeannie Martin, writing; Bragan Thomas, Theater
Minister of the Week
Rev. Kate Wilkinson, Unitarian Universalist Meeting House of Provincetown
$110 per person
Yes, the conference offers scholarship aid for both new and returning conferees. Please click here for more information.
I have been coming to Star Island almost each summer of my life. I also spent an entire summer on island as a Pelican. There are certain songs that “bring me back” and each one would be included on my Star Island playlist. The choices are as varied as the weather and the ice cream flavors, so bear with me!
Oh Poiseidon of the Sea: This must have been a childrens’ nursery rhyme or a Raffi song, as we used to sing it as barn bunnies. Jean Maguire, who led us in my youth, would take us to east rock and we would shout, repeatedly at the sea, “Oh Poiseidon of the sea, you can’t catch me!” We’d scream it with ascending volume, and Jean always timed it just right so that when we were done with the last verse, a BIG wave would come! (Later she told me that waves come in 7s, and the 7th wave is the biggest).
Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane: This song came out when I was in Junior High. The song doesn’t remind me of Star as much as the piercing guitar riffs that sound just like seagulls.
This Reality by Adrian Sicam: I bought Adrian’s CD when I was in Youth from the bookstore after he performed live in a Pel Show. A few years later he sat at my table when I was a Pelican. It was like having ELVIS at my table! I was so starstruck I could barely move!
If I had a Hammer by Peter, Paul & Mary: My FAVORITE part of my entire week on Star Island is the bonfire. My friend Brian Goldblatt plays his acoustic guitar and sings with my friend Janet Nobles, who has an equally angelic voice. This is the quintessential church camp bonfire song.
Out Here on Star Island by Brian Goldblatt: My fellow SG1 conferee Brian wrote this song years ago, and it’s a perennial favorite at the Bonfire or Chapel each year.
Send Me on My Way by Rusted Root: When I was in Youth, it was very popular to play “jam bands” and dance like crazy in Brookfield. The years we had African drums to add to this really seared memories into my head.
Any song from the Beastie Boys album HELLO NASTY: This album came out in June 1998 and I remember some of my waitae colleagues went into town the day it dropped. I can see the album cover in my mind and ANY of those songs remind me of the Underground.
Hail to the King by Avenged Sevenfold: Now in my adult years, my friends and I have long outgrown Youth Conference and being Pelicans. Now we spend our evenings in Newton Center playing “Bags” (cornhole) and listening to Pandora from someone’s phone. One especially fun night this year while playing bags I heard this song, and now think of Star each time I hear it.
Star Island celebrated Starry Night this past Saturday, November 16 with a great number of friends. Guests from as far away as Maryland made their way to our offices in Portsmouth, NH for an evening of discussion, crafts, and good food.
Guests participating in the First Star portion of the night were entertained by David Whitford. More than just a long-time Shoaler attending the Life on a Star 1 Family Conference, David is also an Editor-at-Large with Fortune Magazine. David talked about his 3-months of reporting in China including an article about one of China’s richest men. First Star saw an engaged audience delve into these fascinating stories.
The Starry Night Craft Gallery featured four vendors selling items as varied as wheat weavings to hand-made glass beads. Another table showcased works by Star Island related authors and publishers. Friends, staff, volunteers, board members and locals all came together to celebrate Star Island during this annual fall fundraiser.
A weekend of mostly a cappella 4-part harmony singing; of arrangements of folk songs, hymns, spirituals, gospel, seasonal songs, shape note songs and songs written by folks steeped in the oral tradition; for directors and singers in church, hospice and community choruses, and for those who simply love to sing. Singing led by Mary Cay Brass, Kathy Bullock and John Harrison.
Star Island was founded as a non-profit in 1915. Starting this summer and going through the summer of 2016, we'll be celebrating our centennial both on- and off-island. Click here to learn more about our centennial plans.
Star Island As Seen on NH Chronicle
Click on the video above to learn more about Star Island from some of our guests and staff when they appeared on NH Chronicle.
Our mission since 1915 is to hold and maintain Star Island and such other property as the Corporation may hold or acquire, as a center for religious, education, and kindred purposes consistent with the principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.
Our vision is to create on Star Island an environment that frees all who come to renew spiritually, explore matters of consequence, and gain knowledge about the world as it might ideally be.