You hold in your hands a precious chapter in the history of Carmel-by-the-sea.
This lovingly researched and engrossing biography of Dene Denny and Hazel Watrous is a long-overdue account of a partnership that inspired an artistic Renaissance in Carmel’s early days. These two entrepreneurial women served their community with vision, heart and skill, bequeathing to future generations an extraordinary and lasting cultural inheritance. Yet, until now, for all their accomplishments, surprisingly little could be found about Hazel and Dene.
From the vantage point of this buzzing, techno-dynamic early 21st century, it may be easy to overlook their significance to the area. In this splendid book, David Gordon brings the Denny-Watrous alliance and legacy center stage where it belongs, inextricably linked with the region’s celebrated artistic identity.
Exploring the life journeys of these brilliant and creative souls, David shows how their leading-edge ideas in visual and performing arts, architecture, design, and in community collaboration not only transformed the local cultural scene but spread their influence far beyond the Monterey Peninsula. The two women embodied “the Carmel spirit”—a quality of infectious joy and generous love of the arts that thrives to this day, notably at the Carmel Bach Festival, the glory crown of Dene and Hazel’s legacy.
But who were these intrepid cultural heroines? Until now, the teasingly brief statements in brochures, program books and newspaper articles have left many of us yearning for more information about Dene and Hazel. These mentions typically recount how they founded several Carmel-based music organizations that still attract world-renowned soloists and ensembles and that they owned a trendy Carmel art gallery. Sometimes there would be allusions that they had cultivated impressive national and international connections in the art world by the time they settled in Carmel.
As someone immersed each summer in the music and events of the Carmel Bach Festival, I confess to sometimes giving myself over to Doctor-Who-like time travel fantasies where I would be dropped into mid-1920’s Carmel, meeting and mingling with Dene and Hazel and the artists of the day.
This book is the real time-travel experience.
Where did Hazel and Dene come from? What education did they have? How and where did they meet? Why did they choose Carmel? How did they achieve so much as women in a male-dominated society? What challenges did they face during their most productive years? Now, at last, we have in-depth answers to these questions and many more.
The ideal biographer for the Denny-Watrous partnership has taken on the task. A knowledgeable and talented musician with a zeal for scholarly historical research, David is also endowed with an abiding gift for words together with a love for the arts and for Carmel. He is also a personification of the Carmel spirit himself. Revered Dramaturge of the Carmel Bach Festival, acclaimed tenor, lecturer, educator, scholar and writer, he is without doubt a virtuoso lineage holder in the Carmel way of the arts as passed down from the Denny-Watrous era.
In the process of illuminating the lives and visions of his beloved impresarios, David provides abundant fresh material about early Carmel and its distinctive history. Moreover, he reveals how its astonishing artistic ferment interwove with the larger, changing world and established in the region an enduring passion for joyful creative excellence.
On to the adventure!
Barbara Rose Shuler
Pacific Grove, California
All material © 2014-2022 David Gordon