Faith Middleton Comes to Town

Faith Middleton, center, spoke with Max Scott and Vera Graaf, documentary filmmakers, about their latest project last week as part of her new series of interviews on the East End. Jennifer Landes

    When Faith Middleton calls herself a “sounder,” it turns out that she’s not just adopting it as a personal moniker but as an appellation she would like to see have a broader regional appeal and acceptance.
    To forward this movement, the host of the “The Faith Middleton Show” and “Faith Middleton’s Food Schmooze” on WNPR, part of the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network based in Hartford, Conn., is crossing the Long Island Sound this summer to base much of her operations out of the Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack.
    It is there she will be interviewing East End personalities from the worlds of politics, agriculture, cuisine, culture, and all of the other categories her show in Connecticut typically covers. “The fun of it for me, personally, is that I’m curious about so many things and I get to interact with so many different kinds of people.”
    She plans to devote the entire summer to features from this area. “People from here have been listening for years to people from Connecticut and across the country on my show. I trust that people from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York State will be interested, just because they’re interesting people.”
    On a recent afternoon after wrapping three taped interviews from a series that will begin airing tomorrow, she said that being asked to serve as chairwoman for a benefit for East End Hospice and the Peconic Land Trust in September helped her re-evaluate her relationship to this listening area.
    Her partner, Fern Bernman, a food publicist, has been visiting the area since she was a child and began bringing Ms. Middleton here for summers about three years ago. At parties and in stores, it became immediately apparent to both of them that people who had not met her yet still “recognized my voice,” she said. “We knew I had listeners here, but we had no idea, until I started coming here, how many listeners.”
    She said that the realization made her think a bit more about her show. “I had done shows on the East End from my studio in Connecticut, but we’re not serving those listeners the way they should be.” After agreeing to do the charity event, she also made a commitment to do interviews here throughout the summer and fall.
    Her studio away from home is a private room in the Wolffer winery building off the main tasting room. With Ms. Berman acting as an ad hoc producer, she conducts interviews with a digital microphone that tapes the conversation and then uploads it for the studio. In order for her to share the microphone, guests must sit very close to the interviewer and it gives the enterprise a very intimate feeling.
    On the day of her talk with The Star, Ms. Middleton was interviewing Max Scott and Vera Graaf, documentary film producers, old friends of Ms. Berman and now Ms. Middleton, about their current projects. The interview took on the air of an informal party with wine poured by Roman Roth, the vineyard’s winemaker, and the guests snacking on cheese and crackers, during breaks in the conversation.
    Ms. Middleton works from detailed notes and extensive research, but the questions she asks feel relaxed in tone. “I try to make it a conversation I would have at the kitchen table with lots of different people, who have lots of knowledge about different things. It doesn’t have to be off-putting.”
    Her guests will range from celebrities such as Ina Garten, who is a natural choice given Ms. Middleton’s focus on food, to Jim Ash, a self-taught naturalist at the South Fork Natural History Museum. “I found it very moving that he taught himself, and he knows everything.” During the interview he demonstrated different bird calls and other knowledge that she found fascinating; she ended up giving him even more time than she had originally allotted.
    “We’ve been collecting interviews for weeks,” taping three or four a day over a 16-day period, she said. For the series beginning tomorrow, “the producers and I will sit down together at the table and choose which three or two will make the most interesting hour.” In some cases, subjects will have an entire hour to themselves depending on how the conversation goes.
    The series will begin tomorrow at 3 p.m. with an interview with Caio Fonseca, an artist who had a recent show at the Drawing Room in East Hampton. East End listeners can find WNPR at its Southampton station, 93.1 FM. The network’s Web site is wcpn.org.