Before hunkering down to spend next year completing his first album of original songs in a decade, James Taylor has a pair of high-profile appearances coming up in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday at 4:30 p.m., he will perform during the 90th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. The event will be streamed live by the National Park Foundation at www.thenationaltree.org and televised by PBS locally on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 5 p.m. via WMHT-TV, Schenectady, N.Y. (Channel 2 on Time Warner Cable systems.)

The prestigious National Press Club will feature JT as its guest speaker on Friday at 1 p.m. That will be streamed live at press.org beginning at 12:50. Viewers can email questions to president@press.org (subject line TAYLOR, deadline 10 a.m. Friday) or tweet a query to @QNPCLunch during the appearance and see what others are saying by following the conversation on Twitter with #NPCLunch or by reading it at facebook.com/PressClubDC.

C-SPAN may also televise the event live, though its schedule is not finalized until the morning of each day.

Taylor has no appearances planned at Tanglewood next summer as he focuses on writing new songs and laying down tracks for the new album, which he hopes to release before mid-2014.


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Tour the grand inns of Lenox: As part of a busy pre-Christmas holiday weekend in Lenox centered around the second annual Caroling Festival, a tour of seven historic inns will be offered for the 22nd year. Organized by the Chamber of Commerce and local proprietors, the open house runs from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday and includes visits to the Apple Tree, Birchwood, Garden Gables, Gateways, Kemble, Rookwood and Summer White House inns.

As an add-on, the Lenox Library is on the tour. It was originally the county courthouse and still retains the old lockup in the basement (though we're assured it's not used for overdue borrowers or any other purpose).

The Summer White House on Main Street is so named because President Chester Arthur dined at the then-newly built inn at the end of his 1881-85 term. The Apple Tree Inn, across from Tanglewood's Main Gate, has hosted famed musicians such as BSO Music Director Laureate Seiji Ozawa and Tanglewood founder Serge Koussevitzsky.

Tour tickets at $15 each may be purchased in advance at the Chamber office in the town library, or by calling (413) 637-3646.

Daly rings NYSE opening bell: Berkshire Hills Bancorp, the parent company of Berkshire Bank, received a warm welcome to the New York Stock Exchange last week.

The bank's CEO, Michael P. Daly, rang the NYSE's opening bell on Nov. 29. Ten days earlier, the bank's stock was officially listed on the oldest and largest stock exchange in the United States.

Berkshire Bank went public in 2000, and had been listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market since 2005. Berkshire announced that it planned to join the New York Stock Exchange in October.

Although its stock is listed on a different exchange, Berkshire Bank has retained the ticker symbol, BHLB.

County Fare is a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers and correspondents. Visit the County Fare blog at www.berkshireeagleblogs.com/countyfare.