So we are on our way back to Springfield, MO, after a glorious month dividing our time between Syracuse and Lake Placid, NY, doing concerts in both places. Pictured left is Mirror Lake at Lake Placid (taken with our cheap digital camera no less!) breathtaking does not begin to describe the Adirondack region. There was serious business afoot though as I was there as a candidate to be the next Music Director of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta…..there are also some fascinating connections to great musical icons of the past.
Firstly the Lake Placid Sinfonietta (LPS) was started in 1917 as part of the now defunct Lake Placid Club founded by Melville Dewey (of Dewey Decimal Classification fame). Boston Symphony musicians made up the group before Tanglewood was founded, and now the musicians come from far and wide. Their Bassoonist, the legendary teacher and performer David Van Hoesen has been a member since 1947!!!! With only 19 musicians, the single wind players (and sometimes the strings too) have to play cues and redistribute parts which they do like it’s second nature. The schedule is 30 rehearsals and 18 concerts in 6 weeks. This is one hard working, and also great sounding, orchestra!
With all the great things to do with the family in the area (if you ever go, drive up Whiteface mountain), such as boating, hiking, swimming, a scenic railroad, ice shows, Olympic center tours, the beach etc… some of the time when my family was out to play I was inside, studying, preparing, scheduling, rehearsing, performing and being interviewed, but being in such a place and collaborating with such dedicated people was inspiring. The audiences were also very enthusiastic, and my hosts very warm and generous. The search continues for the next few weeks……………
Some musical facts about Lake Placid and the surrounds:
It was the summer home of Victor Herbert and his family for 25 years, and while I was there a reception was held at his old house “Camp Joyland” which is now on Victor Herbert road. Being his 15oth birthday, the orchestra is performing much of his music this summer. I got to do his 2nd Cello Concerto with principal Cellist, Ann Alton. It was after Dvorak heard Herbert’s concerto that he decided to write his Cello concerto! From left to right is Victor Herbert, John Phillip Sousa, Irving Berlin (more on his connection below) and Harry von Tilzer! Together, they were instrumental in starting ASCAP.
It was also the summer home and now final resting place of the great conductor, Artur Rodzinski. His son Richard, (soon to be former ED of the Cliburn) still summers with his family at the same house, and we had the very great pleasure of spending an afternoon with Richard and his lovely family in their wonderful family home. Artur’s study is kept virtually as it was, with some incredible items including old acetate recordings of broadcasts Artur had his buddies at NBC “burn” for him. Burning discs has been around a lot longer than I thought!
Kate Smith long time radio and vocal star, who sang the iconic version of Irving Berlin’s God Bless America, was also a resident and is buried there. The first outdoor concert we were supposed to do on July 8 had to be moved inside because of threatening weather. We performed at St Agnes Church where Kate was a long time congregant and benefactor. The words to God Bless America are on the inside cover of every hymnal! We performed it that night. Suffice it to say that no one needed to look at the words!
The composer Bela Bartok spent his last summer in Saranac Lake (9 miles from Lake Placid) writing his 3rd Piano Concerto and his Viola Concerto in a small cabin with no Piano. There in 1943 he also wrote part of his Concerto for Orchestra. The cabin is on private property but there are tours available by appointment. (Robert Louis Stevenson also had a cottage in Saranac Lake!)
Lastly, there is a Springfield MO musical connection. About a year ago I wrote about the passing of Sam Minasian who for over 30 years was concert master of the Springfield Symphony. For many years he was also a member of the Sinfonietta, and in this picture of the String section from 1966 he is seated 4th from the left. Seated 2nd is Dorothy Happel (whom I was fortunate enough to meet and who is still a great friend of Sam’s wife, Joyce) became concertmaster and still attends the concerts and is very involved and beloved. The Bass (seated behind) is Phillip Albright who is still active in the library, and the Cellist seated is Ardyth Alton, a prolific performer and also teacher at the Julliard School. Her aforementioned daughter, Ann Alton, continues her legacy as Principal Cello in the LPS and wrote this wonderful tribute after her mother’s passing in 2007. The conductor at the time of the photo was Paul White who led the orchestra for decades and for whom the shell on Mirror Lake where they do their outdoor concerts is named after.