Two longtime music series thrive at lunch hour in Troy

For many years, people have known there were two places in the city they could go at noon to enjoy t

For many years, people have known there were two places in the city they could go at noon to enjoy their sandwiches and listen to live music: the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

“It’s such a thrill to hear live music in the Hall,” said Bernice Bornt Ledeboer, who has been with the “Music at Noon” series since it began and is still a member of the committee that chooses the artists. “The series is well known now and is anticipated.”

The concerts attract bus loads of people from local nursing homes and grade schools as well as a devoted crowd to make an average attendance of about 300 people, she said.

At the church, the “Tuesdays at Noon Concerts” is part of its outreach program with concerts that average 100 people. Artists play near the altar.

“We’re very pleased with the attendance,” said Jean Foss, who was on the organizing committee for many years.

Until the late 1980s, however, there were few such places for people to go at lunchtime.

Saint Paul’s Tuesdays at Noon Concerts

WHEN: Feb. 21 — soprano Jean Leonard and pianist Judy Avitabile, classical and Broadway; March 20 — pianist Megan Muthersbaugh, classical; April 17 — Patti Melita, Peg Delaney and Linda Brown, swing and sway, jazz; May 15 — Ragtime Windjammers, dixieland

WHERE: State and Third streets, Troy


MORE INFO: 273-7351,

“The hall was in dire straits, so in 1988 we had a special luncheon,” Bornt Ledeboer said.

Ideas on how to promote the hall were discussed until pianist Findlay Cockrell, who taught at the University at Albany, suggested a noon-time concert series might work.

“He offered his services for three concerts,” she said.

Cockrell played once that April and twice in May and despite a bad rainstorm for one of the concerts, 150 people showed up, she said.

Because of the hall’s expenses such as lighting, the need for volunteers and costs to print programs, it was decided to have the concerts only once a month, to hold them on the second Tuesday and to not charge an admission fee. No concerts were held that summer but a five-member ad hoc committee was formed to find local artists who would be interested in doing a 60-minute program and work for a modest stipend.

Shorter schedule

Initially, concerts were held from September through June but now run from October to May. Advertising was done only through word of mouth and putting out fliers. As interest grew, however, the original funding that came through the hall’s foundation was supplemented with donations from local banks, supermarket chains and audience members.

Music at Noon at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

WHEN: Feb. 14 — piano/accordion Michael Century; March 13 — Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra, Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4; April 10 — Chiara String Quartet; May 8 — pianist Findlay Cockrell

WHERE: State and Second streets, Troy


MORE INFO: 273-0038,

It was also decided to open the series to a wide array of musical styles from classical to garage bands playing original rock ’n’ roll tunes and for musicians who were just starting out to established professionals. Most of the musicians were local, such as the Empire State Youth Orchestra Percussion Ensemble, but occasionally others such as the Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra, which is coming this season, came from a distance. No cancellations have occurred in all the years, and Cockrell continues to give a concert each season, Bornt Ledeboer said.

“We’re very much in his debt as he helps to perpetuate the series,” she said.

The most famous musicians to play in the series, however, weren’t scheduled. In December 1990, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Emanuel Ax, and violinists Jaime Laredo and Isaac Stern were recording in the hall.

“Because they couldn’t take down their equipment to allow the scheduled artist to play his concert, they offered to do a concert,” said Bornt Ledeboer.

The committee quickly rescheduled that artist but word had gotten out as to who would be playing.

“Lines soon formed around the block,” she said.

The artists played two Faure piano quartets, but after, when they were told that many more people had been waiting to get into the hall hoping to hear them, they gave a second performance.

“We won’t top that,” Bornt Ledeboer said. “They were so gracious.”

A second series

By 2000, the hall wasn’t the only game in town for noon-hour concerts.

“Our organist Keith Williams founded our series,” Foss said, who one of the early committee members for the “Tuesdays at Noon Concerts” at St. Paul.

In 1999, the organist at the local 1st Presbyterian Church couldn’t continue to run that church’s occasional noon series, so he suggested Williams start it at St. Paul’s.

“Early on, we agreed with the music hall to have it on the third Tuesday,” Foss said.

Eventually Williams moved to Michigan and Steve Rosenberry, who now is at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Albany, ran the series for three years. Organist Brian Hoffman and a seven-member committee now oversee the series. Each concert runs 45 minutes.

It began with nine concerts between September and May, but now it’s down to seven concerts with none in September or January. Funding initially came through the state’s Council on the Arts, some other organizations and local contributions with no funds coming from the church beyond it paying for heat and lights, Foss said. Four years ago, an anonymous parishioner donated a grand piano to replace the old grand that was in bad shape.

The series tries for all styles and most of the artists are local, although once a Russian choir came through. The artists have included several vocalists, including contralto Lucille Beer, folk/blues duos and jazz pianist Lee Shaw.

“We always have plenty of performers,” Foss said. “In all the years, only one concert was canceled and that was because of a blizzard.”

But if there were a last-minute problem, all the committee members are musicians and have friends that are musicians.

“In desperation, we can always get up and sing,” Foss said with a laugh, adding that she still sings with the church choir.

Both series’ committees work at least a year in advance, although decisions are sometimes made as late as the summer. There are occasional rebookings, but both series prefer new artists from a wide range of styles and career levels. Tapes or compact discs are listened to by each committee.

With such few slots, each committee gets as many as 30 applications each season.

Categories: Life and Arts

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