Lake George Music Fest full of surprises

The Lake George Music Festival, which opens Monday for its fifth season, is a dream come true for th
Pianist Fei-Fei Dong will perform Aug. .27 at the Lake George Music Festival.
Pianist Fei-Fei Dong will perform Aug. .27 at the Lake George Music Festival.

The Lake George Music Festival, which opens Monday for its fifth season, is a dream come true for three colleagues.

“We wanted to bring a cultural renaissance to a place that had once had composer Samuel Barber and artist Georgia O’Keefe visiting here,” said Alexander Lombard, the festival’s president and CEO, who is also a pianist and graduate of the Crane School of Music in Potsdam.

Over the years at various summer music festivals, Lombard, a hometown boy, met up with Roger Kalia, a conductor who was getting his PhD at Indiana University and violinist Barbora Kolarova. They became friends and began talking about starting a music festival in the Lake George area.

Lake George Music Festival

WHEN: Aug. 17-27

WHERE: Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 51 Mohican St.; St. James Episcopal Church, 172 Ottawa St.; Lake George High School, 381 Canada St.

HOW MUCH: $10 suggested donation

MORE INFO: 791-5089,

LGMF Schedule:

Aug. 18: Brass opening fanfare, Blais Park, 7 p.m.

Aug. 19: Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.: Brade, Ravel, Ludwig, Kechley, Mozart

Aug. 20: Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.; Akiho, Dvorak, Pfitzner, Faure

Aug. 21: St. James, 7 p.m.: Lang, Bartok, Shostakovich, Beethoven

Aug. 22: Shepard Park, 5 p.m. Kids concert, instrument petting zoo, dancers

Aug. 22: Cruise, 9 p.m. Minne-Ha-Ha

Aug. 23: Tannery Pond Community Center, North Creek, 1 p.m.: Pianomania

Aug. 24: Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.: Grieg, Snowden, Brahms, Faegre, Arensky

Aug. 24: Boathouse Restaurant, 3210 Lake Shore Drive, 9 p.m.: classical jam session

Aug. 25: St. James, 7 p.m.: Tower, Carter, Zare, Akiho, Schubert

Aug. 26: St. James, 7 p.m.: Stafylakis (world premiere), Barber, Duparc, Brahms

Aug. 27: Lake George High School, 7:30 p.m.: Ligeti, Gershwin, Faegre, Stravinsky

“There was nothing like it here,” Lombard said.

Five summers ago the three decided it was time to give their idea a try. By then Kalia had become the assistant conductor for Pacific Symphony Orchestra and Kolarova was a member of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. With Lombard, friends and colleagues, they got enough musicians together to offer a three-day experiment.

“It was a grass-roots effort,” he said. “But from the donations we got, we were able to fund our second year. Now, we’re non-profit and the state gave us a $50,000, three-year grant through 2017.”

Chamber concerts then as now are held in two local churches: Sacred Heart Catholic Church and St. James Episcopal Church, both of whom had highly supportive congregations with sites with substantial free parking.

“They really welcomed us,” Lombard said, “and with no dormitory or concert hall in town, the community provided host families for the musicians.”

Lombard also surprised himself by becoming the festival’s manager.

“I never thought I’d pursue this as a career but I seem to have a calling in arts administration,” he said laughing.

The festival began to have a focus.

“We invited young professionals mostly in their 20s to early 30s,” he said. “Many return each season. Although we do have an orchestra, it gives everyone a chance to play chamber music without having a teacher around and is especially looked forward to by those who’ve been sitting in an orchestra all year.”

This summer, 80 musicians will come from 24 states, Spain and the Czech Republic, and are either from music schools as Juilliard, Eastman, Curtis or Yale, or are members of orchestras in Hawaii, Des Moines, Quebec or Louisville.

The festival, which used to have no open rehearsals and no outreach, now has plenty of both. Art Attacks! has short surprise concerts at the Village Mall, Blais Park and at a bar or restaurant in downtown Canada Street.

“We want to break the everyday mood. It’s great to see people’s reactions,” Lombard said.

There’s also a moonlight cruise, a late night concert, a dance concert with local children, music talks and open rehearsals. Consult the website for the full schedule.

Big this year is Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim as the Festival Orchestra concertmaster, who’ll also play a couple of chamber concerts.

“Alex asked me if I’d be willing to stay an extra week after SPAC,” Kim said. “It wasn’t too hard to sell me on the idea. And these festivals are things we covet: wearing shorts and flipflops and making new friends. I’m always grateful for these invitations.”

Pianist Fei-Fei Dong, a 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition finalist, will solo in Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” Aug. 27.

Pre-concert talks are an hour before.

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