The Lake George Festival, now in its 10th year, opens Wednesday, Aug. 18, and runs until Aug. 25. But like all music festivals this summer, it has re-imagined itself.
“We used to do two weeks and now its seven days and we had up to 70 musicians. This summer it’s 22,” said Alex Lombard, president and CEO. “And concerts had been based in churches and the high school. Now we have a new venue: the Carriage House on the grounds of Fort William Henry.”
The new venue is a big deal. Formerly a horse barn and storage for buggies more than 100 years ago, the 60,000 square foot space has been renovated to include new flooring, new septic and light systems, bathrooms and a 50 foot by 30 foot portable stage. Seating can accommodate up to a few hundred. New windows, siding and a veranda will eventually be added with a budget set at $2 million. That all this is taking place is because of the community’ s effort to turn Lake George into more of a year round cultural mecca and the Lake George Festival is part of that connection, Lombard said.
“It’s the first stage of using this big open empty space, which can be used for various events,” he said. “But this is the first time since the 1970s it’s been used for classical music.”
The musicians, who range in age from 30 to 45, come from college faculties to professional organizations and will include five composers, who are mostly still in college.
“It’s a special mix,” Lombard said. “But our budget determined the number. This way each musician gets to play two pieces and perform in the orchestra. It’s a compact season with great players.”
Among the composers are two that won the festival’s eighth composition competition in which the festival screened up to six hundred pieces from composers world-wide. New this year is also the Composers Institute. Renting space at SUNY Adirondack, the festival is giving 10 student composers a kind of summer camp, Lombard said, in which they’ll work with four faculty teachers and the Rhythm Method String Quartet to produce pieces that will be performed at 1 p.m. Aug. 21. Fifty student composers applied between the ages of 18 and 24, Lombard said.
With so much emphasis on new music, it’s no surprise that most of the work being performed at the concerts will be new or at least music from lesser known composers of past years.
“Each year, we’ve done about 50 percent more,” he said. “Audiences like it. This is music that can only be heard in Lake George. People should not be afraid of this music. It’s not avant garde. It’s super energy music.”
Thus, the opening concert on Aug. 18 will feature works by Alyssa Weinberg, Shelley Washington, Carrie Frey, and Florence Price’s String Quartet (1929). Price’s music is one of the composers the Philadelphia Orchestra has been exploring this past year.
Aug. 19 with the Hub New Music Ensemble will play music by Takuma Itoh, Eric Nathan, Kati Agocs. On Aug. 20 there will be a 30 minute pre-concert talk with festival founders and conductor Roger Kalia with a Q and A, followed by a concert to feature music by Camille Saint-Saens, Molly Herron, Ted Hearne, Jonathan Holland and an arrangement by Guido Agosta of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.”
Aug. 21 is family day at 11 a.m. with the orchestra and actors from the Adirondack Theater Festival on “The Mystery of the Missing Music.” The festival will also be collecting donated instruments to give to needy students.
At 1 p.m., the student composers will get to hear their work.
Aug. 22 music by Grazyna Bacewicz, Ronald Roseman, Paul Novak and an arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” will be performed. Aug. 23 at 2:30 p.m. is a chance to watch the orchestral musicians rehearse. At 5 p.m. talk with conductor Kalia about the season. And at 7:30 p.m. hear the music by David Ludwig, Alfredo Casella, and Florence Price’s Quintet of 1936.
On Aug. 24 there will be a world premiere by Chin Ting Chan for solo violin to be performed by festival artistic director Barbora Kolarova; a work by Valerie Coleman, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet. The final concert of the season on Aug. 25 will have the orchestra performing works by Colin Jacobsen, Astor Piazzolla and an arrangement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.
“It [the festival] will be a unique music experience,” Lombard said.
The Lake George Festival
WHEN: Aug. 18-25; 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Carriage House at Fort William Henry, 48 Canada Street, Lake George
HOW MUCH: $10-$35, single tickets; $55 for a 3-day pass; $155, full season
MORE INFO: 518–791-5089; www.lakegeorgemusicfestival.com