On Monday, the Lake George Music Festival gives the first concert of its 14-concert season. It’s the ninth year for the festival and it has come a long way.
“We started as a grassroots, three-day festival with twenty players,” said Alexander Lombard, the festival’s co-founder and president. “Now we have 42 musicians, twelve composers, several interns and recording engineers present.”
Nine plus years ago, all Lombard, violinist Barbora Kolarova and conductor Roger Kalia wanted to create was a place where musicians could come to enjoy a marvelously scenic location and play beautiful music. It would be not only an artists’ retreat but provide arts for a community during the hectic, tourist-laden summer months. It’s succeeded wonderfully.
“We have superb attendance. Up to 5,000 people attend. Our concerts are sold out. Our audience is very diverse. A lot come from locally but Lake George is a tourist destination and we catch them,” Lombard said.
While all this has been accomplished mostly by word of mouth, the performance level of the concerts has reached a national audience with “Performance Today” on American Public Radio, which features classical music concerts from around the world.
“Our concerts have been aired since 2013,” he said. “We’ve been very honored.”
All this success has been satisfying, but people still don’t connect classical music with Lake George, which is known for the Americade, the beach and the ice cream shops. So Lombard, several local business leaders, arts enthusiasts, and Lake George Mayor Robert Blais have formed a committee to possibly purchase the Lake George Forum property and turn it into the Lake George Center for the Performing Arts.
“We want to make Lake George an arts destination year round,” Lombard said. The Forum has been used very little in recent years, Lombard said. It has an ice hockey rink inside, and some of the Lake George Elvis Festival events have been held there.
Meanwhile, the festival continues to attract musicians from a wider professional level including from orchestras like the Philadelphia, Dallas, San Antonio, or Czech Philharmonic and graduate or doctoral students from almost every major U.S. conservatory.
“The average age is 28. This year we got 300 applicants for ten spaces. A lot of the musicians come back after a season. It becomes like a family,” Lombard said.
The repertoire has also changed over the years. In the past, it was traditional repertoire for chamber and the final orchestra concert, which Kalia still conducts. But Kolarova does the research during the year to come up with at least 35 pieces, including new works by living composers, which are then assigned to the players. That dialogue between a living composer and musician is important, he said.
In the past, too, most performance venues were the village’s churches and parks. These days, fans will still find the festival’s concerts at two of those churches, but this season the Park Theater in Glens Falls, the Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek, and the Lake George High School auditorium will be featured.
The Lake George Club gets a special performance Aug. 19 of an opera, Peter Brooks’ “La Tragedie de Carmen,” with the orchestra and singers from the nearby Seagle Music Colony that is part of the festival’s Uncorked series with the price to include buffet dinner, dessert, and wine from Adirondack Winery.
Another special series is the Sounds of Our Time (Aug. 16), which crosses pop with contemporary music. Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “Penelope,” which involves computers and electric guitar, will be featured.
Musicians will also take to the lake (Aug. 17) on the Minne-Ha-Ha for an hour-long late night cruise in which the players will sight read something classical and improvise jazz and pop crossovers tunes.
“It’s taking classical music off the pedestal,” Lombard said with a chuckle.
Lake George Music Festival
- Aug. 12, 14, 21 at 7p.m., Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 30 Mohican St.
- Aug. 13, 15, 20, 22 at 7 p.m., Park Theater, 14 Park St., Glens Falls
- Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m., Park Theater
- Aug. 17 at 2 p.m., St. James Episcopal Church, 172 Ottawa St.
- Aug. 17, boarding at 8:30 p.m., Minne-Ha-Ha
- Aug. 18, 1 p.m., Tannery Pond Community Center
- Aug. 19, 6 p.m., Lake George Club
- Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m., Lake George High School, 381 Canada Street
- HOW MUCH: $15, except $30 (Aug. 17); $25 (Aug. 18 and 23); $85-$450 (Aug. 19)
- MORE INFO: 518-791-5089; www.lakegeorgemusicfestival.com