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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A night with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center can be a life-changer

I think I saw the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra -- of 2031 – at tonight’s performance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

An exuberant boy in sneakers with flashing blue lights stationed himself on the walkway at the lower end of the lawn at the foot of the center screen. Inspired by Beethoven’s lively Symphony No. 7 in A major, the boy mimicked conductor Charles Dutoit, adding his own arm waves and body twirls.

He made my night, and I was already having a lovely night.

The boy’s family was only a few yards back. At the end of the concert, they all wandered off before I could catch up with them. I wanted to tell them how great it is to see people bringing kids to the orchestra. It baffles and saddens me that with free lawn admission for kids (and free ice cream courtesy of Stewart’s on “kids night”) more people don’t experience the richness of live orchestra (and before that, ballet). (You have until Aug. 13, folks.)

I arrived around 7:30 with my lawn chair, umbrella, tomato and mozzarella salad and bug spray. With the discount from my sustaining membership, I bought the least expensive inside seat ($31 reduced to $23) as “rain insurance” rather than the $20 lawn ticket. Turns out the clouds passed and I was able to stay the entire evening on the lawn, where I could see and hear the orchestra as well as the star-filled sky.

The star that drew me to SPAC this evening was on the stage: The gracious and talented Saratoga Springs native David Hyde Pierce narrated “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” a charming piece that literally introduces the listener to the four sections of the orchestra and the instruments within them.

In a pre-recorded interview on WNYT, he talked about how terrific it was “to a grow up in a small town with an incredible emphasis on the arts.”

I felt the same way at SPAC Thursday night, when my husband and I joined up with my neighbors, the Dart family, for “A Symphonic Night at the Movies.” The entire film “Casablanca” was shown on the six screens while the Philadelphia Orchestra performed the score – a very cool idea that drew plenty of people for inside and the lawn. The weather cooperated, too.

At tonight’s concert, SPAC President Marcia White said in her welcoming remarks that coming to SPAC as a child was a life-changer for David Hyde Pierce, who was a musician before becoming an actor.

Who knows, maybe it will turn out to be a life-changer for the little boy in the sneakers with the blinking blue lights.

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Blogger Media Mom Betsy said...

I plan to bring my kids this weekend. My 11-year-old plays the violin, so he definitely thinks the orchestra is cool.

August 3, 2011 at 11:56 AM 
Anonymous Cathy King Eddy said...

Yes, we were there too on Friday evening with our 3 oldest granddaughters! We have been bringing them to the orchestra for only 2 years - last year to see Alec Baldwin read "Peter & The Wolf". That was their first evening performance, but they have been to SPAC to see the NYC Ballet - matinees for 5 years now! (The oldest is turning 10 next week.) They always bring a journal & pencil with them. In case they get a little bored, they will draw or write about their experience. Last year they drew all the characters and the instruments that represented them in the story. They even remembered some of the instruments, as David acknowledged them, from the story last year!
This year the second half was all Beethoven, which they love so the journals didn't get used!
I, like David, remember my first ballet - many, many years ago - La Sonnambula, and I remember where we sat at SPAC, it is one of those moments etched in your memory for all time!
So even though we live in CT, we make it a family tradition to come to SPAC each July and August to keep the history of our family's attendance at NYC Ballet and The Philadelphia Orchestra! (As a side note tho, I asked the girls if they would like to come some year & sit on the lawn, they looked at me like I had 3 heads!) We always get 5th to 8th row seats - why would they want to sit way back on the lawn? I tried to explain about the fun "Papa" and I had as teenagers in the 60's sitting on the lawn, etc. - they weren't enthusiastic about the possibility. Oh well, I guess you had to be there!!!!! And we have been since 1966!!!!!!!!
Enjoyed your blog, as always!

August 8, 2011 at 12:49 PM 

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