Lake Placid Sinfonietta celebrates 100 years of music

(Photo provided — Jordan Craig)

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Sinfonietta is entering its 100th season of performance, celebrating its long history through special events and remembering how the small orchestra fought to survive through the years.

Ron Spigelman said he has been involved in planning this anniversary since he became the Sinfonietta’s music director in 2009.

For Spigelman, the sinfonietta is easy to come back to year after year. He enjoys everything from turning around to see children smiling at the end of a piece to the loons coming in on the lake and joining the orchestra, mixing the sounds of music and nature.

Spigelman was able to witness a piece of sinfonietta history at the 2011 retirement performance of bassoonist K. David van Hoesen, who had performed with the sinfonietta since 1947. He was then in his 80s, a fixture of the sinfonietta for 64 years, and Spigelman remembered his final performance as “a blaze of glory.” Van Hoesen died in October last year.

The Lake Placid Sinfonietta is one of only a handful of orchestras in the United States older than 100 years and has seen struggles and changes to provide the Adirondacks with orchestral music.

(Photo provided — Jordan Craig)

In 1917 the Lake Placid Club began inviting 11 musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra to play seven concerts a week, according to the’s history section. The sinfonietta as it is known today was brought about in 1939 after the musicians were pulled from Lake Placid as the Boston orchestra’s Tanglewood venue opened. The Lake Placid Club, which had hosted the musicians’ seven concerts a week, commissioned Paul White to organize 10 musicians from the Rochester Philharmonic and pick up the responsibility of bringing orchestra music to the Adirondacks. The bandshell in Mid’s Park in downtown Lake Placid, one of the sinfonietta’s primary venues, is named for White.

When the club was converted into an Army rest center for a year during World War II, the sinfonietta was not able to perform for the year. Nevertheless, returning in 1946, the number of musicians and the music library grew as White included works from community composers including Lake Placid’s Victor Herbert and Bela Bartok, who spent time in Saranac Lake.

Facing financial struggles and frustrated musicians in the late 1970s, the Lake Placid Club’s Educational Foundation ended the sinfonietta series. However, the Center for Music, Drama and Art (now the Lake Placid Center for the Arts) was ready to pick up the responsibility and continued the series the next year without missing a beat.

In the late 1970s conductor Carl Eberl introduced wine-and-cheese receptions after concerts, allowing musicians and audience to mingle and converse. As the current sinfonietta music director, Spigelman appreciates the ability to receive feedback from the community to this day, even taking requests on occasion.

“It is important for music to stay connected with the audience,” Spigelman said. “We have to be responsive.”

(Photo provided — Jordan Craig)

Though the 1980 concerts were as popular as ever, the cost of tickets was too low to keep the series sustained and it again changed hands to the Lake Placid Association of Music, Drama, and Art Inc. By 1982, the newly incorporated Lake Placid Sinfonietta Inc. had raised a budget of $35,000 and has continued to put on annual shows to this day.

A July 27 Centennial Gala will include a free fireworks show set to Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks” suite. A Legacy concert on Aug. 6 has an open invitation to all musicians who have performed in past years.