SPAC’s new Live at the Jazz Bar

Saratoga is an old city with its own secrets and traditions. But sometimes, there’s magic if you shake it up a bit.

The Philadelphia Orchestra opened its 51st season at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Aug. 2 with the Russian Festival, a program that is traditionally its closer. It was a perfect summer evening, with a slight breeze, and there was a regiment of French and Indian War re-enactors in period dress doing maneuvers as I walked to the amphitheater.

The Orchestra opened with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” with the audience standing and singing with full voice and conviction, before going into the scheduled performance, which included two of the principals of the New York City Ballet dancing to selections from “Swan Lake.” The traditional cannons, joined by musket fire, exploded as the orchestra closed with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

As we filed out, filled with the romance of the music and the dance, the sky lit up with fireworks. The pathways were lined with small white lights, guiding us out, and then I spied the small sign that read Live at the Jazz Bar, pointing towards the Hall of Springs.

The lawn in front of the Hall had a portable fire pit, casting a beautiful light on the people chatting in the lawn chairs that had been gathered. Up the steps, on the covered patio, Chuck Lamb was at the piano, playing with his quartet, as people danced and found seats inside to listen to the music or socialize. The cash bar was hopping – there’s no table service. There are nibbles available on a side table – cheese and crackers, etc. The venue was full, without being packed, with millennials to seniors enjoying themselves.

Live at The Jazz Bar is the brainchild of SPAC’s new President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol. Because the Hall of Springs is such a beautiful space, she thought it would be wonderful to open it to the public on selected evenings during the classical season. Freihofer’s Baking Company, the title sponsor of the annual Jazz Festival, is sponsoring Live at the Jazz Bar. You don’t need a ticket to the evening’s performance to enjoy this venue. Admission is free.

There are three nights left: Aug. 9, pianist Chuck Lamb’s Quartet; Aug. 12, Cuban music with Alta Havana and Aug. 18, All-Star Jam. Doors open at 9:30 p.m. and close at 11:30 pm.

I thoroughly enjoyed this new tradition – a welcome addition to the magic of SPAC.

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