Playing at Troy Music Hall

By far and away, the apex of my singing and music career was performing at Troy Music Hall. Our group, Saratoga Faire, performed at the hall earlier in the year ( January 9, 2007 ) to what I was told was a crowd of about 1,000 people. Interestingly, I did not approach the stage with any nervousness (a stage which has featured Julian Bream, Yo Yo Ma, Ian Anderson, The Baltimore Consort and many other “stars” from the world of music). In fact, I was actually enchanted.

The reason why this stage is so special to me is that I attended many, many performances at Troy Music Hall as a child (dressed up in my finest dresses). I would look up at the ornate ceiling and boxes with a sense of awe. I would wonder where the performers went when they slipped out the colorful side doors of the stage. I had visions, dreams and even fantasies of what the backstage area looked like and what the musicians did back there.

This was my chance to finally see! But more about that later.

The other reasons are purely musical: I know so many famous performers who have said that Troy Music Hall has the best acoustics in the country. Just about every performer I have seen there says, “We are so honored to play in such a special place.”

So we arrived at the hall early for sound checks and to relax a little before the concert. We went to the performers’ entrance up a maze of staircases that eventually got tighter and smaller until we finally arrived back stage. We weren’t sure we could get the hammered dulcimer up these tangle of stairs easily, or without getting exhausted (it’s a very heavy instrument). Supposedly, the crew of Troy Music Hall hoists up large instruments (like double basses and cellos) with a hook and cable (for such a prestigious hall, they still do not have an elevator, but that’s the charm of it, you see: you get these other experiences).

I was most surprised to see the backstage areas. The immediate backstage area is a very narrow hall up against the outside of the building with a wooden floor that slopes from a century of settling. The green room for performers is underneath the stage and very small (and built for short Victorian-era people). I imagined the large orchestras that I have seen there all squished in together, like family.

Also interesting to my inner child was the stage door where we waited to go on. There were small little holes in the corners of the panels where the door-man could look out and see who was coming. And when it was time for us to go on, he opened the door, smiled at each one of us and wished us luck. When we were finished, he opened the door to let us back in, again greeting us with his winning welcoming smile. How often is a performer treated like that? He truly made it so wonderful for us!

The most interesting aspect of the experience was the acoustics. The stage is built so efficiently at pushing the music forward into the audience and upper balconies and boxes above that it is barely audible on stage. At least it was for me. The only instrument I could hear well was the hammered dulcimer which was flat and pointed up. All of our other instruments were played pointed towards the hall, and it seemed to swallow up the sound. So, the amazing acoustics and reverberation that are so magical and rich for the audience are not felt on stage. That was the most eye-opening experience for me! But, it would make sense!

And then the memory of scenes from the book I had recently read called “Down from Troy, A Doctor Comes of Age” was swimming through my head where the author’s mother sings at Troy Music Hall during the days before modernization was adopted by the city.

Anyway, playing at this wonderful venue made me so happy, fulfilled, captivated and joyful for weeks.