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Photo: Alicia Solsman

Look Back With Laughter

As Chantal Juillet prepares to take her final bows, she looks back on 20 seasons at SPAC

By Shawn Stone


Time flies when you’re making great music. After two decades, violinist Chantal Juillet, founding director of the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival, is taking her leave of Saratoga Springs—as is Charles Dutoit, longtime summer director- conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. (It was a mutual decision, as the two were married in February.)

Juillet is hard to track down for the simple reason that she’s so busy. It’s the life of the professional musician, sure—last week Switzerland, this week Saratoga Springs—but right now, things are especially hectic. The SCMF season began earlier this week: first with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio (see our review, page 26), then Juillet accompanied violinist Sarah Chang in a program of French music. Next week, Juillet will be among the players accompanying featured pianists Kirill Gerstein and Jean-Yves Thibaudet. And she’s also preparing for the Aug. 12 “farewell concert” on the amphitheater stage with the Philadelphia Orchestra, when she will be featured soloist on (and Dutoit will conduct) Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s “lush, lyrical” Violin Concerto.

So arranging an interview is tricky—but not impossible.

At a prearranged time, Juillet places a call to do this interview—and, she explains, she has to stand in the middle of her driveway to do it.

“I’ve had a hard time—I’m in the Tanglewood area, and it’s like Saratoga—I’m not getting signals everywhere.”

Asked about her fondest memories of the festival and Saratoga, she pauses.

“Oh my God—so many.”

“You know,” she says, “I started this festival from scratch.”

At the beginning, it was all musicians from out of town: “I wasn’t using any players from the Philadelphia Orchestra.”

And it didn’t all go smoothly, either: “I remember putting on this great show with Avery Brooks, from [Star Trek:] Deep Space Nine, as narrator—we had this incredible team of players—and I remember there were 40 people in the audience.”

Juillet laughs at the memory.

“I was sure that this was going to be my first and last season,” she says. “But my boss then, Herb Chesbrough, said, ‘No no no, I think we can develop this through word of mouth, and it’s going to expand,’ and he had the courage to give me a three-year contract at that time, she says.”

“But,” she adds, “I still remember fondly that first season because it was so good—I think—and there was nobody in the audience!”

According to the online Canadian Dictionary, the Montreal native “won all the major Canadian music competitions in her category by the age of 16,” and has since, based on her subsequent illustrious career, been made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec (2005) and an Officer of the Order of Canada (2006).

After her long tenure at SPAC, Juillet has many fond memories.

“It’s been a great 20 seasons for me, because I got to become very friendly, on a personal basis, with all the people that came [to perform].”

She’s referring to the many internationally renowned musicians who’ve performed in Saratoga, like Yo-Yo Ma and Martha Argerich.

“I was able to call them up and say, ‘Would you like to come back and play in my series?’”

Once in Saratoga to perform, she explains that a collegial atmosphere prevailed and the musicians ended up hanging out. Partially, this can be explained by the logistical problem of restaurants not being open after concerts.

“We’ve given up on restaurants,” she says, “and usually have barbecues at one of our houses. . . . Everyone pitches in, and it’s made the atmosphere very unsnobby and unpretentious and very warm.”

Asked to highlight one performance over two decades, she defers: “It’s difficult . . . they were all special.”

Explaining further, Juillet says, “I’ve gone to many festivals, and I have to say that Saratoga has been very friendly and very warm atmosphere, because we put the chamber music [series] in such a beautiful venue.”

It’s impossible to disagree. The SCMF is held in the Spa Little Theater, which dates back to the Saratoga Spa State Park’s Depression-era building projects. It’s an intimate venue with great acoustics.

“It’s fantastic, I call it my theater now.”

But not for much longer, and time is running short: “There are always last minute things that need to be resolved, like the printing of programs—and interviews and photo sessions . . .”

She laughs, and the interview ends. Except . . .

Five minutes later, Juillet calls back. There’s one more thing she wants to add: She’s very proud to have initiated the SPAC’s visiting composer program, which has, over the years, led to many notable performances and original compositions.

And then she rings off. There’s no doubt that Chantal Juillet has left an indelible mark on SPAC, and Saratoga.


Saratoga Calendar



SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs, 587-3330). Sun: John Mayer, Train.



9 MAPLE AVENUE (9 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-CLUB). Fri: Jill Hughes. Sat: Keith Pray’s Soul Jazz Revival.

THE ALLEY BAR (Long Alley Road, Saratoga Springs, 587-9766). Tue: karaoke with Mark the Shark.

CAFFE LENA (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu: open mic. Fri: Jamcrackers. Sat: Session Americana. Wed: Rob Jonas.

CANTINA (430 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-5577). Thu: Tequila Mockingbirds.

CIRCUS CAFE (392 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-1106). Thu: open mic with Nate Solomon. Sat: karaoke.

GAFFNEY’S (16 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-7359). Tue: open mic with Peter Pashoukos.

THE ICEHOUSE (70 Putnam St., Saratoga Springs, 261-1766). Thu: Ten Year Vamp. Fri: Gravity. Sat: the Remainders.

THE LOCAL PUB AND TEAHOUSE (142 Grand Ave., Saratoga Springs, 587-7256). Sun: Traditional Irish Players (1 PM).

MARE (17 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-6955). Thu: Latin night. Sat: DJ. Wed: open mic.

ONE CAROLINE STREET (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026). Thu: Skidmore Jazz. Mon: Chris Carey. Tue: jazz piano. Wed: Masters of Nostalgia.

PUTNAM DEN (63A Putnam St., Saratoga Springs, 584-8066). Thu: reggae dance party. Fri: Skeletons In The Piano CD release. Sat: the Figgs, the Charlie Watts Riots. Sun: Half Step. Wed: Vinnie Amico and friends.

THIRTEEN (13 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 581-1316). Fri-Sat: DJ Kamikaze.



Comedy Works Saratoga, 12 Ballston Ave., Saratoga Springs. 8/6-7, 7 PM. Tom Briscoe with Aaron Ward. $20. 275-6897.



Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/5, 8 PM: Jeff Tyzik will conduction the Philadelphia Orchestra and singers in a Broadway pops program. $18-$72.50. 8/6, 8 PM: Alec Bladwin will narrate, Charles Dutoit will conduct the PO in Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Also, works by Glinka, Stravinsky, and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring Kirill Gerstein. $18-$72.50. 8/7, 8 PM: Charles Dutoit will conduct the PO, guest singers and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. 8/9, 8 PM: Pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Kirill Gerstein, with Saratoga Chamber Music Festival Players, will perform works by Dohnanyi, Fauré, Schumann. $36.50, $41.50. 8/10, 8 PM: The Wister Quartet will perform works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky. $36.50, $41.50. 587-3330.


Museums & Galleries


Saratoga County Arts Council, Arts Center Gallery, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Saratoga Inside Out: A Juried Exhibition. 8/7-9/25. Reception 8/7, 5-8 PM.


National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, 99 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-2225. Postage Paid : Dance Around the World. Also, In a Labyrinth: The Dance of Butoh. Also, Ballet Russes Centennial Exhibit. Also, The C.V. Whitney Hall of Fame. Plus, the children’s wing. Through Fall 2010.

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs. 584-0400. Treasures of the Vault: 60 Years and Growing. Through 8/31. Hall of Fame Heroes. Ongoing.

New York State Military Museum, 61 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs. 581-5100. Picturing Battle: Memories of War, Art of Thurlstrup, U.S. Army Signal Corps and Steve Jordan. Ongoing. Also, Dewitt Clinton Falls: Uniform of the New York National Guard. Ongoing.

Saratoga Automobile Museum, 110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 587-1935 ext. 20. New York racing exhibit. Ongoing.

Tang Teaching Museum and Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-8080. Opener 20 Paula Hayes: Understory. Through 4/1/11. Also, Suzanne Bocenegra: I Write the Songs. Through 2/2/11. Also, Opener 19: Los Carpinteros. Through 8/31. Also, For You. Through 8/22.



Saratoga Polo, Whitney Field, Saratoga Springs. Through 8/6-8: The Whitney Cup. 584-8108 or Race Course

The 2010 Saratoga meet runs through Sept. 6. The track is dark on Tuesdays.

Location: Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, 584-6200.

Admission: $3 Grandstand ($5 Travers Day), $5 Clubhouse ($10 Travers Day).

First Race Post Time: 1 PM daily, except July 30 at 2:30 PM, Aug. 28 at 11:35 AM, Sept. 3 at 2:30 PM.

Major Stakes Races include: The Whitney (Aug. 7), The Alabama (Aug. 21), The Travers (Aug. 28).



Saratoga Shots

By Martin Benjamin

Jockey Chantal Sutherland leaving the paddock on Essence Hit Man, a 3 year old running in Grade II “The Amsterdam” stakes race on Monday [8/2/2010]. Essence Hit Man ran well finishing 2nd after shipping in from Canada's Woodbine Race Track.


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